Out of the Games Cupboard

A random assortment of reflections, musings and a running commentary on life.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Hurray for Geek Gold!

Okay, I know I am a sad geeky nerd where boardgames are concerned. However, one of my New Year's reolutions was to earn some Geek Gold. No, this isn't some alternative currency for sad wierdos....oh, actually it is. If you're a user of Boardgame Geek then you can earn 'Geek Gold' (or 'GG' as we afficianodos call it...or we would if we had any friends to talk to!) by writing reviews or sending in photos etc. My resolution was to earn some GG this year, hopefully enough to buy an avatar. Well, I've earnt my first 5 GG by sending in some photos. Hurray for me!


Chronicles of a Stay at Home Dad # 2

Last Thursday and Friday Eleanor and I stayed at home together. We had a great time! As well as walking to our local playground (at which Ellie spent ages on the swings shouting "I love it! I love it!" as I pushed her) we did lots of fun things at home. Here are some photos:

Ellie built this castle all by herself! I was particularly impressed as the red and blue towers are actually smooth wooden building blocks which she has carefully balanced on the larger, slotted blocks....

We played the Shopping List game. Ellie won....this was her victory dance upon finding an item for her trolley....

Ellie relaxing (watching CBeebies) dressed as a fairy....

We baked some chocolate and mint cupcakes which were fab! Ellie really enjoyed stirring the mixture, icing the cakes and decorating them. Her favourite part was licking the bowl clean of course....

Dolly having a sleep....


Ellie playing with her castle, knights, dragon and one of Uncle Richard's origami space ships! She put some of the figures on the window sill. The ELC King and Queen were positioned on one side, along with a cook and falconer, whilst the more militaristic Schleich figures were positioned on the other side. An accident?

This was a bit strange.... in an effort to stop dolly from crying, Ellie moved everything she could get her tiny hands on from one end of the lounge to the other. She then layed everything out in neat rows....she is so her mother's daughter!

We spent ages playing with her medieval bowling set. Aren't they cute!

This is a 'party' as Ellie calls it. When she has a bath all the toys etc are placed on he windowsill and filled with water....the better to enjoy the party of course!
We also read lots of books, did some painting and potato printing, walked to the shop and cuddled. I am really enjoying the time we have together. I love her running commentary on everything we do and the questions she asks.....which are often inadvertently very funny e.g "Daddy I'm angry....what does angry mean?"
The days go by really quickly, whihc reinforces that awareness that she is growing up at an alarming rate. Still, I'm glad I'm getting to watch it happen!

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Monday, February 19, 2007

LCD TV: a guilty pleasure....

No we haven't bought a new LCD TV! It stands for 'lowest common denominator television'. This is the label I attach to programmes such as 'The Jeremy Kyle Show' and 'Trisha'. Now that I am at home more of the time I find myself sometimes watching these shows and thoroughly enjoying them. The presenters are actually quite skillful; Mr Kyle is a one-man 'good cop - bad cop' routine! But it is the guests who make this so highly watchable. They are just awful! Many can barely string sentences together, most find it impossible to actually listen or empathise with anyone else. My favourite aspect is when guests cannot even manage to coherently explain the issues that have led to them discussing their deepest, darkest problems with a national TV audience.....I actually laugh out loud at these incidents! (I know I shouldn't but no one can see me).

My favourite guests were two old brothers who claimed to hate each other and had not spoken for decades. It took Trisha half an hour to work out what the hell had caused this rift...neither of them seemed to know. A third brother then appeared and explained that they were not talking because one of them had been told that the other one had said something about him 35 years ago. However, it had not been said at all. They kissed and made up. It was really funny.....Trisha and most of the audience looked utterly confused and the brothers both looked like prize twits. I couldn't stop laughing at the sheer idiocy of their situation; if they had talked about it sooner then they needn't have spent most of their lives simmering away at each other.

Yes, watching these shows is a guilty pleasure. They are voyeuristic and they intrude, albeit with consent, into delicate areas of people's lives. But, well, it's just so damn funny.... I don't enjoy other people's pain but why, oh why, do they do it on TV?


Education; it's all in the cards....

I suspect that my wife, Lisa, had a better education than me. She attended a girls' grammar school where as I attended a High School. Most of her cohort went on to university; many to Oxbridge. Few of my contemporaries went to university and Oxbridge was unheard of. But the most revealing contrast, the one that really shows that the class system is alive and well is..... the card games we learnt to play during our A-levels.

Lisa spent her time playing canasta and cribbage (training to be a middle-aged lady who lunches?). I mispent my formative youth playing games such as the charmingly named 'shithead' and a painful game I think we called 'knuckles' (that was the body part that was left raw and bleeding anyway!).

So, if you are checking out prospective schools for your little angels I recommend finding out what card games are popular in the common room!

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Strange things to get excited about...

  1. We need a replacement tool for our Dyson vacuum. It's a 'stair tool' which I accidentally broke yesterday. I love it. It does it's job perfectly. I've now discovered that I can't vacuum the stairs satisfyingly without it. The exciting thing is that I had a look at the Dyson website to see if it was replaceable. I found a pleasantly easy to use site in which every single part of a vacuum can be purchased! The stair tool will set us back £9 (+ £2 P&P), but.... I really can't live without it!
  2. There is a game I am keen to play called Pirates of the Spanish Main. It's a sort of collectable game in which you buy a pack for £2.50-£3 which contains some cards and a few model ships. You then use multiple sets to build fleets etc and play the game. I was advised that really you need at least six sets to have a decent game. Now, I am not allowed to buy any games until at least 2008 so this is something of a moot point but....a couple of stores are selling packs via the Amazon Marketplace; basic packs for 99p and the second series packs (Pirates of the Crimson Coast) for only 1p. Admittedly there is a £3.50 per order charge for P&P but still....that's incredible! For anyone reading...my birthday is in November....!
  3. I have found some printable do-it-yourself little boxes to hold all the tiles in for my favourite game, Carcassonne. I haven't made them yet but they look great. Of course, they were on Boardgamegeek...where else? I am always strangely excited that not only is there an international community of boardgamers but that many of them put in a lot of time making things like these boxes, or translating rules, or making up expansions and then post them on the internet for others to enjoy for free! It gives me hope that the world is actually not all that bad....

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First Theatre Trip

As Lisa recently described we took Eleanor to the theatre for the first time the other day to see The Gruffalo's Child. You might as well read Lisa's post because she described it perfectly.

All I would add is:
  • It was a beautiful experience being with Ellie when we walked in to the theatre. Her eyes nearly popped out of her head and her mouth stayed wide open for about ten minutes...then the questions started. She was particularly taken with the chandeliers, all the red velvet, the gold colouring everywhere and the boxes. She was even interested that so many people were doing the same thing as us!
  • The cast of three managed to fill the stage with a staggering amount of life and energy. It's not like they had much scenery to help them!
  • I like that they made the stickman toy central to the story. He is present throughout the book but isn't mentioned. I especially liked that after the gruffalo's child has dropped her stickman in her fright, the mouse returns it to her as she sleeps. I liked that. Ellie has mentioned it several times since as well.
  • Rows of schoolchildren wearing identical gruffalo masks is eerily unsettling.
  • £3.50 for a bag of Revels is simply not funny!

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Chronicles of a Stay At Home Dad # 1

Friday the 2nd of february 2007 is a significant date for me. It marked the start of my time as a stay at home dad. The picky amongst you will point out that I have looked after Eleanor by myself for rather a lot of Thursdays before this. However, due to my change in employment status Lisa and I decided to reduce Eleanor's nursery days. The 2nd was therefore the first Friday (and also the first two days in a row) when I had sole responsibility for our daughter.

This is important for me as I no longer feel that I have somehow failed by losing my job, or indeed that I am a failure for having the neurological problems which are forcing so many changes in our lives. I felt like Ellie's daddy. For two days in a row she relied on me completely (in as much as she relies on anyone being the independent almost-three year old she is!). We had a great time. The trick is to plan two activities in the morning and two in the afternoon. She helps out with the dishes, cooking, laundry, tidying and vacuuming (she even helps move the furniture!). She enjoys all these domestic tasks and now, two weeks later, asks to do them! However, I do not count them as 'activities'.

Of course the bigger trick is not caring if you don't get to do all the activities you have planned. Sometimes its better just to go along with what she wants to do. We spent an afternoon laid on the floor reading books when I was all ready to do some scrapbooking with her. It was lovely. She kept giving me cuddles and copying what I was doing. Sometimes she laid on her back with her eyes closed listening to me reading. She even asked me to read some bits again if they made her laugh.

Two weeks on and I feel quite seasoned. I have spotted a trend in that if Eleanor naps on Thursday she won't nap on Friday. However, this can mean she's a bit grumpy by Friday afternoon. Tomorrow I'm going to try to get her to story time at our local library to head off any tantrums. I've also learnt not to leave Eleanor alone with a bowl of icing which I think she is mixing......

Today we spent an hour having a bath and an hour painting dragons (non of them are particularly recognisable but we enjoyed ourselves). When Ellie finally wakes up from her nap I am hoping that we can walk to the local playground and then come home and maybe do some scrapbooking. Ellie also has asked if she can have a little orange for her snack (along with a glass of water with ice in it!).

The nicest part of this for me is that I feel so much more confident and comfortable with my daughter. I thought I did before but....its like chocolate. You know you like it when eating Dairy Milk and Galaxy. But then someone gives you a present from Hotel Chocolat and you discover that chocolate exists on a whole other level. There can be more nuance, more variety of flavour, less sweetness, more...well, everything really! My recent experiences of fatherhood have been just like this.

The other nice part is that now Ellie makes as many demands on me as she does her mum. Although this is a double-edged rusk really....

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Things I Like.....

Here is a link to U2's latest promo - Window in the Skies. I really like it. I know I'm something of a U2 fan but I think the video is outstanding. I wonder if anyone has yet generated a list of who all the performers are?

It has also been brought to my attention recently that a series of novels I like, A Song of Ice and Fire by George R R Martin, are being turned into a TV series. Given the complexity of the narrative this will be quite an undertaking! I await it with the same trepidation I experienced when waiting for the Lord of the Rings movies to hit the screens. They didn't disappoint so I'm hoping this won't either.

Does anyone else find that once a novel has been turned into a programme/movie then it is hard not to picture the characters as they have been protrayed on film? Or is it just me?

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