I originally started writing this post over a month ago, but work suddenly went into overdrive and I never got round to finishing and posting it. Well, here it is!
Back in July, you may have seen the news that James May was planning to build a house out of Lego and live in it for a few days for a new TV show. I certainly did. He was looking for a few hundred volunteers to help out with the construction, and I also noticed that the event was taking place at Denbies Vineyard, only a short drive from my home.
I decided to sign up, though I wasn't expecting to get anywhere. A few days later I received an email saying that there was lots of demand and that people should turn up on Saturday morning and they would hand out tickets to those lucky enough to be near the front.
I had to do this! Playing with a vast quantity of Lego is something I've always dreamed of as a child and I could not pass up this opportunity. I contacted my friend Iain to see if he fancied coming along and he replied in the affirmative.The Big Day
I awoke at 7am on Saturday 1st August and after a little while I dragged myself to the shower and made myself presentable for the day. My wife had agreed to give us a lift to the event, which was just as well because when we arrived at 8:30 the car park was overflowing. She dropped us off at the entrance and we walked the rest of the way.
We joined the rather long queue and tried to estimate how many people were ahead of us. The email from the producers said that there were 600 tickets available, but they would be able to give out more tickets if the weather permitted. The queue already stretched around three sides of the large main building at Denbies and was getting longer by the minute. We also noticed that we were in the minority of people who didn't bring children along - I would have brought my son along but he's too young for it and would probably try to eat the Lego rather than do anything useful.
The queue moved slowly forward. My wife texted me to tell he she had spotted James May in the centre of Dorking with a camera crew - Denbies lies on the edge of this town. The queue continued its agonisingly slow crawl, though the atmosphere was a happy one - if there's one thing the British know how to do well, it's queueing. There was no queue jumping, nor an impatient word. Even the children in the queue were entertaining themselves without causing a nuisance.
At last! Some excitement! A car drove along the queue with a camera crew hanging out of the back. We all dutifully waved as it passed, hoping that we would we would be amongst the lucky few not to end up on the cutting room floor. More excitement ensued a little later when the car appeared again and stopped by some shipping crates, the driver and his companion opening them and extracting some of the valuable plastic bricks we all wanted to get our hands on.
As we neared the front of the queue, we saw what was taking so long. People were having to sign release forms for their image to be used in the TV programme, though by this point they had started handing out the forms to people before they got to the front which helped somewhat. At about 11:30, three hours after joining the queue, we finally received our tickets for an hour's building at 3pm.
A brief interval for lunch at home and we were back queueing again (groan), only this time in the rain. Thankfully, the queue was much shorter this time as it was only for a pre-booked session. After a little while getting wet, James May himself came out of the marquee with a megaphone and told us all to stop standing around in the rain like a bunch of idiots and to come inside and get building. We didn't need telling twice!
It turned out we weren't actually going to be constructing the house, but building what amounts to house bricks out of Lego. This was a bit of a shame, but understandable considering the amount of people there. We were to construct hollow blocks made out of standard 2x4 Lego bricks measuring 12x6x8 bricks in total with no top or bottom. Very strong and light.
Iain and myself were quite competitive, trying to build as many blocks as we could in the time allotted. There was a frustrating hiatus in the middle where we ran out of Lego and had to wait for another crate to be retrieved from the stores, but we ended up well ahead of everyone else on our table.
After that, there was nothing for it but to buy some of the local wine and head home.
In the intervening weeks I have received more emails asking for help in the actual construction of the house, but unfortunately I've been snowed under with work (which as I noted above, is the reason for the delay in this post). I noticed in the local paper last week however, that the house is still not finished, so perhaps there is still an opportunity for more large scale Lego construction ahead.
I shall post again when I know when this will be on TV - I'm assuming the series is being prepared for the Christmas toy rush.