2018 – Lock and Load

Welcome to 2018.  So far, looks comfortable enough.  Bit of padding around the waist, but nothing that a little diet (and a lot less C2H5OH) won’t solve.

Would’ve written this yesterday but was suffering from a little post-New Year pneumonia (as defined by Grand Tour, Season 2, Episode 1).

Christmas 2017 brought us some fantastic games that we’ve spent the holiday playing – these are games that all the family can play, for a certain definition of “all the family” – we’ve got just the 5 kids, so they’re games that can cope with 7 players, our youngest is 7, eldest is 17, and my wife and I are both significantly north of that so they’ve got quite a spread to keep us interested.  If you’re looking for fast, fun, family games, you can’t go wrong with:

5 Second Rule

Apparently we’ve got the “Junior” edition of this game, so I dread to think how hard the “Adult” version would be!  TL:DR – you’ve got 5 seconds to name 3 things as dictated by the card.  3 Superheroes.  3 things you do at school.  3 bands your parents’ listen to.  That sort of stuff.  Assuming you name 3, you get a point, play moves to the next person, and they’ve got to do the same – only they can’t repeat any answers.  Continue until someone fails completely and draw a new topic.

Now 5 seconds is not a lot of time and your brain can do some wonderfully creative thinking.  For “3 things with wheels” we had “cars, bicycles, er, er, er, buckets”.  For “3 birds” the first answer was “Herring”.

You play until someone scores 15 points, so the game moves along pretty quickly even with 7 playing.

Family score: 5/5

Slamwitch

Somewhere between “Uno”, “Snap”, and “Down the River”, this is a quick and simple card game, the aim of which is to collect all the cards.  Wasn’t helped by Thing 1 having honed her reflexes playing Irish Snap at school with her friends winning pretty damn quickly.  7 players is a bit many and, like “Down the River” when you get to 2 or 3 left in the game it can slow down.  Still, fun enough for the kids to want to play it again.

Family score: 3/5

Sussed – All Sorts

How well do you know your family?  Each player takes turns to read a scenario from their card, with a choice of 3 possible answers – e.g. “What would I most want to do? (a) Sky diving, (b) Llama trekking, (c) Archery”.  They make a note of their answer, everyone else playing picks one.  Move on to the next player.  When everyone’s done the 4 scenarios on their cards, you go back around the table and find out how well you know the rest of the family.  You score points for correct answers.

Turns out, not very!  Well, I don’t seem to know my wife or kids, my kids know my wife and I pretty damn well.

Family score: 4/5

Whot

The neighbours brought this round to play on New Year’s eve.  Another fast-moving card game, similar to Uno but less complicated.  Cards have a suit and a number, there are 4 suits.  7 cards each to start with.  Each turn you play a card that matches either suit or number, or you draw a card if you can’t play. There are “Whot” cards that match everything and allow the player to change the suit.  Play continues until either (a) no-one can play or (b) someone plays all the cards in their hand.  Then you total up the points scores of the cards you’re left with, jot it down, deal passes 1 player left, and you continue until you’ve gone round everyone.  Winner is the person with the lowest score.

Simple?  Yes.  It doesn’t have the reverses or skips of Uno.  Fun?  Definitely!  Cries of anguish when someone changes the suit on you just as you’re about to play your last card!

Family score: 5/5, must get a set ourselves.

Fluxx

We brought this out on NYE after a few rounds of Whot, some Mao (I’ll have to get Thing 1 to explain that) and some poker.

If you don’t know Fluxx, it’s a card game that starts with a very simple rule:  Draw 1 card, play 1 card.  Other cards complicate things by changing the rules, actually setting victory conditions for the game, allowing you to steal cards from other players…  Great fun.

We’ve got “Classic”, “Eco”, and “Family” versions of Fluxx.  Thing 1 has “Cthulhu”.  I’m rather keen to pick up “Dr Who” and “Monty Python”.  They all have their own little variations on the rules, but the classic is just that

Family Score: 4/5

Looking ahead

Got some good gaming ideas for 2018.  We’ve got a couple of games from Christmas that we’ve not had a chance to play yet – Sherlock Holmes, the card game, for one.  We’ve got a few RPGs on the shelf that we need to play – Tales from the Loop, Traveller, Space: 1889, Timewatch.  They’re all going to get outings in 2018.

What are your gaming hauls from Christmas?

How Quickly You Forget

You!  Yes, you.  The one leaning on their horn as Thing1 stalls at the traffic lights.  The clue is right there in front of you, the big, red, “L” on a white square.  This is a learner driver!  You don’t know whether they’ve been driving a car for 5 minutes, 5 days, 5 weeks…  And horning off like that?  Who does it help?  Does piling pressure on a new driver make the task of setting off without stalling any easier?  Does that sound magically mean they’re now imbued with your own prodigious driving talent?

Let’s rewind to your learner days, shall we?  Stalling at roundabouts, pulling out suddenly – and unwisely – at junctions, crawling along at 43 mph on the open road.  Were you perfect?  Did you spring, fully-formed, from the loins of the Stig, quoting the Highway Code ? No, of course you weren’t, and clearly you didn’t.  But you’d forgotten, hadn’t you?

We forget, selectively at times, what our own experiences were like.

The old man, clearly a father, probably a grandfather, getting cross with the toddler for daring to make a noise?  Were your children perfect?  Were you perfect?  Of course you weren’t.  Do you think your displeasure is going to make that kids’ parents think (a) “Oh, how kind of him to show how much he cares, what a nice old man!” or (b) “Shut up, you miserable old git, I’m trying here!”  And consider the location – perhaps they’ve come along to church, halving the average age of the congregation at a stroke and giving the priest some hope that their church has a future.  Do you think your attitude helps?

So cut people some slack.  The “L”, or the “P” that follows it for a year should be a bloody great giveaway that someone’s not been driving as long as you have.  Relax.  That the kid playing with the toys is there in church at all should make you happy.  Unless it’s the 8AM BCP, in which case “happy” is an alien concept and it’s not the most kid-friendly service!

Think how much better the world would be if we were all a little nicer to each other.  If we all remembered what it was like to be in that situation.

Time flies like an arrow…

Fruit flies like a banana.

Somehow, I’ve blinked and missed 17 years.  My eldest is now learning to drive.  It really doesn’t seem very long since she was learning to walk, learning to talk (although, to be honest, much of the talking-and-using-words stuff has kinda gone out of the window these last few teenage years).  And on Friday, we put her in a car that cost less than my last phone and let her loose on the open roads of Lincolnshire.

Well, not quite.  A quiet back-lane with next-to-no traffic, not a lot in the way of corners, and lots of convenient passing places for anyone who needs to get out of the way.

A long time ago – and this is where memory gets vague.  How can it be “a long time ago” and yet also “last week”? – we taught her to ride a bike.  It involved much shouting and anger on our part – how can you not do this yet?  Why aren’t you pedalling? – and equal amounts on her part.  Teaching all of my kids to ride bikes has been a thoroughly unpleasant experience.  It seems to me that they’ll reach a point where their brain goes “ding! Bike riding installed” and they just go, and until that point it doesn’t matter how much you offer in encouragement, bribery, or other, less positive, emotions, they’re just not going to do it.

So I was dreading going out in the car with her.  My own father only ever took me out once, pretty early on in my learning journey.  He didn’t rush to do it again.

I’ve produced, with the help of my wife, this handy checklist for when you take a kid on the road for the first time.

Set expectations to “none” or “very low”.

This is a completely new skill for them.  Even a lifetime spent playing PlayStation driving games won’t prepare you for this.  Think of how much there is to concentrate on – accelerator-clutch balance, not using your left foot on the brake, mirrors, other mirrors, steering wheel, what do these levers do? Why am I veering left when I change gear?  Aaargh!  If, by the end of the first short session, they’ve started the car and driven it in a straight line without hitting anything/one, consider that a massive win and drive them home.  They’re not going to be cruising the A1 in 5th gear in their first driving lesson.  I hope!

Keep it short

15, 20 minutes.  Not a lot.  It’s a lot to take in and the little-and-often approach will bear more fruit than taking them out for a couple of hours.  Let them come back to it fresh the next day and they (and you) will be amazed at how much better they are second time around.

One piece at a time

Back to riding a bike.  Pretty much the hardest thing you’ve got to do is setting off.  Getting the pedalling going, not wobbling and crashing, getting up to speed.  Same with driving a car.  You’ve got to get the accelerator-clutch balance right, keep the steering wheel straight, take off the handbrake…  It’s a lot to do, so do it a lot.  Get them to the point where it’s second nature.  So, we were doing start, drive a little, stop, switch off.  And repeat.  Didn’t even get out of first gear for a while.

It’s more frustrating for them

You know you’ll get there, but the first time you stall – and the second, third, fourth… – it starts to get to you.  You get cross, frustrated, angry – with yourself more than anything.  So as the one who knows how to drive, you need your bestest calm, soothing, words to let the learner know we’ve all been there, we’ve all done this, and they will get the hang of it.  This all goes double when they’d got the hang of doing this only yesterday.

Don’t Panic

The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy had it right.  Don’t panic.  Absolutely the worst thing you can do is lose your cool – it will be transmitted straight into their brain and override everything else.  Why is my parent panicking?  What am I doing wrong?  You stress, they stress.  Keep it cool until you get back, then that large whiskey’s yours for the downing.

And repeat

With 5 kids, we do things in decades.  We’re well into the decade of GCSEs at the moment, a year or so into the decade of A-levels, approaching the decade of starting University.  So I’ve got 10 years of teaching kids how to drive, on an off.  If I didn’t have grey hair already, I would be the end of this.

Do you have any tips for taking the newly-minted learner-driver on the highways?  Share them in the comments below…