Before gaming there was comics, LEGO, Airfix plastic soldiers, model kits and trains.
Well, there was for me at least, but I suspect that those of us in this hobby of around shall we say 'mid century' in age pretty much followed similar if not identical roots.
The supply of comics was the domain of Dad and maternal Grandad, who between them pretty much filled my week with at least comic every day, including from memory; Whizzer & Chips, The Beano, The Dandy, The Eagle, Battle, Action, Starlord, 2000AD, Warlord and the Commando, War Picture Library / Battle Picture Library and Starblazer full length mini-comics.
Generally, Dad was the supplier of model kits with a simple system of calculation based on 'number of weeks without pocket money = kit purchase of higher value than the amount racked up between 1 and 3 weeks'. Dad also picked up the tab for my White Dwarf magazines from 1981, which was rather splendid and even got the local newsagent to source and deliver them, when no newsagents stocked them.
That said, I never owned a single Star Wars toy because my parents thought them a waste of money.
My paternal grandmother ('Grandma') did take me to see Star Wars though on one of her visits from Mordor where she had moved with my Grandad Hides because of his work as a draughtsman with G.E.C (he was involved earlier with the English Electric 'Lightning' b.t.w). It was Penwortham in Lancashire, but to me a good Yorkshire lad it was Mordor. They just didn't speak the Common Tongue and lived in barbarous isolation over there...
My Grandma did me wrong once when she bought me a football kit, well several actually, but I was a dreamer and sport was not for me. However, it was she who taught me to tie laces by making me learn to fasten my football boots, and the goalkeepers gloves she bought me, did allow me to walk downstairs using the walls, thus avoiding creaky stair boards at Easter, Christmas and on my birthday, so she can be forgiven.
A family rift (never discussed, but I have a bloody good idea through some investigation and deduction - thank you Civil Service for training me to investigate and data sift ) meant thay I became estranged from my paternal grandparents until the late 80s, which I resent and mourn to this day. I was responsible for getting them back together but it was not long before my Grandma passed away. Today all I have of hers, is her bible. I am not religious, but I dare anyone to get me to part with that.
My Grandad Hides was a talented but somewhat cold individual. He was not really built for sociability and with the exception of a fishing rod (a turning point in our relationship, and not a good one, which is covered in my book 'Real Life's A Bu**er) and repairing some broken Subbuteo players, (yes despite not liking sport I loved table football) he was a minor figure in my toy infested childhood.
Grandad Hides passed away in the early 2000s, and as I have grown older I have understood his mannerisms a little better as I see them in myself to a degree.
My maternal grandfather 'Grandad' indulged me with toy soldiers - as did all my family with one exception and he told me stories. I paid him tribute in a previous post on this blog, because simply put I didn't show him how important he was in his last years, when running Dungeons & Starships became my sole focus, because , and I say this with candour - I was a proper wanker. I was such a wanker that I did not go to his funeral in the late 90s, because I could not be drawn from my failing store.
NEVER, put your games before your loved ones. It's not clever, it's not going to give you 'cred', but it will get you loathed by the rest of your family and will cause you trauma in later life. And you'll be as big a wanker as I was.
My maternal grandmother ,'Nan', was responsible for the majority of my OO railway stuff, lots of LEGO and plastic kits and soldiers.
It was she who could always be coaxed into Games Workshop (unlike my parents who thought it a waste of time, which would get me nowhere.. Who's laughing now eh?) and who bought me a lot of my early rule sets, most notably the 'Bodycount' Vietnam war rules for £3.95 from the selection that GW Sheffield stocked. What's more she put up with my youthful ramblings about Knights, claymore mines, dragons, hit points and all that jazz...
In recent years though, I have been somewhat estranged from her after an altercation over a dispute between her and my daughter about 3 or 4 years ago. I remained cordial, but after she called me 'evil', I vowed I'd never set foot in her house again. We talked on the phone or doorstep, but like the wanker I can be, I kept my word. I may be a wanker, but I am a wanker with principles.
Nearly 3 weeks ago, my Nan suffered multiple strokes, aged 94. When I visited her in hospital, I was shocked at how small and birdlike she looked. Surely this was not the woman who grounded me for a fortnight at 16, or who in a fit of rage almost knocked me off my feet with a flurry of slaps which raised my normally placid Grandad to absolute rage. This surely wasn't my Nan who did more than anyone to encourage my gaming during my youth? It was.
Last night, I sat at her bedside and apologised for being a poor Grandson, said the Lord's Prayer , held her hand and wished she would find the strength to simply 'let go'.
My Nan, my direct conduit to so many memories tied up with my hobby, passed away today.