I remember loving arcades when really young; not the electronic games - although I trailed around Europe aged twenty in search of 'Galaxion' machines, and would watch with little attention while my three male companions got their fix - but the more old-fashioned games of penny shoves I usually encountered on sea-side piers. Perhaps they are still there. Maybe they are more long-lived than the electronic games - there is something timelessly alluring about the penny-shove.
Each time it seemed a 'certain thing'. The pennies would be teetering as deliciously as melting ice-cream. The next coin would be 'the one' to tip them all over the edge - a sure-fire winner. I'd line up the little ramp with the skill acquired over my wasted summer, wait for the ledge at the back to pull back - and let my penny roll.
It was a tense few seconds waiting to see what would happen; the timing of the rolling coin versus the movement of the shelf was everything. Sometimes it would land perfectly behind a particularly overcrowded part of the shelf, and I would watch without breathing as the shelf moved back into position. For a second or two there would be a slow-motion jostling before the coins would, once again, settle themselves - this time into a even more incredibly precarious position. But already my next coin would be at the slot waiting for its moment.
I can understand quite easily how someone could become addicted to such things; the strange satisfaction of watching one perfectly placed coin shoving the next and the next, and then the magnificent clatter of coins into the drawer below is something I recall even now. There'd be a frantic scramble to gather them all before anyone else did (one of my brothers), and then the carrying of the loot to the kiosk to be turned into something smaller and more silver. Ah, riches. It was probably much less than I'd gone in with, but it didn't matter. The sensible thing to do then, of course, would be to quit and walk away - but somehow that never happened.