Sunday 21 August 2011

Esdevium (the Bazaar of the Bizarre)

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.      


  1. My word.
    A mystery solved. Somewhere in the region of a quarter of a century ago, back when C&VG had a PBM page and I put a great deal of effort into being off games, I played a PBM (still do) that had it's own fanzine thing. On one of its pages was beautifully and intricately illustrated and had the words, "I think I'll make my way to Esdevium." I've always wondered what it was. Turns out it was an advert. I spent turns looking for Esdevium in the game (no one had the heart to tell me). A mystery solved, cheers Alan

  2. A place of magic and wonder. We all had one and this was mine, albeit through uncertain eyes. There was a similar clotted games shop in Kingston that a few of us popped into about ten years ago. It was creepy. Worryingly so. A hundred thousand dusty old game supps spilled a foot deep upstairs. Hiding the bodies. Gone now but those supps would probably fetch the price of a small house on fleaBay nowadays.

  3. It was a place called Jade for me - it's still there,but they don't sell games anymore, just martial arts ephemera,apparently your teenage years are not complete without a pair of plastic nunchuks. Sadly the games shop opposite the British Museum vanished a few months ago, they hid all their supplements in the basement. Strangely cheerful as I recall,next to the jigsaws.

  4. They'll have to team up with other specialist shops to sell monocles, side-buttoned boots, and maps. The musty scent of linseed, varnish and peculiar oils will only add I feel to the ambience. It will be quite a find, what with only selling anything released before 1990. We can all stock up on the Runequest boxed packs and James Bond adventure boxes we could never afford at the time. Also, monocles and side-buttoned boots (for the lady).

  5. I remember Games Workshop in Kingston, Eamon behind his little counter, SPI & Avalon Hill games upstairs RPGs downstairs. Good times.

  6. The Kingston ref was for this tatty little shop not far from the GW. It was run by a woman, one with big hands.