James Matthews

JAMES MATTHEWS takes a trip down mem­ory lane – and it only costs him £1

EDP Norfolk - - Inside - James Matthews

In for 2p, in for a pound, says our colum­nist

IT hap­pened again at the week­end. I tried my best to avert my gaze and walk past, I re­ally did. But the twinkly lights and fa­mil­iar, se­duc­tive tunes drew me in.

We don’t visit Cromer of­ten but when we do our visit takes a fa­mil­iar route; a brac­ing walk to the end of the his­toric pier, a wan­der along the beach to splash in the sea and then back through the town to re­ward our­selves with a cou­ple of por­tions of chips. Un­less we come across one of Cromer’s three amuse­ment ar­cades (and of course, I of­ten make sure we do).

My ar­cade ma­chine of choice has al­ways been the penny-pusher – or ‘2p ma­chine’ as we re­ferred to it when we were chil­dren. Whether it was Great Yar­mouth, Sher­ing­ham or Cromer, back then a trip to the Nor­folk sea­side wasn’t com­plete with­out a flipflop up to the ar­cade. I would go straight up to change my £1 coin into a bucket of 2ps that would pro­vide my en­ter­tain­ment for the rest of the af­ter­noon.

Un­like other ar­cade ma­chines that seem­ingly re­ward play­ers at whim, the penny-pusher is a game of skill. While friends gath­ered around the cheeky grab­ber ma­chines, hop­ing the next time they put their 20p in the slot the slip­pery claws wouldn’t lose in­ter­est half way to the chute and re­lease the cud­dly toy, I stood, bucket of 2ps in hand, me­thod­i­cally in­sert­ing my coins.

I didn’t com­mit to the pen­ny­pusher sec­tion I wanted to play in haste. I’d cir­cle around the ma­chines look­ing for the per­fect

“When it came, the sweet sound of the jack­pot would cause jeal­ous heads to turn”

sec­tion to com­mit my change to – the one that had a clus­ter of coins pre­car­i­ously over­hang­ing the edge of the tray, ready for that per­fectly-timed and po­si­tioned coin to bring them clat­ter­ing down the chute and into my hands. And when it came, the sweet sound of the jack­pot would cause jeal­ous heads to turn. For a cou­ple of sec­onds I’d be the envy of the ar­cade.

Af­ter what seemed like hours of fun I’d cross my fin­gers and insert my last 2p into the slot, hope­ful it would re­sult in a wind­fall that could keep me play­ing (and my par­ents wait­ing) for an­other five min­utes at least.

Of course, I’d al­ways run out of change even­tu­ally and, de­spite beg­ging par­ents for more, I’d be ca­joled on my way with the prom­ise of hot, sug­ary dough­nuts or a por­tion of chips.

“Come on, let’s go and get some chips;” my wife snapped me out of my nos­tal­gic day dream.

But I still had at least 30p left in my bucket and I was sure I was only a cou­ple of coins away from dis­lodg­ing a pile of pen­nies tan­ta­lis­ingly close to the edge. The nine-year-old me was de­ter­mined to see the game out.

In a time when we have a seem­ingly in­fi­nite world of en­ter­tain­ment at our finger tips, it ap­pears £1 and a penny-pusher will still keep me happy for a good while. I can’t think of a bet­ter value af­ter­noon in Nor­folk.

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