Now, as an only child and a fiercely independent one at that, when I was younger I was forced to be extremely creative when it came to entertaining myself. I could have hours of fun with three pebbles and a plastic cup (I had a lovely childhood, promise.) It’s the same with babies at Christmas or birthdays- you spend a fortune on a thoughtful and fun gift and they ignore it completely to concentrate wholeheartedly on the box it’s wrapped in.
However, with E.V.P. this is not really the case...
He has an overflowing toy box (and toy wardrobe, and toy chest, and toy set of drawers, and toy container, and general toy emporium) at both mummy and daddy’s house. His toys range from the humble football to a Lego Star Wars Red Five X-Wing Starfighter™... And everything in between. On an average day we play with approximately... 99% of all his toys. We’ll seamlessly go from a darts tournament to a heated car chase to a Pokemon card competition (are they called competitions?! Fuck knows what I’m playing most of the time.) He has the attention span of a goldfish. Maybe because he’s so quick and smart. There’s no ‘hey! Why don’t we play sleeping for a while?’ with E.V.P. None o’ that. He has this little look he gives me that simply says, ‘do you think I was born yesterday, you ridiculous idiot?’
Despite myself, I do find most of his games quite fun (but almost always ludicrously complicated). He’s constantly having to stop halfway through his construction of the Eiffel Tower in miniature or his excavation of pretend Chinese gold mines to sigh and talk me through what I’m meant to be doing. ‘Why are you putting that Shogun steel Beyblade into the hybrid wheel?! That doesn’t even go together!’ he’ll sigh, exasperatedly, and I’ll nod in agreement.
‘Ah yeah, I know, I was just... checking that you know! Ha ha ha... ha.’
This truly is an education.
My memory is atrocious. I can’t remember what I did last night never mind what I used to play when I was six. However, I can vividly remember some of my favourite games included jumping off the side of my Nonna’s house with my cousins, competing to see who could jump from the highest (and coincidentally most dangerous) height. This particular game (which may seem wildly boring to an outsider, but you, quite frankly, have no idea...) would only end when someone started bleeding or crying, and not a minute before.
Another favourite pastime was invented at school with S.C., my oldest friend. We’d collect branches from the trees in the playground, and those branches would then become our ‘dogs.’ We’d then while away hours (well, the 50 minutes we had for lunch) by flinging ourselves around, pretending that said dogs were rabid and out of control. What larks.
Another fun activity of ours would be to stand on the school benches and sing Blue songs, announcing to anyone who would listen (so nobody) that we were holding a ‘Blue concert.’ Surprisingly enough the only people who would watch would be the dinner ladies, who more often than not wouldn’t cheer and throw their knickers at us (thank god, that might have been frowned upon...), but would encourage us to ‘play a less raucous game, maybe?’
As a special treat at the weekend me and S.C. would dress up in my mum’s aprons or Hawaiian print shirts from the 80s, wrap coloured scarfs around our heads, switch off all the lights in the house, put on the Spice Girls, and, equipped with hand-held torches and glow sticks, have ‘a disco’ (mostly involving just running up and down the landing, squealing ‘I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, really really really wanna Zigga Zig Ah!’)
I’m sure you’re getting the idea... but ain’t no stopping me now.
When me and my cousins would occasionally sleep at my gran’s house and the sun came out to play (or didn’t; nice weather was never essential) she’d hand each of us a pot of tap water and old paintbrushes from the garage and ask us to ‘give the fence a nice topcoat, please.’ FUN!
The point that I’m trying to make is that the children’s games I’m now learning about day by day are proving to be less inventive, more intricate and dare I say it... a bit boring?
When I was young enough to play Lego (well, I still am, clearly... But first time round), I remember there being two Lego shapes: square and rectangular. Just the two. Maybe a few triangular ones thrown in to allow for the occasional roof. But either way, you were either building a house, or, at a push, for the more architecturally gifted, a castle.
Now, in 2013... building a Lego anything takes an engineering degree. I don’t have an engineering degree. I have a French and English degree. So if E.V.P. wants me to lecture him on Modern British Fiction since 1950 or tell him all about African Francophone literature, then I’m his girl. If, instead, he’s asking me to help him with the delicate construction of his new Lego fire engine, equipped with working flashing lights, minibar and a host of firemen, each with their own personal hopes, fears and insecurities? Not so much.
On the left you can see the Lego that I’m used to. On the right you can see the bane of my existence Lego that now appears to be the norm.
And as a petit sidenote: WHY ARE THE PIECES SO FUCKING TINY?! Children put everything into their inquisitive little mouths. I’D LIKE TO SEE A CHILD TRY AND SWALLOW THAT NICE, SAFE, CLUNKY BLOCK ON THE LEFT!
Don’t even get me started on clearing it all away.
It takes E.V.P. 2.5 seconds to empty the Lego box all over his bedroom floor.
It takes him 25 seconds of playing with it to decide that he's changed his mind and actually wants to do a penalty shootout in the front room, where all of the doors are made of glass and there is a fragile-looking television the size of the whole of Lenton's Odeon.
It takes me 25 minutes to put all the stupid, minuscule pieces of discarded Lego back in their box.
It takes me 2.5 hours to feel like myself again after the whole ordeal.
I threw myself into the Lego building regardless, and on Friday we spent the majority of the afternoon working on the engine of a private jet, with me painstakingly reading out the required pieces and finding them in the mess of his other 50,000 pieces, while E.V.P. barked out instructions like, 'are you even going to help me build this thing?' and 'I might as well be doing this by myself at the rate you're going! Hurry up!'
It took hours, but I began to feel a sense of pride at the work that we'd done as a team (ha! I say team...), and even started to see the appeal of creating something from scratch that looked so... lifelike.
When we stood back to admire what we'd done, I felt fulfilled. I'll admit it: I felt satisfied. 2013 Lego is GREAT!!
Caught up in our victory I shouted, 'GIVE ME FIVE!' and turned expectantly to E.V.P. with my palm raised... Only to find he had already lost interest and was walking away to find his next game. Hmph.
We didn't get a chance to work on the jet after that, as. E.V.P. had other more pressing issues to deal with, what with various playdates and a big sleepover last night. But this morning I ventured into his room to get him dressed, and took the opportunity to go and gaze proudly at our Lego work of art once more.
I looked left, I looked right. I searched high, I searched low. All I could see was the usual debris of a million pieces of lego.
'...Where's our jet?'
'Oh I stood on it in the night, and it broke.'
Our jet ^
His games are not always disappointingly regimented though. The other day, during breakfast, he got creative with his Beyblade arena and improvised a couple of extra obstacles...
Now that I like.
There's hope for him yet.
I'll have him Zigga Zig Ah-ing along his landing in no time...
In other news, this is how I was gently roused from sleep yesterday morning...
8am, still dreaming, snoozing, having a great time, I vaguely hear a scrabbling noise and the unmistakeable sound of my (very high) door handle being anxiously grasped at. Then I hear a frustrated sigh, a jump, and the squeak of the door handle successfully being yanked down. Another little sigh. Then I hear footsteps. Tiny ones.
‘T’es réveillée?’ (Are you awake?)
‘T’es un petit peu réveillée?’ (Are you a little bit awake?)
‘T’es un tout petit peu réveillée?’ (Are you the tiniest bit awake?)
‘Not even a tiny bit.’
‘RIGHT, I’M UP, I’M UP, I’M UP, I’M UP.’
Turns out little boys are just as needy as big boys.