Report submitted to funders in 1989, John Schostak, Richard Davies

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Chris is 14. Although he is a very conventional looking boy he comes across as forthright and independent. Clearly someone very much of his own mind and quite without hesitation in putting forward his views.

His mother works in a adult education establishment in the city and his father works "over the road" in a large chemical plant. He is a chemical processor. His sister is a receptionist at "a fruit machine place" in the city. It is not an arcade, he says, but a leisure equipment rental business. She's been working there for about six months.

Chris occasionally works for a friend who runs an old people's home at a resort on the coast. He works for him in the summer and over the Easter holidays "I do the garden down there so I get about a tenner a day". He describes the home as "a big old place" requiring a tractor mower. He enjoys the work "You just sit there and you are just going along the grass". He does this about two or three times a week. He can earn as much as £40 a week and seldom spends more than £10. A fair proportion of this is spent on loose doughnuts which he is fond of for breakfast "We get up at about 7.00 and then ride through to (the resort) and we get a load of doughnuts". When he's finished work he will go out with a friend around all the amusement arcades but says "I don't spend that much money. I just go around there. I don't go on the fruit machines that much". But there is one machine he uses which has a "caravan" "I like going on them ones because I always win". This is because this machine requires a "knack, you see. I think I am the only one who has got it"

He lives in a large suburb but goes into the city most weekends "we sort of walk around looking at the shops and that". He usually goes on these expeditions with his friend Alex. The two boys go skateboarding sometimes in the city, sometimes nearer home. They were out skateboarding until 9.00 the other night.

His parents are fairly flexible about the time he should come home in the evenings "There ain't no set rules but say you said you wanted to go out yourself "I'm going out". They would say "Hey, how are you getting home?" and they would find out how you're getting home and that". He usually goes to bed at 9.30 during the week but at weekends he will stay out till 10.00 or 10.30 because at weekends "Well, it all tends to be happening". His eighteen year old sister goes down to Ritzy's discotheque every Friday "and doesn't come home till about 4.00 in the morning". His parents "don't really bother about it so long as she is home on..before about 5.00 a.m. that's alright"

He says about most of the things available for boys and girls of his age to do "Well, the only thing there is costs money anyway. You can't just go out somewhere". On Friday nights he goes back to the school to race his remote control beetle car around the school hall with other children. The school is open at this time because there is a youth club held on the premises. Chris says "I'm not a member of any clubs. I can't stand sports or nothing. I can play 'em...but I'm no good at the Youth Club". He frequents the local community centre which has some sports facilities "a couple of squash courts, badminton, tennis, five-a-side football". He goes there usually on a Tuesday with a group of about four of his friends. Chris' mother gives them all a lift to the community centre. Generally speaking his family is not a sporting one although if there's a football match on television his dad will watch it.

Once he went down to a city centre arcade with his friend Alex. It was an exploratory visit "I have never been in Silver City...I thought I might as well go in there. So I went". What he found was "a very dingy place. I didn't like it at all". It was also very "smokey" and full of what Chris calls "arcade kids...they all look rough. They don't wear...well, they just look rough, that's it. Some of them just sit on the machines" But having got there he thought he might as well spend 10p on the nearest available machine "suddenly there was this kid, he's smoking this cigarette and he come up to me and go "Kid, lend us 10p". I go "No thanks". So he go over to Alex and say "Can I have your last make on this machine?" Last make because he was playing double drag with it" Chris explains. He noticed how "lots of the kids kept going up to the machines. They would look like they had been there all day". And he adds "I mean they're about the same age as me".
There were other approaches from some of the clients "When I went in there was plenty of people come up to me and said "I know how to finish that game off for you" and that". Chris made non committal remarks "Is it? and that" and carried on. He "came off" a machine in order to change some money "and then this boy come up to the machine and have a go on it. He walked away and I thought I'll go back on that because I won some money on it. So I put my money in and just suddenly he come up to me and he was over my shoulder and he say "This is my machine". I say "No, it isn't". He go "Yes, it is". I say "Well, you will have to wait until I finish. I finished my go and he went back on it"
This was the first and last time he went to this amusement arcade "I am never going to go in there again. I hate the place". But there are plenty of people in the school he says who hang around there "I can't see nothing in it. If you go down there you are bound to spend some money. You are just wasting it". He classes those who frequent amusement arcades such as Silver City as "people who are smokers and people who hang around with gangs and that. Those are the only people who I know who go down there".

Chris used to smoke. "When I was twelve or thirteen. I used to have about one every couple or three or four weeks". He didn't pay for them "people kept giving them to me". But he gave up. The story goes like this: "I just thought I would try it (smoking) and it just progressed from there. But I thought it's not worth doing, so I didn't". Money was not a factor, of course "I didn't have to buy 'em but I thought: oh, it's not worth it". At around the same time he changed the company he was keeping "It's not worth hanging around with these people anymore. It's not worth it. And when I stopped going there I stopped smoking".

"Going there" Chris explains was not a place as such but was "sort of little gang meeting". They used to talk a lot "It used to be a little gang". Some of the members came from a middle school not far from the high school. They all lived near each other and would "hang around at school and we all used to hang around Lyndhurst Drive". Cigarettes were introduced into the gang because "we used to hang around a gang who used to be eighteen/ sixteen year olds and that". This brought not only smoking within the horizons of the younger gang but motor bike riding as well "We used to nick 'em and ride around. But they used to smoke and it all sort of got round in a sort of a little disease probably". Eventually Chris made a decision about both the smoking and the group of older teenagers "It's not worth it so I didn't bother, you thought: do you want to do it? Because I thought you, well, you are bound to get addicted and that costs you money"

He says he inhaled the smoke but he couldn't taste anything. He didn't feel any difference in his lungs but "I've got abnormal lungs now...I've got better lungs than I should have" He recently had a health check which showed that his lungs "are a lot better than they should be. They're a bit bigger for my age and I am quite small as well". Still, he can't stand running "I go out after about 100 metres". He did experience a sore throat that may have been connected with smoking "It all depends how many you smoke...If I inhaled it through for a couple of days I used to get a sore throat. You start getting burnt out". None of his family knew that he was smoking. He does not think it was important to be seen to be inhaling or smoking; there was no particular status as far as he was concerned "it was up to you if you smoked or not. You could either smoke or you couldn't. Or you could just stand there". The thing is though "if there's something, you have to try it, to find out what it's like". He doubts that he will ever smoke again and now says it is a "disgusting habit".

He doesn't have any interest in drink. When he visits his grandmother "she bring me in a cup of tea in the morning and I go "What's this?" She put loads of rum in it. She says it warms your insides up". Sometimes his grandmother uses whisky instead of rum. His grandmother and Aunt are elderly sisters living together. They usually sit downstairs where it is warm and he sleeps up in the loft which they consider to be cold "They said it was freezing up there but I ain't felt at all cold. I only had a sweat shirt and a pair of cords and I was lovely and warm". Otherwise the only time Chris is allowed a drink at home is at Christmas. He thinks that young people who drink "probably get a kick out of it" but he says "I can't see why. It tastes vile". He has never "been on the cider or drunk or anything. Never had no need to. You have got to have your own fun, You make your own leisure".