“What is a knight without a sword? This isn’t a riddle, by the way; this is a serious point. A knight without a sword is just a bloke clattering around a castle in cumbersome armour, sounding like a looped recording of a drunk trying to climb out of a builder’s skip full of venetian blinds. He may as well cart a plinth around the bailey all day, wowing children with a human statue routine, while occasionally retreating to the garderobe to daydream forlornly of battles he will never fight and quests he will never embark upon!”
At this point, a hand rests gently on my shoulder and I’m helped back into my seat. “We’re just doing a round of introductions first,” says the group leader, as everyone in the healing circle looks on sympathetically at my puce, irate face. I quietly apologise to the group and return a lady’s umbrella, which I’d rudely snatched and held aloft.
“My name’s Andy…and I’ve become unhealthily obsessed with my son’s Playmobil knights toys.”
And so begins my imagined first day in therapy.
Playmobil was first introduced into my son’s collection of toys a couple of Christmases ago when his grandparents bought him an ambulance, which came with two paramedics and a patient. Since then, we’ve bought the City Action Cleaning Recycling Truck; the Emergency Medical Helicopter; the Super 4 Black Baron’s Castle; the Wild Life Noah’s Ark; the City Action Portable Police Station; the Eagle Knights’ Attack Tower; the Dragon Knights’ Fort; and most recently, Hawk Knights’ Castle, which took two genuinely fun-filled hours to assemble on Christmas Eve.
It’s the castles and knights that my son enjoys playing with currently, which lets his vivid imagination run wild. It’s always good knights versus “nasties”, who are usually fighting or stealing treasure (and occasionally having birthday parties). There’s also occasional cross-pollination with other toys, like when Lightning McQueen, Mater and Finn McMissile were allowed to enter the Black Baron’s Castle to shelter from a dragon that was disrupting their race around the coffee table. Or the time Noah turned up at Hawk Knights’ Castle with his travelling zoo experience (including a stowaway Dilophosaurus) to entertain the knights manning the battlements.
Playmobil has been a truly fantastic addition to our toy chest, which my three year old son has enjoyed playing with almost every day. But as the self-appointed curator of his Playmobil toys and accessories, I struggle with the disorder – the chaos – of his play. Knights are frequently stripped of weapons and equipment, which usually end up strewn about the place, along with projectiles that have been fired from cannons but never retrieved (like the flaming quarrel that was missing from the ballista for much of last week). My evenings usually involve crawling around on the floor trying to locate swords, shields, axes, arrows, quivers, helmets, armour, cloaks and anything else the beam of my iPhone torch happens to illuminate. The disappointment I feel when I think I’ve found a discarded vambrace or pauldron under the sofa, only to discover that it’s a half-chewed fragment of biscuit or piece of fossilised banana, is palpable.
The last time my son’s cousins visited, I took it upon myself to hide Hawk Knights’ Castle in the spare room and only leave a skeleton staff of knights on display at the Black Baron’s Castle, as I couldn’t bear to see some of my favourites dismantled. I also squirrelled away two treasure chests full of coins, golden nuggets, rubies and emeralds, as well as the Great Dragon’s golden egg and food supplies from the Ark, as I knew we would never see the baby dragon again and the food and treasure would likely end up in the Dyson in the weeks that followed.
It was all for nothing in the end, as my Playmobil stash was ultimately discovered. I arrived home to a sea of half-dressed knights and scattered weapons, while the gibbet and hanging cage from Hawk Knights’ Castle had been detached from the keep and dumped in the courtyard. Meanwhile, empty gurneys and medical equipment lay close to the ambulance and medical helicopter, which looked like they’d been ransacked during a wave of public disorder. Restoring my beloved Playmobil exhibits took well over an hour that night. There’s still a small plastic piece of something sitting on the shelf, which I’ve never been able to fully identify. That still troubles me.
Such is my obsession with making sure all the knights are reset every night with full weapons and armour, I recently bought the Playmobil Knights’ Armory Play Box, replete with spare swords, axes and spears. It’s even got a gold version of the king’s Excalibur, which is very exciting indeed! It’s good to have a replacement, especially as my wife texted me a few weeks ago to confess that my son had lost the king’s silver Excalibur while they were out at the shops. I successfully masked the cerebral embolism I was experiencing by responding with “Let’s stay positive” – and we did ultimately find it – but like I said, it’s good to have a spare. The armoury is still in the cupboard – my son doesn’t know about it yet – but it’s comforting to know it’s there.
My wife tells me that I should just let go of the Playmobil toys. After all, losing stuff is a learning process – and our son can’t expect his toys to be magically tidied and re-staged for him every night.
But I think I’m going to need a lot more therapy before that happens.