What with the Blue Kitten now being a day overdue, I've been doing what every expectant mother does in the final, impatient stages of pregnancy: playing Dungeons & Dragons.
As far as I'm aware there's no old wives' tale about fantasy role-playing games helping to bring on labour - unlike, say, eating fresh pineapple, going up and down the stairs and tweaking your own nipples (not all at once, that would be dangerous, plus the neighbours can see through the landing window), but that's no reason not to try it out.
I'd never played D&D before now, not least because a) I am female, and b) I spent most of my formative years incarcerated in a posh boarding school where the prevailing leisure activities were limited to flicking one's hair, wearing cashmere scarves, stealing other people's socks and listening to Chris de Burgh.
The nearest I'd got was a brief phase of playing those Fighting Fantasy books in the early 80s, books which Mr BC informs me were aimed at people who had no friends with whom to play D&D; a description that I find almost unbearably sad. My dad banned my brother and me from buying those the minute he became aware of them, but not before we'd gleefully polished off The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, The Citadel of Chaos and The Forest of Doom.
Then we got a ZX Spectrum and discovered text adventure games like The Hobbit, which we played for hours and hours in our isolated farmhouse in the north of Scotland, while our peers in built-up areas were discovering the joys of actual fantasy role-playing games that we - or at least I - had never even heard of.
So anyway, here I am, some 30 years late to the fray. And it turns out that D&D is a sort of highly complex mixture of story-telling, dice-rolling, lego, algebra and chess. Although the lego part is only because we're using lego to represent our characters as they explore an underground cave network. Here is my character:
She's called Iolaire, which, as any fule kno, is Scottish Gaelic for 'eagle'. The ornithologically-astute among you will notice that the bird she's carrying atop her oriflamme is not an eagle but an owl, this is because a) I don't have a lego eagle and b) I don't know the Scottish Gaelic for 'owl'. D&D is all about creative improvisation.
Despite being an elf (actually an Eladrin, but I'm trying to not alienate any readers), surely one of the more amiable of the fantasy species, Iolaire apparently has zero charisma, which makes me like her a lot. Her lack of social skills means she spends most of the game lurking about at the back not talking to anyone, and occasionally taking out the odd goblin with a well-aimed arrow.
Here are Iolaire's companions, mobbing a Dark Elf (the emo-looking chappie) in a corner:
Iolaire was right back out of the way (coincidentally the same position I used to play in hockey) at this point, but she still managed to get in the fatal shot. Hurrah!
Dungeons & Dragons has a dreadful, probably unsalvageable reputation for being the preserve of the stinky, socially-leprous teenage boy-nerd, but having played several games of it, I can see its merits on lots of levels.
It's very creative, for a start, as someone (the Dungeon Master) has to make up an extraordinarily complex story - and backstory - as you go along, and you have to decide what you're going to do at any given juncture, and then whatever you decide to do affects the story, and so on. This means it's like being in a film, rather than simply watching a film, which is quite cool.
It's also good for mental arithmetic, as you're forever having to roll different dice and add things together and add other things to that and then subtract something else and divide the result by your fortitude quotient, and so on.
I think a lot of its bad reputation comes from the fact that it's full of elves and goblins and stuff, stuff that people who think they're quite cultured refuse even to countenance, let alone take seriously. But I can't see why it *has* to be limited to wizards and monsters; the principles of the game can be applied to any scenario. The other morning I had a splendid idea for a teenage-girl version, in which one could choose to play a model, or a pop star, or a girl-geek, or a spy, or a mum, or a scientist, and so on, and see how that unfolded.
(If I had my way, probably in a manner that would reveal 'model' to be the most useless and pointless of roles, and 'girl-geek' to be the bestest and greatest, but it doesn't work like that; everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, and the aim is to find ways to combine them to best effect. At the end of the day it's all about friendship, mutual respect and co-operation, which is lovely.)
So now I just need several thousand pounds from a games company to fund its development, and an acre of time in which to develop it.
Which, if the Blue Kitten carries on not appearing like this, it may turn out that I do.