Archives for posts with tag: Childhood Memories

In the past I have written about my love of Lego. Now as a parent I get to share that passion with my son (AKA The Pok). Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of visits that we used to have at the annual Lego show that would be hosted in one of the big department stores. For whatever reason (probably the Lego company nearly going bust with the advent of the games consoles) they stopped hosting these. But in Sydney the local AFOL (Adult Friends of Lego) club have decided to host a Sydney Brick Show. This year the venue was at the Sydney Town Hall and I grabbed a couple of tickets for my boy and myself, knowing that my wife would not want to come. I grabbed a few other tickets for our friends W and his two boys J & S. So the five boys descended onto the Town Hall for some brick craziness.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-01

This event has become so popular that the tickets were being issued by time over a 4 day long weekend. As we lined up to enter the boys were getting excited. There was a guitarist entertaining the queuing crowd and of course his instrument was clad in Lego.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-02

The entrance hall was lined with Lego portraits of all the James Bond actors – pretty cool. This image is only of the last four, sorry to all the Connery fans.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-03

The Town Hall exhibition space was manic and heaving with exhibitors and displays. We started with an artist who made images using Lego bricks. Here is his Joker (from Batman) portrait.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-04

He was creating another image with a stack of bricks and a computer tablet. I had a quick chat to him and asked him about how he pulls the images together. He explained that he designs the image in a spreadsheet and then uses the conditional formatting capability to determine how many bricks are required and where they go. His next image that he was creating in front of us was one of Boba Fett from Star Wars.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-05

Right next to him was a huge Lego diorama of The Simpsons town of Springfield. It was very accurate with characters and action happening everywhere.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-06

Not much further was a massive scale model of the Sydney Opera House. This is far more detailed that the current Lego set that is available.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-07

What surprised me was that on the reverse side was a fully detailed interior model of the Opera House with minifigures galore. There was all sorts of shenanigans going on in the model with Peter Allen playing the maracas on stage, Jabba the Hutt looking on from one of the booths, and even Buzz Lightyear and Emperor Zurg resolved their differences to watch the show. My son was enthralled with the detail. This was designed and built by the Brickman, Ryan McNaught, and here is the link to his website.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-08

One of the builders made a diorama of Back to the Future 3 complete with rail bound Delorean.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-09

Some of the exhibitors built creations on much smaller scales, but the ingenuity was there regardless. This creator invented his own Lego robots with inspiration from many other science fiction creations.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-10

He designed this ship to. I had a quick chat to him about where he pulled his inspiration from and what came next was a long list of science fiction films, tv shows, cartoons etc. The fact that I knew most of them is no doubt a homage to my own nerdiness.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-11

I watched in wonder as my son was enthralled at the different dioramas. This pirate island had him glued to the table as he examined all the detail. It was then I remembered childhood memories of Lego people in their little Lego worlds that I created for myself as a kid.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-12

One of the most impressive displays was a MASSIVE scale model of the San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. This measured easily over 10m long and not a single bit of glue had been used. Most impressive. That is the builder there in the photo (back to us) talking to a couple of Lego Fans.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-13

My boy was more impressed by the oversized Lego railway diorama that had many sets of trains running around simultaneously. As a child who has grown up with Thomas the Tank Engine and Chuggington, it was quite difficult for me to drag him away from this exhibit.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-14

My favourite exhibit was this mechanical contraption with descending balls on rails. I think I liked it the most because of the combination of Lego, computing, mechanics, physics, and all thrown in with a bit of play.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-15

It was my favourite because the builder had rigged the whole thing with Lego NXT computers to determine the path that the blue and yellow balls would take. The kids (and some adults) would take a coloured ticket and pick up their corresponding ball. Then they would release it down a ramp where the blue and yellow balls were sorted into different gutters.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-16

Then the balls would travel on their convoluted journey, dodging errant red balls, while returning to their original queue. Awesome.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-17

Sometimes the dioramas were repeated with varying detail to show what life would be like in a land of Lego. Here is a lake house in Summer and Autumn…

Sydney Brick Show 2014-18

And then in Winter and Spring…

Sydney Brick Show 2014-19

All in all it was a manic and crazy time with the boys and they loved it. I loved it too, and look forward to next years show. Hopefully they will find a bigger place as the venue was a little too crowded for my liking. But at lease I was able to be a big kid again, in public, and not feel ashamed about it.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-20

 

OK – first thing to set straight – I LOVE LEGO!

Good that is out of the way. Even now as an adult, I achieve the same sense of wonderment from a simple set of plastic bricks. For me it is like building a puzzle, but with no set form and untold number of possibilities (and the most phenomenal statistic that I uncovered was that for 6 – 6-sided 8-stud bricks, the classic Lego brick, there are 915,103,765 possible 6-brick combinations – I have found that statistic out on How Stuff Works).Left to my own devices I could build and build and build, restricted only by the time commitments of being an adult and father.But I have not gone down the path of master builder as this would also probably be the path of divorce for me.

6 Lego BricksBut with the birth of the Pok, I have a new reason to play Lego! I probably pushed it a little too early, buying him way too much and constructing a lot of it for him when he couldn’t possibly interact. I do remember him sitting there in his first year watching me as I built him towers and cranes whose arms rotated above his head. We are not playing with Lego proper just yet, more Duplo, but it is great fun nonetheless. Below is our latest incarnation of a tower building, our Lego rendition of the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world) – not quite the match that we would hope for, as we are stuck with the 90 degree angles that Duplo blocks push you towards. Obviously, the real thing is the one on the right.

Lego Duplo Burj Khalifa - for PokBurj KhalifaLego Duplo Burj Khalifa - Helicopter ViewWhat is funny is that the civil engineers who design these buildings do so to account for huge wind loads. We have to contend with apocalyptic Godzilla like attacks from none other than the Pok. Which shouldn’t really be much of a surprise given that there are not many real play opportunities for a big tower made of plastic bricks after it has been built. Hmmm… maybe a Lego Duplo Godzilla may be next on the cards – Pok would love that.

Lego Duplo Burj Khalifa - CrashHmmm… notice how he looks innocent again?

As he has been growing, I have waited patiently for him to connect two bricks together. You can imagine my joy when I saw him for the first time connecting the bricks, and then over and over again as he discovered a new found dexterous ability. But now our plotting and scheming is lifting up a level in our creations. The Pok has become quite interested in all things mechanical, and Lego is a great avenue for this. We were watching Cars 2 the other day and saw Mater become a secret agent with all sorts of gadgets. That gave me an idea, how about we make a cannon! But not just any cannon, a proper cannon that can target anything in the room. Below is the creation we landed with.

Lego Duplo Turret CannonYou cannot believe that amount of cheeky giggles that we have got out of this contraption. First target of course was Mummy of Pok. We sat on one couch and shot at her on another – 100 times. The beauty of this little contraption is that it has a full 360 degree arc of fire in the horizontal axis and 90 degree arc of fire in the vertical axis.

Lego Duplo Turret Cannon - Trajectory arcs of fireNow he is probably too young to learn trajectory physics just like a little Napoleon.cannon_trajectoriesI will wait until he turns three years old before I teach him this. The creators of Lego Duplo would probably have a heart attack when they found out that one of their customers was building mini projectile weapons systems from the pieces of the Agent Mater set (the cannon), The Deluxe Train set (the blue struts), both the Play with Numbers and Play with Letters (the support bricks for the bridge), the Stone Quarry set (the turntable to support the base platform) the Car Wash (base platform), and the Big City Zoo (the tiger log bridge which rotates on its supports).

Some people would probably call me a bad parent, but I think that every boy (big and small) needs an outlet for these militaristic tendencies. Hopefully I am nurturing a young engineer, let’s hope he doesn’t turn into a fiendish weapons manufacturer – like Tony Stark.

Lego Duplo Turret Cannon - manned by the PokPlus, he has his mother to teach him about cooking, music, and all of that stuff. 😉

Sometimes, it is too much for the little man and he has to do his own thing. More creations another day.Lego Man pondering and Pok asleep

Ever since I was a boy I have had a bike on hand to go on adventures. I was lucky to grow up during the BMX revolution where every kid was out on their bikes riding around everywhere. At the time there was no such thing as Playstation or Xbox, and we had plenty of places to explore as the surrounding suburbs had plenty of vacant lots, parks, and tracks connecting them all. I hope that I can instill that same sense of adventure and exploration in my son because… it’s FUN!

I still to this day remember quite vividly my first ride where my Dad took off the training wheels. I can still see my Dad getting out the socket set and removing the bolts that held the training wheels onto the frame. Then he held the bike with one hand on my handlebars as I gripped on, and with his other hand just underneath the rear of the saddle. Dad released me down the gentle slope of our home’s driveway to make it easy to build up momentum, at which point I promptly veered left as I overcompensated for his released grip on the handlebar. So my Dad picked me and my bike up, and we did it all over again – back on the steed. My steed at the time was this metallic yellow Raleigh bike which was single speed and you pressed the brake by pedaling backwards on the crank – locking up the rear. This would allow me to build up speed on the driveway and then lock up the brakes to cause a skid on the concrete. Little did I know that all I was doing was creating flat spots on my tires  though I rarely got a puncture. It was plenty fast enough, for my age, but I longed to join the BMX club.

I can’t remember which birthday it was, but one year my parents bought me a brand spanking new chrome BMX machine. It was beautiful and had everything I wanted on it! It was quite big for me when I first got it, and I can remember it was quite highly geared. This made acceleration a fair bit harder than what I was used to, but once I got up to speed it hammered. It wasn’t light, but then again I wasn’t that strong at the time either. Like a lot of the BMX bikes at the time it had “pads” – which were coverings over the headset, top tube, and handlebar cross bar. I still have no idea what purpose these served, but all the kids thought they were cool. The frame was covered all over in highly reflective chrome alloy coating that gave it a lustrous look. And it had a cool set of grips on the bar ends, and I had for the first time a brake lever for my front brakes (cool!) but still had the rear pedal backward lock up. Sure I had bike envy back then – every kid wanted a Mongoose, and they were priced with that in mind. I can’t even remember what brand my bike was. I remember looking at the kids who had the fat plastic bladed spokes (usually between 3-6 spokes) and would think “will they help me go faster?”. And maybe I would have put a set of cobra grips on it, but that didn’t really matter. All I knew was that it was my bike and it gave me the opportunity to go adventuring – I was part of the BMX club.

A lot of my memories from that point on were are of “stacks” (i.e. crashes) or “getting up to no good” on wheels. But the strongest memory I have is of a race against my brother that we held around Werrington Lake to settle a score. The score was an interesting one, because when my Bro got his BMX bike it was lighter, smaller, and a bit more lower geared. It felt more responsive in the steering, which was probably a reflection on the width of the bars. More importantly, it was easier to do jumps with over the dirt mounds in the bush behind the park. My Bro was my riding buddy, but we always wanted to know how was faster. So the challenge was set, and the competitive Yardin family had another trophy up for grabs.

The Race

The race was for 1 lap of Werrington Lake, and the winner was first past the post. Werrington Lake has a track that completely surrounds it with a bit of an incline  around a U-shaped bend (the big down arrow) and a bridge over a cascade with few stairs (that have now been removed) that required a dismount / remount a-la Cyclo style (the big left arrow). It isn’t a particularly long circuit, so in effect it was a sprint. The finish line was right before a bridge which crossed the point where Werrington Creek crossed joined the lake (the four pointed star).

Werrington Lake race trackMy Mum and Grand-mère were with us that day, and they walked with us to the lake. We notified them of the planned duel and as soon as we got there we were off. My Bro established an early lead by accelerating quicker than me, at which point I duly slotted in behind him. At this age I didn’t have a clue about drafting, but I remember that just to catch up with my Bro and had to pedal my ar$e off. We hammered along in a counter clockwise direction around the lake as he kept on looking back behind at me and my bike on his tail. As we rushed through the windy tree bit, we had to avoid a couple of pedestrians, which limited my opportunities to overtake. Approaching the bridge we were line astern as we dismounted. I tried to be cheeky and get out ahead of him by running into the remount. But he had my measure and quickly rode across my line to dash any chances of that. Riding on the long straight path approaching the U-shape path that went up the hill, I made an attempt to pass off the track on the dirt – quickly finding I had less grip and no advantage. So the last spot I had to make my move was on the descent from the hill in the final straight. I plotted my move and built up speed and momentum which my bro quickly matched. We hit the apex of the U and that is when I hammered it, passing him and building up plenty of speed. He tried his cut off move again (just like a certain Michael Schumacher – boo hiss boo), but I had already passed him. That was the last straw for him – but to his credit he put in all he had. The positions reversed, and with 100m to go, I kept up the momentum to cruise to the finish. We were line astern with me in front, set to take the palmares. But my Bro was not finished and in the last 20m he pulled out from behind me, put his head down for the final push. I didn’t know, what was going to happen next because I was to busy concentrating on avoiding the looming pylon, and finish line, splitting the path into left and right traffic. I crossed the line only to hear behind me a massive…

Crash!

My Bro had run straight into the pylon with his front wheel at full speed. The bike bounced off it like the ball in a pinball machine and he went flying over the bars ahead. When I retold the story as a kid I would say that he went flying past me, but truth was that he hit the ground pretty hard and the gravelly track decided to give him a bit of a massage. At that point my Mum and Grand-mère were waiting close to the finish line and watched it all in horror. I had mixed emotions. I was elated that I had tactically executed my move in the race, and won. On the other, my Bro had just wiped himself out before crossing the line. He was banged up, in pain, and in no mood for any post-race assessment. We walked him and his bike back home where the Tour Doctor fixed him up. My opportunity for gloating was gone, instead we both got a talking to from our Mum about the dangers of racing. My Dad, competitive as he is, of course provided no such counsel. My Bro stayed off his steed for a while, battered in both body and confidence – and we never had a rematch. But this ride was now forever burnt into my memory.

Thanks to another blogger “women.cyclists” who inspired this blog with her post about the “Best Ride of My Childhood“. Both her and her partner get up to some pretty good two wheel adventuring.

In writing this post, I was trying to find a photo of my old BMX bike and discovered this awesome site BMX Museum. It is a treasure trove of old bikes. I still could not find my bike in there – but a cool trip down memory lane nonetheless.

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