King of Excellent (according to Scaryduck)

Monday, April 6

Games we don't play

In conversation with Bertie, I got reminded of the things we played at school that now are either too boring (The Nintendo DS being the game of choice of most 10 year olds), too dangerous or just too silly.
  • British Bulldog. A mainstay of any British school playground, this game was played every break and every lunchtime at my primary school. It was already being frowned upon though, because it was banned by my scoutmaster. Those that don't know it, it involves two safe sides of an area, and a person in the middle. On the count of 3, you must run from one side to the other, without getting tagged (normally leading before long to mindless violence involving testicles and steel toecapped boots) by the poor sod in the middle. Whoever gets tagged has to join the person in the middle, and this continues until only one person is left. This person is then the person in the middle at the start of the next game.
  • Patball. Another popular game in the early 80s, where squash was modified to be played without racquet, court or small squidgy ball. It would have a short piece of straight wall, a tennis ball (or similar) and your hand. You'd have to hit the ball so it bounced once before hitting the wall, and you were allowed one bounce after the return. My school playground must have had a dozen or so pairs playing against the longer walls. I dunno why it disappeared.
  • Manhunt. The idea was simple. Sort of like hide and seek, but with a more sinister twist, it would be that you had two teams with a capture the flag system. Half your team would be defensive, the other half would be offensive. The offense would involve either sending someone sneakily to capture the flag, or to all bundle in to get the flag. To 'die' you had to be hit between the shoulder blades, and over time this hitting involved foam weapons, then real weapons like plastic piping, then even more worryingly, soft airguns. We got really good, and even started to have walkie talkies, to direct the troops out in the field. One game could last for 6 hours, and we even played it in the woods were we lived.
  • Cannon. Not likely to be known by any of you, this was a game invented at our school.
  • We had a playground surrounded on all sides by a 2 storey building, and a large sloped entrance to the playground, with stairs down one side. Halfway down this slope was a flat area, which would sort of become the scoring area. Like bulldog, you'd have one person who was 'it' with a tennis ball. They'd have to play 'ball-he' and hit other players, who would have to freeze for a (reasonable, and out loud) count of 10. The other players would have to protect a pile of (normally 10) coke cans in the middle of the scoring area, and the person who was it would have to knock them down. The more they knocked down, the more points they'd get, but the rest of the players could return to the cans to replace them. When the person (nicknamed the 'cannon,' hence the name) had knocked them all over, it would be time to change to another player. The tactics behind this game, I'm sure you can imagine, were mind blowing. Divisions were set up. The PE Teachers were so impressed with it, they'd let us play it in our PE lessons. The injurys were fairly widespread as well however, including I don't know how many black eyes/broken noses, twisted ankles from avoiding the ball, to one boy who fell into the school pond and had to have 4 paramedics lift him out where he'd impaled himself on a foot wide concrete stepping stone. This game lasted right up until we left, and our year were the undisputed champions. I don't know if it carried on, but you can be sure if it did it was never as good as when we played it
  • When I started at my son's school, I tried to teach them dodgeball. The headmaster had seen the film, and agreed it looked fun. He even got some foam balls so the little darlings wouldn't get hurt. It lasted a term, when the PTA got involved with the governers, saying that it encouraged aggression in children that were far to young to be subjected to that level of play.