Don't touch me, no really, don't.
I am sat here trying to work out which part of me hurts the most. Let me explain.
Each year on the last Tuesday of January, I head up to the big multinational cosmopolitan cess pit that is London to see my old colleagues from the leisure industry. Earls Court (note to self: who was Earl, and what did he catch?) is laid siege by some 30,000 men in sheepskin coats as it hosts the Amusement Trade Exhibition or ATE for short. This year, for the first time, I decided to take young Johnaitch with me. He’s old enough to behave well enough, and young enough to get us the VIP treatment from any stand holders.
So, through my own choice, I leave at 4:30am up the delightful artery that is the M4. I leave early because most of the bad drivers haven’t finished slapping on the makeup before 8, and if all goes to plan I can be in the West London suburb before then.
Each year the show has got progressively worse. As the industry has fallen into decline, and more and more of the sad tossers who still work in it compete with each other and say how good an industry it really is, the show has shown just had bad things have gotten. Normally it is a case of get in, walk around for the first hour, comment on how crap it is, and pick out the best bits for the next few hours. This year was different. Each and every stand was looked at. Admittedly some people didn’t grasp the idea of the leisure industry, but it was interesting enough to become enjoyable. One stand specialising in security cameras was ribbed by me, for selling cameras at twice the price of Maplin, and then insisting that "No, really, these cameras are different." Another was a security system that filled a room with smoke to stop burglars getting away. You stepped into a plastic conservatory, and promptly went blind. Half way through the demonstration, I suddenly thought that having whooping cough and doing this wasn’t such a good idea.
As we walked around one stand drew my attention, with two guys I recognised from the TV. I beckoned over my offspring who much to his delight (and mine) saw World Champion Robot "Razer."
The poor guys must have thought I was their biggest fan, because there wasn’t a thing I didn’t know about their competitions in Robot Wars. In my defence it was something to do with a certain video tape that was watched over and over again when John was younger. Honest.
Each and every year I have seen, tried and come away disappointed from 3D theatres. No amount of chair jiggling or naffly recorded videos of motorbike views make it different. Only this year an American company did with their 3D Theater (note the misspelling of theatre). It was a simple premise; on a runaway mine cart in a haunted mine. The difference was the untrendy 3D glasses - no red and blue view when you put them on, only slightly darker. Interestingly enough, made to look bad and tacky, so that people don't steal them apparently. I couldn’t understand how this was going to make the Image 3D, but it did. Spectacularly in fact! So much so, that one of the first real 3D moments, a log being propelled towards me like a javelin, actually had me flinch and raise my arm to protect myself. Another point confused my poor brain when some bats were flying around the room, and the lady in front of me was further away then the bats, but was blocking my view of them.
Let us not forget the delightful Sega stand. Normally swamped with Japanese teenagers not letting anyone else get a look in, this year men were treated to a delightful blonde in a pink bikini. The first time we saw her, we were stood there for 10 minutes, in an ever increasing puddle of drool. Each time we then needed to pass from one side of the hall to another, we were inexplicably drawn back to the Sega stand. No idea why.
On the way home we decided to stop in my old neighbourhood in Reading for a bite to eat and a look around. Yep, it’s still a dump.
I got home at 10:30, in pain, exhausted, and quite frankly wanting to die.
Same time next year then?
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