Friday, 30 December 2011

Ramblings: Clueless

I spent last night with Paul and we indulged in an illicit pleasure, playing board games. It was blissful. He didn’t even seem to mind when I did the voices for the characters in “Cluedo”.

I always loved board games as a child, spending hours playing Scrabble, Frustration, Mousetrap, Monopoly, Risk and The Game of Life. “The Game of Life” did lose me a little. I was never too keen on the getting married and having children thing. It didn’t seem like a realistic goal. “Mousetrap” involved endless setting up of the board and was always hit and miss whether the whole procedure would work, for example whether the little plastic man would miss and the bath tub would slip. It taught me an early lesson in meticulous preparation though and it was quite satisfying when all the fragile plastic devices worked together and you caught the mouse. As I’ve mentioned before, it inspired me to play a life like version of the game with our cantankerous Hitler lookalike cat, Whiskey, in which I’d sneak up on him and trap him under a plastic laundry basket.

My favourite game of all was “Cluedo”. I loved the whole concept of the story: a glamorous country house with billiard room, library and conservatory, a host of improbable house guests and a corpse at the bottom of the stairs. My eight year old self was fascinated by this set up. My parents should have been alerted to the fact that this eight year old boy was showing signs of being a bit different. I would only play if I could be Miss Scarlet or Mrs Peacock at a push. Not Mrs White, she was too ruddy and needed a makeover. Not the usual game plan of most young boys, I suspect.

I became the “Cluedo” champion of the neighbourhood and pretty soon no one would play with me at all as I always won. If any police officers are reading this then please bear me in mind should you ever get a call saying that Doctor Black has been murdered at Tudor Manor. I’ll solve it for you in minutes. I’m also an expert on locked room mysteries after avid viewing of Jonathan Creek but I suspect that the incidence of the locked room mystery is luckily, quite low so my skills are unlikely to be called upon any time soon.

I was frustrated that I had no one to play “Cluedo” with so took to playing little versions of the game alone. I’d lay out the board on the bedroom floor and started to make up little stories involving the characters. They were quite tame, involving blackmail and adulterous affairs. I soon bored of this though and progressed to reading “Cluedo” in book form and ploughed my way through eighty-odd Agatha Christie novels by age sixteen. I adored her books and would devour one a day. They involve a simple world of casual racism, class snobbery and character stereotypes. You know where you are in Christie’s England. Colonels behave like Colonels, the working class know their place and no one cares if anyone gets killed, they move on very quickly with no messy grief getting in the way. She used phrases like “Platinum blonde” and “sleeping drafts”. She was also a genius at writing plots, making her novels into complex puzzles which were often ingenious works of art.

I had a brief spell of playing a computer game version of “Cluedo” in the 1990s but soon tired of this. The computer was a bit rubbish at it. My excitement revived in 2008 with the discovery of a deluxe and hideously complex version of the game from the 1980s called “Super Cluedo Challenge” in a charity shop. It was pristine, understandably so as the rules are incredibly complex at first. One read through the four pages of A4 of incomprehensible rules and most people would abandon the game for good. They’d fox most teenagers. I managed, eventually, to suss them out. During a bleak time when my father was ill and I was struggling to balance my job as a ward manager with my need to help care for my father, playing this game was one of the few things which distracted me totally from real life. I’d become childlike and full of glee and be totally entranced.

Unfortunately for my opponents I’d also do the voices for the characters (my Professor Plum impression is second to none), make up stories to explain why the murder was happening and sulk if I didn’t win. An example of a story would be: Mrs Peacock was bending over the billiard table potting a ball when Dr Black stuck his hand up her petticoat and tweaked her prolapsed labia majoris. She let out a squeal of shock, being of fine breeding, and socked him one with the candlestick. It’s good to let out your inner child. I keep mine barely concealed below the surface at all times.

I also love “Yahtzee” and rediscovered this last year whilst at a dinner party with three avid Yahtzee fans. I hate maths but found that the simple act of throwing dice and trying to outfox your opponents amused me greatly. What amused me more was when we all decided that when you got 5 dice the same, instead of standing up and shouting “Yahtzee” you had to shout Nazi and do a quick goose step. Maybe a little bit tasteless but it made us laugh.

I made the mistake of playing Scrabble against my mother last year. We spent Boxing Day afternoon with my brother and the three of us played Scrabble. I won seven times, my brother one once. My mother lost every time.

“Could I borrow the game?” was her innocent request. I agreed only to discover a month later that my mother had been practising alone every night for an hour or so and had bought and was reading a Scrabble dictionary. She doesn’t like to be beaten, especially not by her own children. She’s now unbeatable.

I’ve invented a new version of “Cluedo” for modern times, to fit in with the knee jerk right wing views which the tabloid press encourage. It’s called “Paedo”. It’s much like “Cluedo” but the aim is to find out who is the suspected paedophile and in what room and with what implement they attempted to defile the junior footman, Tommy. I think the problem may be that the guilty party is generally Reverend Green. I’m not sure it’ll sell.

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