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Vitamin Q: the book!

~ Thursday, April 17, 2003
GAMES Part One

Here is some nostalgic children's games trivia. My second book contained a list poem called Games. Here it is:


Peekaboo - Horsey Horsey - Ring a Roses - The Farmer's in His Den - In and Out the Dusty Bluebells - Dead Man's Fall - White Horses - What's the Time Mr Wolf? - Tig - Stone Scissors Paper - Kerbie - Ducks and Drakes - Join the Crew - Prisoners' Base - Hide and Seek - Hopscotch - One Touch - Tipcat - British Bulldog - Chappie Knockie - Chickie Mellie - Manhunt - Knifie - Kiss Cuddle or Torture - Long Sighs and Silences - Saying Nothing's Wrong - Letter Never Sent - Arriving Hours Late - Playing with Her Food - Darkly Hinting

You get the idea - a list of lots of children's games tailing off into adult 'mind games'. But I'm always curious as to how many of these real games mentioned are well-known and which are known under different names elsewhere.

Here's a brief rundown of what some of the games are:

Horsey Horsey - a dandling game with baby on knee and a song about horses

The Farmer's in His Den - a children's ring game in which the child in the centre has to choose others to be a wife, a dog, and then 'a bone', this child being mercilessly patted (ie thumped all over)

In and Out the Dusty Bluebells - a children's dance game accompanied by the song of the same name

Dead Man's Fall - a piece of mindless boys' genius. Boys take turns to stand at the top of a slope. They are then asked to choose a weapon (eg bazooka, machine gun) by which they will die. The other boys then mime this weapon and the boy has to fall 'to his death' as ostentatiously as possible

White Horses - was a 'crossing' game similar to the next one, but I'm not sure of the rules. Compare also the game where kids crossed an area using various movement, 'baby steps' etc. I can't recall what we called it, but elsewhere it is called Mother May I?, Captain May I?, Crocodile Crocodile, or Follow the Leader. One website suggests 'baby steps, giant steps, hops, jumps, twirl steps, backwards steps, leaping steps, waddling steps and tiptoe steps' were used. Elsewhere, I see ballet steps and scissor steps too.

What's the Time Mr Wolf? - one child turns her back to the rest, answering various times to the question, as they sneak closer across the playing area. When the child shouts, it's dinner time! she can then chase the others

Kerbie - the lost art of throwing a football at a kerb to try and get it to bounce off and return to you on the opposite pavement. Sounds simple, but it had rules of great complexity. There are still many thirty something men who long for a game on summer nights

Join the Crew - a brutal game similar to British Bulldog. Children take turns to try and get past a child in the middle of the playing area. If they fail, they 'join the crew'. If they do get across, all other participants must try to cross to the other side. The game is best remembered for the inevitable 'stripping' of clothes which occurred

One Touch - staple game of bored boys, involving a football and a wall against which it had to be kicked, in turns, with just one touch. See other soccer games such as laneball, heady kicks, World Cup and three-and-in

Chappie Knockie - the magazine Private Eye has a current discussion in the letters' pages about the name for the ubiquitous game where a child knocks on a door and runs away. Knock Down Ginger, or Knock Up Ginger. But in Scotland, it was chappie knockie. Bigger and crueller children got really quite adept at making life misery for some. Bottles balanced on door handles could be sure to fall and smash when the handle was turned from the other side. A paper bag on fire, when stamped out, would be sure to contain something smelly and nasty

Chickie Mellie - I've never known this played, but it exists in Oor Wullie (basically a 1960s/70s Scottish Bart Simpsonesque cartoon strip character). Wullie plays the game using a string with a tied button, taped above an old lady's window. Hiding nearby, he can manipulate the string, thereby knocking the button on the window pane to repeatedly scare the woman. Oor Wullie was written and drawn by a clergyman

Manhunt - basically, a game of hide-and-seek for older boys, played in two teams, at night, through gardens. No one ever knew the rules, no one ever seemed to win, but boy was it exciting

Knifie - another lost art - I don't recall the complex rules. It was already dying out when I was a child in the 70s. It involved throwing a penknife into grass, and various 'Twister' style contortions to do with moving to where you threw the knife. Played only by wiry tough boys

Kiss Cuddle or Torture - perennial 'learn love the hard way' playground game for 7-11 year olds. Kissing is rare and usually quick, cuddling is for when girl catches girl. Torture is the main dish of the day and involves Chinese burns or dead legs, or for blushing boys, more kissing

Source: RcL (rules of White Horses or other types of steps would be welcome, or any thoughts.)

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