The third I was put forward for by my cousin; she worked in the accounts department of Ladbrokes Racing, and had heard that the head office was looking for a graphics artist to draw horses on their in-store betting screens. Not with a pen, but on a special computer.
Somehow, I got offered all three jobs in the same week. Choosing the Ladbrokes one was a no-brainer.
I soon discovered that having my own money was literally the best thing ever. I'd agreed - initially anyway - to work on a freelance basis. A vague verbal contract meant that I got paid £30 per half day, though what constituted a half day was never really specified. After a few months I managed to define "half a day" as "about forty five minutes", so long as I snuck out without saying goodbye.
I rationalised it by the fact that I was significantly quicker at doing graphics than they'd expected. I was effectively compressing an entire "half day" into that time, I insisted to myself. That speed - call it a slap-dash methodology if you must - was also how I was able to juggle doing Digitiser while also working full-time as a graphics artist for Teletext.
At first, my boss at Ladbrokes - a genuinely lovely man - told me which days he'd like me to work. Eventually, I just started turning up whenever I fancied being given thirty quid. Nobody ever questioned these unscheduled appearances.
It didn't last of course. My boss's deputy was far more canny and evil, and eventually questioned my definition of "half day", insisting that it meant "at least four hours" - which I heard as "two hours tops".
This coincided, more or less, with my disillusionment at college. Having enrolled late, I didn't get onto the courses that I'd wanted, and was making my lessons tolerable by messing around and hiding in cupboards. I figured that if I was going to be in the office for four hours, I might as well be in the office for eight hours, and earn even more thirty quids.
Consequently, I quit college - which was feeling increasingly like a waste of everyone's time - and told my boss at Ladbrokes that I wanted a permanent contract. I gave him an ultimatum that if I didn't get offered a full-time job I'd have to leave altogether and find work elsewhere.
The balls of it still amazes me; being a lovely man, he came back the following day with a job offer. I ended up working part-time as their graphics person, while filling the rest of my hours inputting race data onto the pages which ran on Oracle - the predecessor to Teletext.
And to celebrate my first pay packet, I bought this: a Sega Master System.
I wish I could remember the name of the shop I bought my Master System from. It's not there anymore. These days it's a shop which sells ordinary, cheap-looking, but overpriced, house stuff - like the opposite of a pound store.
It was, as they were once known, a "computer shop" - for that is what they sold exclusively in that pre-console era.
They always had an Amiga running in the window, with the bouncing red-and-white ball demo. Plus, they also flogged Atari ST software; my main reason for visiting. Oddly, unlike contemporary game shop employees, the staff wore suits. It's a detail which sticks in my memory, because someone I went to school with started working there. I remember how strange he looked in his baggy, late-80s, light grey, Next number.
I was growing bored with my ST. I'd burned through all the point-and-click and text adventures, completed New Zealand Story and Bubble Bobble, and given up on Ninja Warriors. Worse still, I didn't even have any ST-owning mates to copy me some of their games. Unfortunately, an Amiga was outside of my budget - even with the massive £500 or so I was going to be earning every month with my full-time Ladbrokes wages.
I'd been to London with my parents the previous year, and we'd wandered through Harrods. There had been an NES on display, with a Remote Operating Buddy twitching and rotating. With no income of my own, I couldn't afford one, and my parents weren't about to get me one. It was the one and only time I'd seen an NES for sale; Nintendo never made it as far out to where I lived.
I must've been aware of Sega from the arcades, and must surely have known that the company had launched a console in Europe. Still, when I did see it on sale in the window of the aforementioned computer shop I knew I had to have it. It was priced reasonably; £99.95, which meant I'd still have just over £400 left of my monthly salary.
Although I ate into that by purchasing a bunch of games in the days which followed, discovering that a comic shop had opened up in town, and taking myself out for a ridiculously extravagant Chinese meal for one.
"Sir, that dish is normally meant to be shared by four people..."
"Just bring me the food."
I think it took me about two days to work up the courage to lay down the nearly £100 for a Master System - the most I'd ever spent on anything up to that point. I bought it in my lunch break, and took it back to work with me. It sat by my desk, demanding to be played, stretching the afternoon into an eternity.
I don't remember getting it home and opening it. I don't remember that first play of Alex Kidd in Miracle World and Hang-On... though their soundtracks are as fresh in my brain as they were that day.
I wouldn't say I ever loved the Master System - let's face it, the thing was a ropey console, a stop-gap. Its biggest achievement was giving Sega a foothold in Europe, and paving the way for the Mega Drive.
Nonetheless, I loved how easy it all was compared to the Atari ST. No loading, no faffing with keyboards or typing things in. Just plug in the cartridge and play. The games weren't as good as those on my ST, but it acted as a sort of gateway drug to console gaming.
By the time the Mega Drive was released, I was a console boy through-and-through. I needed one on launch day (though due to shortages at Special Reserve, that became six weeks after launch day).
More pertinently, for me the Master System is kind of associated with that weird time in our lives where we're first out of school, and taking our first proper steps into adulthood and independence. I associate it as much with going to pubs, heading into London without my parents for the first time. I was hanging out with actual adults from work, and I felt renewed. It was exciting.
It was also the point at which I kind of drifted from school friends, starting to slightly reinvent myself without the daily gauntlet of being ripped apart at school. It was an age when I felt grown-up, before I'd matured enough to know we're all still terrified kids, finding our way in a society that functions best as a sort of engine for manufacturing anxiety and stress.
At the point in my life before I knew better, the Master System represented, in a way, freedom.