(Post by John Allan, from Bridgetown, Western Australia – first published in 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 !)