Quite often as you start to approach middling life, you look back with fondness at how much better things were in days of yore. The music, the sense of society, the dress sense of teenagers and the size of a curly wurly. But one thing that has improved with age is Meccano. I have vague recollections of yellow bits of metal that could be bolted together to make something, that whilst looked harmless, made an excellent weapon for smacking my brother over the head with, but that is nothing compared to what they’re making now.
A few weeks ago, the lovely people at Meccano sent me a couple of their new kits for me and my six year old to try out and boy was I shocked. Pack one was a Space Chaos DarkPirates Spaceship, all bells and whistles with light and sound effects. Pack two was a Turbo Radio Control car and this was the one I was looking forward to making the most.
Both packs were aimed at the 7-14 year old age groups and although Kaede is only 6, I figured something that really made her think would last a lot longer than something she could put together in 10 minutes (plus it would mean that she would need my help, whoop whoop).
The two boxes sat on my kitchen table for two frustrating weeks due to weekend activities, illnesses and sheer bad timing. Meccano had always seemed like a rainy day toy and unfortunately we were having a crazy Indian summer with temps up to 29C. Every time I walked past the boxes I could hear an ethereal voice calling “Come to me…play with me…don’t wait for the kids”. Eventually I had to ask the wife to hide them away lest I succumb to temptation like an Essex girl outside Lakeside.
Eventually I snapped and one sunny Sunday afternoon, Kaede and I sat down and opened up the spaceship pack. One look at all the parts and nuts and bolts, and Kaede was hooked. As I read through the instruction manual, Kaede organised all the parts into their own separate places (a lesson she learnt from watching me attempt to put together all things IKEA). The instructions were in a simple step by step guide, with every step listing what pieces were needed for that particular moment. Kaede took responsibility for gathering the pieces together before each step, each time with the furrowed brow of someone bearing the great responsibility of a major engineering project. A really clever idea is that the front of the booklet had a printed ruler, so that when it said a 5.4mm bolt was needed, it was easy for her to pick out the right one.
With heads buried deep into our project, we ignored the world and only paused to sup from our worker drinks (lager for me, a weak shandy for her). You really started to feel the sense of excitement coming from her as the spaceship started to take shape and I was pleasantly surprised that she stuck with it from beginning to end. Our Kaede is a bit of a feral one and not well known for sitting in one place for too long, but the Meccano had really grabbed and drawn her in.
With a flurry of activity and a gasp of relief (or disbelief) we finished and Kaede proudly held up the finished article. Not only did it not fall to bits when she did that, but it also started making sound effects and the engines started to glow red. Kaede then spent the next hour running around the garden with it, dive bombing her brother from behind - I guess some sibling things never change.
That night the spaceship had pride of place in her bed and it has slept there ever since. The weather report said it will be raining next weekend and there’s a long winter ahead of us, so it looks like my, I mean her, radio controlled car will be next on the agenda. I’m not sure who’s looking forward to it more.
Many thanks to the good people at Meccano for not only making the stuff, but for sending me the free samples as well. The Space Chaos spaceship retails at £24.99 and the Turbo RC Racing car at £29.99