Monday, 18 March 2013

It's not just for kids...

Not long after I’d joined the Brickset forum, I noticed a thread about the new Lego store at Watford.  It had had a low-key opening around Christmas 2012, and apparently their Grand Opening, a traditional Lego Store three-day extravaganza, was due sometime near the end of February.
However, somebody now mentioned that there was an AFOL event in the offing.  I’d been around long enough to figure out that AFOL meant ‘Adult Fan Of Lego’, but I wasn’t sure what this event was.

Turned out that the store staff were going to get to work early and open the store at 8.00 am rather than 9.00, specifically for adults.  Not only this, but there was 15% off all purchases!  I made a note of the date!

Interestingly, it seems that these AFOL days have varied over the years.  If I understand correctly, it used to be the case in the UK (and I believe, still is the case in the USA) that you have to be an identifiable member of a LUG, or Lego User Group, to qualify.  

Presumably you’d sidle up to the shop, give the secret knock and whisper the password through a crack in the door.

Here, it appeared that you just had to :

a) be an adult,
b) know about the event, and
c) turn up.

It wasn’t widely publicised, you had to hear about it ‘on the grapevine’, so there was still a clandestine element to the whole thing, but having phoned the store a few days earlier, they assured me that all I had to do was arrive between 8.00 and 9.00, and they’d let me give them money.

Anyway.  Not knowing whether it would be attended by thousands of rabid fans, hammering on the door at 8.00am or not, I decided to get there early.  The alarm went off at 6.15, shortly followed by Mrs Boo wanting to know why I could never get up this early on a Saturday when there was housework to be done.

At about 7.15 I was heading out of the door.

“So how much am I allowed to spend?” I enquired of my better half.

“It’s your money - spend what you like.” she said, and went back to bed.

This could be an expensive morning…

Unsurprisingly, there wasn’t much on the road, and I got to the Watford shopping centre at about 7.45 and headed in to find the Lego store.  ‘Should be easy enough to spot,’ I thought. ‘It’ll be the one with the long queue outside.’

In actual fact, the long queue consisted of two people, a nice couple who had arrived just before me, and who I later discovered were long standing Brickset members.  By the time the staff opened up, there were probably a dozen people waiting, and getting funny looks from the shopping centre security staff, who were slightly puzzled about a group of adults sitting on the floor outside a toyshop, seemingly over an hour before it was supposed to open.

I got talking to a couple of people.  Some had come armed with lists of what they were after.  Some had been waiting for today so they could pick up high-priced items (1).  Others, like me, were going to just see what caught their eye.  Several people seemed to be members of on-line communities and were taking this opportunity to meet up with fellow forum members, either to catch up, or to complete swaps without having to incur postal charges.

All in all, Lego people seemed to be a pretty sociable crowd.

I’d never been in a Lego store before, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to find that it’s a shop, chock full of Lego.  I guess it’s because whenever I’ve seen Lego before, it’s been in a department store with a multitude of other toys.  This was just a medium sized shop, but stuffed full of Lego!


As I entered the shop, the first thing that caught my eye was a display case with the two current Star Wars UCS models, R2-D2 and the B-Wing fighter.  The R2-D2 was cool.  The B-wing was big!

I did a sweep of the rest of the store, mentally adding things to a ‘possible purchase’ list.  The VW Camper Van was great, but I knew I could get that from John Lewis.  The Architecture series appeals.  I’ve had my eye on the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum ever since Mrs Boo and I visited it in New York a few years back.  I put it back on the shelf though, as for what it is, it’s pretty pricey.

I had a loooong look at the Star Wars stuff.  The X-Wing is neat.  Trouble is, if you buy an X-Wing, you really need to buy a Tie Fighter.  The Death Star MkII is great, but huge, and at £275, definitely not an impulse purchase.  Also, if I bought one Star Wars set, I’d want to buy some all of the others.  Although I draw the line at the Original Trilogy stuff.  I’ve never seen the ‘Clone Wars’ cartoon series, which much of the current SW line is based on, and so wouldn’t have any problem walking past that.

Eventually I got to the Technic section, via a couple of visits to that UCS cabinet. 

After a fair amount of dithering, I settled on the 9393 Tractor, the 9391 Tracked Crane, and the 8293 Power Functions Set, which I’d be able to use with the Excavator that I’d picked up a few weeks earlier.  I also grabbed a couple of brick seperator tools and was just about to join the back of the queue for the till when I decided to have one last look at the UCS stuff…

R2-D2 found his way into the pile of boxes in my arms and I joined the queue, looking resolutely ahead, ignoring all other possible temptations.

9393 Tractor

(Image from the indispensible database) 

9391 Tracked Crane

(Image also from

The cute yet awesome UCS R2-D2

(Image, as ever, from

In addition to the 15% off, the February offer was a free polybag if you’d spent more than £25, with a choice of either the 30222 Police Helicopter or the 30103 Friends Car.  The staff were kind enough to say that as I’d spent the thick end of £200, I could have both! (2)

When I arrived home, my wife was fascinated to see what I’d bought, and admired my purchases.

No, sorry, my mistake.  She said “It’s not staying down here - it’s going in the loft.”

To be fair though, when I told her how much I’d spent, she raised her eyes to heaven briefly, shook her head and left it at that, which is just one of the many reasons that I adore her.

I think she figures that if this is as bad as my mid-life crisis gets, then at least I'm not trying to kill myself on a motorbike...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

(1) And let’s be blunt.  Some of this stuff is expensive.

(2) This is not meant to be sarcastic at all.  The staff in the store were, to a man (and woman) great!  Friendly, chatty, helpful, not pushy, and considerably more awake than I was.

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