Tuesday, 31 December 2019

2020 Hindsight

Well, it's that time of year again, when we look back at what we've achieved and forward to what we want but fail to change. Casting my gaze around my office I see barely-glanced-at A4 print outs with things like:

Goals for 2019

Write a book (Aa Apple) - failed, but I've begun compiling my 2000-2020 compilation of short stories called Hidden In The Old Stone Wall, which will hopefully be ready early 2020

Coffee Cup Killer – failed, but I've written a few more chapters and figured out a few more in my head, plus have some checked at West Lothian Writers with some great feedback

Don't Give Up – success! I have not given up.

Plant bushes in front garden – failed. But I have planted 20 tree seeds in pots in the green house, Hopefully they sprout in the spring

Publish another short story - failed. But Thick as Thieves is out now published in a compilation called Knucklehead Noir by Coffin Hop Press.

I also, as if that wasn't enough, can see another A4 print out right next to it that says:

2019 New Year's Resolutions

Good Hour Every Day : Music, Language, Write – failed
Speak Japanese every even day – failed
Exercise 3 times a week – failed
No alcohol – failed
Work 9 hour days – 4-4-1 – failed
Tai chi every morning – failed, but did do it a lot of mornings
Go to bed at 10:30pm - failed
Wake up at 7am – failed
Seven fruit and veg a day – failed
Spend less money – failed
More family time – failed
More garden time – failed
Save money – failed
One coffee max – failed
More water – failed
Be more patient – failed
Cook more – failed
Write one letter a week – failed
Reduce plastic waste – I think we actually may have succeeded with this one with our use of ecobricks to insulate the loft rafters. So much so that my wife was getting sick of ecobricks scattered around the house and stopped buying plastic bottles of orange juice.
Walk more – failed
More board games – failed, although we did play Risk with a few of the local kids which seemed to go quite well. "World domination, kids! It's what it's all about!"

I only looked at and read these sheets of paper twice. Once when I put them up at the end of 2018, and again just now. So I can safely say that didn't work. 

Perhaps I was unrealistic in my goals. Just too many. My most successful year of fulfilling New Year's Resolutions I think was a couple of years ago when I only had one:

Don't be an Asshole

which was later downgraded to :

Try not to be an Asshole

So what then can we take away from this? It's better to have a goal and risk it unmet, than to have no goal and achieve nothing. Then again it's quite nice and less stressful to achieve goals that one had not really set out on achieving. But too many targets and you miss them all. As I believe it was Confucius who once said 

“The dog that chases two rabbits catches neither.”

So with this in mind then, let's try to gather a list of NYRs that are both achievable and easy to remember. 

I think I'm going to split these up into three parts: Vows, Goals and Regimen. (Already sounding too much)

2020 Vows, Goals & Regimen


I vow not to fly in 2020
I vow to drive as little as possible and less than last year
I vow to expand my vegetable garden and grow more in it


To complete Hidden In The Old Stone Wall
To either find an agent and/or publisher for or self publish Hidden In The Old Stone Wall
To complete The Coffee Cup Killer


Early to bed, early to rise
Write 250 words every day
Exercise at least once a week

One thing I realised in 2019 is that it's almost as hard for me to go to bed early as it is to get up early, and that these things are two sides of the same coin. It actually takes effort to go to bed. It's taken me 44 years to get my head round this (and I still haven't). You'd think it would be easy to climb into a nice warm snug area and read a good book until you get sleepy, by which point you're already in prime position to nod off. 

But no. I have to play Firefight on Halo OTSD until 3am. Then hate myself and climb the stairs of shame, brush the hairy teeth of tardiness, pull off my clothes of disorganisation, drop my underwear into the laundry basket of humiliation, climb into a freezing cold, draughty bed of despair, read for a few uncomfortable moments and then extinguish the light of disgust and lie there with feet of ice seeing flashbacks of popping grunts and failing to knock out big blue hunters by elbowing them on their armour.

But, happily, some goals I completed in 2019 by accident are:

The planting of 20 native British tree seeds with my son
The first draft compilation of 'Hidden in the Old Stone Wall'
The setting up and running of 6 Saltire Open Mic Nights with Steven Dakers
Successfully (I think) held the 2019 Scottish Short Film Festival in July

Had my iPhone stolen and reverted back to Nokia, thereby healing repetitive strain injury in right wrist
Began a petition and Facebook page to try to save Carmondean Library
Wrote the song Halloween Blues and covered I'm Yours, Friday I'm in Love and El Condor Pasa
Popped my busking cherry
Popped my stand up cherry
Got a dangerous metal bench moved from the local playground
Wrote a nice email to Hannah Bardell MP about the wildfires in Australia

That's about it

In my younger days I used to buy a day-to-a-page diary from John Menzies and try my best to fill it in over the course of the year (I still have these). Then on New Year's Eve I'd sit down and enjoy reading through it all again and ponder life's imponderables. But alas I don't do that any more. Mostly because I always felt guilty about not being able to keep up with my diary writing and wasting all that paper, so instead I switched to jotting in undated notebooks whenever the notion took me. Just found them and there's a few pages from 2019 so I'll take a wee stroll down memory lane and see if there's owt worth sharing.

Sunday 9th March

Ye gadzooks! Another day in the valley and I only have T minus three minutes to figure out what's wrong with my life!
  • No motivation,
There! That was easy!

Monday 11th March

I have nothing to say. Everything I have to say has been said before by better minds than I. Half the stuff I say I regret, and the other half is divided into thirds - funny stuff, informative stuff, and stuff people don't want to listen to.
    But on the whole most of the stuff I say is better left unsaid. Even the funny stuff I say is not wanted or lends anything worthwhile to the debate.
   So what is worth saying?
   Nobody wants to hear the truth, and nobody wants to hear lies. What does that leave?

Saturday 13th April

Went to the library and my son picked up two books at random to appease me - one about space and the other called Business Finance for Kids.

In the post office he bought some super sour candy called 'Hazardous Waste' which I tried too and it almost tore my mouth apart.

Wednesday 1st May

Struggled to leave my bed at 7:45am this morning. Decided to not decide whether to have a day off today.

Wednesday 22nd May

Today my son said his teacher humiliated him for not knowing his fractions or how to simplify 63/77ths. He was quite upset about it and said he couldn't remember exactly what she'd said because he'd tried to block it from his mind. I just tried to help him practise some fractions and then talk him through his emotions, relating to him a bit how primary school teachers traumatised me when I was a kid. Knocking my head together with Neil Law's and staring at me with excess mascara. I still feel nervous even now when going into the primary school to pick him up
   Anyway, he seemed to cheer up a bit after that.
   Personally I have lost faith in the present Scottish education system. Hardly any homework, days off galore, free time on Fridays which are half days anyway. What the fuck? No wonder he doesn't know his fractions.

Wednesday 6th June

So why the hell am I starting up an Open Mic Night?

Saturday 15th June

Played chess against the computer while listening to Rage Against The Machine.

Thursday 10th October

My son came home and lit up the household with his laughter and songs as usual.

Saturday 26th October

Okay. In an effort to clear my mind of the scum layer of thoughts and crabbit emotions encrusting the upper regions of my psyche, I am now endeavouring to write some diary here in my own dining room in my own house in the peace and quiet of my own family's absence.

Monday 4th November

This is the only thing I know for sure. The date. Nothing else is certain. Nothing else is written.

There. That was fun.

But no matter your successes or failures of 2019, or your goals, resolutions and hopes for 2020, I wish you all peace, harmony and happiness for the coming year. See you on the other side :)

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

A Cat Is For Life - A Short Story

I finished suckling and opened my eyes. We were lying on a soft white rug in front of some strange red and yellow crackling stuff that emitted a pleasant, but potentially dangerous, warmth. Over my mother and I reached the limbs of an ominous yet brightly decorated tree all greens and browns. My reflection in one of the large shiny baubles was curved and curious. I could see my pink nose, my short stubby whiskers, and my big, questioning green eyes. Under the tree were packages of all shapes and sizes, all wrapped up with string and colourful paper. I inspected these with interest but, compared to the soft warmth of my mother, the hard corners and edges offered little except the temptation of something to scratch my chin against. The air was filled with a variety of delicious smells I could not identify.
“Good morning love,” Mother smiled drowsily. “And how are you this fine Christmas Day?”
“Fine Momma,” I said. “Thank you for the milk.”
“You’re very welcome little one.”
I blinked lazily again at the bright, flickering tongues sending out heat that dried my eyes. “Momma, what’s that?”
“That’s fire my son,” Mother said. “It feels nice on a winter morn, doesn’t it? But you must never sniff it or you will burn your tiny nose.”
I sighed. “I have lots to learn.”
Mother grinned. “Yes, but there’s no rush. No rush at all, my young treasure. Take your time, enjoy life.” She got herself comfortable and made to drift off to sleep again.
I studied her. “Could you give me some … advice?”
Mother opened her eyes. “Advice?”
“Yes Momma,” I said. “It looks like a big, cold world out there. What should I do? How should I act? You are a cat of experience but it’s all new to me.”
“Well,” Mother purred. “I suppose I could give you some starters. First of all : Know and protect your boundaries.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ll understand when you’re older and venture outside to meet other cats.”
“Uh, okay. Protect my boundaries.”
“Yes. But don’t overdo it. Laze the day away whenever possible. A good work-life balance is critical. 80% napping, 20% work. No more.”
Suddenly a huge pair of stocking-clad legs stepped over us. I jerked my head up to see they were attached to a plump, cooing giant carrying a tray. A shiver ran through me.
“It’s okay darling,” purred Mother. “That’s one of the Owners. They look after us. Bring them a small dead animal now and then as sacrifice.”
“Yes, they love it. I always like to pop one in her slipper. Her reaction is a delight.”
“I’ll try to remember.”
“Now, in the night-time, you must stalk restlessly around.”
“Because it’s our way. Also it helps expend your extra energy in order for you to nap efficiently during the day.”
“Oh, and never smile.”
“Ever.  And never apologise.”
“What if I make a mistake?”
“Always act like you meant it, my love. You must keep your feline pride intact. In Egypt we are gods, remember. Remain aloof.”
“I’ll try.”
“Another important one is that pingpong balls are spawn of Satan and must be chased to the ends of the earth.”
“Yes. Little round white plastic orbs. Sometimes they will try to trick you by playing dead, but if you bat them with a paw off they will run again. Mark my words, little angel.”
“I shall … keep an eye out.”
“And sometimes, after a nice bath, you may feel the urge to cough up hair. There is absolutely no shame in this. ‘A fur-ball on the carpet is better than in the small intestine,’ my mother always told me.”
“What else did she tell you?”
“She often said, ‘Lap - don’t slurp.’
I gazed at her in bafflement.
“‘Sit patiently,’ she also said. ‘Look at a door and it shall be opened unto you.’ Ah, I miss her.”
I snuggled in to Mother. “Was she a good cat?”
“Yes, she was. She gave me the gift of love, and I pass that on to you.”
“And what about your father? Did he give you any advice?
“I didn’t know my father much, but I do remember one thing he used to say. ‘Remove your head you may not can, if you stick it somewhere under your whisker span.’
“That rhymes.”
“Yes, but it doesn’t quite scan. He wasn’t much of a poet your grampa.”
“It’s a lot to take in.”
“There’s plenty of time for learning about life my love.” Mother closed her eyes and stretched.
The packages under the tree again caught my attention. “And Momma, what are those?”
Mother didn’t bother to open her eyes this time. “They’re presents. The Owners and their family give them to each other at this time of year to show they love them. Just like I give you these words of cat wisdom to you, because I love you.”
A lump formed in my throat and tears prickled my eyes.
Mother opened her lids. “What’s the matter?”
“I don’t have a present for you,” I whimpered.
“Oh my love,” Mother said, hugging me close. “You are the best gift for which any cat could ask.”

© Chris R Young December 2019

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Colorblind - A Book Review

'Colorblind' by Reed Farrel Coleman 
Published by No Exit Press 2019

I just want to start this by saying I'm not criticising - I'm reviewing. As a hardly published author I take my hat off to those who are established 'real' writers, and as ever want to express my condolences to the estate of Robert B Parker and appreciation and gratitude for the great man's work. This blog post is merely for the sake of analysis and writing practice for myself to understand what works and what doesn't, in my own work and others' in the hope of becoming a better writer.

I've just finished reading Robert B Parker's 'Colorblind' written by Reed Farrel Coleman, which is an interesting case because Robert B Parker is one of my all time favourite authors in the person of private detective Spenser, who inspired me to work on my Old Mice Killer series with Jake Jones. I won't lie to you, it was his name in huge letters on the front cover which attracted me to this book in the library, but after Robert B Parker's sad demise in 2010 his characters and worlds threatened to be no more, until his estate passed his baton on to other writers to carry on the flame.

In principle I've been both for and against this in the past. On one hand I think it's great that Parker's characters live on, but on the other hand it seems inauthentic. The cover itself, as with Clive Cussler's recent pair up novels where he works with other authors, is designed to - as with me - lure in readers using Parker's name in huge font at the top, and the real author's name (who I confess I'd never heard of until now) in small letters at the bottom. It seems like false advertising on one level. But from a publishing standpoint I understand they have books to sell, and from the estate's standpoint they want to honour the great writer's memory.

Even before, I hadn't read much of the Jesse Stone series, but I was that much a fan of Parker's strong male lead characters, sense of humour and turn of phrase that I thought I'd give it a bash. So it was with a dip of disappointment when I realised it wasn't actually he who had written the story. Nevertheless, I started the novel (283 pages), and sure enough I could see signs of Parker's handiwork in the strong male lead with steel will and moral fibre, who took it upon himself to shelter the weak and lost, but not much humour. I don't know if the original Jesse Stone had much of a sense of humour in the past, but perhaps it was due to being a recovering (bereaving?) alcoholic at this stage in his life maybe there was less to be cheerful about. I don't know. I'll have to dig further back to find out.

The story is definitely a slow burner - or perhaps I should say, has a long fuse. Well written, with an involving mix of characters all with their own issues and directions. But Jesse doesn't seem to do much but keep his ears open and stay off the drink (although myself trying to abstain from various addictions over the years I know how hard this can be) for most of the book. And then all of a sudden – Boom – on page 261 (the 92% mark) all of the groundwork that Reed Farrel Coleman has built pays off and blows the top of your head off. And you're left thinking, Holy sh-cow, how did he do that? The rug has been pulled out from under you and you're flying slow motion in mid air with the book in one hand, a cup of early morning tea in the other and lines of amazement creasing your forehead, thinking, what the hell?

Anyway. The book was a rewarding read. If you're familiar with the characters from earlier novels (which I wasn't, so perhaps that was why a lot of them were hard to remember 2D names for me – hooks with nothing to hang on) then I think Reed Farrel Coleman does an admirable (and brave) job of carrying the torch, as after all Robert B Parker is a hard act to follow and a writer worth devoting some study and time to.

I'm going to give this book four stars out of five. I think it's a solid work that delivers on all promises. Coleman does an admiral job - one that I certainly couldn't do and would immediately shy away from. But I still feel cheated by the cover. I know we shouldn't judge books by their covers, but we do. Anyone who's tried to self publish knows a book's cover is important. You get one chance to make a visual impression, and your cover is it. I think the climax is rewarding enough to make all the waiting around worth it, but the waiting around is another reason why it's 4 stars and not 5. As I said, I know staying off the one thing you want in all the world is hard going, and Coleman captures that well, but the first 90% of the book needs more rewards, more meat. More character development. More Easter eggs. More humour. More flashes of the old Robert B Parker. It was nice to see Vinnie Morris pop up again, but that wasn't enough. Personally I would have appreciated about 50 pages' worth of Robert B Parkerisms sprinkled throughout the book. Food, humour, romance, geography, history, baseball trivia (Al Dente). You know what I mean? That kind of stuff. It's great when the bus finally comes, but it helps to have someone interesting to share the bus stop until that happens. That said, I was inspired to stand and write a long and involving blog post about this novel in my pyjamas five minutes after the last page, which doesn't happen often, so something's clicked.

This is how, in my mind, the cover should have looked, and would probably fit in with the high moral standard of Robert B Parker's lead characters.

Reed Farrel Coleman
The New Jesse Stone Mystery


Based on The Characters and World
Created by Robert B Parker

Have a look at Robert B Parker's Wikipedia page. I thoroughly recommend investing time, money and effort reading his original works and I intend to go back and fill in the holes as soon as possible. Reed Farrel Coleman's pretty good too and I think I'll pick up more of his work in the future also.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019


They'll soon become a thing of the past. Why bother using them anyway? It's all on the internet, right? Who wants to get up, put their shoes and jacket on, walk all the way down the street in the cold, rain and dark to go into a building whose soul purpose is to lavish stories of wonder and life-long experience on you for free? A place that's quiet, peaceful, thought-provoking, and staffed by friendly people whose job is to help you find the book or information you want. Why bother? It's all on the internet. Sure, your view is kind of obstructed by myriad ads for things you don't want or need, slowed down by lag, and the occasional eye strain headache, but it's there, isn't it? Sure you might forget to actually look for the thing you were looking for while distracted by a picture of a cat on a treadmill or Boris Johnson on a unicycle. Or you might just occasionally think, 'ach, I'll just jump on the old facebook or youtube to entertain myself first' and before you know it it's 5am and you're dehydrated and thinking, "what the hell just happened to the last 12 hours?" Who wants to have to actually hold a lump of paper mulch and turn the pages - what an effort! Much easier to scroll. Apart from the repetitive strain injury of course. And then you have to find a bookmark, and remember when the book's to go back. Who wants that hassle? If something's free it's worthless, right? If something's free it's worthless.
Clementinum in Prague, Czech Republic
Libraries should be protected and expanded, not shrunk or suffer reduction in opening hours. In this day and age of spiritual and creative desertification it's imperative that we ensure that the last bastions of hope, adventure, knowledge, discovery, peace & quiet, wisdom, self expression and thought are preserved. If everything becomes digitised it'll become characterless ones and zeros. Humanity will take another step towards the electronic abyss and drown itself in a River Styx of Google ads for six packs and Nikes. Libraries are universes within universes. Words are thoughts.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Legoland Day 4 - Don't Panic!

While walking down the stairs for breakfast we passed two policemen standing outside one of the hotel doors ... <Sorry, can't publish the rest of this paragraph because there's probably an ongoing investigation. Shame, but there you have it. Come back to this page in a couple of years and maybe I'll update it once the court case has been concluded.>

Windsor Castle - but is it real or made of lego?
N wanted to chill in the hotel room a bit longer than yesterday (which I think we were all very happy about) so we watched TV until about 10:45. We set out to meet M at around 11am, and mosied on up to the castle to find a bunch of bystanders standing around the intersection. Spurred on by the thought that we might see the Queen or the odd prince mincing by we hung back with video camera at the ready but were rather disappointed to see nothing but two dozen furry black-hatted guards marching regimentally round the bend and off down the straight road, punctuated at front and back by a more modern looking soldier holding an automatic weapon. Would have been more efficient if they'd just given an automatic weapon to each of the tall black furry-hatted guards and then the front and back dudes could have had the day off. But then again maybe the tall black furry-hatted dudes are merely decorative and not trained in modern anti-terrorism urban warfare techniques.

Anyway, we eventually got on the bus to LL for Day two and even N remarked how funny it was that the other people on the bus were all excited but as it was second day in a row for us it was pretty much run of the mill. We declined to partake in the 'Le-go-land! Le-go-land!' chant the Welsh chap behind us had instigated and and instead chose to exchange glances and roll our eyes a bit at such 'Newbie-ish' behaviour, unlike us hardened Lego veterans.

The Easter Island Heads, but are they real or made of lego?
Today was a much more chilled out situation than yesterday. There seemed much less pressure to get everything done and we knew the drill, our expectations were re-balanced and we were aware that we might have to wait for some rides and that was just the way it was. By standing in long lines we were missing out on other things going on around in the park, but if we didn't stand in any long lines we would also miss out on things in the park. It was a Catch 22.

While having an ice cream break I spotted an electronic sign outside the Pirate Water Slide saying only 35 minute wait, so we jumped in the queue, just behind another hundred people who had received similar notifications on the grape vine, Q-Bots, or apps.

So what ensued was, for me, an hour long wait in a long snake-shaped queue, while N played on the kids' climbing frame within eye-shot nearby and making new friends. 

While standing in line I took time to take stock of my situation. Having no smart phone allowed me a moment to ponder my position in this great fairground of life called the universe. Where am I? (Legoland) What am I doing here? (Waiting in a queue for the Pirates Water Slide) What do I want from life? (To go on a Pirates Water Slide) How far am I from my goal? (About 250 people) Am I being creative enough? (If you can call standing in a line creative, then yes) How do I compare to my contemporaries? (Taller, skinnier, whiter, not staring at a smart phone, less kids, less bags) How do I get from where I am now to where I want to be? (By shuffling along) How do I become more sociable? (By striking up conversation with the couple in front of me who are shoving their backpacks in my face or the family behind who tried to subtly squeeze in front of me at the last bend) Is N happy? (Seems so).

At last I reached the front of the line but N was nowhere to be seen. What should I do? Go on the ride by myself? That would be a major bummer for N. "Sorry kid, couldn't find you and didn't want to hold up the line so just went on it myself. Hope you don't mind." Fortunately he re-appeared just in time and we mingled with Q-Botters, six of whom pushed on in front of us, which seemed a little unfair. But hey, whatcha gonna do? I felt kind of sorry for them anyway, having paid so much extra and in the end still having to wait. 

We walked across a big slow-spinning rubber wheel, assisted by a staff member, and climbed into our own 4-seat water-toboggan, N in front and me behind. Once the toboggan moved away from the wheel and joined the single lane waterway, we were off (at a water-snail's space). We were both prepared to get absolutely soaked and my thoughts went back to the huge automated dryers outside the ride you could put £2 in to dry off. But actually, due to most of the waterside pirate-themed water gun-yielding mannequins not working, we didn't get squirted as much as anticipated. I was actually glad of this. All I wanted was to get through this ride and out the other end a) without injury and b) without tears (mine or N's).

At last the bit we were most looking forward to arrived, and we found ourselves being cranked up the huge hill. The anticipation was great, intense, and reminded me why I never went on roller coasters anymore.

Flashback : The last rollercoaster I went on was a really cheap, ramshackle one at Strathclyde Park when I was a kid. It didn't have all the fold-down, padded shoulder safety harnesses they have nowadays - just a metal bar across your lap. There was this curve where your speed should have resulted in some centrifugal force to push you into your seat, and stop you from falling inwards, but for some reason the thing went round the curve really slowly and I was leaning half out of my seat which was at a 60 degree angle thinking, "This can't be very safe."

So we crested the hill and over we went down the other side, too fast for comfort, but I just relinquished control to the ride and made my body limp - another coping mechanism to deal with panic I'd discovered while riding the waltzers when I was an even younger kid back in the shows in my home town. Damn, this is bringing back so many memories. Those waltzers were nuts. I recall gripping onto them and screaming, terrified that I had no control and couldn't stop and get off. I had no buttons for the speed or the brakes and just had to sit there. The panic rising within me was intolerable. But then I realised if I just relaxed and went limp - there was no point in getting worked up about things as I wasn't in control anyway - the panic just drifted away.

Applicable to life? Perhaps.

I applied the same method here and worked straight away. Had no way to explain it to N. Hopefully I'll remember to mention it to him later. Maybe take him on the Waltzers.

So we crested the hill and shot down the other side, completely unaware that a camera would take our photo at the critical moment, and splashed into the pool at the bottom with howls of laughter. The relief that we were still alive rushed in, we waved to M, and went round the bend where the ride finished up.

We'd survived.

Been thinking about things and here are some of the skills that a ten year old at Legoland may incidentally develop other than shameless capitalism and instant 'Want-Buy-Get' gratification:

Balancing priorities
Decision making
Delayed gratification
Making new friends
Arguing your case
Healthy (or not) diet
Building (Lego)
Following detailed instructions
Showing gratitude
What to do if separated.
Problem-solving skills
Dealing with disappointment
Understanding (one's own) (emotional and physical) tiredness.
Panic coping mechanisms

While standing in the line at the Big Shop at the end of the day I looked around at people's faces again and decided that the staff members were in a better frame of mind today. Despite the weather being worse, people were chirpier. And when I looked at the expressions of the parents I couldn't help but be overcome by the love they had for their kids, and how this manifested itself by the sacrifices they made. They come here and go through all the rigmarole for the same reason as me. To make their kids happy. Didn't matter the colour of their skin, their gender, their religion, the size or shapes of their bodies, the language they spoke. The thing that united all the people there, was the love for their children.

Legoland = thumbs up.

Me in a hat - or am I made of lego?

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Legoland Day 3 - Lego At Last!

Friday 9thAugust

Tut n Come In
As we were approaching Windsor Castle a police guard strode right towards us and said, "Good morning, are you here to visit the castle?" 

I replied, "No, just looking for the Legoland bus. Does it leave from around here?"

"Just down there, opposite the church," he said, quite relieved as if glad he hadn't had to shoot us. I assumed someone important was in residence and visits from the public were a no-no.

Disappointingly the Legoland Bus was not made of Lego, but to all intents and purposes resembled a normal bus. It didn't even have Emitt or Wild Style on the sides. But I didn't care, I was just glad to get three seats together.

It's like Piccadilly Circus out there
Arrived at 10:15am. It wasn't too busy and we managed to get in quite easily after the security check and got our tickets scanned. 

While M & N went to the Little Shop, I took the opportunity to slip away almost immediately to find a cafe, but unfortunately I had neglected to bring a re-usable cup with me, and was faced with the choice of having a coffee and killing Mother Earth, or drinking my own water and saving £2.50. I drank my own water.

The first exhibit we found was the immersive Lego Star Wars one. Pretty impressive, I must say! Big ass Death Star and everything. Sadly not life size though. Am I asking too much? Am I expecting the impossible? I think perhaps I am.

This was a thing where your kid takes a metal pan-like sieve and goes up to one of four wooden water slides filled with sand and tiny bits of gold (pyrite - fool's gold (I asked)) and does their best to sieve through the sand to find the gold, take back and get weighed. If they find over a certain amount (zero probably) they get a medal (but not the gold). 
The Wallace Monument. No sign of Grommit.
(Am I asking too much?)

In fairness I have nothing negative to say about this. I thought it was one of the best attractions. No queuing time, completely free, keeps the kid busy and absorbed with a safe, physical, educational, fun activity, they weigh their gold and so get a sense of self-appraisal and achievement, and the medal they receive is actually metal, gold coloured, and has the Legoland logo on it to remember the whole visit by. The kid asks, “Why am I doing this?” and the parent has no choice but to launch into a semi factually accurate spiel about the gold rush in the American wild west and how there was once some found in Scottish rivers. Loved it.

Tried to get into water slide ride but too long a wait. Vowed to bring something for us to do while standing in line if ever at a theme park like this again. Some lego perhaps? Paying an extra £25 per person for a Q Bot seemed a little excessive and unfair. Surely if the queues are too long for the rides then their system isn't working. Interestingly the queues for the checkouts at the gift shops at the end were very speedily dealt with.

It was around this time that I failed to win my son a cuddly toy. This was far and away the worst moment of the whole weekend. Let me set the scene. 

There's a guy manning a stall with coin slots on the counter nearest the customer. Beyond the counter on the back wall is a huge array of awesome-looking soft toys just waiting to be won. Between you and the child-sized stuffed animals is the challenge – one of the impossible tasks assigned to Hercules or Sisyphus – a backboard set at an angle of about 25 degrees backwards from the vertical, and below the board, a basket. 

In order to win one of the prizes (and your child's happiness) you have to throw a plastic ball so it bounces off the board into the basket. Simple! Easy. The guy does it a few times himself to prove how possible it is. We pay £2 for one ball and N has a go, and doesn't get the ball in the basket. The angle of the board seems to bounce the ball up and out. I pay £5 for three balls and have three goes, my son rooting for me from the sidelines. I try to use backspin to make the ball spin down the board as in basketball, but fail every time. Then the rain comes on and starts to pour down like a melting glacier. Everyone runs for cover.

As should I have.

But just at that moment and to stop losing customers to the rain, the guys says, “Hey, 4 balls for £5, 4 for 5!” I think to myself, Okay, let's do this. 

So with my son watching from the cover of the nearby building, I try a variety of different tactics: back-spinning it, top-spinning it, throwing it really weakly, all the things I could think of. But it wasn't enough. Every time the ball bounced back with an extra spring in its step that took it over the damn basket. 

I thought, Right, forget it. It's a scam, time to walk away.

So I walk back to M & N and N is crying his eyes out. In the rain. Watching little kids after us winning the prizes and the guy loudly ringing the bell and congratulating them. My son saying, “Why? You did your best Dad! Why are they winning one but we didn't! It's not fair! We spent £12! £12 and didn't get anything!” And me trying to get him to stop crying by saying big kids shouldn't cry and making him feel worse. 

We could have been sitting on the green banks of a wide, beautiful loch not catching any fish for free instead of being in this man-made, saccharine-sweet commercialist emotional trauma park, watching tears stream down my kid's face in the rain, that I caused.

Later, once my son had calmed down, he said, “I will never forget that.” 

And then we turned a corner and stumbled on Miniland : tonnes of scale models of famous British landmarks made of Lego, and I thought, Ah, finally! This is more like it. Wallace Monument, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, and you are so engrossed in these that you don't realise that just over there are even more famous landmarks from all over the world. 

This was the part I had been most expecting to find and looking forward to. Call me an old fuddy-duddy, but walking around these immaculately detailed lego models painstakingly built with loving attention, was a real joy. And the icing on the cake was the moving figures and vehicles with the accompanying music. You really felt like Gulliver stepping over Lilliput in this part of the park. 

One thing I noticed though was that the attendants of Legoland all looked pretty glum and unresponsive. They even ignored each other. No smiles, high fives or pre-practiced handshakes finishing with pointing at each other and saying, "You're awesome!" or "You are the special!" or "Honey, where are my paaaaaaaants?"

But perhaps that's asking a bit too much.

After the first full day at Legoland N had his huge new lego toy under his arm and a just as huge grin on his face and we got the bus back to Windsor. 

Seemed like he'd forgotten it already.