Tag Archives: Play

let the children play

(Post by John Allan, from Bridgetown, Western Australia –April 2021)

Look at you, sitting there staring down at your crotch, pawing and fiddling about. It’s disgusting ! You should be outside getting some fresh air. You can’t use the lockdown excuse for ever. How many games of Candy Crush have you played anyway ?

How did we amuse ourselves back in the 60s and 70s ? We played games.

On that hallowed patch of blaes, Primary 7 boys utilised the full pitch and goalposts with a regulation rubber football. Primaries 6 and 5s played either side, piled up jumpers and schoolbags marking the goal line, kicking a deflated bladder. Primaries 4 and 3 played across field with anything from a tennis ball to a smooth stone. In this mixed melee of minions every boy was focused on their own particular game.

Meanwhile the girls did girlie stuff on the playground.

Truth be told, what the girls played at was far more complicated than any boy could ever comprehend. The mathematical complexity of peevers (or hopscotch) or the secret knowledge of rhyme when skipping.

 “A sailor went to sea, sea, sea,

To see what he could see, see, see

But all that he could see, see, see
Was the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea, sea.”

These sacred songs must be handed down in ancient rituals by wizened old maidens of knowledge from secret covens far from the meddling of mere men.

Very occasionally boys would be allowed to enter the world of swirling jute and caw the rope – that is hold the end of the skipping rope. A great responsibility only given to a few –  and a fixed point on a solid structure. Tie it tae a waw an it’s jist yin ye need tae caw the rope. Many a skipper has been garroted ankle high as a sensitive wee lad has abandoned the game full flight by the taunt of “Ya big Jessie” from fellow male classmates. Gender fluidity wasn’t even a fizzy drink back in the 60s and 70s.

Then there were Chinese ropes. I’m sure throughout the ages of the many dynasties of the Chinese Empire through to the formation of the People’s Republic, progress wasn’t reliant on interlocking rubber bands. Anyway, another hopelessly complex game purely a spectator sport for the young hormonal boy as skirts were shortened and eventually tucked into knickers as the elastic rope heightened.

Tig (your het) and all it’s variants was a popular playtime pursuit. There was the brutish British Bulldogs or when the girls joined in it morphed into catch & kiss or kissy chasey. Then there were those parties where the guys put their car keys in a fruit bowl and……………. wait a minute. I seemed to have fast forwarded a few decades. Forget that last bit !

Indoor versions and the mainstay for kid’s parties were Blind Man’s Bluff or What’s The Time Mr Wolf ? (Marco Polo as it is known in the US I believe.)

A more sedate activity were marbles and jacks. I don’t think I ever got beyond a foursie (What! You don’t remember ? Google it). For the child with the sadistic bent there were conkers. Clackers for the masochists. What could be more fun than the deafening rat-a-tat echoing around the school corridor before the blood curdling scream, as knuckles and wrists were shattered by wayward spiraling hard acrylic balls on string ?

For the more creative among us there were cat’s cradle and the origami fortune teller (several steps up from the humble paper plane). A combination of numbers and colours that could make you the Uri Geller of your time (although a bit of spoon bending would really seal the deal).

The world of the 60s and 79s seemed to have a rubber fetish. Superballs were small hard rubberised balls with an incredible bounce. Similar but more solid than those used in squash (which only over 40s men in tight shorts played). Many a time I would throw the projectile into the school shed only for it to ricochet off various surfaces before returning at twice the speed, smashing me in the face. And I thought clackers were fun !

If you wanted to lose all dignity you could get yourself a space hopper. The sort of fad that had your attention for all of about 3 minutes. The best thing was to leave them around for adults to surreptitiously jump on and end up either flat on their backs, legs akimbo, or sliding down the wall face first. You think they would have learnt with pogo sticks.

Not all play was confined to the playground. There was always the street. Next door Frankie had a cool looking bike with cow horn handlebars and a long banana seat. He could do all sorts of tricks on it, bouncing and balancing on either front or back wheel. I had the family heirloom that moved forward in one direction. An ex Royal Mail 3 speed beast of a contraption dating back to the early 50s. If Frankie had a mustang, mine was a cart horse. Barely able to start on level ground it slowly built up speed over a long weekend. Give me a slight decline and I swear there was a sonic boom. I lost several fillings from the G-force alone. Braking wasn’t an option so I usually ended up miles from home pushing the monster up hill.

There were also attempts at assembling bogeys and go karts but these were lucky to survive more than an afternoon’s test drive.

A Winter flurry brought out the old trusty sled (another family heirloom) which travelled a few feet before sinking into the snow with only a couple of embarrassing rusty skid marks to show for it. Frankie’s aluminium framed sleigh swooshed by. My brother came up with the idea of using a discarded plastic toilet seat which glided over the ice at warp speed before splitting in two and up ending big bro in a ditch.

“But someone could have been seriously hurt !”

That’s it. Game’s a bogie. Back to the safety of the sofa and an afternoon of Freecell on the mobile (with only 2 cushions for protection though !)

wild wild west(erton)

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson, of Glasgow – April 2021)

Growing up in Scotland’s first ‘garden village,’ sounds absolutely idyllic. And I have to say, I have no complaints – I loved it. But things are not always as they seem.

So, with apologies to my English teacher for starting the previous two sentences with conjunctions, and with tongue firmly in cheek, what follows are some of my personal recollections of that time.

I should though, perhaps insert the caveat that the supposed parallel lines of my memory and imagination do sometimes tend to merge like the proton beams from multiple Particle Throwers in Ghostbusters. The not-quite-so- catastrophic results can very easily be rectified in the Comments section below.

*********

I’ll spare you the full history lesson, but Westerton is a district of Bearsden, which is itself a suburb set to the north of Glasgow, Scotland. The village holds the distinction of being the first ‘garden village’ in Scotland.

By the time my family moved into the area, the ‘village’ had expanded in the forty-seven years since formation in 1913, but the core area remains relatively unchanged in the sixty years hence.

*********

DEEPDENE ROAD:

The number of similarly aged kids living and playing on Deepdene Road and the surrounding streets was quite remarkable.

In those days, you see, it didn’t really matter if you were boy or girl; if you were five years old or eleven. Everyone played together. And even if natural ‘geographical’ splits occurred along each third of the street, there would still be groups of at least fifteen tearing about like noisy, hyperactive rejects from Fagin’s gang.

Street football, with lampposts for street-wide goalposts; kick the can; hide and seek; endless wars between perceived good and bad adversaries. I guess the noise level must have upset certain neighbours; I know the old ‘ball in garden’ most certainly did.

Mr Allan, an old Captain Mainwaring type and also a Bank Manager, was one such. He terrified us, and would often confiscate the ball should it end up in his flower bed. He’d give us pelters if he caught us sneaking in to retrieve it without permission.

I remember vividly, then, one Sunday morning when an attempt on my ‘keepie uppie’ record hit the buffers and the ball was launched a la Peter Kay (“ …’ave iiit!”) over his hedge.
It ended up within reach of his front door. I could easily have picked it up and legged it, but rang the bell. It was a good few minutes before Mr Allan appeared – in his dressing gown. His face was puce with rage. Seems not many kids practice their footie skills at seven a.m. on a Sunday!

THE PYLON:

Where there is now a small power substation, there once stood a pylon. A pylon for climbing and an area of grass large enough and far enough away from any windows to play football and cricket / rounders.

What else could a kid of the Sixties want?

Probably not a bit of a kicking from the advance party of a gang from another neighbourhood! But that’s what happened when three unknown lads approached the ten year old me, and asked what football team I supported.

Remember, this is late Sixties, West of Scotland. To reply either ‘Rangers’ or ‘Celtic’ would offer best odds of 50:50 chance of upsetting the inquisitor. So, thinking on my feet, the streetwise, wee, ten year old me looks one of the lads straight in the eye and says, “Dunfermline Athletic.”

Next thing, I’m lying on the grass nursing a few rapidly appearing bumps and bruises, and watching these ne’er-do-wells laughing and run off with my football. “Raith Rovers fans in Westerton? Who’d have thought,” I pondered, before busting into tears.

THE BLOCK:

One side of Deepdene Road formed a continuous pavement that ran best part of four hundred metres (four, forty yards in those days) around onto Monreith Avenue and to Wheatfield, then back to Deepdene. This was our racetrack: be it on home-made bogies; running in our gym shoes; on space-hoppers or even just hopping – we’d organise races around it.

Without the benefit of smart watches, stop watches, or indeed, watches, the recorded times relied heavily on the veracity and concentration of the designated timekeeper. World records were set and repeatedly broken throughout the course of an afternoon. Disputed results often resulted in black eyes and tears … but everyone reconvened the following day, ready to take on some other challenge – like who could climb to the greatest height on the pylon.

JAMIESON’S:

This was the small grocery store closest to our house. There was a newsagent / sweet shop next door.
“You got money for Jaimie’s?” would be the common question to and from school, in the hope your pal would either lend you some or at least buy you a gobstopper.

I’d have been about Primary Four, I think, when it converted to a self-service convenience store. All of a sudden, ‘dogging’ lunch became the in-thing. Beef olives with turnip and potatoes from the school canteen didn’t seem quite so appealing when chocolate bars, chewing gum and Lucky Bags could be had for the same price at Jaimie’s.

Same price? Word soon came back from the older kids that these goodies could all be had AND you certainly didn’t need to spend all your lunch money.  These new self-service stores were like manna from heaven. Kids of all ages now discovered just how light their fingers could actually be. They would later find just how red and sore they could be when Headmaster Mr Thompson found out what they’d been up to.

THE VILLAGE:

The village centre was the community hub: there were three shops as I recall. A Co-op to which we’d be sent to for ‘the messages’ by our Mums; the butcher shop, and I think, a sort of haberdashery shop.


These are now long gone, as is the old Library / Village Hall which sat beside them. It was here that as a young, impressionable Cub Scout, that I witnessed the older Boy Scouts have a real set-to, clubbing each other with the long wooden staves they carried.

“It’s character building. It’ll make a man of you,” was the level of concern expressed by my ex-Boy Scout father when I told him I wasn’t sure I wanted to join when old enough.

The original Primary School was also on that site.

An abiding memory of my first day at school is a sort of plasticine mixed with wood varnish smell … and Blair McKellar and Wallace Drummond knocking seven bells out of each other at the back of class.

Funny the things you remember, eh?

THE PLAYING FIELD and THE DUMP:

These were the two areas of grass to which crowds of kids would gravitate whenever the West of Scotland climate was in good humour. Aspiring, and crap, football players would mix with those who preferred to chase after their ‘Getaway Discs,’ (frisbees.) Older boys and girls would gather in groups to smoke a fly fag, and talk about the latest entry into the music charts and the upcoming youth club disco.

Then the shout would go up – “The P.G.B. are coming!”

No need for mobile phones in  those days – if one of the neighbouring area gangs like Peel Glen Boys, Scurvy or The Fleet were on the march, word spread pretty fast indeed.

There would be that moment when if it wasn’t always so wet in Glasgow, tumbleweed would have rolled over the field; a heavy silence would descend and a church bell would ring out doleful single chimes.

It was like the black clad gunslinger had “come for ma boy.”

Kids would scarper; the field would empty; the silence would be broken by the sound of doors slamming shut. There would be a stillness.

But something else was happening. At the other end of the field a group of older lads would peel away from their retreating friends and congregate in formation.

Yes! It was the Defenders of Westerton. Our very own Justice League. It was The Wessy Rats!

The astute reader will perhaps by now have noticed a bit of a theme running through this piece. It really wasn’t too bad at all. It was certainly no Crenshaw or Compton, L.A. Whether it were individuals squaring off or gangs passing through rival territory, most of what went on was posturing.

Me? I wasn’t too sure. I decided that cowardice was the better part of valour and joined my local athletics club.

If I was to be chibbed by the P.G.B., they would have to catch me first.

Hi-yo Silver! Away!