Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Dignity vs Freebies. Freebies win!

Ok, there’s a fair bit that happened, Lego-wise, between me picking up the Unimog and where we are right now, which is a Tuesday lunchtime at the end of February, but I’ll come back to that.  

The salient points are:

a) I’ve got a bad case of collectivitus
b) I’ve joined a couple of Lego online forums
c) Everybody likes free stuff

Word started going around on one of the forums a few weeks back, of a Lego giveaway.  One of the national newspapers had done this on a couple of previous occasions, and looked like they were going to do so again.  It had involved buying the paper (obviously), and then in certain shops you could claim your gift there and then.  The gifts had usually been the small ‘polybag’ type, which contained a model made up of 30 or so parts.  Not exactly the Taj Mahal (1) but not to be sniffed at.  They were sets that would probably have retailed at about £3 - £4, for the cost of a 40p paper.

Many people had bought several copies of the paper and claimed multiple packs, or sent relatives out to get extras for them (Lego collectors are keen!), but this time round it seemed it was going to be a ‘collect the tokens and send off for five models’ sort of deal.

All well and good, but there was (or more accurately, is - I’ve only got four tokens so far) a problem.

Now for the most part, I don’t read a daily newspaper.  I do pick up the Evening Standard on the way home from work, but only because it’s free.  And even then I don’t read it half the time.  The only paper I regularly pay for is the Daily Telegraph on a Saturday.  Partly because I like the Motoring Section, partly because I like the letters page, and partly because it’s so huge that we’ve barely finished reading it by the time that Saturday rolls around again.

(People frequently make judgements about other people, based on which newspaper they read, and I’m about to do the same thing in a minute, so feel free to judge away!)

But an important part of the whole ‘buying the paper’ thing is that I’m happy buying it.  We get it when we do our weekly shop.  It’s the Telegraph!  I’ll put that down on top of my shopping and not care who sees it.

But it’s not the Telegraph that’s doing the giveaway. 

It’s The Sun.

Call me a snob, but there’s something about The Sun that makes me despair for humanity.  I mean, this is the most popular daily newspaper in Britain!  How can that be?
Quite apart from the ridiculousness that is Page 3, the actual news content of the paper is like the medicinal content of your typical homeopathic remedy.  It’s about one part news to a billion parts nonsense.

Quite frankly, I‘m embarrased to buy it.  But there are freebies at stake, so I swallow my pride and pick it up (at a newsagent that I would otherwise not visit) on the way to work.

Interestingly, chatter on the forum suggests that this is not uncommon.  So if most people wouldn’t normally be seen dead with a copy of it, who on earth buys it (apart from Lego collectors when there’s a giveaway happening)?  I didn’t think our economy was sufficiently robust to employ that many builders.

Still, only one more paper to buy tomorrow and then I can go back to being smug for a bit.

Many people are grumbling that the polybags that will be given away aren’t from 2013 series, and they may end up with things they already own.  Me, I’ve only got one or two, so chances are it’s all going to be new as far as I’m concerned.

Not sure what I’ll do with them.  Models of cool cars are one thing, but if you end up with the Lego equivalent of My Little Pony…

Still - always handy to have some things to swap.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

(1)  Set 10189. 5922 parts.  Biggest Lego set ever made.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Down the rabbit hole to Legoland...

Like many twenty-seven years olds / forty-somethings (1), I’m a sucker for nostalgia, and particularly the toys of my youth.  This covers both the toys I had, and the toys I wish I’d had when I was younger.  I get transfixed by those ‘100 Greatest Toys’ programmes that tend to get put on around Christmas, and as the countdown progresses, I - and a million others like me - mentally check them off...

‘Wanted. Wanted. Had. Wanted. Had…’  And occasionally ‘Still got!’

One of the great things about being an adult, with a modicum of disposable income, is that if you want to you can actually go back and find some of the gems that you missed out on.  This has been made considerably easier too, with the advent of the internet, and more specifically a certain on-line auction site...

Having said that, with the exception of a couple of years when I put together a pretty impressive collection of (nearly) all the videogame consoles that I drooled over in my youth, which now, criminally, gather dust in our loft, I never really went back to any of those toys of yesteryear.

But that changed recently.

Sort of.

About 18 months ago, the Daily Telegraph Motoring section, for reasons best known to themselves, decided to have a bit of fun.  So one of their staff members, rather than reveiwing a proper car, got to make a video review of the Lego Technic 8110 Unimog, a model based on the Mercedes Benz workhorse that was celebrating its 50th anniversary.  This was, at the time, the largest (in terms of pieces) Technic kit that Lego had ever created, and the Telegraph chap planned to build it one Friday afternoon.  As you can see if you watch the film : after four hours, he had half a chassis.

He came back on the Monday, rolled up his sleeves and finished the job.

I was transfixed.

My memories of Lego consisted of one medium sized box, containing a couple of hundred coloured plastic bricks, and any number of creations that consisted largely of right angles.

I’d given my Lego away to a friend when my enthusiasm for corners faded in my mid-teens, and I’d never had cause to go back and see what the Lego Group had come up with in the 30 years that followed.

But this!  This, to use the vernacular of 1950’s America, was something else!  There were gears!  And axles!  It had working pneumatics.  And proper suspension!  This wasn’t a pile of toy bricks.  This was plastic engineering!

It was also the best part of £160, so soon after, I forgot all about it

However.  I must have mentioned that Lego Technic sounded interesting at some point, and my wife, who pays far more attention to the things people say than I do, must have squirreled this piece of information away.  As a result, on the morning of Christmas 2012, I had a parcel from my better half that rattled in a most interesting fashion.
It turned out to be the Lego Technic 8070 Supercar. (2)

Gosh!  What’s that slope over there?  It looks awfully slippery…

My wife & I work for a large UK retailer, and one of the benefits is a generous discount in our shops.  And so it was that between Christmas and New Year we found ourselves in one of the larger stores, and having a few minutes spare, I thought I’d just go and have a look in the toy department.  Weaving through any number of small children looking to spend their Christmas money, we found our way to the Lego section.

And there was the Unimog!

My wife offered to return the Supercar and get me the Unimog instead, but by this time I’d taken a real liking to the car, so came up with a far better suggestion.  “I’ll keep the car that you bought me, and I’ll buy the Unimog for myself!”

I know it’s a bit pricey, but I do get discount, and after all…

...it’s just the one set.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

(1)  My age varies depending on whether you're talking to me or my wife.
(2) It's strange how quickly you learn the numbers of the sets when you get hooked on Lego!