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Conjuring My Grandparents in a Slot Machine

Slot Machines in Blackpool Tower

The crash of metal on metal, raining down like a copper waterfall from the change machine. The sound makes my blood flow faster, pulling me into a world of gently pulsating lights and whirring, whizzing noises.

My clammy hands grasp the 2p coins, hypnotised as I wait for the gap in the sliding table of coins, feeding them into the slot, they trickle down and join the flow of metal. Some finding a space, some landing awkwardly on top of the other coins.

And before long he is there. Standing on the other side of the slot machine, smiling. He is a man of few words, but his eyes speak. There is a spark there that is unmistakably him, and I can read it like a book. His enthusiasm for my enthusiasm burns like a familiar little flame there in his eye. If I try and imagine what he might say, he will disappear again, but that look of sheer delight at my delight, is so unmistakably my Grandfather.

All at once I am seven and I am 37.

After a while I realise if I concentrate long enough he will appear, but it can’t be forced. If I let myself be distracted by the here and now, he vanishes again. So I pay in another shiny pound, imagining as I do the one pound coin dispenser he liked to play with absent mindedly, or pull from his pocket to treat us. I listen to the rush of metal on metal and let my eyes drift along with the shifting sands of two pence pieces. Soon enough he reappears, this time he offers some tips, the other side, it’s too heavy on this side, it won’t drop. I move machines, I let myself fall in with the rhythm of the coins again, the memories are falling thick and fast now, and the coins start to fall, this time a sweet falls too.

And there is my Grandmother, holding a handbag the size of a small suitcase. She’s watching with more distance than my Grandad, she’s less likely to take a risk or gamble. But there is delight at my pleasure in her eyes. ‘Look at them!’ I can hear her say, in softest Staffordshire.

And I imagine she means not just me and my brother, as it would have been, but the next generation, my children. ‘I’ve got my beady eye on you.’ I hear her saying. There is a pang of regret she just missed meeting my son, her beady eye would have quietened him, just like it quietened me and my brother.

My Grandma lived to be 95, she met L when she was a baby but died just weeks before G’s birth. My Grandad died when I was 17. But in this conjuring of my mind they must both be in their 60s, she is wearing crisp beige skirt and cardigan, and glasses with 50s style swishes. He has a brown cabled cardigan and thick rimmed glasses, like Eric Morecambe.

I had a feeling I might find them here in Blackpool, and I am so happy I came.

These two enjoyed it too.


Slot Machines in Blackpool Tower - 7

Slot Machines in Blackpool Tower - 5

Slot Machines in Blackpool Tower - 4

Slot Machines in Blackpool Tower - 3

It was L’s idea to go to Blackpool, inspired by seeing adverts on the television, and by me telling her my grandparents once took me. You can read about why we were treating her here.

We stayed at The Cliffs Hotel, a Choice UK Hotel. We also tested the Blackpool Resort Pass.



  1. 13/10/2015 / 11:54 am

    I couldn’t resist clicking on that photograph. I also have happy childhood memories of slot machines. It was my great uncle who would take us down to St Anne’s pier to “Roll a penny”. This year I have started introducing my 6yo daughter to the excitement, but please don’t tell the rest of the family 😉

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