Monday, 19 December 2011

Science at Christmas

Why did my brother get a chemistry set for Christmas one year?  He wasn't really bothered by science.  He was into motorbikes and soul music whereas I was the, ahem, nerd of the litter, the one who would demand to watch James Burke whenever he was on.  So how come my brother got the chemistry set and I didn't?

Can't really answer that one, though I did get some sciency presents in my childhood years.  The one I do remember well was a microscope, a small one, in a lovely wooden box.  It might not have been overly powerful but it did provide nice views of protists from the local ponds when I had a pond dipping phase a few years later.  Now I come to think of it, that microscope served me well.

The only other thing I can recall is the game Blast Off.  Now, for reasons that I never quite got to terms with, the aim was to land on the Moon, or something like that.  But the spaceships were Gemini, not Apollo, and they docked with Agena target vehicles, not lunar modules.  All very confusing to someone who wanted accuracy.  Not that I ever quite got to the bottom of the rules.  I liked my games simple.  For a review of the game, click here.   I don't remember it being that simple.

Looking on Ebay, you'll find plenty on sale.  It seems that everyone who had one must have hidden it in the loft and kept it in good condition.  Not me.  I gave mine away when I put away childish things and thought I might be grown up.  But no man is ever so grown up that childish things are not attractive, and there is something Proustian about gazing upon the various pieces of the game and remembering the smell of the cardboard and sitting around a table with your friends trying to work out the rules.  I bet you don't get that with your average Xbox game.

One thing I didn't get, although I asked Santa himself, in person, for it when I visited him at a department store in Chelmsford, was the Airfix Saturn V kit.  This was the pinnacle, the Holy Grail, for a seven year old space fanatic like myself (and James May, apparently).  He asked me what I wanted.  I told him, but I didn't get it.  Not for Christmas.  I had to wait for my next birthday (all right, that was only two months but at that age there is disappointment and then there's this sort of disappointment).  I made it, played with it, then put it on the shelf to display it.  It was wonderful.  It was equally wonderful when I made it again more than twenty years later, but when Airfix rereleased it the other year, I didn't bother.  There might be a Proustian stimulus in the box, but there might also be disappointment.  As Paul McCartney once said in a different context, you can't reheat a souffle.

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