Age regression therapy...

One slightly delayed editorial this week, due to a busy weekend. Saturday saw the start of the nightmare which is Christmas shopping; even at this early stage of the festive pre-season, I've already traded off significant sanity points, in exchange for a pitifully small pile of presents. At this rate, I will be experiencing Christmas lunch from inside a padded room, with no sharp implements in reach.

The day didn't exactly get off to the best of starts in the nostalgia department, with the discovery of a calendar-challenged wasp in my bedroom, seemingly unaware it was now the middle of November. My dread of wasps has been with me since childhood, when I used to hide under the bedsheets at the slightest insect noise. I was thus less than impressed to return from the bath to find seriously peeved buzzing coming from the curtains, as well as the shadow of something large enough to contend for a role in 'The Dambusters'. I rapidly discovered that the efficiency of insect murder-death-kill spray does not extent to operating THROUGH curtains. Mind you, at least I was using insect spray; on one previous wasp-invasion, I sprayed most of a can on the critter, to absolutely no effect -- unsurprising, given that I was actually using air freshener.

Fortunately, the wasp (mandibles the size of small saws, attitude like a crack-crazed football hooligan) was too busy trying to chew its way THROUGH the glass to notice that I'd pulled back the curtain and unleashed a chemical weapon assault of which Saddam Hussein would be proud. It didn't die easily, or quickly. Indeed, I got bored and drifted off to tell a housemate how I had bravely vanquished the beast, though they were not quite as impressed as I felt they should be. On the return, my heart nearly stopped, as Wasposaurus Rex was no longer on the window-sill; I had visions of it hanging from the ceiling eager to pounce. However, it had merely fallen off in its death throes, and was lying on the carpet. Amazing how much smaller it looked; by the time I carted it ceremoniously downstairs to the housemate, it was no more than average size...

We'll draw a veil over the hell which is Camden Market on a Saturday afternoon as Christmas nears, and skip neatly to the evening, spent at a mate's 30th birthday. In what could be seen as a last, desperate attempt to cling to the vestiges of youth (except for the fact that he looks a damn sight more than two years my junior), he'd been up in the attic and had dragged down some of the games which he and his brother had enjoyed, such as Rebound (kinda like shove ha'penny, with a U-shaped track and two elastic band powered bumpers), table skittles and the justly renowned Ker-plunk.

After a little scepticism, people really got into these. Though I don't think it'll quite replace VR Baseball in my affection, Jenga is a curiously satisfying game. You start with a tower of wooden blocks, each of the 18 levels made of three flat slabs not unlike shortbread fingers. Each player in turn has to take one block out from the middle and place it on the top; whoever makes the tower topple loses. Deceptively simple, yet a good test of a steady hand, and also your skills at mental levitation, as there are times when all intuition says gravity should take its toll, yet the tower resolutely stands tall. A good Christmas gift, especially for that relation with Parkinson's disease ("Oh dear, Granny -- you lose again! That's 23-0 to me. Fancy another game?").

Indeed, so compelling was all this, that I came within an ace of missing the last tube home -- being stuck in Morden on a Saturday night is not something I'd wish to experience. And there endeth one Saturday; one less shopping day to Christmas, one fewer vicious, black-and-yellow striped insect in the world, and a new appreciation of the delights of childhood. Maybe I should ask Santa for my own Ker-plunk set...


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