This is literally true. When I was eight or nine, cycling home from school in what was then Salisbury, Rhodesia, my friends and I would stop off at the convenience store and play a few games of pinball. It was an old Gottleib machine, which gave you five balls per game, unlike the three balls per game machines that came later. Some years afterwards, now a young layabout wasting a year at University of Cape Town (although a year in Cape Town is never wasted), my fellow skivers and I would play pinball at the convenience store up the road from our res. Every day.
Fast forward ten years to 1989 or thereabouts. West London. Pubs still had pinball machines then. This was before Sky footie, family areas and when the idea of a Smoking Ban would have been laughable. After work on a Friday, four or five of us would spend hours on end in Chiswick’s Barley Mow pub, dicing with the machine. Addams Family was our favourite, and we were pretty hot, I have to say. Joyful times.
But it seems to me that pinball was a 20th Century pastime. When the century closed, it appears that pinball shuffled off too, shutting the door behind it. All the machines disappeared from pubs. In fact, disappeared altogether, pretty much.
So imagine my delight, when leaving the Hogarth Gin Tasting Evening the other night, when I spotted a pinball machine. Spiderman! It smiled at me and winked and I smiled right back. This was in the excellent George and Devonshire pub which is right in front of the brewery of Messrs Fuller, Smith and Turner on the Hogarth roundabout. I emailed the wonderful news to my good friend William Watts Esq. and last night we spent an hour or so putting the machine through its paces, all the while refreshing ourselves with liberal quantities of London Pride. We’re very rusty, so Spiderman bested us overall, but we’ll be back.
Is this the last pinball machine in London?