It’s the cars that date it more than the people. The people are mostly in uniform which change as it certainly has in the last thirty years, not so much or rather this is how I remember it. The army, in Aldershot – and people too of course for they’re not occupying it, they’re joining it. The last time I was here and in twenty-five years time the town will become somewhere to practise, for the army – or somewhere that will look as if it has. Pound shops and pasties and the sort of cheap cafes where all-day breakfast means mostly beans. But not now and perhaps because I’m seeing it through my own eyes, or myself, who I see, peddling into town from Hilary Dwyer ten miles distant. Here is Aldershot and whilst the MacDonalds is new and the playhouse had Panto, then also it has Concorde Models, and also it has Esdevium Games.
“It’s not here now,” I say.
Mme Roux knows. It moved rather than closed as so many games shops have done even more recently. GW is but Dalling Road, there is a Games Centre in the Virgin. But Esdevium Games was the best. It was small, but deep, it went back and back increasingly gloomy. There where in soggy bookshops elsewhere would be the porn from 1979 then here were old, packed games. Board games and endless battles involving all the cardboard in the world, in tiny tiles. Crammed, hundreds, they whispered. In lighter places Esdevium had games, packages of Tunnels & Trolls, a rack for Runequest. Stacked proudly were the AD&D volumes as each appeared with that inky smell and £10 each – which could buy you half a Ford Capri back then.
“Sorry, yes – and there’s the cabinet,” I say, and there it is. Every Citadel, Ral Partha and Minifigs figure there was. You pressed your nose and asked by number and the man would turn and from a hundred alchemist’s drawers produce it for you. They came in ones. They cost about 10p.
From the ceiling hang spiders in spun cages of Victorian iron. They’re clever those spiders, they look like nothing of the sort. In the shop are older men with beards, pouring over telephone directories of ten thousand tables that judge for them a javelin. Younger men (but old to us then) with hair about their ears perusing dusty magazines that they’ll buy only after a lot of loud sneering. Spotty elves with big noses that never forgave the 70s for passing to punk before they were ready. One wet lump with glasses, badges and a shoulder bag that only plays with younger boys, and sometimes rpgs. And us, in this wonderful place and still a year or three shy of even being teens. Mme Roux and I, just passing by.
There I am, and Matt, and Martin. No one knew of a dead body we had to quest to in order to prod with a stick.
Had there been one it would have been here anyway.