AIDA AUSTIN: “I tell you, I’d give my leg for a game like Monopoly”

MY HUSBAND has thought up a brand new family game for us all to play together on these cold, wintry evenings.

The mechanics of this game revolve around finding wood, burning wood, saving money and rolling wheelbarrows, and it’s played outside in freezing blackness.

He thinks it’s ingenious. “Oh for Monopoly,” is what I think.

I tell you, I’d give my leg for a game like Monopoly. I mean, in Monopoly, all you have to do is buy property, sell property, make money and roll dice. While you push a little metal shoe around a board. Inside. Where the wind doesn’t blow.

It’s unique, my husband’s game, I’ll give you that. It’s not like Boggle or Charades. In fact, if I think of all the games that have been invented since time began — Blind Man’s Buff, conkers, Snap, Pin the Tail on the Donkey and the like — my husband’s game has nothing in common with any of them. Nothing at all.

I can’t think of a name for this game. My husband calls it “Being Resourceful”, or sometimes simply “Chopping”, but if you ask me, neither name sheds much light on the feel of the game at all.

Perhaps if I describe how it’s played, you’ll see my dilemma.

What you need before you play:

1. Old stone farmhouse in the country.

2. Your own trees.

3. Spouse in an ecological tizz, with brand-new chainsaw.

4. To have spent the money you normally spend on a fill of oil for the central heating, on something else instead, like flying one of your kids back from America for Christmas for example, but anything’ll do.

How to play:

1. Spouse returns from work and takes off up field with chainsaw.

2. Two hours later wife stumbles up field in black of night, shouting, “Where are you? Your mother’s on the phone”, or “Where are you? The house is cold as stone” which spouse cannot hear over roar of chainsaw engine.

3. Wife spots head-torch beam in corner of back field and finds spouse in safety goggles, waving chainsaw around at bottom of tree, shouting, “All this wood. And all for free! Now all we have to do is draw it off and stack it.”

4. Wife gets wheelbarrow, draws off lumps of tree size of own person and stacks it in shed.

5. Wife goes back up field, loads wheelbarrow with small logs and up-ends it in log baskets in downstairs rooms.

6. Wife lights fires in all four rooms.

7. Wife asks daughter to keep an eye on fires so they don’t go out while she goes back up and down field all night with wheelbarrow.

8. Wife returns to house to find three fires out and daughter poking listlessly at ash in grate and muttering, “What is this — the bloody Dark Ages? Can you shut the door when you go out? It’s freezing in this house and I want to watch The Face.”

9. Wife goes to shed for kindling. Finds there is none, forages for kindling behind house, re-lights fires, keeps fires going in all four rooms till spouse returns.

10. Spouse returns, says, “Ooh it’s toasty warm in here. See? I told you it was a good idea.”

11. Family wakes up next morning in house that’s cold as stone.

12. Repeat steps 1-11 again until one of you caves and buys a fill of oil on the credit card. The one who caves first loses game.

LIKE I said, I can’t think what to call this game. “See who can Survive the Longest in a Big Old Farmhouse without any Central Heating” is a bit of a mouthful I know, but it’s certainly more descriptive than “Stupid,” which is what my daughter calls it.


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