One of the clearest memories from my childhood involves a Sega Megadrive, strawberry jelly, and Aztec Camera.
I find it difficult to describe myself at the best of times, but explaining the way I was as a child is an almost impossible task. I was very innocent and prone to fantasies of fairies and ghosts, and although I was academically adept in all subjects but maths and art, I was quite backwards socially.Given to tears at the slightest provocation, prone to sudden apocalyptic outbursts in Safeway, I was a cross between a nightmare child and the ideal little girl who pushes prams around the garden, giggles with teddy bears and has tea parties with real tiny china cups.
I hated the colour pink because it made me too ‘girly’ and I refused to be referred to as a girl, preferring to be called a ‘tomboy’. However, out of sight of the gang of boys I’d infiltrated in reception class, I’d nurse my Tiny Tears doll, have long conversations with my imaginary friends and skip. My favoured books were by Enid Blyton, but I loved The Beano just as much as I wanted to visit Malory Towers. Football posed no threat to me, and I excelled at rugby later on in primary school, but I also indulged in making daisy chains at the back of the school field, wearing them as bracelets and allowing myself to feel pretty.
Most of my childhood was spent in a strange fantasy world. I was aware of what was going on around me and could interact happily, yet I never quite felt right. I always felt one step behind, and often realised I didn’t understand what was going on at all, so I’d retreat in to myself and construct stories. Some I based around the people I knew: my mother, schoolteachers, the postman. Other centred on me and my place in the world. For such a small person, I always wanted to analyse why I felt the way I did about things. I wanted to know why I like the smell of roses but not of thyme, or why ghosts frightened me more than strangers. I constantly questioned everything, never satisfied with the answers.
I liked to imagine I was somebody else, watching my life from the outside. I would watch cartoons and daydream about being in that world behind the TV screen. I never liked to spend too much time alone with myself without a fantasy to hide in.
Naturally, I begged my mother to get a Sega Megadrive when I saw an advert on television. We already had an Amiga (on which I’d become quite adept at Monkey Island and spent hours amusing myself making snowflakes with a brilliant little Spirograph programme) but after one glimpse of the controller pad (instead of a joystick!) and Sonic The Hedgehog, that was it. I wouldn’t leave her alone, and vowed to plague her until she caved.
On the day the fabled Megadrive was bought, I crowded around the television while my brother set it up. I was only allowed an hour a day on it, but I made the most of that hour. Over time I built up a collection of games: Super Hang-On, Lemmings, Worms, Puggsy, Ecco The Dolphin… but my favourite was Sonic The Hedgehog. I couldn’t get enough of it.
One night, my sister was keeping an eye on me. Her boyfriend (who I liked immensely since he let me break the rules on a regular basis by allowing me sweets after tea) was taking it in turns with me on the console as we tried to beat Marble Hill Zone. I was wearing my Walkman (actually a hand-down from my sister), working my way through my brother’s tape collection.
The one song which stood out for me was Somewhere In My Heart by Aztec Camera. Up until that moment, I’d never heard a song which I had the urge to play over and over until the tape wore out. It created a perfect moment: a song I instantly loved, people who cared about me, and the best console ever.
I completed Marble Hill Zone first, by the way.