I’ve wanted to write about the video shop for ages, but my flea-bitten memory has refused to sick up the appropriate facts, until now. Thanks to conversations with my parents and sisters, I realise what a brilliant experience the video shop was for me. For my parents and sisters, not so much.

Here are a load of my dredged up memories about the video shop. You’ve read this far, you might as well carry on.

The first thing to do in order to get a trip to the video shop is to be good all week. This consists of not doing the following:

– Calling your sister a “bastard”, a “bustard”, or telling her to “huh off”

– Nipping

– Writing a list of all the swear words you can think of, then accidentally leaving it in a place where your dad will find it

– Using all your mum’s VO5 Hot Oil to make a “magic potion” while playing She-Ra.

If you make it this far, and there’s nothing boring on TV that other people selfishly want to watch (such as London’s Burning or Blind ‘d’ Date), your parents will come out with the magic words: “Do you fancy getting a video then?” At the sound of this your 5 year old ears prick up, because ‘video’ can be translated as ’10 hours of Hanna Barbera cartoons or the Care Bears movie’.


Remember that this is not like putting on Netflix then having a movie killed after 5 minutes like an evil Roman Emperor – you’re stuck with your choice for the weekend, so you have to think very carefully about whether to get Care Bears 1 or Care Bears 2.

It doesn’t matter that you have parents and two older sisters to accommodate – fuck them, because they won’t choose cartoons, they’ll choose something boring like Top Gun, or Bottom Gun, or something else that doesn’t have a talking dog in it. Actually, ‘Bottom Gun’ sounds like quite a good film.

Luckily, your parents aren’t shits so will rent two videos, with the proviso that “You’re only to watch this one after Jenny has gone to bed”. Ha, as if I’d want to watch Corey Does His Hair anyway.

After an hour of arguing, getting your coats on and making sure you’ve been to the toilet (as if the video shop’s three hours away), you all pile into the car and head off into town.

This is the exciting bit – how the next bit goes depends on which video shop you choose to go to.

If your parents choose to go to the marginally cheaper Turner Video (see fig. 1), then be prepared to have little to no time to choose a title, as your dad will be parked on the double yellows outside while the rest of you run in. This means you will have to rent a staple such as All Dogs Go To Heaven or Bedknobs And Broomsticks. But hey ho, at least you have a video to watch, and aren’t just going to be sat there trying to turn yourself into a horse by concentrating really hard.

turner video

If you didn’t have Turner Video (and why would you, it was only in Retford), then substitute any of the following:

– Big Shot Video

– Big Shit Video

– Videorama

– Mega Video

– Fucking Hell Video

If, however, your parents plump for the newer and fancier Global Video, then be prepared for a more thorough and immersive VHS choosing experience.


Wait, Blockbuster? What the hell is Blockbuster? Oh, you mean that big one they have in cities that we’ve never heard of? Oh that.

Walking into Global Video, you’re immediately greeted with the smell of plastic and carpet, and the sight of loads of videos you don’t understand, but that won’t stop you looking at them anyway until your parents tell you to “put that back, that’s not for you”.

Of course, someone telling you to stop looking at a video makes you want to look at the video even more, and all the surrounding videos. This is why I was always having to be dragged away from the horror section:

horror section

It wasn’t my fault horror movies had more interesting covers. I’d find one that looked a bit like Willow, only with more tits and someone’s head exploding, then turn the box over and try to read words like “necromancy” and “bludgeon”, before my mother physically carried me over to the ‘non threatening’ section.

Out of all the videos I wasn’t allowed to look at, The Fly was always the one that intrigued me the most. I don’t know why, but I was obsessed with that film. But being 5, I was never allowed to rent it. Even lying on the floor crying and threatening to run away didn’t do the trick. Once, my mother fobbed me off by getting me to rent The Bear, using the logic that ‘Flies, bears, it’s all the same thing’. No they’re fucking not; this was about a bear falling down a hill. No one exploded.

the bear

I finally got to see The Fly a few years ago, and I realised The Bear was a better choice for the 5 year old me. The Fly does contain a lot of side boob and limb ripping.

Most of the time, my parents were successful in dragging me away from the horror section. One time, though, I did prevail. I was 9, and I think it must have been my birthday, because I was allowed to rent any video I wanted. I mean, there were probably limits – I wouldn’t have been allowed to get BIG TITS 9.

This is what I chose:

childs play opening


All those years of my parents attempting to save me from myself. Turns out they were right. I watched Child’s Play, and then I don’t think I slept until I was 14. ‘Gibbering wreck’ doesn’t quite cover it. Of course, I pretended to love it; anything else would have not been big and hard and clever. This led to me renting a film called Dolls the following week:


During which I also had to pretend I wasn’t having a nervous breakdown. Then, thank God, I was allowed to go back to renting Care Bears stuff.

Also of enormous interest was the ‘erotic thriller’ section. This contained titles like Postman’s Desire, The Sound Of Her Fanny, and Doncaster Heat.

erotic thriller section

And then there was this, which stood out for being some sort of weird documentary, although I could never figure out what it was you were supposed to learn:

lovers guide

However, I didn’t dare give these titles more than a passing glance, as my parents would have sent me to my room for a week. Exploding heads was one thing, tits and willies were quite another.

Ok, time to stop pissing about and choose your video, which is ultimately going to be one of these:

kids section

While you’ve been doing all this, your older sisters will have been busy choosing Bottom Gun, and now you’re all ready to get your tapes and go. While you wait for your dad to find his membership card, which is in the middle of the 379 other membership cards he has in his wallet, you can amuse yourself by doing the following things:

– Looking at the weird, nearly-out-of-date bags of popcorn and candyfloss, which your parents will never buy because “they’ve been sitting there for months, and anyway your dad’s going to make you a pancake”

– Looking at the ‘New releases’ section, and being bored by all of them, because they’re all about Julia Roberts going out with someone, or something equally boring

new arrivals

– Having one last neck-craning sneaky peek at The Lovers’ Guide

– Whining

– Wondering which tape is the secret haunted tape you heard about at school, which will make ghosts be in your house if you try to play it. It’s definitely not yours though, because the haunted tape is an 18, so that’s a relief

Finally your dad finds his membership card (in his shoe), and after giving the man behind the counter his name, address, bank details and NHS number, the tapes are yours for the weekend!

This concludes your trip to the video shop. Now all that’s left to do is fight your sisters for use of the TV, resulting in you calling them a “bustard” and getting sent to your room, so you might as well have not bothered getting a video out in the first place.

And don’t forget to rewind the tape before you take it back, or the man will cut you.

5 thoughts on “Cartoons, haunted tapes and The Lovers’ Guide: Video shop memories

  1. Maaan, I’d go to ‘Fucking Hell Video’ in a heartbeat.

    I’m clearly about four years older than you but I was also morbidly fascinated by the cover from ‘The Fly’. I also thought ‘The Terminator’ cover was the rock-hardest thing I’d ever seen.

    This was in Radio Rentals, because my dad would only get tapes from the same place he rented the video from.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The only thing I ever remember renting as a child was ‘The Spaceman and King Arthur’ one Christmas, although my Nana did seem to buy my Mum a rental copy of ‘The Hand that Rocks the Cradle’ for her birthday. When I got to Bangor as a student that all changed, of course, after about the two years when I’d finally generated enough proof of address to finally get the man to let me join. And of course by that time I was no longer living in that Dean Street house so who was the real winner in all this? Who?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ex-Rental versions of films were VHS gold! You could get them at least 6 months, often more, earlier than when they came out to buy.

      If you had one of those, especially of a big film, you were playground royalty!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “Circle C” was the name of ours. It was also possibly the last place in England (early 1990s) selling Spectrum games new.

    Way beck when I can just about remember them having the full (empty) video cases on the shelves, but later this was replaced by thin plastic holders with the front cover in them.

    Crocodile Dundee always springs to mind when I think of Circle C, and I do also remember my parents making a pirate copy of a rented ET by copying it through from the VHS machine to the Betamax.



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