I was initially introduced to the shop by M. Until that momentous day in 1995, I had always just walked past the shop thinking that it was merely a newsagents that also happened to sell darts-related products. On that fateful day, we were about to cut through Caroline Street on our way to the bus station when M suddenly stopped and sheepishly announced, "I just need to get something."
I followed him into the shop and thought nothing of it. As he walked towards the back of the premises, I stopped to peruse the many types of darting goods that were on offer - inflatable ones, electronic ones, rubber ones. It truly was a remarkable selection. However, as I picked up a set of Red Dragon flights for closer inspection, I noticed that M had walked through a set of saloon doors at the rear of the shop.
Now call me naive, but even though there was a sign saying "Strictly Adults Only" above the doors, I followed him through. I wish that somehow I could have been prepared for what hit me. Instead, I was bombarded by a wave of XXX titles as well as many items which could be used by the reader whilst enjoying the publications. Basically, some of the most hardcore examples of pornography to be found outside of Amsterdam.
Pumps, inflatables, sharp objects - and not a dart or accessory in sight.
Yes, that day I truly became a man.
Perhaps the most surreal aspect of Darts World was the fact that even though the products were kept strictly behind closed doors, you still had to take them through to the main shop if you wanted to buy something. That’s how M found himself in a queue of six people, clutching his copies of Titty Extravaganza and Ball Busters while the people in front of him paid for their crisps, sweets and cigarettes. At the counter, they put his purchases in a brown paper bag - just like the old days.
It is my theory that not one dart or accessory has ever been sold in that shop. I have walked past many times over the years and not once have I ever seen anybody coming out carrying a dart board sized box or examining their latest set of flights.
Perhaps “darts and accessories” is some sort of secret code for hardcore porn that is only known by those truly in the know (a bit like the way Kenneth Williams would refer to "traditional matters" or "Q" in his diaries when discussing his sexuality, or the way that many hairdressers were called Bona Riah in the '60s in reference to polari).
I suppose that it’s really a stroke of genius on the part of the store owner. Caroline Street is famously one of Cardiff's most seedy side streets. It is home to at least two “private” shops and an entire row of take-aways that should only really be frequented when drunk.
However, M would never go into the real sex shops. This was mainly because one of them was situated on the main bus route into The Hayes area of Cardiff and he always feared that his mother would one day go past as he was about to go in. We once drove all the way to Newport just so he could go to their private shop, and even then it took all of the combined energy of me and L to push him through the door. He quite happily shopped at Darts World, though. I suppose I understand his logic. If somebody sees you going in, you're not necessarily on your way to buy porn. And if you're worried that they might be waiting outside for you, you could always buy a dart board and hide your purchases inside.