Spiral Notebook: Why Lego is a strong foundation
Judging from its longevity, my most warmly received Christmas present was the simplest - although not the simplest to obtain: Lego.
Not Hobbit Lego, or Star Wars Lego, or Ariel's Magical Boat Ride Lego or Arctic Batman vs Mr Freeze Lego but a big box of Lego, which could have made any of the above and a 1,001 other toys, shapes, buildings, weapons, pets, asteroids, earwigs and/or thingamajigs.
Not that the Danish brick maker is impressed with its old-school iteration. I finally found this box of bricks at the back of the Lego store at Westfield Stratford City, tucked away in the corner, behind the counter. The branded, one-use-only models dominated the floor space.
As my young recipient made skateboards, guns, spaceships, houses, helicopters, stellar stairways and shape-shifters from the array of bricks, my faith in the ingenuity of children was restored and a hobby horse of mine was saddled anew.
Too many toys prescribe the parameters of their play. You buy Star Wars Lego you're following someone else's narrative.
Way back, I thought computer games were the answer to my dreams for they created landscapes and characters and stories that I could only conjure in my mind. My dastardly foes would think independently of me, rather than follow my command.
But I was quickly bored. However, dazzling the choices, the guide rails of the auteurs were in place and there was no way I could break free.
Watching the little boy eschewing branded cars for a self-made lumpy Lego Chuggabug was a reminder that just because there is a patina of magic upon everything, that's no reason to treat it like dust.
A brief history of breakfast
■ I learnt another valuable lesson from my tiny lodger. A science lesson, as it happens.
String theory suggests there are a multitude of other dimensions wrapped up in our usual three.
Tough to visualise. But I had a eureka moment one morning as we plotted to get up, have breakfast and leave the house promptly.
This is a linear act for a single adult. With children around, there is a plethora of new dimensions - post-getting-up-pre-breakfast; post-breakfast-pre-getting-ready; post-getting-ready-pre-going-out and so on - vast spans of time curled up invisibly in my slick 30-minute get-up-and-go routine.