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Lego Cars

November 11, 2009
Hot Rod Lego Cars

Our cars were never as good as this - these were made by Mad Scientist

I had a quick skim through Giles Turnbull’s A Common Nomenclature for Lego Families, (I’ll be back to read it all later – looks very good indeed), and I started to think about how we used Lego when we were kids.

Somewhere after the age of 5 to somewhere probably short of 12, Jonathan Bowker – who was my first best friend – and I used to build Lego cars on his living room carpet. We took great care to make sure the colours were right, the shape, adding whatever external accessories we thought were appropriate in a car at that age, doing our best to use up every brick in the process. And once we had what we thought was the perfect car, there would be a moment of admiration before we knelt on the floor about a yard apart and ran the cars into each other as hard as we could. The construction would buckle and bits would fly off. And we took what remained and crashed them into each other again and again until only one car remained. That car was the winner. And then we’d rebuild the cars to a different design and go through the destruction process again. It was great fun.

Similarly, when we went to the beach, we would spend hours building ever more elaborate castles out of sand, with turrets, moats, doors, roadways, extensions. We made Neuschwanstein-style palaces decorated with shells and landscaped so the in-coming tide would fill the moat. They were beautiful. And then, when we were due to leave at the end of the day, having had our fill of admiration, we took a few steps back and, in sync, took a flying leap to plough the castle back from whence it came. And we’d look back at our destruction with equal admiration, and leap again if anything of the castle remained.

From this, I would extrapolate that there’s a streak in all boys, in all men, that builds to destroy for the fun of destroying. That we are at once makers and destroyers, creators and nihilists. But I don’t think that’s the case.

My little brother, a couple of years younger than me, built his lego cars to a very high spec, taking more care than we ever did, and never felt the need to destroy them. It was all in the building for him – when he was finished with any given design, he took it apart brick by brick in order to build something else. There was never gleefulness or abandon in the deconstruction.

He’s now a software engineer with a company of his own with several staff, so something in how he built Lego has remained in the way he runs a business. He’s a home decorator, too, and the only time I see that wild glint in his eye that gives away a love of destruction is when a wall is where he wants a door to be, and – after all the necessary preparation – he takes back his sledgehammer, like Thor, and smashes away.

I couldn’t build to destroy now, that’s not in my make-up any more. I like new things, pristine things, I appreciate the effort people put into making them, and once something has been made, I don’t like it being unmade. I like things that work, which are in one piece, which are unblemished. I don’t care for grafitti. I don’t put stickers on my laptop or on my guitars. I don’t have any tattoos. I like things in a state of good repair.

However, I am quite comfortable dog-ear-ing pages in the books I read these days, when once that would have been anathema to me. Those times when I get to snatch a moment to enjoy a book – on the train on the short ride into London, for example – I want to maximise my reading time, and that’s so much easier when I know where I am in the narrative, when I don’t have to find my place before getting stuck in.

And I think that’s symptomatic of why I don’t like destruction any more – there are only so many hours in the day, and I want to spend as little time as possible orientating myself or rebuilding what was built perfectly well before. When you have a never ending to-do list in your head, adding to it willfully, wantonly, is self-defeating. I want to feel like I’m getting through things, not falling backwards.

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