So here's the thing. It's circa 1985, the hair's a bit mulletty at the back, a bit boofy at the front, the Brut 33 is on in industrial quantities. The jeans are pin-striped, the shirt is pink, the white glove singular.
The place? Long Jetty, which is the poor end of The Entrance. Single-storey shop-fronts, pinball arcades and clothing chain-stores well past their prime. And the roller-skating rink, crammed between a pawn-shop and a porn-shop.
We're there as a church youth group. Oh the horror! But Seventh-day Adventists don't believe in dancing, you see, and the next best thing is to skate around a tennis-court-sized slab of concrete to Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran and Wham for a few hours. Hand-holding is rife, erections ill-concealed behind tight stone-washed denim. And then there's Karen, the object of my poorly-hidden desire, all tossed hair and giggling flirtation. I can't skate very well, but I don't let that stop me. Besides, if you can't remain upright by yourself, then you need help. Don't you? "Hold my hand! No, tighter! Don't let me fall! Don't fall on top of me! Oh, that's nice..."
In 1985 they had a smoking room at the Long Jetty Roller-skating Rink, a glass bench-lined booth in the corner of the place into which smokers could go to light up. A dozen teenagers annoyed that all the cool torture their lungs were enduring was for nothing, since no one could see through the heavy smoke anyway. It's hard to impress when you can't even be seen.
I saw my first music video that night. It was the full ten-minute version of "Thriller", played on a 48cm TV and a Sanyo sound system. It seemed like such a novel concept back then, making a little mini-movie to play over the top of a song. Weren't you supposed to make the movie first, then the sound-track? Wasn't all this music-vid stuff a bit back-to-front? Would it take off? Probably not. Yeah, and the Apple Macintosh was never going to turn into anything more than a gimmicky calculator. A mouse, indeed!
I drove past the place the other day, my kids in the back seat and my wife (who is not Karen, but was in fact present that night) at my side. It's hard to say whether or not the facade of the rink has changed. I don't think it has, despite looking ever so tired and world-weary. The thing is, I suspect it might have looked like that back then, only I couldn't see it. Not with a satchel full of hormones, and money for skate-hire.