As a youth, the words "We are going to Teddington" would instil in me the sort of enthusiastic response one typically reserves for a colonoscopy, or being locked in a room with four Ainsley Harriotts all competing for the same job.
When told that we were going to Teddington, I knew that what lay ahead would be a series of seemingly endless, tooth-grinding hours, spent at the house of my dad's cousin and her family, as I slowly suffocated in a sea of vapid adult conversation.
Those evenings would feel like they stretched on for weeks. And those weeks would become months, and those months would become years, and yet - while my spirit perished beneath the weight of the blather - I would never die. I was cursed to experience every painful second as they continued their glacial crawl towards infinity, soundtracked by the idle drone about wallpaper, and petrol prices, and football.
This being the years before smartphones, Kindles, or even Game Boys, I'd just sit there, an afterthought in the corner, praying for a plastic bag to thumb down my oesophagus.
One time I was given a Matchbox roadroller to play with. I must've been ten or eleven years old; I defy any ten year-old to get four-to-six hours play out of a toy car without wanting to bludgeon themselves to death with it.
My dad's cousin's youngest son, Peter, was a punk, albeit a mostly benign one.
He had the boiler suit, braces, hair and piercings - back in the day when dressing in such a way seemed genuinely counter-cultural - but he had little of the spirit.
I remember him once lolling around on the sofa complaining of a bad cold, while his mother nursed him like a baby bird that had fallen out of its nest (into a skip full of safety pins, presumably).
One time, however, going to Teddington wasn't the low point of my year. One time, Peter the Punk had a new toy: Astro Wars.
Grandstand was a UK and New Zealand-based importer of electronic games. It started out distributing a couple of plug-in TV consoles with built-in games, before graduating to some long-forgotten cartridge-based systems.
In the early-80s, Grandstand carved out something of a niche for itself with electronic tabletop games, most of which did a semi-fair job of offering an arcade-like experience in miniature.
Munch Man - a relabelled version of Tomy's Pac Man - took the familiar maze gameplay and squashed into a less-successful letterbox format. Likewise, its interpretation of the arcade hit Scramble was perhaps overreaching.
Astro Wars - originally sold in Japan by Epoch, under the name Super Galaxian - is where the company finally backed the right horse. Maybe because the format it was based on - the vertical shoot 'em up - was less ambitious, Astro Wars nailed it.
Indeed, Astro Wars, to my ten year-old mind, was a proper arcade game; the screen, the tiny joypad, the fire button... the colours, the noises... I mean, as with most games of the day, it wasn't actually very good, but at least it was more playable than of its peers. And it felt like the real thing.
It became one of the few non-Star Wars things I ever coveted. I badgered my parents for one, and at Christmas 1981 - doubtless convinced by the fact I'd at last returned from Teddington in a less-than-suicidal mood - they caved.
And as with most games of my formative years, the reasons why I loved Astro Wars were about more than the game itself.
I mean, you can buy it now for iOS, and while it does a decent job of recreating the gameplay, the sounds, and the visuals - it's basically, a stuttering, epileptic version of Galaxians - it can't recreate the hardware.
I had a few handheld, pre-Game Boy games growing up, but Astro Wars is the only one I've ever bothered buying again; I picked up a pristine one on eBay a few years back, and that love is still there. In fact, tellingly, it's the only original retro gaming hardware I own. I've never sought out a Spectrum, or Atari ST, or SNES.
There's just something mysterious about its huge, circular lens, which magnified and subtly distorted its LED backdrop. It feels as much like apparatus in some Jack Kirby fantasy science experiment as it does a video game. My love of it was tactile; you can't replicate that with software, any more than you can expect a ten year old to entertain himself with a toy car for six hours.