Monday 22 December 2014

How a board game can cure a bored teenager

Anne Cunningham

Published 08/06/2014 | 02:30

Board games can cure boredom
Board games can cure boredom

It rained all day Sunday, and we'd just finished dinner, Scallywag, my sometimes handyman and me. Scallywag fled the table, lest any help should be requested with the washing-up. And she wasn't in the sitting room for five seconds when I heard her scream.

I fell over the dog in my rush to get to her, half-killed him and busted my toe. And when I stopped dead, my dinner guest who was running behind me didn't. So he fell over me.

"Get off me!" I snarled at him, and the dog snarled much the same at me, and I screamed at Scallywag: "What's all the screaming about?"

"THE INTERNET'S GONE!" she bawled, like you'd imagine she'd howl: "MY LEGS ARE GONE, I'VE JUST BEEN BUTCHERED!"

It took all of my self-control not to throw something. Something big and blunt and heavy. But I couldn't even lift my dinner guest, let alone throw him.

I was so mad with her, I could have spat. "So? Big deal! I thought you'd been attacked by something. It's been stormy all day, it's probably a fallen cable. You'll just have to watch TV or read a book, play a game. Or you could help with the washing-up?"

She galloped upstairs like a one-woman Charge of the Light Brigade at the sound of clattering dishes.

Later, when she'd gauged the coast – that being the pile of dirty dishes – was clear, she shuffled back downstairs again. Glum-faced, carrying a selection of board games that haven't seen the light of day since she discovered broadband.

"Will I check if the internet's back?" asked my dinner guest, a little too eagerly. "It might be just the wall connection, I could test it with my new phase-tester."

My stony face hushed his suggestion into a diminuendo, molto ritardando. We were going to make the best of this, and by God was he going to help me. I was not to be messed with in my hour of weblessness.

"Games! Brilliant!" I faked through gritted teeth that I hoped might pass for a delighted grin.

"Which one?"

Silence from both of them.

"We have to make the best of this, folks!" I chirped. "Live in the moment! The power of now! Haven't you read Eckhart Tolle?"

"Nope. But I knew Edward Tully, he was in my class in primary school," pipes up yer man, and Scallywag sniggers appreciatively at his adolescent wit.

"How about a spot of Monopoly?" I sounded like Hyacinth Bucket and I'm fairly certain my shrill faux-joyfulness could be heard in several neighbouring districts.

"Check the batteries, please," I asked Scallywag as I spread the board on the table. "It's just Monopoly, for God's sake. No batteries required," said The Big Genius. I gave him his bank card and tossed his Monopoly mover at him, ensuring he'd got the car – my least favourite – and suggested that he shut up and play.

The car inspired Scallywag to burst into song: "Shut up and drive," in defiant fortissimo, and the fun and games began.

He of the PhD was completely overwhelmed by electronic Monopoly. It was almost touching to see he hadn't played it since he was eight. He became quite attached to his plastic card instead of "real" money.

But when he tried to buy Busaras while I was in jail, things got a bit hairy. It all went south when Scallywag refused to bail me out – twice – just because of a little harmless speculation, Anglo-Irish style. This would never happen in real life, I assured her. She wouldn't even have to know me, or like me, she would be legally bound to pay for my transgressions or face jail herself.

She pooh-poohed my wild inanities, and told me to "get real". Out of the mouths of babes ...

The internet came back at Scallywag's bedtime. "Can we just play one more game?" she pleaded. Er... no. "OK, OK, I'm going," she pouted, like she hadn't just had a blast.

And we did. Have a blast. Can't remember when we laughed so much in our own sitting room, with no TV and no internet.

Monday was another sodden day, and I grinned like a big child on Monday evening when she remarked that maybe the internet might go on the blink again. And the pair of us would have to try Cheat Scrabble.

Ooh, yes! Just my sort of game, my little piranha fish, just my sort of game... W

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