When I was younger, working on various college Rag Mags and stuff, I had this peculiar idea that being a megastar journalist would change my life. In fact, all that happened was that I end up sitting up all night for about three days in a row, roughly two weeks after the final copy date has passed, madly trying to get everything together in time. I have a sneaking feeling that all part-time writers work this way; certainly I used to know some people who wrote for the music press, and they claimed that they simply could not write at all until after the copy date. Funnily enough, the soon-to-be-deceased/late lamented Big K magazine was staffed by a lot of ex-NME people, which tells you quite a lot about why it was like it was, and also why it no longer is. What the intuitive among you will have realised is that I am working my way round to apologising for the appalling errors I have made in recent issues, like abusing the wrong people, getting my opinions wrong, etc. I must say, actually, I had the good fortune to meet John Gilbert last week at the Toy Fair, and I’m sure if it hadn’t been for the fact that we were giving away free wine on our stand, he would certainly have explained to me the exact nature of his identity crisis. A splendid chap. The point is, though, that we journalists are under an immense amount of pressure, and can’t avoid making the odd slip, and there’s really no cause for any offence to be taken. Anyway....

I’m back again, and just about suitably psyched up to deliver another vituperative harangue. In case you didn’t realise I missed last month’s copy date yet again (this is getting boring) but it wasn’t my fault Your Honour, there were mitigating circumstances! You see, my fiancé and I live in a (how shall we put this?) derelict house, which we actually own (fools!) and intend to renovate, flog and make a hefty profit on. Unfortunately, there are some slight drawbacks to living in this salubrious joint, like the fact that when it snows it actually comes right down the chimney into the living room — and of course going to the loo becomes a major Arctic expedition. Once you’ve got the huskies hitched up, you have to negotiate a ten-foot high mountain of bricks in the backyard. The loo itself is frozen up, and sitting on it is something else — it leaves your posterior feeling like it’s been ravaged by a rampant squid. In an effort to ease the tribulation of living in this hardship station, I have taken to using a potty indoors at night... I don’t think I can go on with this — it gets really disgusting! As I had ten days off from my day job over Christmas, I thought I would really get stuck in to a number of desperate jobs, like putting some heating and hot water in, and so on. And now, in fact, our standard of living has increased by about 300%. We no longer have to trek over to the other side of town to wash at my mum’s, and we’ve got a nice stereo. The thing is, though, that I just didn’t get time to look at any games, let alone write about any. (This is not quite true, I did spend a little time playing Knight Lore, and I have to say ‘Well done, all you lot at Ashby’). I think I’ll just resign now, OK? Also, I will admit to playing Dark Star a bit, and I have a great tip for anyone with a joystick: easily the best way to play Darkstar is to define all the right-hand keys at accelerate, all the left-hand keys as brake, stick the Speccy on the floor, take your shoes off and use it like the pedals in a car. This enables you to keep both hands on your joystick all the time (after a while I found that I could even hit the ‘1’ button pretty accurately with my toe). The only drawback is that it can get a bit smelly, and your friends tend to regard you as some kind of pervert.

Just before Christmas I had the time of my day at the EMAP Christmas party at the Camden Palace. To those of you who don’t know, EMAP is a big publishing company, which owns loads of magazines, such as C-5 User and C&VG. In view of my oft-expressed pleas for more friendly relations between magazine people, I was not at all surprised to get the call to Camden Town (funny Roger couldn’t make it — had a bad attack of the belly ache, I hear) and headed off down the central line confidently expecting the usual gutful of gin. But — horror of horrors! — the free bar closed at nine o’clock, well before I’d hit my stride. In that time, though, I had managed to have a very meaningful 18-second conversation with Lee Guinty of Micro Dealer (Lee is a person of immense power, because he has a large say in how many games a Software Company is going to sell. He stands me up at lunch dates, but OK, I can take the humiliation) (sob). I’d also had a long chat with Clive Bailey of Beyond about how brilliantly they’ve been doing lately and, I can now reveal to you, in a sneak leak, that Beyond will shortly be launching a new label! Like, wow!

You may have noticed from previous reports that I like going to exhibitions and things. Well, I think I’ve changed my mind. I’ve just spent the last five days at the Earls Court Toy Fair, an event which must surely rival even the dreadful Ideal Home Exhibition for sheer tedium. Funnily enough, there were virtually no software companies there at all, although there were plenty of people looking for them — perhaps this explains why I was hardly bought any drinks at all during the entire show. Or maybe it was just the fascist car-park attendants, scaring them away. Who can tell? I’d also just like to say hello to the person who congratulated me on my column (wash your brain out with soap, you degenerate) — it almost makes it all worthwhile, although the odd beer would help as well. Incidentally, I had the most appalling experience with microdrives at the show — one day we had a press reception in the morning for all the hacks to see our new games. Guess what happened — all three cartridges with the new games on had mysteriously de-formatted themselves, and so I had absolutely nothing to show the assembled throng. I felt a right dingbat, and the moral is clear— if you have to rely on microdrives, then don’t use them at all.