I'd been moved downstairs, with other members of the editorial team, where we took up residence in the bunker-like technical department. The building was undergoing some work, and we all had to find temporary accommodation.
Tim was gone, young Adam/Mr Cheese had been swept beneath the bosom of the editor - Teletext would even pay for him to do a journalism degree. It all added to the sense of change, the feeling that an era was over.
I was fortunate in that I liked the people I was sat with. That didn't change the fact that the fun had gone out of the job, without Tim to amuse or be amused by. There's a difference between liking someone, and clicking with someone; just ask Clicky Clickson, the world finger-clicking champion.
That guy doesn't like anybody!
Evidently, Tim was the bad influence, as far as they were concerned. He'd been leading me astray the entire time. Without him there, they had nothing to worry about: in their eyes, I was malleable, easier to push around. I'd surely tow the party line.
The fact they assumed as such wound me up to the point where I went all out, weirder still, on Digi.
The letters pages would come to have multi-page reveal-o-stories, featuring the likes of Morse & Lewis, Batman & Robin, and the Snakes ("I cuss you bad!"). The innuendo got shoved ever further into your endo, and reviews would typically begin with a page or two of scarcely relevant waffle, before getting to the actual point. I had something to prove, and the nonsense on Digi went stratospheric.
Perhaps that's why it went over their heads. Or perhaps it was because they assumed Paul would never do stuff like that without that sociopath Tim around... and failed to see when I did do that every single day.
With Adam off elsewhere, they'd found me a new assistant, a quietly funny guy called Sean (not Sean the Security Guard, who had really loved our Nintendo games...).
He briefly worked under the name Mr Toast, inputting letters, and writing the Chips & Teats pages; the one part of Digi I never wanted to be lumbered with.
Indeed, not once, in all the time I worked on Digitiser, did I have anything to do with the Chips & Teats. I think I may have written some of the Mr Nude intros, but nothing grated on me more. Fortunately, Sean took to it well. I wish he'd stuck around longer. He seemed to get Digi, and was a nice fellow.
I'd been writing Digitiser full-time for a couple of months, when I finally reached a tipping point.
The hours of travelling every day were wearing me down (being in the technical department, surrounded by all-seeing eyes, meant I could no longer bunk off early), Digitiser took roughly an hour or two every day to complete, Turner the Worm about an hour a week... without Tim to mess around with there was nothing to fill the time. I was getting bored, just watching the clock until I could leave.
What's more, that early semi-success with the sitcom meant that I'd found something else I believed I could be doing. Had Planet 24 not bought an option in We Two Vets - the first script I'd ever written (since school anyway) - I'd have probably given up there and then. As it was, I'd been given a tiny glimmer of possibility, and wanted to see where it could lead.
Before they'd calculated to fire him, Tim was going to be working from home. I wrote to the editor asking whether they'd consider me doing the same. I was certain they'd knock me back, that they'd want to keep me around to do the odd graphics job. Turns out I'd overestimated my value.
They'd already found another graphics guy - who wasn't being distracted because he enjoyed writing about video games more than doing graphics - and couldn't get rid of me fast enough. I was pleased, but with a nuance of disappointment that I was no longer The Graphical Golden Boy (especially after I'd wasted £250 getting that phrase tattooed on my coccyx).
I had a meeting with the Deputy Features Editor - the one who I've referred to drolly as "evil" over the course of this tale.
Although, by this point, she was trying very hard not to be evil.
Whatever the issues she'd had with me in the past, they were a by-product of her chemical loathing of Tim, but... she was still wary of me, and seemed to desperately want for me not to hate her.
She tried to crack jokes, made ham-fisted attempts at being chatty, forced herself to smile... in that, I saw a sort of vulnerability between the armoured and barbed exterior, but it didn't make me warm to her any more.
A month or so before this meeting, I'd had my progress review with her. I was already pretty certain I'd be resigning in the not-too-distant, so it felt like a waste of time. She'd asked me what I wanted to be doing at the company long-term. My truthful answer would've been "Nothing", but I told her: "I want to do more writing".
What followed was one of the most awkward exchanges of my life.
"If you want to do more writing, you can just go and ask people if you can write for their section. People here like you, Paul. I mean... I... like... you."
Written down like that, it almost reads like there's a subtext of sexual tension between us. That couldn't be more wrong. It was almost like, in that moment, as the words left her lips, that she stopped seeing me as some benign entity, and realised that I was as much of a Tim as Tim had been.
And thus, they offered me a deal that would ensure I was earning roughly the same as I'd been earning as an employee.
It was broken down in various ways - a chunk here for Turner the Worm, a certain amount there per Digitiser page, and another bit for website features. The Digitiser sub-section of the Teletext website had been repurposing articles from the TV version of Digi; we'd given up writing original content for it. I was assured that - though I was effectively being paid twice for the same content - it was a formality, to ensure my salary remained at the same level.
This latter point is signicant, because it would later come to sink its teeth into my backside.
My final day at Teletext wasn't particularly emotional (for me at least - the chief sub-editor and Features Editor got a bit teary, for some reason).
I couldn't get out of there fast enough, though.
They'd clubbed together to buy me a pair of Sega Lock-On light guns, and the editor gave a kind speech, before presenting me with a plaque thanking me for my "Services to Teletext". I've still got it somewhere. There was no mention, of course, of the ugly fashion in which Tim had left, and I didn't feel up to arranging a leaving drink.
And then it was over.
I was gone, after four years, with a couple of light guns, a bit of brass, and special dial-up modem as my only material mementos. There was no real sense of occasion, simply relief.
I still look fondly upon my time at Ladbrokes. Teletext, however, I've no real sense of nostalgia for.
I can accept that we brought a lot of the trouble upon ourselves, that if we'd been good little employees, it wouldn't have ended in such an ugly fashion. But I'm fine with that; we'd created something that people loved, and in order to do that we'd had to take risks.
The four years had changed me, though.
I'd grown up a lot, and developed a healthy cynicism towards those who desire power for the sake of power. I saw that there's something slightly toxic at the heart of ambition, and something potentially broken in those who place work at the core of their being above all else.
I came to resent the structure of management, and people who are granted power over other people, simply because they're driven by something a bit busted, or lack the empathy most of us have.
DIGITISER GETS FINGERED
In my last few months at Teletext, a new sub-editor had arrived. From the off, it was evident that he was determined to ascend the corporate ladder as rapidly as possible. He appeared unusually calculated in his bid to succeed.
Indeed, this was the guy who had an issue with my use of the term "finger the index" - seeing within it a sexual connotation that I hadn't intended (and failing to understand when I explained that most Teletext viewers had an index finger, which they used to type in the page number of the Teletext index). He was particularly ruthless with his sub-editing of Digitiser, often removing half a page if he found something especially surreal or unfunny. Of all the subs we'd had, he was the one who took the biggest dislike to the humour.
On a couple of occasions I took issue with him over this; I'd rather have been given the chance to write something which he deemed more suitable, or funnier, than leave half a page blank.
But so it was that within a couple of years this sub-editor had climbed the Teletext ladder to be appointed editor-in-chief - and he would be making an example of Digitiser...
GAMES OF MY YEARS: DIGITISER - PART SEVEN by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: DIGITISER - PART SIX by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: DIGITISER - PART FIVE by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: DIGITISER - PART FOUR by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: DIGITISER - PART THREE by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: DIGITISER - Part Two by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: DIGITISER - Part One by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: 16-BIT - PART TWO by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: 16-BIT - PART ONE by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: THE ARCADES - PART ONE by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: THE ARCADES - PART TWO by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: SEGA MASTER SYSTEM - PART ONE by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: SEGA MASTER SYSTEM - PART TWO by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: ATARI - PART ONE by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: ATARI - PART TWO by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: THE ZX SPECTRUM PART ONE by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: THE ZX SPECTRUM PART TWO by Mr Biffo