Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Friday, 2 March 2012

Let’s Play a Game



The solitaire game in the picture is nearly 85 years old. On the underside is the slightly faded inscription made by my great grandfather William: "To Billy on his 8th Birthday 12.6.27”. Billy was my Mother’s brother who died aged only fifteen in an accident. I remember playing with the game when I was a child, staying at my grandparents’ house. I loved to hold those marbles up to the light and see all the swirls of coloured glass. Despite its age, like my mother, it still has all its marbles.  This week’s Sepia Saturday has a theme of games - board and physical, and I remembered that I had made an audio tape in 1999 of my parents’ memories about the games they played as children.

The recording was for the children in my school, as part of a project on 'Games and Toys', but it has proved invaluable to me as it has many anecdotes that I’m sure would be otherwise forgotten. I played the recording again today and was lost for half an hour, listening to them take turns with their stories, sometimes disagreeing, but on the whole chiming together with their shared memories. They went to the same junior school in Nottingham, but didn't get go know each other until they were teenagers. I wish I could play you some of the recording, as their delight at recalling some of the games, toys and incidents shines through. I'm so glad I have it as an archive.
Mum and Billy


Their childhood in the twenties and early thirties, was spent making the most of treasured toys and opportunities for street games. There was no television, but Mum recalls that they had a Magic Lantern, with slides of the Boer War, and, although the subject matter was grim, the excitement of seeing images appear seemed to override this. Having a brother was an advantage for Mum as, not only did she play with the Solitaire game, but also spent hours playing with Billy's toy fort. He wasn't much interested but Mum, with her vivid imagination, made up all sorts of stories for the brave soldiers. She told me that when they broke, which they did occasionally, being made of lead, it was usually a case of decapitation. Unlike the real world, this was easily fixed by judicious use of a matchstick inserted in the appropriate place, and a dab of watercolour paint to cover the scar. Also in the attic, was Mum's own baby crib full of dolls. When my Gran called the children to dinner, there would be disappointed cries as they'd only just set up the latest game and hadn't got properly started. Of course they played Snakes and Ladders, Ludo, Snap 'Ping-Pong' (or table tennis) and Mum also recalls that they had a small snooker frame, but that was one game where she didn't get quite so much of a look in, as Granddad and Billy rather monopolised it.

Jigsaws of course have been around for hundreds of years. Last year I wrote a short post; 'Life is a Jigsaw', about some lovely examples, including one over eighty years old and featuring my mother.  I think it was only my third ever post and didn’t have any followers then, so I feel justified in mentioning it now, so you can pop back and see it. I like to think of Mum doing that jigsaw when it was new.

At Miss Kelsall's newsagents, the children could spend the halfpennies they earned by running errands for neighbours, on sheets of coloured tissue or crepe paper. These would be used for all sorts of crafty items. Another favourite pastime was making scrapbooks from brown paper and flour-paste glue. I remember getting huge enjoyment from this myself as a child too. They also saved up for 'Whip and Tops' to play with their friends.

Mum had a little weaving loom, probably homemade, to make blankets and scarves for her dolls, but it was Dad who remembered that they would get lots of fun from 'French Knitting’; a wooden cotton reel with four nails and a ball of wool, with the resulting long, thin strip, appearing at the other end of the cotton reel. Funnily enough I recently mentioned having a go at this myself to make tails for the dressed mice I have just made for my grandchildren. If you go over to my other blog you will see the post; 'A Tale of Two Mice’ which I’ve just done, and the one before that, ‘Building Blocks for The Future’ showing that some toys and games never change.
Dad - butter wouldn’t melt!


Whilst Mum was playing skipping games with her friends, Dad would be involved in a game of cricket or football. Dad first developed his lifelong love of football when he and his friends kicked anything they could get hold of between 'goalposts' made of piles of sweaters or coats. Dad recalled one occasion when he and his pals were kicking an old WW1 Mills Bomb around, presumably a practice grenade, or one defused and bought home as a souvenir by some Tommy and given to his son. I hope so anyway. A less potentially explosive situation was the one where Dad and friends were playing cricket on the school recreation ground, and Dad hit the ball over the wall, where it smashed the window of the local police station. He recalls having cheers and applause from a group of men standing watching the lads play. What he doesn’t recall is the punishment he received - probably because it was too painful! 

You can be sure it’s safe, however, to join us at Sepia Saturday this week, where you can see what other participants have made of the theme. Come on, join in the fun and games - “Do you want to be on my team?”


22 comments:

  1. great story I really enjoyed reading about your parents. Will take a look around at more of your postings. Grace

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  2. This is a delightful collection of memories. The tape of your parents sounds like the gift that keeps on giving.

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  3. How nice that this weeks theme led you to re listen to the recording of your parents. How special is that?
    Nancy

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  4. What an interesting game post! I never saw a game quite like your marble game...but I sure had marbles growing up. I think those may have been called Cat's eyes? They were clear mostly with just a wave of a solid color in the center...there were so many games we played with marbles though....and even with round boards. Nice photos to share for this gamey theme, how fun!

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  5. ...oh I got so carried away with marbles....yes I'll be on your team, but what game are we all going to play?!!!

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  6. Fabulous recollections, Little Nell. My grandfather taught me how to make tanks (that looked nothing like tanks) from a cotton-reel, a rubber band, a slice of a candle, and a pencil. Once wound up, the little machine would crawl along at a snail's pace. Today, I get my kicks from watching our granddaughters play. It's even more fun, when I'm invited to join in.

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  7. A fascinating post, Nell. How could I have forgetten playing marbles as it used to take up hours of our days?

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  8. An excellent collection of memories!

    I was a great marble lover myself and love your "Despite its age, like my mother, it still has all its marbles."

    Anna :o]

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  9. I wish you could post the game recollections too. This Christmas my grandchildren started doing hand knitting which is like the French knitting but they wrapped the yarn around their fingers and made the string of knitting. I really enjoyed this post.

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  10. Indeed a great post Nell. I had no photos of playing games as a young person so had to use the grands. I remember playing marbles, hopscotch, jacks, statue and badmittan as a teen. What fun memories your post brought up.
    QMM

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  11. What a lovely post, Nell. It brought back lots of memories for me. Lovely photos of your parents too. I have a selection of old wooden cotton reels and may start French knitting again! :-) Jo

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  12. I enjoyed reading your memories about toys and games. I still have my old potholder loom. It makes potholders from loops.I had a French knitting toy, but I didn't know that's what it was called.

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  13. You've produced a veritable compendium of games all in one post! Thank you. :)

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  14. Children were and had to be imaginative playing games. Your mother and brother were lucky to have a stable and loving family. The solitaire with the marbles is beautiful, never seen one like this. I can imagine that you liked the marbles. I played a lot with marbles, also with my children and grandchildren, always fascinated by the the swirling colours; everyone had their favorites. I really enjoyed reading your memories about your family. Glad for you, that you have this recording, a treasure for your children and grandchildren.

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  15. Such an interesting post again Nell, I love the solitaire - marbles are one thing which haven't changed much over the years. I've been finding it fascinating finding out what games are popular in the playground at my son's school, he's 6, but aside from games involving cartoon characters, a lot of the things they play are pretty much what I remember - the games live on even as the children grow up and leave.

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  16. Hi Nell,

    Oh, I am so happy for you that you have that tape of your parents; priceless.

    Your post today is so wonderful. Thank you for sharing their memories with us. That is sad that your uncle died so young.

    Take care,

    Kathy M.

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  17. That's a beautiful solitaire set. I can identify with so many of your memories in this post. I used to love top and whip and we would draw patterns on the wooden tops with chalk and then watch them change into swirls of colour as we whipped the top faster and faster. Great post:)

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  18. What a wonderful post, Nell! And how wonderful to have that old game in your family in such great shape - it's like a memorial to your Uncle Billy!

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  19. I had a solitaire game like that, and on my 3rd attempt, I already knew how to keep only one marble, right int he center...

    "kicking a bomb around"?
    Shudders!!!...
    ;)~

    Have that tape converted to digital and create more than one support to ensure its survival for the future.
    I'm just saying...
    :)~
    HUGZ

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  20. Never seen a solitaire set before, marvellous, or perhaps I should say marbelous. You have shared such wonderful memories. I have a little wooden doll of my grandmother's for French Knitting, thanks for giving me the name, I have never known what to call it. I spent happy times as a child spent winding the wool round the hoops on the top and seeing the result.

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  21. Ticklebear - it’s already done - several years ago :)

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  22. Great memories. Just think, if your parents had been friends at school, and played together, they might never have fallen in love later, and where would you be then? :)

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