Saturday, 1 March 2014

A Life Of Gaming And A Tribute, Two Decades Too Late...

I have just been somewhat deep in thought, as to just how deeply my hobby has intertwined with my life thus far.

On the day of my marriage, I kept a promise, made some years before to go into Games Workshop on my wedding day, alas, by then it was not the wondrous store of my 80s youth, but still, it was personally symbolic. On that same day, I purchased my first 'Paper Tiger' art book, 'Lightship' by Jim Burns, which to this day is on my shelves.

As my daughter spent the first few days of her life being poked, checked and generally approved by midwives, I played a blinder of a game (15th Century Japanese vs Knights Of St John - My K.O.St.J won, hands down) with Andy Mackay, a stalwart of the early days of Games Workshop.

Last year, as my Grandson made his early appearance, I sat painting at my desk for 26 hours straight.

The first gift I gave my wife, was a 28mm ghost model and our first outing together, was a trip to Liverpool, cuddled up on a National Express coach, in the heady, pheromone-packed throes of what was to become an enduring and deep relationship. Why Liverpool? I was taking her to see 'Games Of Liverpool' a long lost but legendary 'temple' of gaming.

But, gaming has not always  brought good memories...

In the mid-90s I was chosen as manager of Dungeons & Starships, the retail arm of Chris Harvey Games. Not long after we opened the store, my Grandfather passed away. I remember that the weekend preceding, Kayte and I had been at the Mailed Fist convention and on the Sunday my Father visited, making accusations that we had not bothered with my Grandfather as he faded away in hospital, a shadow of the vibrant man I had loved, still love. A blazing row ensued, words harsh and never forgotten found an outlet in a tirade of rage, forged in the impotent despair that accompanies the realisation that there is nothing you can do for a loved one.

But you see, we had visited the the tiny figure, who lay seemingly oblivious in a private ward. We had visited when nobody else from my estranged and dysfunctional family was there to witness and approve. Indeed, the very night before this explosion of emotion, I had held my Grandfather's hand, quietly said my farewells and pleaded - yes pleaded - with him, to let go and find peace and freedom from pain.

I did not attend the funeral, such was the venom in my blood, at the time. I was at work, the need for me to be there, my excuse, as if by being absent from my post would tumble the whole house of cards, so recently completed. In the end, it collapsed anyway indifferent to it's human inhabitants, so reliant on the income it gave. Games were my refuge from the real, the placebo cure for a soul in pain.

That was a long time ago.

But now, for the first time, I am going to pay my tribute to my grandfather, Arthur Barson, who encouraged me whenever I painted a new figure in the kitchen of my grandparent's home. The time that he sat there and nodded and listened, even if he did not understand the dragon-obsessed outpourings of his first grandchild. I hope that I will be half the grandfather he was, but I fear that it's one challenge to which I, nor any other could be equal.

I miss him, although I never really speak of it, but one thing is for certain, I will never forget him, nor the passive yet important part he played in the gaming history of my life.

I used to say that I would trade one year of my life for one day back in the Games Workshop of my youth. I still would; but now I'd want to share that experience with my Granddad too.


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