Working towards Lego…

I originally started this little blog to talk about the toys that I played with as a young boy, my adventures in fatherhood and the toys that my son was playing with. It didn’t take me long to focus (obsess) on tabletop gaming. This wasn’t a great shock to me as I did (and do) love the hobby and I’ve found as I’ve got older that computer games are no longer a real attraction to me.

In terms of toys and childhood my view is that boys should be outside playing football and riding bikes in the summer; building camps, playing in woods and stuff like that. In the winter or when weather dictates toys should be about imagination and fantasy. So I had He-Man, Transformers, Action Man, Lego and Star Wars. On top there were always dinosaurs, space ships and aeroplanes to keep me going. Playing usually involved trying to make parachutes for my toys and throwing them out of the window!

When we moved house one of the big factors was the life that it would give our son as he grew up. The garden and surrounding countryside were therefore massive attractions. But how have we done in terms of the toys that our son is currently playing with? Well he’s only 28 months which is a funny age in terms of toys and the skills that a toddler has. He’s got the usual puzzles, books and other educational toys but then he’s got boys toys – bricks, cars, fire engines and dinosaurs.

The cars that he has has gone from the plastic toys for 1yr olds through to cars that he can push along. Then there are the Matchbox type cars that he’s playing with more and more. The big plastic ‘Mega Bloks’ are a stepping stone to Lego, although I think the youngest age for Lego is about 4. I’ve still got the box of Lego in the Mancave ready for the day when he’s ready. He’s also got the little wooden trainset that he can build himself. He loves trains at the moment so maybe the old Hornby set will see the light of day in the next few years.

I don’t want to wish his childhood away as every day is precious, but it is really nice to see him grow and grow into the type of toys that I love so much.

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First hand : Camping with a 2yr old

One of my many distractions from hobby and this blog over the last few weeks has been camping. Like most new families, we’re going to have to get used to weekends away and short breaks under canvas over the next few years.

I’ve got some fond, and not so fond, memories of camping as a child. We used to set off for Devon or Cornwall at about 2am- ‘to beat the traffic’, end up getting on a damp camp site at 6:30am and then try and pitch our massive tent for the rest of the morning. It’s funny that you notice things like phones and TVs getting smaller and lighter, but you don’t notice tents getting smaller. The tent we had was no bigger than modern tents, but had miles and miles of stainless steel poles, acres of canvas and yards of guy ropes. It took a small army of trucks and men to lift, transport and erect this behemoth. Anyway I digress. The point is, I used to go camping and I’ve been recently.

I thought I’d put together a few pointers for others embarking on their first camping trip with a toddler. We’ve only been twice, but the second time was much easier than the first because we changed a few things to our advantage.

1. Remember it’s a holiday and to enjoy it. This is probably the most important thing to remember but one of the hardest to do. Two year olds like routine. Taking them out of their bed away from their toy box and putting them in a field for a few nights is really hard. It will not be easy for them. Not only will there be lots of new things to explore with the tent and all the camping equipment, but there won’t be the usual set of distractions that you have at home. Keep all that in mind when they have ‘challenging’ moments. You’re on holiday too so don’t stress about it.

2. Get everything setup before releasing the Kraken. The first time we went, we got to the site after a hour and a half in the car, let the boy out and I tried to set everything up. After a while though he became a nuisance as I tried to finish off putting up the tent and putting everything in it. Second time we went, we kept in him the car seat with my wife entertaining him so I could get everything done really quickly. It made a big difference.

3. Pack the car smartly. This leads from the previous entry, anything that you can do to be more efficient at getting setup is something worth doing. Have the tent and groundsheet easily accessible. Have any toys, books and other distractions at hand as well as any snacks and drinks that you may need.

4. Prepare for long days. You’ll be living by the sun for the next few days. We were up at between 5am and 6am most days and all going to sleep together at about 9 – 9:30pm. These are long days so make sure you have enough to do. We’re lucky because our son loves football and beaches. An early morning walk on the beach and a late evening kick-about keep everyone happy and hopefully drain the energy stores enough for a good nights sleep.

5. Bring the essential home comforts. To try and smooth out the transition to our new environment don’t forget to pack the books, toys, pyjamas etc that your little one loves the most. We made sure to have a few favourite books and a few soft toys for bedtime to help make things more familiar.

6. Don’t do too much, too soon. We’re lucky to live in Devon and so don’t have too far to go before we get to some amazing countryside or coastline. The two camp sites that we selected are only 90 minutes up the road. If things didn’t work out we were prepared to pack up and come home knowing it’s not too far to come. If you’re able to then I’d recommend a short, local break before you try and do a week away in the school holidays.

Not many tips but useful nonetheless, I hope.

In terms of sleeping we got a Kampa Junior airbed with bumpers and a junior sleeping bag which both worked really well. We also kept equipment to a minimum and all slept together in one section of the tent. We have a 5 man tent which can be split to 3+2 sections. We decided not to out up the divider and to all sleep in one section.

We loved camping and so did our little boy. We’ll be going a couple more times over the summer and are braving the Beautiful Days festival next week!!

If you have any camping hints and tips please add them to the comments section below. I’m still learning and am always on the look out for things that make life better or easier.

Putting up the tent

Putting up the tent

The tent ready to go

The tent ready to go

Don’t worry about hobby guilt

Since, I’ve started to get back into games and ‘hobby’ and since setting up this little blog, I get the odd twinge of guilt if I’ve not painted a model or not posted for a while. It comes and goes, but it is the reason that I am posting now, glass of wine in hand and rain pitter-pattering against the window (English summer!).

It doesn’t help that I regularly listen to about 10 gaming podcasts and on each they tell me what they’ve done in terms of gaming and modelling since the last episode. It doesn’t help that I look through the forums and Twitter, looking at the various tournaments that are happening. It doesn’t help that I’m reading the entries of bloggers like me.

I don’t know what generation of gamer I am, but I played in the late-80s to mid-90s as a teenager before setting off to university and the world of work. Most of the games I played were 2nd or 3rd editions if that helps you more (nerd 😉 ). I was always, and still am, more of a hobbyist than a gamer; buying games, collecting models, painting, reading rules, scenarios and battle reports. That’s where the fun is for me. What I’m saying is that I’m 35..I think..checks on fingers..oh nearly 36.

I didn’t play or even think about games during any of the time that I was away from them, it was a dirty little secret really. Well I may have thought about them a bit, but I never imagined that anybody would still be playing them now, what with the internet and everything. But 2 years ago that all changed…

Firstly I became a father for the first time and secondly my wife became seriously ill and long story short our lives changed..massively. When my wife left hospital, I ended up having to quit my job and becoming a full-time carer and house husband/father. Don’t worry though, all three of us are getting along well. I’m not moaning about things, we all have things to deal with. Anyway, since those terrible months, we try to look on that time as a positive thing. We moved to a beauiful house and both get to spend time seeing our little boy grow up. I’m not getting up at 5am to get the train into London every morning and then getting home around 8pm every evening. My wife isn’t driving around the motorway every day. I’m not forced to be a weekend dad.

That brings me around to my point. There is one! I see it every now and again on blogs, “I’ve not posted for a while” and I’ve done it myself a couple of times. “Life gets in the way”.

Life doesn’t get in the way. Hobby gets in the way!

For the vast majority of us, gaming and our hobby are a nice distraction. Blogs, models, tournaments and podcasts are all part of that. Sure we’d all like to be paint more, get more games played or attend more tournaments. But if like me you’re coming back to this hobby as a distraction from the day-to-day, a way to find some time and space of your own, then keep it that.

Don’t feel that you must or need to do anything.  Don’t worry if you’ve not posted for a while, or if that model hasn’t been based yet, or if you’ve not played recently.

Enjoy time with your family and friends. Go for a run or a bike ride in an evening. Enjoy it when you finish painting a model. Enjoy every game you play and each other aspect of the hobby that you love. Don’t worry about us. Worry about you and yours.

I’m looking forward to being able to play in my first Blood Bowl tournament, I’m looking forward to introducing my son to RPGs and tabletop gaming. But I also can’t wait to teach him to ride a bike and make camps and paper aeroplanes.

This is a permanent reminder for me, but also I hope for you.

Enjoy your life and enjoy your hobby.