I'd never heard of Minibrix before purchasing two boxes of them last weekend. (I'm selling them, along with a bunch of other stuff I got last weekend, on eBay this week.) They're like Legos, only made of rubber. They're very heavy (if you've ever had to hoist a spare tire, you know how heavy rubber is) and they smell like the new-tire section of Sears. Which is not an unpleasant smell, necessarily, although not one normally associated with children's toys. I haven't tried this out, but I bet it hurts a lot less to step on one of these in your bare feet in the middle of the night than it does when you step on a Lego.
Minibrix were manufactured at a rubber factory in England between 1935 and 1976, with a break, of course, for World War II. Reading up on them (here's an excellent article) gave me a big old case of Anglophile Fever, from which I shall endeavour to recover whilst I complete this post. (I think that got it out of my system.) One of the articles I read commented upon the box illustration, in which the boy works while the girl looks on.
Sure enough, the illustration endured through the years. One can almost imagine the backstory: Since no other children save Henry lived in the village of Twistleton-upon-Lunds, Emma eagerly awaited his return on school holiday. They took turns riding Emma's old pony, Buttertubs, and played Noughts and Crosses, but there was nothing Emma enjoyed more than a rainy afternoon in the nursery, watching Henry create splendid buildings with his set of Minibrix. "I wish I were half as clever as you, Henry," Emma would say.
Oh, come on, Emma. Henry's a twit and you know it. It's a lot more fun to make your own buildings, like this plucky girl and her Tudor mansion. Having built one tiny Minibrix cottage, I can say with some authority that it might take several years to make either of the models pictured here. Not to mention the actual recreation of Buckingham Palace (13,611 parts, 205 pounds) shown in the booklet.