Wednesday, 22 February 2012

In Praise of Lego


Last weekend it was my birthday, and my lovely boyfriend (who is frustratingly better at choosing presents than me) gave me a brilliant thing; a Lego mini-figure that looks like me. It has orange hair, a grumpy face, a sword and a blaster – all quite accurate, I think you’ll find. It seems to have revitalised a long dormant Lego obsession, and now I find myself trawling ebay for other Lego figures with swords and angry faces. I already have a few, thanks to the Knights and Castles set Marty bought me for Christmas last year, and now I’ve decided to build my own sell-sword gang, which my Lego figure can be in charge of.


See, Lego and I go way back. When I was very small, my Grandad kept a giant white bucket full of Lego for me in his shed (I look back on it now and I wonder what that white bucket was actually for. It was bigger than me at the time. Storing dead bodies?). In the summer I would drag it out of the shed and pour the contents over a blanket in the back garden, and spend many happy hours making stuff.


This being way back in the mists of time, the Lego was your bog standard multi-coloured brick stuff, with the occasional set of wheels or window frames. I didn’t have any mini-figures (apart from a few disembodied heads that made interesting gargoyles for my houses) so instead I made what I generously imagined were “penguins” out of some of the tinier pieces, and they populated my Lego world instead. I also stored my collection of toy cars in the big white bucket, so they would occasionally be drafted in as characters too – when I got really expansive, I would go and retrieve my plastic dinosaurs, and all Lego-hell would break loose.


Lego is a brilliant toy. I had no plans or instructions as a kid, so mostly I would end up making giant houses, although these houses were more like super-fantasy-castles; they would have turrets, dungeons, secret rooms, lawns on the roof, diving boards leading to nowhere, the Penguin Paddock… In short they were structurally unsound, and most days would end with the east wing falling off and knocking my lemonade over, but I can’t remember ever growing bored of it.


When I got a little bit older, my giant white bucket of Lego was given to my younger cousin, and I sulked about this for, approximately, seven years. I have no idea what happened to my well-loved toy cars, or the historically inaccurate plastic dinosaurs, and I can never reclaim those, but at least I will have my Lego army of mercenaries. Oh yes. The only question is, what shall I call them?


Ah, Lego, I loveded you. I loveded you!


Ps) Just as I finished writing this I got an email from ebay telling me I’d won a “Lego Mini-figure Series 4 Viking”. I did an air-punch.


Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Skyrim is a Girl's Toy


The writing of The Copper Promise part 2 continues pottering along on its own meandering course, so I thought today I’d do a little post about that other obsession of mine: videogames.

A great many hours have been spent in Skyrim recently. I shall briefly share the sort of info you traditionally have to bring up in any discussion of this game: I’m a female Nord with a leaning towards one-handed and two-handed weapons, destruction magic and conjuration. I’m also a werewolf, have been playing for approximately 95 hours and no, I’ve barely made a start on the main storyline yet.

Skyrim is an extraordinary game. What makes it so staggering, I think, is the sheer level of detail involved, and the real sense of exploration you get as you go wandering off around the map. You are frequently distracted from quests by mysterious looking paths that lead to secret dungeons, or you stumble across two mages having a tiff, and if you're not paying attention a dragon might swoop down on you from nowhere and chew on you for a bit. I have spent a ridiculous amount of time just making swords and enchanting them, and have now saved up enough coin to buy a big posh mansion in Solitude, which I'm gradually decorating…

It is, I realised the other day, the ultimate fantasy play-set. It’s like having a giant dollhouse, except the house is an entire land, and the dolls wear armour and have magical swords and go on adventures with werewolves and vampires. You can spend forever just accessorising, collecting spell books to go on your shelves, mucking about down the blacksmiths, crafting potions. And then if you feel like it you can pop out to kill the occasional dragon. In short, I love it. And how I wish I had an Unrelenting Force Shout of my very own…

Monday, 6 February 2012

The SFX Weekender: Wine and Wookies


Back from another marvellous SFX Weekender; tired perhaps, reeling slightly from all this sudden snow business (it was mild in Prestatyn, despite my fears of freezing to death) but filled with the knowledge of a weekend well geeked.


Highlights for me included – getting a hug from a wookie (very cosy), singing along with Robert Rankin to Perfect Day, witnessing China Mieville shamelessly derailing everyone else on Just a Minute, listening to Brian Blessed describe chasing Ben Kingsley around an airport lounge, dancing like a fool to various funk tunes, meeting up with old friends and making new ones… too many great things to list, really. I think everyone who was there and heard it will agree that the Brian Blessed talk was a bit special; not only was he in fine, booming form, he was also delightfully rude and utterly joyous. It was, I think, genuinely life affirming to hear him talk with such passion about how we are all “children of stardust” and how human beings are destined to move out into the solar system. Or that could be the pint of wine I consumed while he was talking. Either way, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house.


My favourite thing about the SFX Weekender, (and it was the same last year) was the sense of being at an event with thousands of people with a shared love for fantastical things. Not everything went according to plan, this is true, but the slightly grim aspect of Pontins itself only seemed to enhance this feeling; yes, our electricity ran out at 1.40am, and you have to keep whacking the button in the shower to make it work, and I had to queue for an hour for a handful of possibly the worst chips in existence… but at least we were doing it together. I was also reminded how much I love fiction, and how our favourite stories can become such important parts of our lives; beloved signposts on a wayward journey, if you will.


Geeks of the Weekender, I salute you, and I sincerely hope to see you all there next year.