Today's blog post has been a combined effort from a few people; Georgie and Mary, your Welfare Officers, with their 10 top tips for things to do without your phone, Poppy, your Student President talking all things jigsaw, and an extra special guest Fiona Belcham (the President's mum) here to share all of her board game expertise!
10 things to do without your phone
Start a craft – maybe try clay making, crochet, macrame, or paper-making.
Bake something – the festive season is upon us! Make some Christmas cookies.
Invest in a Lego set – honestly, it will change your life. We recommend Lego city, the ice-cream van build is great.
Start a photo album or scrapbook – get nostalgic with old memories or make some new ones!
Go for a walk, explore somewhere you haven’t been before!
Read a book – maybe it’s been a while, but now is the time to grab a cuppa and start reading!
Do a jigsaw – lucky for you, Poppy has some fantastic tip tops below!
Write a letter or a postcard for someone – let your friends and family know you’re thinking about them.
Make a treasure hunt – guide your housemates to that easter egg you forgot about under the bed 5 months ago!
Get making some festive decorations – have a go at wreath making, Christmas bunting, and paper snowflakes.
Treat yourself to a day of something other than watching Netflix and have a go at some of the great ideas above! For number 5 you can check out the @leedsartspresident and @conscious_creatives Instagram stories to see mine and Kaya's tour of Woodhouse Ridge for Day 5 let some fresh air in! As an avid jigsaw-lover, I'm going to dive straight into Georgie and Mary's suggestion number 7.
Poppy's Jigsaw Tips
I've always loved doing jigsaws from being young. My mum has an amazing collection, including 4 jigsaws that I would do over and over because I loved the artwork so much. They must be going on 20 years old if not more now, and the boxes are looking a bit chomped (courtesy of my rabbit Eevie) but we still don't have any missing pieces from them somehow!
Since lockdown, I started to think a bit more about what I actually enjoyed doing. So much of the past 4 years had been consumed by my studies and constantly thinking I didn't have time for much else than Netflix and feeling guilty about not doing uni work (news flash – you definitely do and taking breaks vastly improves the quality of your work once you come back to it). Moving completely online meant I was experiencing intense information overload, which I'm sure a lot of you were too, from staring at screens all day, and my brain was shouting at me for some sort of relief. Like many others, I began to spend more time cooking and rediscovered my love for hobbies from times gone by, which is where jigsaws come in!
I wanted to find something that would challenge my brain that I'd be able to just leave for a while and pick up right where I left off. Having ADHD means I get easily distracted. It can be hard to find a hobby that doesn't require you to get it all done in one go or remember where you're up to. Perfect for taking a quick break from uni work! I invested in a jigsaw mat so that it's moveable; you can get ones that roll up or fold out which are super handy for storage and I'd highly recommend getting one. They're not too pricey and vastly improve your jigsaw hobby!
I really like more arty ones compared to traditional styles, a firm favorite are the Thomas Kinkade Disney Dreams collection which are beautiful paintings with a little Disney twist. Waterstones always has some more interesting styles which is where I got my current design from; Hokusai's The Great Wave Print. It's much harder than I thought it would be but I'm determined to get it finished before 2020 is over! I've also recently come across a company called Badge Bomb who turns illustrators' work into jigsaws and they're well worth checking out.
Depending on what you're after, my number 1 tip for choosing a jigsaw is to really look at the design. It doesn't matter if it's 1000 pieces or 250, if half of your jigsaw is one solid colour, it's going to be a tricky one (I learned that the hard way)! Ones full of lots of different characters are always a good starter as you can effectively build smaller bits and fit them together and fill in the gaps later. I like to separate out the edge and start there first, followed by sorting colours, then you can tackle it bit by bit. If you're really hardcore you can try doing it without the picture and doing it by piece shape like my mum! Whatever your style, I'm always happy to talk about jigsaws, so if you're really stuck for where to start just pop to the Union for a chat, I'm sure it will always be a welcomed break in a busy day of Union work.
Fiona's Board Game Rundown
Board games are a bit like marmite, you either love them or you hate them. For me they conjure up a happy glow of memories from rainy weekends with my brother and sisters playing Cluedo and the Game of Life; my Granny teaching us to play card games and Dominoes (I am a big fan of Patience); Pictionary and Trivial pursuits marathons with my flatmates at University; and most recently teaching my children to take turns, cooperate and win or lose with grace (not an easy task!). Games have played a big part in family celebrations, get-togethers with friends, and holidays. I never go anywhere without a pack of cards, granted nowadays it might be The Mind or the latest edition of Sussed rather than the traditional 52 card deck, but it always pays to have a game handy to help you to switch off and while away the hours whether in company or solitaire.
Do not get me wrong, games have also caused their fair share of arguments, storm outs, and upended boards. The most memorable resulting in flying hotels and a full tub of blue cheese dip splattering all over a newly decorated living room wall, yes, that was me and no, I have not played Monopoly since. But the moral of this story is don’t take yourself or the game too seriously, remember it is about having fun, challenging yourself, and how you play the game.
With that in mind, I am not a big fan of games which push you to win at all costs, crushing your opponents underfoot as you go remember you may have to live with these people! (hence the ‘no Monopoly’ clause in my household) I prefer games with an element of cooperation and collaboration or when pandering to the introvert in me, games which have a solo play option.
One of my all-time favourites is Catan (originally Settlers of Catan and groundbreaking when it came on the scene back in 1995). It is different every time you play, the board is made up of beautiful hexagonal tiles and once you have the hang of the gameplay you build your own board. Players collect victory points to win by combining luck, skill, and tactics, and if you love the base game there a lot of expansion sets.
Card games come in all shapes and sizes. The Lost Expedition is based on real-life events, full of horror and pitfalls, and depends entirely on the players cooperating as you all win or lose together, you can debate each move together and gameplay definitely benefits from healthy discussion. Not an easy win though, you can vary the difficulty level and it also has a great solo play option. Forbidden Island works in a very similar way. Beautiful components, interchangeable characters, increasing difficulty levels, and you all sink or swim together. Pandemic is another good collaborative game (but possibly a bit too close to the knuckle at the moment). Sorry, I have no photo as my son nicked this one when he went to University.
The Mind however is another kettle of fish, a really simple concept. 100 numbered playing cards and all you have to do is lay the cards down in the correct numerical order. The twist; you only play with a shuffled portion of the full deck and you have to do this without communicating with your fellow players in any way, verbal or visual. It involves tuning in to each other and a little bit of magic!
Last but not least is Bananagrams. It is great as solo play or with friends and appeals to the introvert in me because even when you play with others you are working on your own hand, building your own crossword grid. The simple concept allows you to adapt and introduce your own rules (as long as you have an agreement before you start), play to a theme, and allow or exclude proper nouns or slang. I never travel without out it, it is inexpensive, made up of beautifully tactile letter tiles, and comes in a fabulous Banana shaped pouch, what’s not to love!
But honestly, this really is the tip of the iceberg. We have cupboards and shelves stacked with games; Dixit for the imaginative, Jenga for the dexterous, Cards against Humanity for the irreverent, and Unstable Unicorns for the strategist. If you think that you may be in the ‘hate them’ category, think again. There really is something for everyone and if you need to do your research check out Zatu Games online, they are my favourite go-to at the moment. They have tons of choices, great descriptions, video playthroughs, and customer reviews (and they are not Amazon). More local to Leeds is Travelling Man comic book and games shop who has a whole room stacked floor to ceiling with a variety of games (although I've not been myself you'll have to trust Poppy's word on that). So, if you need to switch off for a few hours grab a box, throw in a few family or friends (if you want), but most importantly have fun and remember it is only a game.
Tag @leedsartsunion in all your Welfare Fortnight activities! Check out the What's On calendar for even more events here: https://www.leedsartsunion.org.uk/whats-on