Our Geek-End

Saturday was Free Comic Book Day, an annual event we were introduced to last year.  Knowing what was in store for them this year, the boys bounded out of bed.  The middle two even dressed themselves appropriately, one in an Avengers t-shirt and one in his homemade Star-Lord t-shirt.  Despite neither parent having an interest in comic books or superheroes, my three younger sons are obsessed with that whole culture.  Our 9 year old in particular is a walking, talking encyclopaedia of Marvel and DC knowledge.  He can talk ad nauseam on any character one dares to mention.  It may not intersect with our interests but Mr Pict and I are always happy to promote geekdom in our children so we support their comic book obsessions.

When we arrived at our local comic book store we found that the car park was jam packed and we grabbed the last vacant spot in the adjacent car park.  Last year, the tables with the free comic books had been set up inside the store but this year they had set them up beneath a marquee outside the store.  Although we arrived just after opening time, a lengthy queue had already formed.  The queue was moving swiftly and the event  was well organised, however, so it did not take long for the kids to reach the head of the queue and start selecting their three free comic books each.  Just as last year, there was a large and diverse collection to choose from so they had no difficulty picking out three each without there being any crossover.

Having done the free bit, the kids then went into the comic book store to peruse their wares.  I thought I had seen the place at its most busy during the same event last year but it was even more jam-packed this time.  It was great to see so many people milling around from the young to the old, many in costume or at least themed t-shirts.  The staff gave my 9 year old props for designing his own Star-Lord t-shirt which had him puffed up like a wee peacock.  The three younger boys all follow a comic book series so they picked out the latest editions of each from the shelves.  My oldest meanwhile is a collector of Funko Pops so he looked at the massive stack of Pops available in the store.  In the end, the only way to compel the kids to leave the shop was to remind them that we had pre-booked cinema tickets and had to go.

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The cinema trip was a continuation of our geeky day as we were off to see ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’.  To say my kids and husband had high expectations of this movie is a terrible understatement.  Sequels can often disappoint. ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, ‘Godfather II’ and ‘Toy Story 2’ are rare exceptions.  In my humble opinion, ‘Ultron’ did not surpass the fun and spectacle of ‘Avengers Assemble’ but nor was it a case of “diminishing returns”.  Some characters (Hawkeye in particular) were fleshed out more in this movie, promoted from being elevated sidekicks, while others (such as Thor) were pushed to the peripheries.  The character relationships were developed further and all the individuals were shown to be working effectively as a team.  However, at the same time the movie seemed to be about fractures and splinters appearing in the group which made it a bit less rip-roaring fun.  There were stupendous action set pieces and the baddie – pretty much a personification of the internet gone bad – was effective.  There was a flabby section, however, where my eyes began to droop and I wasn’t that engaged with all the new characters.  But the cinema trip was not about me and the important thing is that my kids were on the edge of their seats throughout, loving every moment of it and lapping up all the comic book geekdom.  My 8 year old was sitting next to me and kept leaning over to whisper to  facts to me or his predictions for the movie.  He was disappointed but forgiving when one of his predictions failed to materialise.

Then we went home to cook and eat a barbecue in the sunshine.  My youngest boys decided that they should make “mocktails” for me.  They pillaged the fridge for fruit juice and fresh berries and the cupboards for candy and lollipops and constructed several drinks for me to sample.  They even made little decorations for each glass.  It was sweet, cute and thoughtful of them – even though they used up gallons of juice and punnets of fruit.  I am going to have to stock my 1970s cocktail cabinet with actual liquor so that they can learn to make me actual cocktails.

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Mr Pict turns 40

We just celebrated a milestone birthday in the Pict household as Mr Pict turned 40.  Life might begin at 40 but Mr Pict’s birthday was all about looking backwards at fond favourites and long held obsessions that started in his youth.  And the aphorism that you are only as old as you feel was underscored by the fact that every single one of his gifts was a tad juvenile.  You definitely cannot be approaching middle-age, after all, when you have just received a Darth Vader mug, Big Hero 6 on bluray, a Predator Pop vinyl figure and – the piece de resistance – the Lego Death Star.  Such joyful supping from the fountain of youth had him bowled over.

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We had also all made something for our husband / father.  Our middle two sons had created a toybox in their Disney Infinity video game.  Mr Pict is fanatical about ancient Rome so they had built a Roman temple and they had also digitally constructed the words “Happy Birthday” and set up a fireworks display.  Continuing on that theme, our oldest and youngest sons had created a little world on Minecraft that was inspired by ancient Rome.  There was an elaborate temple, streets and houses, a colosseum full of fighting gladiators and hatches releasing funny creatures into the arena and lots of sculptures.  As a computer and video gaming fan, Mr Pict was thoroughly impressed as well as being touched.  My effort was a small watercolour of Yoda.

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In keeping with the wholly juvenile theme of the day, we had a family outing to the cinema to see ‘Paddington’.  Not only did we see a kid’s film but Paddington was a TV series that Mr Pict and I watched as kids so it had the vintage, retro, ’70s connection that was apt for the day too.

I have to tell you that we thoroughly enjoyed the movie.  I confess that I went in with low expectations – having never particularly been a fan of the TV show or the Michael Bond books on which it was based – so it far exceeded my expectations.  It was sweet without slipping into mawkishness, there were jokes pitched at adults as well as plenty of great slapstick and silliness for the kiddliwinks, the performances were on point and the whole thing was charming and warm.  The curriculum vitae of the staff were littered with British institutions such as the Harry Potter series, Downton Abbey and Horrible Histories.  Indeed, the whole thing was very British.

‘Paddington’ was set in a version of London that does not exist anywhere other than in a film studio, all twee and quaint and a little bit hip.  There was the stiff-upper-lipped, buttoned-up father obsessed with rules, risk management and maintaining order  – who of course had to learn to let loose and have fun – who is the mainstay of so many British movies and telly programmes.  Probably no coincidence that he was portrayed by the same actor who plays the above-stairs patriarch in ‘Downton Abbey’ either.  He was married to a woman who represented another British stereotype, that of the lovable eccentric.  She was all bubbling emotion and energy with pleasingly clashing clothes in bright colours and with a creative job to boot.  Paddington had to learn how to navigate British rules of behaviour and etiquette in addition to things like plumbing because Britons are all about etiquette, of course.  There’s a nosy, interfering neighbour.  There’s also the fondness for nostalgia, partly no doubt due to the source material being vintage but also because there’s a love of harking back to bygone eras in British cinema, so there was an allusion to wartime evacuees and child immigrants fleeing Hitler’s Germany in addition to the film somehow stylistically transcending eras so as to straddle the divide between contemporary Britain and the 1950s source material.  There’s the Queen’s guard, obsessions with weather, tea, cab drivers, the hazards of the London Underground.  And an immigrant, albeit a spectacled bear from Peru.

Anyway, it was all very well done.  Engaging performances, well constructed set pieces, actual laugh out loud moments, verbal wit and visual comedy and some lovely moments of flair with the cinematography.  So it was a great addition to the birthday schedule.

To spare me from cooking a complex meal, we decided to go out for dinner.  This turned out to be a bad choice as it turned what was proving to be a fabulous birthday celebration into a curate’s egg.  Our service started out indifferent and tardy and got worse from there.  We waited an hour and forty minutes for our entrees to arrive at our table.  By that time, the energy from our appetisers had worn off.  The kids were getting cranky and very tired despite our having arrived early for dinner.  And when my kids get cranky, my own tolerance and patience boils down into annoyance.  No apology or explanation was offered for the delay.  We could discern that there was no problem in the kitchen as one of the tables adjacent to us went through three covers in the time it took for our meals to arrive.  Ridiculous.  We asked to see the Manager who could also offer no explanation but who, by way of apology, waived the entire bill.  That gesture was appreciated but we would prefer to have not had a wrecked evening out.

Since we got home so late from dinner, we decided to postpone the celebration cake until the next evening.  It was a rich, chocolate confection of moist sponge and smooth, thick frosting that proved to be a massive hit with all concerned.

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And that concluded the geekiest birthday of our lives so far.