Thursday, September 27, 2007

You could take someone’s eye out with that! – Mimitig

When I was at school, unless the weather was positively arctic (which didn’t happen that often in Oxford), our morning and lunch breaks were spent outdoors playing the same sort of games that had entertained our parents and grandparents. There was precious little in the way of regulation – we were mostly just left to get on with it, and the heavy hand of Government had yet to step in and ban such competitive fun as conkers.

There were running around games – tig and such. Sitting down games – marbles. And jumping and skipping games. Now I hadn’t thought about any of these for years until I was chatting away with a friend, here in the north-east of Scotland about how we used to pass the time in the playground.

There we were, we’d talked about the chasing games – we called it Touch-tig down south, up here it was “Join the captain or walk the plank”, but it was the same game.

Then we talked about various crazes that we’d both known: clackers was one (those two balls on strings that you had to make hit each other in a violent way), and the ankle hoop game – a round circle of brightly coloured plastic (mine was yellow) went round your foot. Attached to it by a piece of plastic string was a bell-shaped item and the idea was that you rotated the ring and jumped over the string until you finally got your other foot well and truly hit by the bell. Not particularly skilful though a certain amount of co-ordination was required, but good exercise.

Suddenly, at the same time, we both went: “Remember what we used to do with knicker elastic?”

Now some might see that as a call for memories of a furtive and fumbling nature, but my friend and I were thinking of exactly the same playground game. Our minds froze, then out of nowhere the term “French Skipping” popped into my head. Before any of you leap to conclusions, this is the official name of the activity and is not scurrilous or suggestive in any way, though I don’t know why it would have been called “French”.

All you needed were three players and the requisite length of knicker elastic tied in a loop. Two girls (and as I went to a girls’ school, it was always girls, though I’d love to know if boys played this too – I doubt it somewhat) stood a few yards apart with the elastic hoop encircling both pairs of ankles. The third girl was the jumper – her task was to perform various moves and cause the elastic to become crossed up in more and more complicated ways. When all jumps were completed the girls at each end would move the “hoop” up. The jumper would then be challenged with completing the moves at “kneesies, thighsies and waisties”. Should she be up to these supreme endeavours, she would then face performing the jumps at “chesties”. Seldom could this be achieved and so after a failure at any level, another girl would get a go.

Aah memories, memories.

I wonder how many of the games we used to play are still current? Almost without exception, an over-active imagination could imbue our pastimes with an element of risk or danger – hence “stop doing [whatever] you could take someone’s eye out with that” was the warning cry that over-anxious teachers and parents would emit. But no-one ever banned our fun and I’ve never come across anyone who had an eye taken out by a playground game.

The closest I’ve heard is from my friend whose dad was playing on the beach one day as a young loon, with all his friends, and they found an unexploded World War II mine. It didn’t stay unexploded for long, and one poor chap, now an old man, carries a deep scar close to his eye from a bit of the shrapnel. But it didn’t happen at school!

93 comments:

Pastagobbler said...

As a member of a slightly younger generation than Mimi I can say that we played marbles, and playground cricket, 40-40, etc.. not French skipping though.

Recently returning to my junior school though I was sadenned to hear that playground cricket and a game which involved hurling a tennis ball over a two storey building in the middle of the playground (weird, I know) have now been banned because of the danger of balls going through windows. We only ever used tennis balls which rarely make it through glass, least of all that bobbly stuff with lines running through it that was exceddingly popular.

byebyebadman said...

Ah memory lane. Nice article mimi, I'm thinking we should get some of these sports in the Olympics for 2012 to guarantee a big haul of medals.

Oxford may not have been arctic then, but it is tonight! Incidentally tig was kit up in Manchester.

Two stick out in my mind - British Bulldogs, where you'd run from one side of the field to another and try to avoid being wrestled to the floor. there was a variant called Cropper where you had to boot people's legs from under them as they want past.

The other is Kingball, where everyone lined up against a wall in school and tried to avoid being hit from ten yards by cheap tennis balls. A feature of British bulldogs, Cropper and Kingball was they all started with the entire year dodging one person and ended with the entire year against one poor kid. I think all three were banned after a while, the ruthless Cropper going first.

I'm quite glad my involvement was limited as I spent most spare seconds playing football.

guitougoal said...

French Skipping mimi, no wonder why I didn't skipp over your article.Your piece is of an exceptional freshness, a true reminiscence of the age of innocence.
that what Sarah says:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEwzaq3NK4s

offsideintahiti said...

Mimi,

lovely piece indeed.

I can confirm that French skipping is indeed French, at least all the girls played it when I was in primary school. And, according to Mrs Offside, it was simply called "Le jeu de l'élastique". We have no idea whether boys were forbidden to play, or just had no interest in it.

Conkers??

MotM said...

A very nice piece Mimi.

They once tried to ban football in primary school, so we played rugby (without knowing the rules... on concrete).

Best game outside school was going to a field as it went dark and throwing a golf ball into the night sky and daring someone to catch it!

gg said...

mimi -

no, that wasn't the exact game that us lads in Deep Lancashire played with knicker elastic.

Our version did, however, involve a fair amount of chesties, waisties and thighies.

We used to pray for Arctic conditions - we were under the impression that Dog had invented snow so that we could rub it into girls' faces, particularly the face of The Most Beautiful Girl In The School.

After two years of grammar school,
the Fascist authorities split us into two single-sex schools.

At the new school, the most popular
game - in the absence of girls to impress - was probably "smoking behind the bike shed".

Zephirine said...

Offside - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conkers It's what you do with the kind of chestnuts that even the French can't eat.

Has hopscotch died out? Indeed, how many of these games are played by today's primary school kids, or are they all indoors at break-time arranging their lives on Facebook?

MotM said...

Zeph - Ay my kids' primary school, they cancelled afternoon play so there's only the morning and a brief session at lunchtime - and this in South London's concrete jungle.

I complained saying that I wanted more playtime and less class time, not the other way round, but was told it was to do with settling the kids down. I think it's to do with target culture and league tables.

It's a fine school, but I'm still angry about that decision.

file said...

enjoyed this Mimis, thanks for posting

the shrill call of the poor teacher on break duty "Put it down file, you'll take someone's eye out with that" still rings around these empty vaults for sure

but never got to play any of those games, or GG's friendlier version of Conkers, at that age I was far too busy with drainpipes, the holding strength of plastic roofs and the insides of fireworks

though I did break my arm once playing British Bulldog (thanks BiB) on some boys forehead (wasn't you was it?)

marcela said...

i can confirm that mrs offside knows her stuff.

we also called it 'jugar al elastico' in argentina. boys loitered nearby but mostly to hold the elastic against someone and pull really tight before letting go. twanggggg!! always ended in tears.

then they discovered bra straps. but that was later.

boys, eh.

central london state school where i hang out there is a hopscotch painted on the tarmac and boys and girls play it. and girls skip. boys try, but they're not as good and run around with tennis balls (only balls aloud at playtime). badman's given me reason to worry over what they might do with them.

i'm sure it won't qualify as a 'sport' but what we spent most of our childhood doing was clapping our hands and then slapping them against the other's really fast, high and low, chanting songs. does this still exist and does it have a name?

byebyebadman said...

Pat-a-cake is one isn't it? But I seem to remember the girls in our year doing lots of others (all the boys were in casualty with Cropper-related injuries)

This might answer your question marcela

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clapping_game

mimi said...

Glad I could pen something for your enjoyment, guys and gals. My friend and I had great fun reminiscing about these and other games.

On the clapping and chanting front, we played a game which involved throwing, yes, a tennis ball, against a wall and doing various clapping things and chanting rhymes before catching it again. Naturally it was competitive!

There is a brilliant book by Iona and Peter Opie called The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren. My sister has our copy - I must ring her and get her see what they say about French Skipping.

How interesting that this same game was played in France and Argentina. Wonder where it began? Obviously not here or we wouldn't have called it French!

Zephirine said...

Some great clapping and skipping rhymes here plus "Queenie, who's got the ball" which I'd completely forgotten about, and the immortal "When Susie was a baby".

BlueinBetis said...

I remember a game the girls used to play with a tennis ball and an old pair of tights or a stocking. It then moved onto a boys game when one of them discovered that instead of banging it against the wall you could bang it on peoples heads.

Like human conkers.

They stopped that too.

British Bulldog....no wasn't me file.

Although I did batter my front teeth for life playing rounders. I still have a false one and a cap. I bit another boys head running for the last base. He still has the scar, so he told me via a friends reunited email some years ago.

After that moved onto safer sports like bulldog, with the other variant of being lifted off the floor; and then violently dumped onto it again.

In winter we had a nice game called "packing"; this involved stuffing as much snow as possible into some poor unfortunates tracksuit bottoms and then rolling them around in the snow.

I hate snow.

byebyebadman said...

I wonder who the Pseuds record holder is for conkers? I myself once had a niner (for the uninitiated, it won nine contests before being obliterated) if my shoddy and constantly cutting out memory serves me right.

Round our way conkers were often 'artificially enhanced', the most common urban myth being that soaking a conker in vinegar for a week and then putting it in the freezer overnight would, by morning, yield a near indestructable conker. I'm no man of science, but I'm sure that wouldn't make much difference!

guitougoal said...

And I thought clapping, slapping,and dancing was a premiere league goal celebration retarded thing.

file said...

ByeByeBadman, BlueinBetis, hard to excuse getting folks names wrong in a written medium, but I did, you just look so similar, a swarm of B's

it was BBB who brought up the joys of Bulldog but human conkers sounds like (short term) fun too

BBB, haven't got a clue about what my best conker was but remember clearly the bowl of vinegar in the cupboard under the stairs, it stanks for days, one of those olfactory memories you don't have much choice about

did we fire-harden them in the oven too or was that the shinpads?

mimi said...

File: we certainly baked conkers in a slow over overnight. As my mum used the middle shelf for her slow-cooking (and scrummy) meringues, I used the bottom shelf to harden conkers.

Never had a niner though. My best was a seven.

The test for me as to whether a conker would go the distance, was to get my grandad to try and break it in his hand. He could crack walnuts using just thumb and forefinger, so if a conker passed his test, I knew I'd have a go in competition!

mimi said...

Obviously I meant slow oven. A slow over is something entirely different!

munni said...

Many of those clapping rhymes were considered quite racy, and the nuns at my school kept trying to ban them.

We were also very big on races involving strange steps: the chicken-walk race, the giant-steps race, the spinning race, etc.

tony said...

Ah what wonderful memories, Mimi. I must have heard loads of the girls' songs, but the only ones that stand out are:

"I am a pretty little Dutch girl
As pretty as pretty can be be be
And all the boys on the baseball team
Go crazy over me me me
My boyfriend's name is Tony
He comes from Macaroni
With forty eight toes and a pimple on his nose
And this is how my story goes..."

and something about "Archibald-bald bald....

As for French skipping - no explanation but I seem to remember French cricket...

tony said...

BTW - I could only find the US version of the Dutch girl song...

Zephirine said...

I think the kids in this clip from Listen to Britain are doing a country dance rather than a clapping game, but I think it's an unforgettable image...

file said...

that's a wild and wacky clip Zephirin, is that about the time you and Mimi wore those baggy green knickers then?

for those that enjoyed this nostalgic bit of Mimi-alia there's an entirely other side to the Penwoman of the Valleys up at Pscenes

mimi said...

File - I'm a bit concerned about the idea of mimi-alia!

Not sure what you mean. All very well to do playground stuff, but as I grew up, this was a bit of my soundtrack:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbPD2hpJxNA&mode=related&search=

As the boys learned how to ping elastic - though it always ended in tears.

file said...

don't be concerned M

-alia = the plural of the suffix 'al' with the general sense “of the kind of, pertaining to, having the form or character of” that named by the stem (i.e. Mimi)

tony said...

Don't listen to him, Mimi it's from the Latin - Alien/weirdness.

Kind of on-topic:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rt6Co7EMNCU

offsideintahiti said...

36-20

Well done, Tonga! For the first 20 minutes, I thought they could do it. I wonder what games they play in Tongan playgrounds.

gg said...

bbb,

did you really have a freezer?

guitougoal said...

-36-20
Tonga a gagne monga a perdu?
Does this mean England rugby is better than England footy?

marcela said...

bbb is a young man, gg.

he probably had a freezer AND a microwave.

seeing as so many distinguished professors of the cunning linguist variety are gathered here today...

is filealiaology the science of the future?

if so, what is it's main field of enquiry?

offy - much amuzement in my home turf that one of the players was called 'lucy'.

that's all i can say about the match.

mimi said...

Don't know about much, but let's get it all and sparkling clear
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgOirmHQGo4

Zephirine said...

Tony, that's a great clip, (except for the bits where Malcolm M is on screen). The camera angles are very, erm, booty-conscious, but I suppose that's inevitable...

Zephirine said...

Marcela, in the future no University of VideoLinguistics will be complete without a Department of File Studies.

Needless to say, the students will all have studied the history and development of Pseuds'Corner for their @ Levels.

marcela said...

@ levels!

genius.

just looked at most of the clips.

tony, that IS good. don't even mind malcolm. i've always had a bit of soft spot for him, what with his contribution to english culture an' all...

the kids' formation dancing in the forties is quite something too, zeph.

i must get you to explain how to embed links in the text here. have i asked you already?

Zephirine said...

Marcela, it's a rather fiddly formula, which M'Lord Ebren kindly told me, but I think if I try to write it here it won't come out properly, so I'll send it to you in a nemail.

That 'Listen to Britain' film was wartime propaganda but it is quite brilliant.

mimi said...

I could look for loads of links, but won't.

How nice to find so many of yo hear.

tony said...

Good point, marcela: what's wrong with malcolm mcclaren?

Booty conscious? Aren't we all?

Zephirine said...

He ain't much to look at, Tony, that's all.

tony said...

See what you mean, zeph, "like a tarantula on a piece of angel cake".

marcela said...

the things
girls can do with hands...

marcela said...

it worked, it worked!!

zeph, i told you you're a natural teacher :)

offsideintahiti said...

She'll blush, but yeah, natural teacher, perceptive listener, helpful adviser... and great with blue links too.

Zephirine said...

(blush)

Zephirine said...

Marcela, that's a beautiful clip but in the context I kept imagining those girls playing cat's cradle...

offsideintahiti said...

But not technically savvy enough to blush in pink, apparently. Oh well, personne n'est parfait.

tony said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
offsideintahiti said...

Tony, that's crazy, putting your email address on a public website, you'll get all sorts of nonsense from a whole bunch of lunatics. No end of trouble, I tells ya.

Zephirine said...

The blush was pink, the word for it was monochrome.

Delightful to be so appreciated, but all I did for Marcela was to pass on the instructions from Lord E, in a handy reference form.

It says in Wikipedia that cat's cradle and other string figure games are found all over the world, which has to be proof that humanity will always seek out a pointless way of passing the time.

tony said...

offie - I don't really use it for anything and I can always do another. Still, I'll see if I can get it removed.

Anyway, as for 'public site' and 'lunatics'...

offsideintahiti said...

Tony,

I was joking. Putting my email address up on this site is the best thing I ever did online.

I'll stand by the word "lunatics", though. What time is it in Thailand?

Zephirine said...

Thailand? I think the poet File is still asleep and dreaming of new VideoLinguistic adventures.

tony said...

Gah! You and your jokes! OK, here it is again:
tellis12@hotmail.com
The time in Thailand? Time for a pipe or two and a Tiger beer I'd say

marcela said...

i just wanted to test your method, zeph.
i have that clip 'to hand' because i love it so...

all those women are deaf mutes, BTW.

tony, i've exchanged e-mails on this site and GU and it became the beginning of something beautiful.

except for one very dubious character who claims to be in the south pacific... he created a personna so believable i had to send a hologram of myself to an actual absynthe bar to check it out.

now, that is crazy!

put your e-mail up again and we can all e-mail you right now :)

or copy you into the e-mails we're sending each other!!!

tee hee

offsideintahiti said...

Guess which dubious character is now off to the beach? Answers on a postcard, care of the Pakalolo Institute.

tony said...

Zut alors! Vous avez raison M. offie.

look

Zephirine said...

Oh, go then, enjoy your beach, see if we care, it's only been pouring with rain all day here (snarl)

tony said...

Hah! Thanks B...Zeph.

byebyebadman said...

gg- (way back) we did have a freezer. Outside of findus crispy pancakes and vienetta it didn't house much.

tony said...

¡Que disfrutes! hijo de playa...

Zephirine said...

Another nice clip, Tony - I like a bit of flamenco, me.

Ah, BBB, Viennetta....the height of ice-cream sophistication, in its day.

tony said...

Just for you then, zeph

although I suppose anyone else can look too

MotM said...

Came to this super stuff rather late. To the excellent posts, I thought I might add this little folk dance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9SSOWORzw4

mimi said...

I'm back in the throws of The Larch!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJegKFFDqww

mimi said...

Just catching up. Viennetta? In my day Artic Roll was the height of freezer pudding sophistication!

DoctorShoot said...

Mimi
enjoyed the post and the way it has stretched into a new dimension...

hoppo bumpo was our boys game as well as british bulldog...

nice to see the creww all here though andrewm seems to be still on holidays...

file said...

wotcha Shooter, AndrewM is propping up the bar with the Velvet Bear next door

Marcela,

Where are you? Good Grief!

that Shiva clip is the most awesomely splendid, stunningly beautiful AND amazingly wonderfabulous visual extravaganza

thanks a trillion for posting it

other Pseuds...Are You Philistines?
How come nobody commented about it, it buggers belief...

no idea what filealiaology is (except the sound of a fish out of water) but it WILL include study and performance of that SHIVA vid

can any Spanish speaker help me? What is a "sordomudas"?

offsideintahiti said...

"sordomudas"? Oh dear, did someone call you that?

tony said...

Here's a clue, file. You're accused of sharing the first 2 of this boy's afflictions

file said...

that would be a good pseud name wouldn't it - deafdumbblindboy?

wouldn't it?

good to see The rock opera again Tony

but, the sordomudas are not I but Marcela's heavenly girls

deafdumbblindboy said...

I heard that, pardon?

tony said...

It is indeed a beautiful clip. Which reminds me... I hope you weren't including me in that 'philistines' taunt. I had actually commented on the clip but the evil prankster known as offside said something about the post which made me hastily bin it...

offsideintahiti said...

Evil prankster? All right Tony, the gloves are off. Ah... Erm.... I'll get back to you with something witty and devastating. Soon.

evilprankster said...

bonsoir tout le monde.
I prankster you later.

tony said...

Prankster - you've taken your gloves off: aren't you afraid you'll hurt your hands?

guitougoal said...

sorry guys I just perpetrated the capital blogger sin...
no banning please....I'll make some crepes for you...crepes grand marnier anybody?

guitougoal said...

is the blogger capital a capital sin?...I am so busy with the crepes...can't find the gd marnier may be offside has an idea.

tony said...

Ok, but hold the crêpes...

Capital sin?

guitougoal said...

sorry Tony can't hold the crepes I just have to call the neighbors.

mimi said...

my comment's disappeared!

No fun.

mimi said...

Or maybe I should have posted this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLCQU8iKalA&mode=related&search=

DoctorShoot said...

the sordomudas seems like a bad outtake of actors warming up for an old episode of shintaro...

loved the shiva clip marcela... poetry grace energy discipline and above all else it made me pick up the phone and confirm our bali tickets for next May...
woohooo!!!!!

offsideintahiti said...

Anybody still serving drinks here?

mimi said...

Doubt it Offie, but I can serve up sounds and good stuff. It's what I do!

offsideintahiti said...

Allright mimi, gimme some good stuff, then.

mimi said...

Take a look at my face for the last time ...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfRXOORev-A&mode=related&search=

mimi said...

I'm just the standing joke of the year.

offsideintahiti said...

Hmmm, Mimi, don't take it personally, but musically... how can I put it? I had to turn it off after less than a couple of minutes.

How are you doing, anyway?

Getting hot and humid here, the season is shifting.

mimi said...

Oh well
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGf0sZEB6Pc

offsideintahiti said...

Mimi, definitely better. You're on the right track.

mimi said...

I'd go for the Green green grass oh home, me. But I work all hoors and dunna how to cry the reet stuff.
Me - it's all outwith the others.

offsideintahiti said...

Pardon? Qu'est-ce que tu dis?

mimi said...

Lapsed into local there. Late night you know.

Tweet it, digg it