Life Game Mysteries: What happens at level 65?

My awesome Dad, inspired by The Girl’s updates on her experiences of life from a gamer’s perspective, spontaneously wrote me this guest post. As you can see, there are some scary changes ahead in Life Game when you get to my Dad’s dizzying heights. Anyone got some advice from the other side of Level 65?


Hi Gamers – Old Fogey here!


I have been playing the Life Game for almost 65 years without even knowing that I have been manipulating Life Bars. But now I finally realise how satisfying it is to know (part of) the Rules of the Game. I dearly want you to understand my problems being Level 64 without having a clue how to manage the Game. I need help, desperately. Note that I have only recently learnt that I was a RPGer and thus I am only a novice at the terminology. Please help me learn and develop my skills.

I have been searching for people at work who can tell me what is going to happen at Level 65, but strangely there is nobody present who is at Level 65. Searching up and down, they have disappeared! It gets me worried no end. What happens when you attain that level? Do you drop out of the Life Game; is Level 64 the last one? Is Level 65 a deep abyss, a black hole, in which you fall and from where no information returns? Are there special skills to acquire or specific spells to complete the transition to Level 65? Do I need to collect hard-to-get objects in my inventory?

OldFogey1A real puzzling problem is that I used to think that there was a strong relation between the Work Bar and the Money Bar. People have mentioned that there is no work available or carried out at Level 65. How can that be? Empty Work Bar, Empty Money Bar! How will I fill my inventory and Money Bar? But there are no longer any 65-levellers around to tell me where to get Cheat Codes and Hacks.

Fear mounts, rapidly. There is a folklore that in Holland, where I live, there are NPCs called ABP and AOW who will fill your Money Bar automatically each month while you Work Bar remains empty. This sounds absurd and does nothing to alleviate my fears.

OldFogey2Strangely, Gamers who are still at a much lower level keep asking me how I will handle Level 65 and beyond. How can one know if there are no 65+ Gamers around at the Work Place? These low-level Gamers seem to expect sensible answers, but there is no information. Please do you have any for me?

I have heard suggestions that one should put lots of points in the Health and Fitness Bar. This will prevent all kinds of awful things happening to you. Also full attention seems to be necessary for the Good Food and Wine Bar. Paying much attention to the Beauty Bar seems to be a lost cause as your Physical Attraction Bar is already way down.


Rumour has it that at Level 65 you will get access to new activities and areas. Wish it was true. So far I think I should concentrate on stuffing my inventory with Cuddle Points from beginning Gamers. They seem to thrive on them and hand them out with glee.

Cuddlepoints1It will bear heavily on your Money Bar as presents seem to be obligatory as well – without them only limited Cuddle Points are to be had. According to folklore, such points seem to be necessary to move on to higher levels. Maybe these are only rumours, who can tell?

Well Gamers, please help me in these uncertain times. Level 65 is inexorably approaching even without me making any effort. Without your help, how can I survive and enter Level 65 with confidence and a restful mind?


All the best,

Old Fogey



Potty Training Confessions: 9 months down the line

pottyI have not mentioned potty training on here for a long time.

This has a reason.

Like Mummy K, I find that I write the future. Or rather, the inverse of the future. Writing about anything on my blog, especially drawing beautifully tied-up-in-a-bow conclusions about anything, will almost guarantee that it changes the next day. For example, no sooner had I written about my son’s lack of interest in reasons and how he never asked “Why”, or he decided that maybe that was quite interesting after all and now I can’t blink without him wanting to know why I did that.

Potty training has been the same. Back in November of last year, I wrote that he had pretty much cracked it once he discovered you could make numbers and letters with poo. Almost as if he had been reading my blog and was determined not to let me be too smug, he instantly reverted to soiling his underpants and has not really stopped since. Also, having been pretty much dry in the daytime initially, the novelty of going to the toilet soon wore off and he found that these visits to the bathroom were just an annoying distraction from play or TV watching or Doing Numbers, and he started leaving it just a little bit too late. Every. Single. Time.

washing shortsFor months, we have been going through on average 4 pairs of pants a day. On a Shy Poo day (as I call it), when the Boy very slowly releases little bits of poo into his underpants, squeezing them between his bottom for maximum discomfort and mess, this might be more like 6. The washing seems endless. I am forever hanging upside down scooping poo from a little boy’s bottom with toilet paper, then needing to change to wipes to get the really stubborn bits off (sorry, hope you weren’t eating dinner or anything).

“Remember,” I say when he gets impatient, “If you go to the toilet and do your poo there, Mummy only needs to do one wipe. If you poo in your underpants , it will take twenty minutes and half a roll of toilet paper. Your choice.”

Two months ago we hit a crisis point. I was getting increasingly wound up by the situation. I started getting very angry every time he had an accident – or “incident”, as I preferred to think of it, as calling it an “accident” implies that no one is at fault (thanks Hot Fuzz). I started to feel that he was deliberately choosing not to go to the toilet, therefore doing it on purpose, therefore being defiant. And defiance is a bit of a red rag for me.

Toilet trips became more and more stressful for both of us. We would both get very angry. Things were not improving.

Then two things happened:

1) My husband said to me one day after another toilet related confrontation: “He needs to know you are on his side.” Those words stuck in my head: He needs to know I am on his side.

2) I was idly flicking through my old friend Penelope Leach again, and happened on her chapter on potty training. She suggests that for young children their poo is something they can control, and they will often use it to take some control in a situation where they feel powerless.

I put these two things together:

The Boy is most likely choosing not to go to the toilet, as I suspected. He is doing it to exercise control. Why? Because he feels powerless and he doesn’t feel like I am on his side.

This was a sobering thought.

The next day I sat down with the Boy and I told him: “I am really sorry that I keep getting angry with you about going to the toilet. I promise that I will do my very best not to get cross with you. You are a big boy and you can choose when to go to the toilet. I will leave it up to you. It is your choice.”

The Boy gave a very decided nod and said: “Yes,” in a tone that suggested this was what he had been thinking all along and he was pleased I had caught up.

So that is what we did. There weren’t any more or any less accidents, but we were happier.

cleaning productsYesterday I realised that things were actually very gradually improving. The Boy is taking the initiative to go to the toilet more often than he was. The other day, he even went up without making any fuss and did a poo without any prompting or help, and kept his underpants clean. As the Fairy Godmother remarked, his hit-to-miss-ratio seems to be improving. Maybe it’s 2-3 pairs of underpants a day now instead of 4.

Of course today, while I have been writing this post, he has been burning through freshly laundered pants and shorts like there is no tomorrow and even managed to smear poo on the IKEA step, the bathroom floor and the lovely cream carpet on the stairs.

But still I want to record that I am proud of him. That he is making progress, even if it is slow. He is making an effort. He is starting to care more about whether he is wet or dry.

“My pants are clean! Mummy is soooo proud of me!” he beams, sitting on the toilet.

And I really am.


Linking up to Loud ‘n Proud.


The Girl loves tiny people. Happyland, Playmobil, Duplo, Fischer Price – she’s not picky. She loves clutching them in her hand and wandering around with them, making them talk to each other, putting them in little cars.


The thing that really tickles me is that she calls them “Mannies”. I think this is her interpretation of the Dutch word mannetjes, which means “little men”.

She’ll walk a tiny Happyland pirate up the stairs, warning him: “Tareful, Mannie!”

Mannie climb

Mannies love climbing. They spend all day going up and down the bookcase, exploring the window sill or the back of the sofa and hopping up on kitchen counters.

mannie bookcase

Mannies are often sad, but thankfully the other Mannies are empathetic and supportive. “Waaa, waaaa. Oh, Mannie cry! What matter, Mannie?”


Mannies don’t always behave as the Girl would wish them to. This one did not want to have a suitcase attached to his head, much to her annoyance.

Mannies get chased by dinosaurs, then make friends with them and go for rides on their back. When asked if they feel like watching TV, a Mannie will always say yes.

Mannies are ubiquitous, male or female, and do not need to be made of plastic.

Oh!” says the Girl, pointing out of the car window at a window cleaner walking by. “Mannie ladder! Haha, funny Mannie.”


Mannie walking

Mannie walking

Mannies skating

Mannies skating

Mannies bicycle

Mannies cycling


Life Game: Science!

Hey there virtual friends!

Practising for Level 2

Practising for Level 2

It’s the Girl here. Back once more to update you on my exciting new finds in Life Game – giving you all the hacks and cheat codes to help you blag your way through Level 1.

For the past few months I’ve been doing Science! I’m trying to find out more about the mechanics of the world of Life Game, hoping that this will help me level up quicker so I can get to the Terrible Twos (I’ve heard players refer to Level 2 in this way and it sounds pretty badass).

I thought I’d share some of my experiments with you. Maybe they can help you too!


Experiment #1: Liquids

Hypothesis: Water, juice and milk share properties that make them behave in a similar way

Whenever I am presented with a Drink in a cup, I take a few sips first (of course) and then tip the cup over. I observe and take note of the way each type of Drink affects the environment, including myself, the Brother and the Mummy/Daddy. Then I put the cup upside down on my head and exclaim: “A hat!” and subside into fits of giggles. (That last bit probably isn’t Science but it’s fun)

1. Water, juice and milk will all run all over the table, off the edge of the table, into my lap, onto the chair and the floor. They all spread as far as they will go until some spoilsport (*cough* Mummy *cough*) starts mopping it all up.
2. All types of drink will soak into clothing, making it wet. This usually results in near instantaneous removal of the clothing to the Laundry Basket. You can’t get it out of there so you have to find more clothing. Preferably a pirate dress.
3. Whatever Drink you spill, the Brother will tell on you and try to cut your experiment short.
4. Whatever Drink you spill, the Mummy will get very annoyed and start wiping up your experiment with cloths, kitchen roll, tea towels or if things are very desperate, your own dirty juice-soaked clothes that she has just whipped off you. The incident often sparks an interesting question: “Why did you do that AGAIN?” I have no idea what this means, I think “why” comes in Level 3.

Water, juice and milk appear to be very similar in their properties when spilled. In all cases, things get wet, you lose your clothing and Mummy gets cross.


Experiment #2: Height

snakestoolHypothesis: Using objects in your surroundings to get up higher gives you a significant advantage in Life Game.

I used a variety of objects to get higher up and explore the areas of Life Game that are above head-height. Objects I used were: the Snake stool, various chairs, the sofa, the coffee table, the dining table, the Brother’s bed, various toy boxes and Fat Cat.

1. Chairs gives you access to the Dining Table, where you can help yourself to fruit (eat first, ask later through a mouth full of half-masticated pear), but BE CAREFUL! Chairs can topple over and you might end up on the floor again with the fruit bowl on top of you. (Put a couple of apples in your inventory while crying, before the Mummy tidies them all away again).
2. Stools are excellent because you can carry them around and they unlock a whole range of new activities, such as “Help with the Washing Up”, “Wash hands”, “Brush own teeth” and “Do Cooking”.
3. Another warning: The Mummy is a bit of a buggy NPC and is riddled with inconsistencies. Although she claims to want help with washing up and cooking, for some reason when you do Climb and want to grab a sharp knife to get stuck into chopping carrots, this is suddenly not okay and you get re-set to the Duplo.
4. Cats might seem like the perfect height-gain-object, as they are easy to mount and moveable, but they have some serious drawbacks. They wriggle out from under you, run away and hide and, worst case scenario, attack you with their Claws (which hit on a 2 and cause D6 damage. I say stay out of their way).

Using Climb on an object gives you access to new activities and areas that are otherwise inaccessible, although some objects are more useful than others for gaining height. Also, gaining height causes you to lose influence points on the Mummy who gets cross.


Experiment #3: Magic

Hypothesis: When used correctly, a long stick shaped object can be used to change people into animals

I used a number of long objects (lolly stick, plastic spatula, actual stick) to Do Magic. I did this first by waving the wand in the air and saying: “Ready? MAGIC!” Then I tried: “Magic…. FROG!”. Finally, I tried repeatedly saying the magic words: “A-draba…. BONK!”

1. The Mummy did not turn into a frog. I had to say “Ribbit, ribbit” myself to help her out.
2. “Adraba BONK!” made the Brother laugh a lot.
3. The Mummy started telling everyone about my Magic experiments. I then performed my favourite spell for them and they all laughed and gave me cuddles.

Waving sticks does not change people into animals, but it does make them laugh and give you hugs. It doesn’t make the Mummy cross.



After a month or two of experimentation my overall findings regarding the workings of Life Game are that mostly, Science makes the Mummy cross, but Magic makes her happy.


HTH Gamers, see you again in the next instalment of Life Game!


Hugs & kisses,

The Girl

My Parents’ Kitchen

No washing upBritmums Live, a two day blogging conference I attended, is now so long ago that it seems like a far away fairy tale. Did I really spend a whole, uninterrupted night in a hotel room, where on waking at 6.30 out of habit I could just roll over and go back to sleep for another two (!) hours? Oh yes and I suppose I attended workshops and saw friends and things. Although I have let time slip by, I did not want to leave the occasion unmarked on my blog, so today I bring you a poem I wrote during one of the workshops.

I mostly picked the sessions that focused on writing, and thus I found myself in Emily Beecher‘s “Storytelling” session on Saturday afternoon. There were lots of good things to say about this session, but the highlight for me was that she gave us a prompt and then gave us time to write something. 

She asked us to spend 5 minutes writing about our childhood kitchen and then set a timer. Below is what I wrote. What hit me as I thought about the kitchen in Holland in the house where I grew up and put pen to paper, was this: whatever you are doing in your day, you can give yourself five minutes and write something. Really, you don’t need much. You just need to set some time aside. And so I am writing this while stressing about a big work deadline – just giving myself ten minutes (on a timer) to share this with you all.


Dusky red and mustard yellow;
A warm hub filled with jars and pots.
Overgrown apron brushing my toes,
peering over the edge
of the turban-shaped tin
buttered and dusted
She poured liquid sponge in
and the wooden spoon scraped
- not too well, leave me some! -
filled it up, golden, waiting.
I licked spoon and bowl
watching through the glass door
as the heat slowly spoiled
the perfection
melting soft
on my tongue.


(c) Judith Kingston, 2014

Linking to Prose for Thought.

Greetings from Spare Oom: A Fairy Godmother Guest Post

“Salakadoola mechika boola bibbity bobbity boo, put ‘em together and what have you got?”

(c) Disney

Yes, what have I got? (c) Disney

Greetings from the Fairy Godmother! I live in the remote kingdom of Spare Oom, in the perfect city of Floor Drobe where I flit around in sparkly pink frocks and entice the birds to do chores. Strangely they disappear as soon as someone does a poo on the floor…

Alas, much as I would rather I lived out the above, it is not so. I share this house with some marvelous, stroppy, screaming for more dinner, squidgy, scrummy people. And their offspring.

They would tell you otherwise, but really I am the fortunate one. Yes I wipe dirty bottoms from time to time and use jedi mind control to make the Girl sleep but I am really reaping the benefits. Don’t believe me? Here’s a list:


1. All the fun of being a parental figure, for as long as you decide.

Yes. I get to give them back! Throwing children in the air is brilliant. Putting them on your shoulders and smelling what can only be described as the Breath of Satan is not. But it’s ok! Because you can shout: “The girl has pooed!” and then not have to deal with it. Unless you are the babysitter. Then, often literally, tough shit.


2. Having a real understanding of what it’s really like to have children.

All broodiness has now been cured. Seriously. Maybe not permanently – I have only recently left ages that end in “teen” but I know that I want to do other stuff with my life, not just be confined to the prison of children. Though it does come with free Stockholm syndrome so I guess it’s not too bad.


3. A nice easy way to begin adult life.

A sort of bridge between my own family and truly going it alone. I am an adult in a family. Turns out it was exactly what I wanted.


4. Very poor Dutch

I am now fluent in toddler Dutch! Sort of.


5. Swooping in and Saving the Day

Everyone likes doing this. And to stressed parents it is as easy as “I’ll watch them in the bath”, “I can put her coat on her”, “Here are his shoes” and the ultimate “Would you like a cup of tea?” That selfish selfless moment of feeling great because you made someone else’s life a tiny bit better.


Of course there are many more but I think you get the picture. In reality I am but a cameo in this ensemble of hugs and spilled yoghurt. Much like the Fairy Godmothers that we know and love, much of the time I am busy trying on silly shoes but appear just in the nick of time to magic you to the ball. Or give you those extra few minutes of sleep I know you desperately need.


Bibbity. Bobbity. Boo.


My body is beautiful: Loud ‘n Proud

True Beauty

True Beauty

If you saw me – if you have seen me – if you know me, you would probably want to kill me if I ever said anything negative about my body.

I am thin. I am tall. I have long legs. I can eat cake all day every day and not get fat.

(I will now duck down behind the sofa to avoid whatever projectile you managed to get your hands on while reading the above.)

And yet…

I have never been happy with my body. Like everyone else, in my spotty teenager years I took my good points for granted and just yearned for the things I didn’t have: thick, wavy hair (mine’s very straight and straw-like), a pretty face (mine is a bit blotchy, a bit spotty, a bit angular), less skinny arms (mine are slightly skeletal) and impressive breasts (…). I was a smart kid in school, but all I wanted was to be beautiful. I felt crushed every time I auditioned for a play and was yet again passed over for the role of the “pretty girl” and instead ended up playing somebody’s mother. It never occurred to me that perhaps this reflected my acting ability rather than my appearance.

I met my husband, who like the proverbial drop of water slowly hollowing out the stone set about re-training my eyes to see that I really am beautiful.

I actually struggled to write that down because somehow I still don’t believe it is true. I still feel like there are “beautiful people” and the rest of us.

I loved being pregnant, because it fulfilled many of my wishes: my hair was thick and lustrous, I filled out a little, my boobs were AMAZING (I am getting those nursing bras framed for posterity) plus, added bonus, I had made a tiny human.

I was proud of my body.

What skinny people look like when their stomach muscles give up. (C) Roger Hargreaves

What skinny people look like when their stomach muscles give up. (c) Roger Hargreaves

I was even prouder of my body when I had given birth. Maybe not so much the first time, but definitely when I gave birth naturally to my daughter, who came out feet first in record time. I was superwoman.

Since then all the teenage doubts have crept back in. Things I never really appreciated about my body have decided to take a holiday. Things I was never very happy with anyway have exacerbated.

I find it hard to be proud of my body.

How about you?

As women, we are being poisoned by advertising, by magazines, by public opinion. We are constantly being told that there is one way to be beautiful and one way only. There is no room for stretch marks, for sagging, for scars, for bulges. We are being told to “get your body back” with exercise videos and gym memberships – as if we had lost it.

My body is not lost. I have found it. I have discovered what it is for. I am learning and re-learning that I am beautiful.

A group of poets – and I am proud to be one of them – have banded together to fight for our works of art, our post-baby bodies. We have produced five poetry-postcards about our changed and changing bodies, which we are distributing around cafés and libraries and toddler groups for free. You can catch a glimpse of them here and read more about the project.

Our next step is our Twitter campaign #showusyourbelly. Please join us in creating a slideshow of what normal bodies look like. Send in your anonymous picture to and join other proud women in showing off real beauty.

There is more to come: opportunities to write blog posts on the topic and share them, or to write poetry and fiction that celebrates the diverse and beautiful female form. Keep an eye on the website for new ways in which you can get involved.

Meanwhile, as usual, you can link up your Loud ‘n Proud posts by clicking on the link below. Tell us how proud you are of your kids, or yourself. Maybe you too are learning to be proud of your body? Link up and shout it from the rooftops!

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Secrets of the Sandpit
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World Cup Craft

I hate football.

I hate watching sport.

But there is something about being an ex-pat that suddenly makes you excited about things that at home you would have spurned as you would spurn a rabid dog.

Driving my car around my English town, I put on home-made mix CDs and sing along with unabashed abandon to cheesy Dutch songs from the 80s that my friends over in the Netherlands wouldn’t be caught dead listening to. I don’t even dare name them because my friends read my blog and I’d be able to hear their mocking laughter all the way across the North Sea. Some of these songs have become my son’s firm favourites, it’s that bad.

Similarly, I was not bothered about watching Holland play in the World Cup when I still lived at home. But now that I am abroad, this is a little bit of nationalism that I find myself indulging in. I watched the Netherlands play Spain with only half an eye, not expecting much, but in the aftermath I couldn’t help feeling a little thrill of national pride whenever people commented on the score to me (5-1, btw. For The Netherlands. Just saying).

So when it came to their second match and I discovered it was on at 5pm, I decided to make a thing of it. I told the kids that we were watching “Nederland” play football in the afternoon as a special treat. The Boy was excited, but I realised that he had very little concept as yet of supporting a national team (flags, colours, football songs) or even of football. He wouldn’t know what he was watching out for or when to cheer.

Time for some craft, I decided!



I got out some white paper and some chopsticks to make flags with, some scissors, pritt stick and coloured paper. The kids did all the glueing and I cut the red and blue paper into strips to stick onto their flags in (roughly) the right places.

little crafter


Ready for waving!

Ready for waving!

Then it was time to explain the rules of football. Just in case you are a novice yourself, this is what you need to know: there are two teams. Our team is wearing blue and orange. When they kick the ball into the other team’s goal, you cheer and wave your home-made flag. (You’re welcome)


The kids managed longer than I had expected. The Boy was keen to see the number at the top of the screen change from 0-0 and kept asking me why I “oohed” or “ahhhed” or groaned or tutted. I tried to stay patient and give him the details he craved (“that player was very naughty and pushed the player in the yellow shirt”). I knew the Boy had been needing the toilet for at least half an hour and I had tried suggesting he might see if there was any surprise wee before the match started but he insisted he didn’t need to. Twenty minutes into the game he squeaked: “I need the potty!” He dashed into the kitchen and just as the door swung shut behind him there was a deafening roar from the orange-clad fans in the stadium: Holland had scored the first goal. He stopped himself at the brink and came in, trousers around his ankles, to see what had happened. The numbers had changed! He went back out to finish the job but no sooner had he disappeared from the room or another shout went up, this time from the green and yellow fans. Australia had scored! My poor boy wailed: “I can’t wee if they keep shouting ‘yay!’”

The Girl was not into it. It wasn’t long before she got bored with watching tiny people run up and down a green screen and started wailing that she wanted Dora, Boots and Diego. I asked the Boy what he wanted. He admitted that he wouldn’t mind a bit of Dora, Boots and Diego either. So we switched to Nick Jr and learned to say “por favor” instead. I couldn’t blame them really. Despite my new found patriotism, I still struggle to suppress a yawn when faced with 90 minutes of football and at half time I was starting to long for a rip-roaring adventure with Dora myself. Perhaps for their third match this afternoon I should just stick to waving a paper flag while watching the highlights…


I will be wearing nothing but words: poets bare all

Less than a week until I get to meet some of my very favourite writers/bloggers in real life. In honour of this momentous occasion I could post a little profile of myself or show you pictures of the clothes I will be wearing (I can’t, I haven’t decided what to wear and anyway, all my clothes are in the wash), but instead I wrote a poem as a little tribute to all the wonderful writers that I am getting to know.




We stretch out a hand
and leaves turn
reluctant or relieved
to show the shadow-side
of the statue hewn
polished and displayed
for eyes other than our own.

It is no surprise.

What propels us to
page after page
of verse or prose
rhyme, metre, blank,
with plot or not
but a violent reflex
to puke up our pain?

Inside it lurks and eats
until we waste away
but here held in my hand
it is less than nothing
that thing I shape, control,
fashion into ugly,
beautiful, crafted life.


(c) Judith Kingston, 2014


Hope to see all you Prose for Thought and Paper Swans people on Friday!

If you really need to know, I will probably be wearing shoes.

If you really need to know, I will probably be wearing shoes.