I heard he once killed a man with a guitar string

When I was about eight, my cousin Jonathan (who I haven’t seen in far too long), who was about as old as I am now and was disappearing off to Oxbridge, passed his White Dwarf collection on to me. I loved those magazines. They were the backbone of my own collection of WD, when in the first week of each month I would drop by Beck’s toy shop in Camden Passage every day in search of the new issue. I spent most of my childhood reading through them and organising them, and they have to be among the strongest of my Childhood Formative Influences (god knows what that says about me). So when last weekend I gave that collection, swollen to three or four times its size under my care, to Sam Reeve (age 8), there was a pleasing circle of life thing there.

Family came with me to visit the Reeves and stomp on Dartmoor, which we did with Philip and Sam. Tors were scrambled over, ice cream was eaten, and the much-laboured-over picnic went down very well. It’s beautiful country, even in the burning sunlight (that changed twitchily to grey drizzle and back again a few times). Apparently unusually (I can’t really compare), my family talk all the time about everything, and conversation changed seamlessly from Zimmerit, wooden-hulled minesweepers, drive sprockets, ignition systems, ROM cooking, macahuitls, vidya, trolling and bitching about Apple, while we wandered through streambed paths and watched Nick climb up a giant wooden chair (which had been built without planning permission but apparently got away with it due to being Art) as well as the requisite tors – we went up to Hound Tor, and back via a place called Natsworthy (and if you don’t get that reference, what are you doing here?)

Then back to Chez Reeve to kayak and paddle in their little lake, stare at the alpacas (they look like inquisitive pipe cleaner mini-giraffes and stare balefully back) and eat cucumber sammiches (in little triangles! WITH THE CRUSTS CUT OFF! Authors are the best hosts.) Family swanned off home, and I got to talk about Games and Plots and Gender Roles and The Future with my idol for the evening. Dear Esther came up; I’m writing a piece on it for The Bee.

On the next day, I got up early for me and played a game of 40k with Sam, the first time I’ve done so in years. This was difficult, as the basic game is the same as the 3rd and 4th edition I still know by heart, but most of the important details have changed and had to be looked up – especially the vehicle penetration rules, which have been rejigged to make sense. (Or maybe my memory has been flawed.) But it was fun, and I got deservedly creamed (this wasn’t even a “go easy on someone 40% my age”, I was just Failing). Then some of the Reeves’ Dartmoor neighbours came round to hobnob and there was quiche, cake and a variety of young people (who I immediately struck up a conversation with on computer games; there are a few things to be said for MW2). Later, canoeing happened in a bout of half-hearted drizzle, and I had the very bad idea of bringing water pistols from the house; lamentably, there seems to be no way a twenty-year-old can play with eight- and nine-year-olds without being a bully, getting walked all over, or both.

On the Monday morning I said many thank-yous, and packed in my bag some books borrowed from Philip, some cake from Sarah and a thank-you card from Sam for the WD (with a drawing of a Leman Russ). Let it be known, internet, that the Reeves are magnificent hosts.

…since then I’ve been feeling unbearably florpy in this heat, hence a week delay in the post.

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One thought on “I heard he once killed a man with a guitar string

  1. Ohhh, I just remembered that as I was down Bristol-way recently, I was going to ask if you wanted to meet up for coffee/mortal-engines-geek-out, except that I totally forgot until now (i.e. 2 weeks after I left). Which also makes this a pretty pointless sort of comment, but there you are.

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