Monday, 18 July 2011

A monopoly on board games...

Not mine.  All not mine...
I did something I’ve not done for a while at the weekend.  Not even at recent Christmases.  I played a board game.  It wasn’t planned, certainly not given the wealth of activities available to us in the digital age.  In fact I was forced to go 'old-school' following a convoluted mix-up involving a games console and a dopey brother.

Outside it was raining comme vache qu’il pisse and yet I needed to entertain The Boy somehow.  I had been through the entire back catalogue of “Dad’s Interesting Facts Vol. 1” including "Notable Things About Newts" and "How Bridges Are Built", and having been beaten twice already that morning at FIFA 11, had nothing left in the tank with which to amuse a ten year old.

‘We could play Monopoly?' he ventured.

'Bless you, sweet child' I thought,' looking upon him as might a Victorian parent ‘and your glorious innocent naivety.  We shall indeed seize this fine opportunity to enjoy this traditional electricity-free pastime and – more to the point - I shall enjoy asserting my ultimate superiority and male dominance as I tutor you in arts as only one with years of painful experience can.  Prepare to learn!'

I was hoping this to be my chance to school The Boy in everything from basic arithmetic to macro economics and fiscal stability, alongside the need for a sharp business acumen and unsentimental killer instinct.  In short, I saw this as the moment to equip him with everything he could need to survive in a merciless and unforgiving world. 

‘I’ll be the boat,’ I insisted, certain in the belief that I would dock around two hours later in the promised land of milk, honey and a great fat wad of toy cash, content that I had instilled in The Boy a truly valuable lesson – one that he would carry with him throughout his days, and maybe even relay to his own children in years to come.

Yet things did not turn out quite as I had envisaged.  Five minutes in and he had all of the ‘prestige’ sites in his portfolio.  Shortly after this, Pall Mall, Vine Street and Piccadilly Circus fell under his domain, the respective cards nestling next to his growing collection of £100 notes.  Somehow, I had only Pentonville Road and a fiver.  Five more minutes and the phone rang.  It was the Queen, asking The Boy if she could borrow ‘a ton’.  Back on the board, I threw a double four and took an unwanted trip to Covent Garden.

The Boy surveys his empire
‘That’ll be £720, please...' he sniffed, nonchalantly as he passed the £5,000 in capital mark.  Reluctantly, I coughed up as his pile of £500 notes sat there grinning at me.

By this time he owned most of the properties and the utilities, together with all of the stations, which of course stung me for £200 each time I landed on them.  And boy, did I land on them.  Not only this, but I must have ‘Advanced to Mayfair’ four times in as many circuits, the money from my dwindling coffers serving only to bolster his housing empire with each lap of the board.

The Boy traversed everything from mild amusement to wild euphoria as he reached each successive triumph and realised he was establishing an unassailable lead before a measured sense of calm arose, with him safe in the knowledge that he had his poor old Dad whipped.

After that, he decided to name his high denomination bank notes, and feigned hurt when he had to part with 'Angus', 'Michael' and Geoffrey' on the rare occasion that he picked up a hotel maintenance Chance card.

Of course good fortune played a part. He seemed to have more birthdays, enjoyed more ‘bank errors in his favour’ and won more crosswords and beauty competitions than I thought possible, but he also seems to have a natural knack for throwing just the right number of doubles. Perhaps he has the luck gene that has sadly evaded me, and for this I should surely be happy – and perhaps paradoxically consider myself lucky.

At this thought, I chuckled whimsically as I mused on life's well-documented propensity to imitate art. Or Waddington Games, at least.  But my patience was running thin.  I was sure I used to like Monopoly.  But now I was also out of cigarettes. This was a bad time to be losing - and losing so heavily - to my progeny.

A sorry state of affairs...
As the statistical chance of not landing on one of his properties diminished, and my metal boat tossed on the tempestuous seas of financial fortune, a little bit of me died inside. The Boy even took pride in loading up the less-than salubrious Old Kent Road (and its shabby counterpart Whitechapel) with hotels.  I've never been so pleased to be visiting jail in all my days, if only for the brief respite it offered from his incessant rent demands.
A broad and defiantly smug smile broke across his cherubic face as it became clear that the game was won. Despite my genuinely best efforts it seemed that The Boy now owned 75% of the available properties as well as the jail, the bank and a surprisingly large portion of my soul in some kind of devious and cruel credit default swap scheme that he had devised in order to prolong my pain.

'You don't even have £320,' he said gleefully, referring to the very 'cheapest' of his property empire, as he pocketed another £50, this time from 'sale of stock'.

'I don't even have £20', I grimaced, as I veered perilously near to his shiny new hotel complex at Pall Mall. Why are rich people such utter gits?

On the next circuit I avoided Park Lane, Mayfair (and the brown ones) by the skin of my impoverished teeth. I was a mouse, being toyed with by something that a mere eleven years ago was one of my sperms.

He took a picture of his very own Fort Knox.  ‘Shall we put it on video?’ he offered, cheerily.

‘No, we bloody well shall not’, I snapped, fearing my humiliation at the hands of a ten year old going viral would be more than I could take.

When I landed on his hotel at Whitehall he started recreating an Apprentice trailer at me. ‘You're fired’, he repeated, over and over again. Christ, I've bred a mini Alan Sugar. 'Sod off,' I retorted cleverly, as I mortgaged everything I had to pay his £750 bill.  My little metal boat was upturned, my esteem sunk.

Fittingly perhaps, it was all over when a throw of the dice took me to Mayfair, and a £2000 bill proved more than the value of everything I had.  Sweet blessed deliverance from a financial Stalin who despite his tender years had managed to manacle me to the system in a way that those who actually have manacled me to the actual system would have been proud.

To be honest I don't know what the moral is.  Aside from ‘never a borrower nor a lender be,’ perhaps it’s a warning to beware the potential pitfalls of attempting to live your life vicariously through that of your offspring, attempting to correct all the mistakes you've ever made for fear of being well and truly hoisted by your own petard.  If there's a lesson here at all, then perhaps it’s not to give lessons unless you truly know the textbook.

Or perhaps just don't be the boat...

No comments:

Post a Comment

David F Burrows
Composes music for videogames. Dabbles in topiary. Frequently mistaken for Doctor Who.