WHEN I was undergoing the six-year process of changing from a boy into technically and legally a man, I owned a Sinclair ZX Spectrum computer.
It was not by current standards a powerful computer. It was not even by the standards of the time a powerful computer. It was the computer equivalent of me. But it was relatively cheap and easy to program and had so many games. Again, the computer equivalent of me.
Yes, it took eight minutes to load one of those games – and often the loading process would fail – but that was OK. I was 13, what else did I have to do but wait? Teenagers are famously patient.
But I was loyal to that computer. In those days, among my peers, there was a divide. On my side, Spectrum kids, on the other Commodore 64 divs. I suspect they did not refer to themselves in such terms, but that is because they were divs because they had Commodore 64s.
Yes, there were other computers available, like the BBC Micro, but they were for rich children whose parents could afford to spend £399 on a computer just because it had a nice keyboard.
Games for my computer were not always available for the Commodore 64, and vice versa. Normally, this was fine, because, ugh, who wants to play a Commodore 64 game?
But occasionally a game would appear on the Commodore 64 that I actually wanted to play. I would hear the Commobores in my class excitedly chatting about their game about llamas or Ghostbusters, and ache to join in. But I had made my choice. It was not to be.
I grew up – more accurately, older – and such emotions of frustration and exclusion were relegated to the 1980s, along with Black Watch check trousers, trimphones, and cartoons on BBC2.
But now it’s back. Because virtually everybody I know is watching Game Of Thrones, and I am not because I don’t have Posh Telly.
Actually, I do have Posh Telly, but I have the wrong sort of Posh Telly. There are three main types of Posh Telly – I won’t list them here because this is not an advertisement – and I have picked one of the ones which doesn’t have the Bosoms And Dragons programme.
Usually when I tell people this, they explain to me that I can very easily sign up to a package which will give me access to Swords And Nudity. And I have to tell them that I am not in a position to do that.
This time I am not sticking with my own type of Posh Telly out of loyalty, but because I can’t afford to have three types of Posh Telly. I have to draw the line somewhere. If I shelled out eight quid a month just to watch a show that only has 10 episodes a year, what would happen if a show I like appears on the remaining type of Posh Telly?
I’d have to pay for that too, and in the end I would be paying more per month to watch programmes that aren’t even on than I would be paying for food.
This logistical situation means that I have now effectively become a keen viewer of a television programme I do not watch.
I understand all the references. I know what the Red Wedding is. I know who John Snow is. In fact, when I hear somebody say the name “John Snow” I do not automatically assume they mean the Channel 4 News man.
I understand the joke when people say “Hodor”. I know what both Robson AND Jerome are doing these days. I am incredibly angry that Ed Sheeran was in the latest episode.
I feel like I did whenever I visited my late mother and she would tell me the ins and outs of the lives of people I had never met: utterly confused and yet fully briefed to A Level standard.
But this stuff is taking up too much valuable real estate in my brain considering I have never seen a second of the show, and I wonder which important information is being crowded out whenever I recognise the Iron Throne in a picture.
However, I am not going to let it bother me. And that is the proof that I have now grown into an actual man.
Mind you, I bet if I had been a Commodore 64 owner I’d still be whinging. They are the worst.
I HAVE A naturally quiet voice. It is sometimes hard to tell whether I am whispering or shouting. It does not help that I make the same cupping gesture for both activities.
Part of this is because I have a lisp, which was cute when I was a small child, made me a target when I was a larger child, and is just annoying now I am an adult.
It means that I spend far too much of my life avoiding S sounds in conversation. There is no way, for instance, that I could ever romance a woman called Cecilia. I would have to call her Thingy all the time.
Similarly, I could never take up with a coastal-based marine fossils dealer, because I could never explain her job.
But mostly my quiet voice exists because I am polite. I do not think that anybody should be forced to listen to me when I am having a conversation. It would be nice to think that people engaged in conversation with me did not feel forced so to do, but they are not my concern.
My concern is that I am never considered That Man In The Pub. For there is nobody worse than That Man In The Pub.
You hear him before you see him, and then when you see him you immediately know that the voice you heard came from him even if, for that moment, he is not speaking, because his appearance is as loud as his voice.
There are two main types of That Man In The Pub. The first wears a suit and appears to be aged about 35. He may not actually be 35 – he might be in his twenties – but he has always wanted to look 35. He is probably an estate agent. He may not actually be an estate agent, but he has always wanted to look like an estate agent.
This man does not wear a tie, but he does have a pocket square. The pocket square is the most ridiculous piece of clothing since Adam and Eve donned fig leaves. (Incidentally, does anybody know how they managed to attach these fig leaves? Did they have Pritt Sticks in the Garden of Eden?) It is a handkerchief that you cannot actually use as a handkerchief. Its only use is as a signal to other people that you are a person to avoid.
The second type of That Man In The Pub wears a football shirt. It is a never-ending source of amusement to me that if I turned up at the pub dressed as Spider-Man I would be lambasted. Also I would have no idea how I would drink anything through the mask.
However it is perfectly acceptable for a man with a beer gut and an approach to personal hygiene and fitness rarely seen in the modern game to pretend to be John Terry.
But what the two types have in common is an overwhelming need for everybody in the pub to know that they are there. They have to be the loudest in their group. They think that banter is a good thing rather than a substitute for a sense of humour for people who cannot think of their own jokes.
I witnessed the first type this week. I was in London for a meeting and had an hour to kill before my train home.
I went to a pub, because there is only so much entertainment to be had in a station waiting room, ordered a drink, and sat in the corner trying to look as if I hadn’t been stood up.
In he came, wearing a pinstriped suit and shiny shoes, surrounded by his entourage of nodding pillocks. The party sat around me and started talking across me. I know I was going for a discreet effect, but I did not realise I was actually invisible.
The subject matter chosen by That Man In The Pub was wide and varied. It concerned the ugliness of his companions, the likelihood that they might be homosexual, the likelihood that various female tennis players might be homosexual, and the physical attributes of the female bar staff. And all of it was delivered in his outdoor voice.
I tried to hide my distaste, finished my drink, and left them to it, glad that I am able to say I am not like That Man In The Pub.
But even if I did, you wouldn’t be able to hear me.