Thing no.11

2006

We take the Chiltern Queens bus into Reading. We spend the day in the shopping malls and parks of the exciting metropolis. On our way back to bus station we visit Mercury arcade. I love playing the computer games – I lose myself in the green glow of the wire-frame world that is Battle Zone. I’m driving an unseen tank across an endless plane, hiding behind delineated cubes and pyramids as other green line-drawn tanks try to destroy me. Eventually I die but I have one the highest scores.

Steve isn’t interested in computer games. He is captivated by the Silver Falls. The machine has two moving shelves covered in heaps of sparkling coins. If you put in a 10p it ricochets down onto the top ledge. If you time it just right, the new coin pushes the stack forward and the coins teetering on the edge are pushed over to cascade out into the tray at bottom. Steve has found a machine that has a bank of silver coins that all seem to be about to drop. Each new coin though only nudges the snowdrift only ever so slightly. He is getting more and more excited but has run out of money. His fever is infectious and he persuades me to give him my bus fair. I watch as my coins get added to the stack one after the next. Everything is gone but a huge amount of coins are just about to fall. We nudge the machine – nothing happens. We bang a little harder and an alarm rings out above the noise of the computer games – we are thrown out.

We walk across Reading to where we can try to hitchhike are way home.