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Old 23 April 2013, 20:32   #1
Titler
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Equally Humble And Nostalgic

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“Because we don't know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four, five times more, perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps 20. And yet it all seems limitless.”
― Paul Bowles
Let me tell you a tale of one such afternoon, a day that was a beginning stretched out over more than a decade and a half. Not of my childhood but of my university years. I can date the month exactly, as it revolves around a magazine, which in turn was dated December 1995.

I would have been just 4 months into being a Fresher then. I was still using my Amiga, with dot matrix printer, in the days of Windows driven PCs and chunky laserjets; and it's funny looking at the date, and considering how interested I was in computers, but I can't remember what operating system the university had in 1995. Maybe it was already Windows 95? Or if it wasn't, when did they change over? I can't recall. But I remember Netscape Navigator, and Telnet and Surfers.org where someone first said they loved me... and the precursor to webcams where someone first sent me a link to a picture on a geocities blog, supposedly of her, lifting up her skirt; the silly debates around the library room with friends illuminated mostly by white text on black screen, about if it was a man posting them really, with a female friend of mine claiming it was actually a man in the picture because of something about the shape of the back of her legs... I still have the picture oddly and it doesn't look like a man to this date to me! But funny isn't it, what you remember of certain moments?

And so back to the memory for today... I remember, sitting in the Potteries in Hanley, Stoke On Trent in December 1995, with my new copy of Amiga Power. The issue isn't scanned at the Magazine Rack, I've discovered, which is curious. Now I feel guilty about assuming it was, and focusing on the trash that was Amiga Action with my last bout of scan-frenzy. But on page 60, there was a letter from long time reader, eventual paid Hairy Layabout C-Monster. I'll type it out for you here.

Quote:
Cud As The Winter Days

Hi,
In Bath, besides my delightfully shabby student house, there is a fairly steep natural earth mound called Widcome Hill. It's not overly steep, so is perfect to stroll up on those days when life's waters are running at a lethargic crawl and you need some brisk wind and exercise to refresh your tarnished spirits. Halfway up this edifice is a sprawling field full of our chirpy bovine friends, who wander around munching mouthfuls of cud as the winter days grow thinner. Bordering this field is a high, rocky wall from which, if you choose to rest for a few brief minutes from your incessant perambulations, you will be presented with the finest possible view of the fair city of Bath: row upon row of perfectly shaded houses sweeping down the side of the city's encircling hills, all highlighting the beauty of Bath's monuments and the the spiralling flow of the mighty Avon. All that the city will ever be and all that it ever was are laid out before you. You feel equally humble and nostalgic, then hop down off the wall and continue the ascent of Widcome.
Reading this issue of AP made me feel a little bit like that.

C-Monster

We'd just get knocked down by cars.
Over my own years as a student, my spirits would take a lot of great knocks; and every now and then I'd be re-reading my Amiga Powers and would come across this letter again, and wonder what it was like to be a Student in Bath... and just what that hill really looked like, whether it would have lifted my spirits? No one I knew want to travel, except to the Student Union to get pissed. But still... I vowed one day to go and see it for myself.

I never really got around to it though. I eventually moved to Bristol, and popped over to visit Bath a number of times, but the hill didn't appear marked on many of the pocket maps I found whilst there, and the locals amongst you may have noticed C-Monster hadn't spelt it correctly anyway, which also threw a few of my idly nostalgic searches off track. There would always be other days though, so I didn't seek too hard.

Another day was 12th May 2010. Nearly 15 years after first reading the Amiga Power magazine. A random support request for sharing crops and things in Farmville had turned into general conversation and then flirting amd then Skyping and finally a Lithuanian girl flying to the UK to meet me. Which in person had become a constant battle against violent mood swings and manipulation and sudden arousal and then guilt and confusion and... who knows really what was going on? And for my own sake, it's probably best to not have known, because I couldn't change what I wasn't even allowed to address. On the final day of a cut short shared time, I tried a final attempt to inspire something positive; we'd planned to go walking the Skyline Trail in Bath. . It's beautiful, if you get the chance to go I'd recommend it. And there were some moments that should have been, could have been beautiful too; we got lost from the trail because we need to go there, don't tell me I need to go anywhere, we need to follow, we don't need to follow... losing the trail we ended up in Abbey Cemetary where it was wonderful to suddenly see a wild deer run between the stones, but don't look at it, don't follow it, oh I'll go sit on a gravestone and scowl whilst you follow it...

We climbed up to Priory Park , where my camera's battery finally ran down, and started idly walking back in the direction of Bath. Getting lost yet again, we passed an old church, argued again (about etiquette this time), and then came out suddenly... On Widcombe Hill. There could be no mistake, there was a copper-plate style road sign right in front of us; I'd found it at last! I suggested we walk back up it, wasn't allowed to explain why, so I lied and said our bus stop was up there. A sudden mood change, and she ran ahead giggling and whilst I threw sticky-bud plants at her.

And... there at last it was. My camera recovered just enough battery power to get two snaps; were these the delightfully shabby student houses I'd read about, still shabby so many years later?



And here was the view over Bath; no cows, cloudy skies and blurred in blazing heat and low light...



I wanted so much to explain what the moment meant to me, but my companion at first told me to stay on the road so she could look at the wild rabbits in the hedgerows (apparently I'd scare them, but she wouldn't) and then I ended up walking onto the grass and taking photographs by myself when she'd tired of the scene.

Sigh.

A few years of clarity later, much happier times with friends and new girlfriends later and July 2012 rolls around, with blazing heat once more and this time not a single cloud to be seen. And for some reason the hill was in my thoughts again; I decided no, now that I knew where Widcombe was, I wanted to take the moment back for myself and experience it the way it always should have been. And this time, the magazine was going with me...! Except I forgot to charge the camera the night before, and I only discovered the battery was dead when arriving at Bath Station. But fortunately I still had my mobile phone with me. The pictures wouldn't be perfect, but the moment could still be...

Blimey though, to have done it 17 years earlier, when I was still a student; the hill is steeper to the old man eye and much harsher to these old man legs than it would have been back then! And not so much a refreshing exercise but rather a sweaty slow struggle up a horrible inclination without a single breeze to help!



I persevered though, and settled down to complete the personal voyage; to rest upon the stone wall and at last re-read the letter in the probable place that inspired it...



But! My perusal was suddenly interrupted by a somewhat familiar roar... Jet Engines! I looked over to my left, and flying over Bath at coincidentally the same time; The Red Arrows?!



Practising perhaps for the Olympic opening display, but this time, I could sit and appreciate the coincidences in the inspirational manner of that old letter about Amiga Power... on with the reading in the sunshine!



Unlike C-Monster back then though, I didn't have the youthful verve to complete the dehydrating walk up the rest of Widcombe to Bath University; I didn't have happy memories of the brief time visiting the Bath campus 2 years previously as you can imagine, and I don't look back at my own time as a student in the Midlands with much fondness either... but just myself and a magazine, this far and no further up the hill again, well... I felt some of the innocent hope and daydreaming of youth myself once more. And, with one last blurry low pixel camera shot of Bath, I walked back down the green in search of cows...



So there we have it; An odyssey inspired by a throwaway letter to an Amiga Magazine back in 1995, a tale of both deep lows and curiously simple highs... I sometimes wonder if C-Monster ever remembers writing it, and what happened to him after Amiga Power. Did he go onto become a successful novelist like Reader Mills? Would Reader Mills have appreciated my own arguing with my then-briefly-girlfriend? Why don't I ever get my old battered A500 out and see if it still works at least? Still, I at least managed to experience one particular strange quirk of my Amiga days, and I hope you all enjoyed my eventually sharing it... and continue to chase your own strange whims, both Amiga related or otherwise!
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Old 23 April 2013, 21:32   #2
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I have nothing of the sort you have just related to share, but one story I always found somewhat amusing I'd be willing to tell.

My brother bought the German Amiga Joker magazine every month up to the mid-90s, and when he stopped I bought some issues every then and now until we got a PC at home. Amiga Joker always had one or two pages where they reviewed old and new boardgames. They reviewed normal Euro-style boardgames but also Ameritrash and miniature wargames like GW's Man O' War, and role-playing games like Cyberpunk 2020.
In one issue, they reviewed a game called Blood Berets, set in the Mutant Chronicles Universe (there's a roleplaying game of the same name and also a miniautures game called WarZone which is being re-released right now, and there has also been a movie with Tomas Jane, John Malkovich, Devon Aoki, ron Perlam and others).

Anyway, It was kinda interested in this stuff and especially in the MC universe back then and the game looked pretty nice, with plastic miniatures of the Blood Beret special forces fighting on the Jungles of Venus (terraforming etc, don't ask) against the Dark Legion with their powerful Nepharites leading hordes of Undead Legionnaires (yes, it's that sort of GrimDark (tm) stuff).

The amiga Joker editors would always ask a simple question related to the games and if you wrote the correct answer on a postcard and send it to their office, you had a chance to win the reviewed game.

I really wanted to have this game and it was pretty costly for a teenager, so I thought to myself "why not just send not one, but five postcards with hte answer to increase your chances of winning?". And so I did. A few days later I left for a two-week youth camp but when I came back, a package awaited me! Eagerly I tore it open and sure enough it was the game, along with a letter from the chief editor (or whatever he is called) congratulating me. So I was happy with the game (although it was pretty unbalanced and I didn't play it more than once).

Only years later (actually, right about now) did I realize that at this time (could have been as late as 1996) the Amiga Joker readership had probably shrunk to a four-digit number, with people sending in their postcards for boardgames probably in the low two-digits, if at all. While as a teenager I imagined there being a huge bag of mail with the postcards, with five being mine and one that got drawn, now I realize that they may only had my five postcards along with a few others on the secretary's desk. They probably smiled when they saw my half-assed approach at cheating but didn't care and let me win anyway
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Old 24 April 2013, 02:00   #3
Mark Wright
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(That's enough Amiga mag-related nostalgia. - Ed.)
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Old 27 April 2013, 18:09   #4
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That's a pretty cool story. Annoyed by your insult of Amiga Action though! That was my favourite magazine.
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Old 29 April 2013, 11:13   #5
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(That's enough Amiga mag-related nostalgia. - Ed.)
(up yours. - G.)

God I loved Amiga Action.
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Old 29 April 2013, 12:39   #6
Rob 1
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Originally Posted by Titler View Post

And so back to the memory for today... I remember, sitting in the Potteries in Hanley, Stoke On Trent in December 1995, with my new copy of Amiga Power. The issue isn't scanned at the Magazine Rack, I've discovered, which is curious. Now I feel guilty about assuming it was, and focusing on the trash that was Amiga Action with my last bout of scan-frenzy. But on page 60, there was a letter from long time reader, eventual paid Hairy Layabout C-Monster. I'll type it out for you here.
Nice thoughts mate thanks for sharing, would you like us to take a vote on whether we think is a man or woman in that photo?

Oh no you didn't go to Staffordshire Poly in Stoke did you? You poor poor man. No wonder that letter meant so much to you.

I’m not sure what the connection with an Amiga is with the original Letter? And what does this mean? “We'd just get knocked down by cars”.

PS Start the scanner up and get those pages on the web!! and stop poo pooing Amiga Action my magazine of choice back in the day, but I was a bit younger so that’s why it probably wasn’t your first choice.
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Old 29 April 2013, 17:32   #7
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Nice thoughts mate thanks for sharing, would you like us to take a vote on whether we think is a man or woman in that photo?

Oh no you didn't go to Staffordshire Poly in Stoke did you? You poor poor man. No wonder that letter meant so much to you.

I’m not sure what the connection with an Amiga is with the original Letter? And what does this mean? “We'd just get knocked down by cars”.

PS Start the scanner up and get those pages on the web!! and stop poo pooing Amiga Action my magazine of choice back in the day, but I was a bit younger so that’s why it probably wasn’t your first choice.
It's a hand. Could be male, could be female. It's not important which ... the magazine in it is what matters :P

Amiga ("Keep your pants on" - Ed) was crap, and you all know it! At least, towards the end it absolutely was, which is the only time I read it, after Amiga Power folded and I was desperate for new software. Indeed, even the writers used to hide "This Mag Is Crap" jokes in it, but I've yet to read the legendary Son Of Boggis rant that apparently tore apart everything associated with AA in the final issue...

The letter writer became Amiga Power staff later on, and AP's offices were in Bath at Future Publishing; the connection to AP in the letter, was the feeling of awe and inspiration from looking at Bath and also of reading AP. The comment in Italics was the response from AP (probably written by J.Nash) that if they tried walking around Bath and wondering, they'd just get knocked down by cars instead.

No, I didn't go to Staffs Poly, although I did visit it once and have a picnic on the lawn on the campus off to the right of Stoke Train Station once... but I think my supposedly best friend then was just looking for examples of Stafford Beef to seduce. We were next door at Keele though. Lovely campus, largely sad times there. There was a sense of elitist superiority over Staffs Poly, but although I met some brilliant minded people at Keele, they were not in any true sense any more open minded, only educated a bit more and coming from largely better financial situations. But I was and remain working class in outlook, so I never had any ill will towards Staffs Poly. No idea what it was like to live and study there though; probably the same as anywhere, student life has largely been based around the same drinking habits as everywhere else in the UK for some time now. And no matter how smart you think you are, no one makes much sense buried under the "DUFF DUFF DUFF" of repetitive Student Union beats and 6 pints of beer...

It's a sad commentary on the lack of true intelligence, empathy or even ambition that the only emotional connections you could form at a British University where with magazine's letters; I suspect the vast majority of my fellow students hadn't even explored outside of The Potteries, and never even knew of the little delightful parks to be found there... I was supposedly amongst the best and brightest, but the experiences were achingly dull and repetitive. I'm not a puritan by any means, quite the opposite... but there's more than one cup to drink from, you know? Gaming was one of them. And it was interesting to see, hundreds of miles away, a fellow Amiga lover taking a moment to stop and think of some more of life's treasures.

Anyway, I really must scan the missing APs, but it's a slow process and it tends to damage the spines unfortunately. I added the two (and two was more than enough!) AAs I mistakenly bought to the AMR last year... but even the discs didn't work at the time! Shoddy, shoddy mag and you know it :P
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