Things really started in my relationship with Nostalgia & Comics in July 1987 when I started work, initailly over the summer but soon after that I was to be found ever Saturday enjoying immensely this wonderful place.
I've already talked about that first summer in some detail elsewhere, but I still maintain, probably quite sadly, that this was one of the best summers of my life. Everything seemed to come together. I'd just finished my exams so had that wonderful sense of relief and freedom and the feeling of an endless summer in front of me. I'd also just finished my first serious relationship and had got over it sufficiently to feel that sense of post serious relationship freedom.
I was 16, had the whole world at my feet and was working in possibly the coolest place I could have ever imagined at that point.
Of course, what made that summer particularly special was the welcome I received from the staff. Friends I made then are friends I've kept. And once Dave, David, Ted, Martin and Jason realised that the strange child in the basement actually had a tongue in his head and wasn't here from the special school on work experience they took me under their wing.
Which meant I suddenly had a whole new lot of friends, all older than me and all different from any of my existing friends. And I had a whole city to play in as well, although I'm sure there were times the staff would have liked the 16 year old to stop being so 16, they were always very nice and never seemed too embarrassed by my behaviour.
Of course, there were some bad moments.
I distinctly remember to this day the sense of crushing embarrassment on appearing at the top of the basement stairs precariously balancing a tray of coffees and teas for the staff, only to suddenly lose balance trip over some stock and send the whole lot flying everywhere. I just wanted to crawl into a tiny ball and disappear.
Or the time post first summer where I plucked up the courage to ask Phil for a pay rise if I was going to carry on working holidays. By this time i was already working Saturdays and getting more on my Saturday shop rate than i was over two days in the week. He hit the roof as i recall, but eventually we ironed it out and although hideously underpaid, I was at least a little better off.
There are others of course, but in the interests of keeping this bright and breezy I'll gloss over them here.
No mention for example of the "silent year" as it has become known (someone else, not me).
So I worked there Saturdays and holidays. Even carried on when I was at University at Birmingham. Nostalgia & Comics became my grant cheque in a time when grant cheques didn't exist anymore.
And post University each job I started always had to fit in with Nostalgia. No chance of working Saturdays for Pizza Hut for example. I knew where I wanted to be on a Saturday and it certainly wasn't serving pizzas.
As I grew up, Nostalgia & Comics became my only constant in life. I changed houses, jobs, girlfriends, got married and had Molly but most Saturdays I was there, still trying to sort out the basement, still taking an interest in the shopfloor, still trying to read as much stuff as I possibly could, expanding my reading whenever I could.
Louise has always been very understanding over the whole thing, getting sucked into it at times, coming out with the Nostalgia lot, trying not to get too bored by endless discussions on comics and even, occasionally, getting into a few of the things I'd pass her way - Strangers in Paradise, Kyle Baker and Andi Watson being her favourites.
Molly, meanwhile, has never known anything else. It's become somewhere she loves. And her first thoughts on hearing we were moving and I was leaving Nostalgia was that she'd not be able to work there when she was older, something she'd been looking forward to for as long as she could think about it.
I've told her not to worry, should she want to, she can go to uni in Birmingham and Dave will keep a Saturday job open for her.