It was true, and there was nothing I could do about it. My childhood memories are never about schoolboy gangs and adventure camps. Instead, they are set in the local video shop, Ivor's, where I spent most of my time with my friend Chris.
Ivor's, named after the friendly middle-aged man who ran the place, was on the second floor of a building above a psychedelic record shop that sold Jimi Hendrix picture discs. Each time we visited Ivor's in the early Eighties, we spent hours there. The notion of going to a shop and renting a video was exciting, especially for a couple of 12-year-old boys in rural Sussex with little else to do. Our fix was soon up to four films a day, which we would rush back to Chris's darkened living room and watch straight through, before stumbling out in a pixilated haze, to our parents' disgust.
We would quickly exhaust the choice of films during school holidays, and often ended up renting anything, in despair. During the 'sword and sorcery' film craze, we found a new title that looked hopeful. Hercules, with its lurid cover filled with buxom Amazons, promised on the back sleeve to feature 'wizards, werewolves, demons and a magic chalice'. Back home, we were dismayed to find it was a dubbed Italian Fifties costume epic, with no gratuitous sex or violence in sight.
On the way back to Ivor's 10 minutes later we worried about what we were going to say to him to get a refund. We'd never taken a video back before, so it was an awkward situation. Honesty prevailed and we told Ivor straight out - the film was just no good. Without batting an eyelid, he said: 'Help yourselves to any film off the shelf.'
And so our allegiance to Ivor never wavered.
Well, only once, at a time when video shops were springing up everywhere, and even our post office had a few titles for rent on a shelf next to the padded envelopes. A new shop, Roxy's, opened as a combination burger bar-cum-video shop. Chris and I decided to have lunch there one time, and rented a film for the afternoon. The film turned out to be as bad as the food and worse than Hercules.
When we tried to complain the manager told us to clear off. Don't worry, we told him, we were going] Back to the first and finest video shop in town, across the railway tracks to Ivor's, where we were always welcome.
Occasionally Ivor would let us into his back room, which was plastered with Page Three pin-ups, all of the same girl, and we would rifle through the promotional posters that he didn't want any more; sometimes he would offer us pirate videos under the counter. Firefox, ET, he had them all. You might be able to see them on television every week now, but back then they were like gold-dust. You hadn't just seen Burt Reynolds's Sharky's Machine, you'd seen it on pirate and Ivor had entrusted it to you]
He also had an adult film section, cordoned off at the end of the shop. He put horror films in there so you could pretend to look for Creepshow while perusing the other boxes.
While our friends were nervously asking girls out for the first time, Chris and I were trying to pluck up courage to rent The Trials of Traci. When we finally laid it on the counter Ivor didn't react with red-faced silence. He picked up the box, arched his eyebrows and went, 'Oooh . . .looks good]'
Ivor's heyday passed. Soon the big boys came to town. Two huge video chainstores opened at each end of the high street, pushing Ivor even farther out than before. Like the multiplex cinemas to the little picture house, these new 'family' video stores offered state-of-the-art interiors with multi-video displays and popcorn dispensers. They had computer systems that could book, bill and keep track of all the films. Ivor would simply say, 'It's not late back, is it?'
Ivor valiantly battled with the big boys. He extended his opening hours to compete, but ended up tired and irritable. He had to sell off his valuable back catalogue to make ends meet. His prized Cheech and Chong collection was the first to go, snapped up by the residents of the squat up the road. He tried competitive pricing: little white labels on the boxes read pounds 1.85 as opposed to the other stores' pounds 2.50. He even installed a pinball machine. But business dropped off rapidly.
The last time I went to Ivor's I was trying to get hold of an obscure new release, and Ivor said it would be in next week. By next week, Ivor's had closed down.Reuse content