MOMENT IN THE SUN: BOARD GAMES
Hurrah for Christmas! There are so many things I love about this seasonal holiday: the guilt-free consumption of Mr Kipling Festive Bakewells for breakfast, the tense anticipation of the Ambridge panto and… the board games.
I love a good board game. And by ‘good’ I think I mean ‘classic’ or perhaps even ‘old.’
For this is the time of year to dust off the Scrabble set and wonder who ate all the vowels.
Board games provide brilliant extra-curricular learning. Think of all the socio-economic content in Monopoly! The creative expression required for Pictionary! The self restraint required to stop yourself punching a loved one!
See? Important skills for life.
Board games can point you at future careers.
Oh yes, my expertise at extricating butterflies from the bread basket and the detection of Miss Scarlett’s criminal spanner work in the ballroom really did lead me to think I’d make a pretty effective colorectal surgeon or give Juliet Bravo a run for her money.
These were much more attractive propositions than the ones suggested by my Careers teacher, ie, hotel manager or carpet fitter (random but ahead of its time in terms of busting a gender stereotype).
My brother and I had stacks of board games. We played (and fought and cried over) Hungry Hippo, Buckaroo, Frustration,Test Match, Trivial Pursuit, Connect Four, Mastermind, Cabbie and Guess Who for many happy hours. Or at least, until essential bits went missing under the sofa.
Bringing up twenty-first century children I have been struck by how keen they are to play the board games I enjoyed growing up.
I had thought that the Game Boys and Play Stations, the Wii’s and iPhones would have crowded out analogue entertainment but it is an unexpected joy that this is not the case.
On the recommendation of a pal, I recently tracked down a vintage set of ‘Masterpiece,’ the art auction game.
I do not know why this game has gone out of production. It’s brilliant. Totally engrossing, it’s really hard to work out who’s winning and you’re invested in every round.
And you’ll get through the whole thing in around an hour.
My boys are loving it.
And it’s helping me tell my art from my elbow.
UNDER A CLOUD: UNWANTED PRESENTS
As I say, I love Christmas. I love the annual viewing of ‘Die Hard,’ the happy panic of filling stockings on Christmas Eve and the smoked salmon blinis before lunch.
What I like less is the mass incoming of more stuff.
I am always grateful and touched that anyone at all has thought of me at Christmas, but I’ve been around for so long now that really, I’ve probably got enough stuff. And my conscience is starting to ache with the thought that it’s unnecessary stuff which is catapulting the planet to its doom.
It’s not just my utility room which is chock full of resistant materials; it’s the utility rooms of dolphins and whales and clown fish across the globe.
I fear Earth will disappear under its own weight in desk-top golf games, novelty egg cups and joke slippers.
With this thought in mind, I’ve tried to give stuff which is more easily consumed.
Digital stuff like e books; edible stuff like practically anything from Fortnum and Mason; useable stuff like handmade soap.
Because I know my friends are in the same boat.
I know that, come January 3rd, they’ll be off to charity shops with their cars loaded to the gunnels with cheap perfume and paste jewellery, non-leather bags and aprons they’ll never wear.
They’ll all offer up the same prayer urging the universe to keep relatives-in-law out of the shop for fear of hurt feelings as they exit Oxfam lighter of heart and roomier of vehicle.
Unwanted presents have been around forever. Let’s face it, I don’t suppose the baby Jesus was all that thrilled with the gifts of the Magi.
What’s a kid to do with a few drops of anointing oil and some perfume? They’d have done much better to rock up with the complete collection of Julia Donaldson books and read to him, right?
I bet the Nazareth branch of Help the Aged couldn’t believe their luck when Mary offloaded Jesus’ birthday presents. I’m sure she kept the gold, but the inflammation busting frankincense and myrrh would have gone down a treat for someone with arthritis.
I remember reading an interview with the actress Liz Smith (of The Royle Family fame). In it, she was asked what she’d like for a present. Her answer was ‘toilet rolls,’ on the grounds that they were something she’d always use.
This Christmas I’m aiming to be a little more Liz.