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Friday, 8 December 2017

The Name of The Game


Children have always played games and we were no different, we played games!  What we played might not be recognised by today’s children when compared to what seems to hold a child’s interest nowadays.  Today's parents are worried that their children spend so much time with electronic equipment they have to be told to go outside and get some fresh air!

I find it strange that when you separate the words Playing Games and look up each meaning in a thesaurus.  Two different pictures emerge.

The word “Games” seems to be linked entirely with “Sports” and mostly organised sports, whereas the word “Play” is a much more lively word.  It has a long list of meanings ranging from recreation to fooling around, with a heavy dose of drama and having fun thrown in.  So from this I can presume that what we indulged in was “Playing”, because there was no way that what we did could be called “organised”.  Nobody organised our games – how could they?  We mostly made them up as they occurred.

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that my “Silver Cross” doll’s pram was used as a make believe tank, so I won’t go into further details about that, except maybe to mention that those who could not fit into the pram could always be accompanying aircraft as they ran alongside with outstretched arms dipping and swaying in time to the engine noises blasting from each mouth.

Mainly we had variety in our games.  Skipping was always popular with the girls; Double Dutch was played with two lengths of rope (by the way I don’t remember ever having handles – it was probably cut off from the end of a clothes line!) 

Seems to be in a school grounds.  Double ropes but no double skipper!
Whatever you do, do not compare what we called Double Dutch skipping with the marvelous organised examples that can be seen on YouTube videos.  If we could get two girls side by side for a couple of minutes inside two twirling ropes without one or both of us going arse over teakettle – then believe me this was success.

No one needed exercise classes; everyday was one long exercise class.  LS could easily have been the gym teacher – in fact she may well have played that part.  She could contort her body backwards then walk like a crab with her head facing up. 

Family photo of LS. in action
A lot of games involved balls and walls. One of which LS also excelled at was throwing three balls against the wall (so fast it seemed to be all at one time) and then speedily catching and returning them.  I’m not sure that there was any point to this pursuit other than a tremendous sense of satisfaction.

I remember playing a game which if it had a name I can’t recall it.  For this, four sticks of about 6 inches in length were required (if you could steal your mother’s clothes pins – they were ideal!) These were stood against a wall to resemble a cricket wicket; that is three sticks supporting one across the top.   

The “IT” person stands about 8 feet away armed with a ball which is tossed at the wicket; the wicket scatters and so does everyone else. The aim is for someone to rebuild the wicket without getting hit with the ball that is now held by “IT”.  Other than avoiding getting maliciously hit by the ball there didn’t seem to be much point to this game either.

A game mostly played by boys was: Conkers.  I’m sure I would have had the skills but I must have been too aware of the dangers to ever indulge in the conkers pastime.  Conkers being those large nuts that grow on horse chestnut trees throughout London. 
Horse Chestnut before it becomes a Conker!
Before they can be used they must first be baked!  This presumably hardens an already dangerous weapon into a lethal one.  Strung with string and held steadily in front of your face your opponent swings his conker wildly in an attempt to break your conker without knocking out your front teeth.

Internet picture of boy with a sharp eye and all his teeth.
A safer and more relaxing game was one that LB fancied.  Usually played on dusky evenings when the natural light was dim.  An area with no direct street lights was ideal.  At the time that this game was played very few people owned cars; there always seemed to be lots of pedestrians about, and for this game, pedestrians were essential!
Yes, they were so alike they could have been twins, as you can see from another image from the family album.
LB and a buddy, (often LLB his brother) would crouch facing each other on opposing sides of the pavement (sidewalk) with arms extended.  As a pedestrian approached they would implore the walker to “Please, step over the rope”.  As you will have gathered there was no rope and the payoff for this young pair was to laugh at the sight of people carefully lifting their legs to avoid an imaginary obstacle.

Leap Frog in action - note the typical London paving stones - hence we walk on the pavement!
There were so many more games we played – too many to detail here. From Leap-frog, to Hop Scotch, and five stones, and cricket with chalk drawn wall wicket, and at least once because none of us were angels, we all dared to knock on doors and run away.  All of them played outside in the healthy London smog.

But, we did have to come inside sometimes, so, we had to have inside games as well, after all it rains a lot in Britain.  A popular one in our home was Housey-Housey which is the same as BINGO but with the word HOUSE across the top. This was not a game that was bought in a store, but one that Dad had made, with enough cards for all of us to play.  Can’t remember what we used as counters, probably bits of paper. Dad was always the caller with all the standard fancy sayings such as “Under the H Legs Eleven, number eleven”.  If you filled your card you would have a “Full House”. And that was the aim of the game – nothing less was allowed.  No single lines, no diagonals, just everything or nothing.  No money, no prizes but a wonderful satisfaction of having beat your sibling!

But just beware if you ever said; “I’m bored Dad”.  Apart from being given the job of untangling string and rolling it into a ball, if I said I was bored he was more likely to produce a piece of paper (from where is a mystery) and a stub of pencil and I was told to draw. 

Perhaps that's why, like today’s children, the computer has become my piece of paper and my mouse takes over for the pencil stub as I play and play all day.  Soon they’ll be telling me to go outside and get some fresh air!

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