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