I wandered round the corner in the aisle of the toy section of John Lewis to be faced by a Mexican stand-off...


My daughter had arms crossed and a face like thunder. My wife was imploring her.

“Why don’t you buy this one?” she asked her recalcitrant five year old, indicating a big general purpose box of lego, the like we used to play with when we were young. The kind that with a couple of hours and a big imagination, you could build anything..

“I want one of those,” said Meri, pointing to a pink “pre-fab” box of princess lego that had 40 pieces in them that would make only one thing and that was as long as you followed all the instructions. In fairness, the picture of the fairy-tale castle on the front did look more inviting to a five year old than the pictures of lots of different shaped bricks.

Time for my Victorian dad routine I decided.

“Right Meri. You can have this one or we can go home now,” I said pointing to the old fashioned set.

Meri thought about it for a moment. “I want this one,” she caved somewhat sensibly for something rather than nothing.

When we got home we opened up the box of lego. I wandered out to tend to a few things. When I came back about half an hour later, my wife was sitting on the lounge carpet with her daughter. Meri was building a space rocket whilst Clare was building a blue scooter – following one of the instruction leaflets in the huge box.

“Are you enjoying yourself?” I asked my wife.

She looked up sheepishly, as she realised she had been transported back in time 35 years and was engrossed in what she was doing.

A while later Meri came and dragged me from the dining room, wanting to show me her finished rocket. Multi-coloured, it had a pointy bit on one end and red flames shooting out of the other.

“That’s fantastic!” I encouraged her. Delighted that the box had caught her imagination just as I had hoped. I was about to leave when a door-frame caught my eye in the lego box. “I bet there’s a door that goes with that,” I thought to myself.

Ten minutes later, I had not only a door but also two windows, a roof and a chimney in what was a very respectable house for a first attempt in 30 odd years. I was just about to start building a picket fence when I hear a little voice next to me.

“Daddy,” said Meri. “It’s supposed to be my lego. You’ve got to share!”

It was my turn to look sheepish.

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