Saturday, January 16, 2010

Secrets of the ice-age revealed...

Children today, they don't know they're born - take birthday parties for example. Parties now take the form of visits and entertainment - indulgence, extravagance and expense. When I was a child (which now seems a horribly long time ago) a party wasn't a party without regimented games and a sit-down tea, the high spot of which was probably jelly and ice cream. Fun? What had fun got to do with it? Over-excitement, being sick and disappointment, yes. But fun. Unlikely.

Those games; I remember Musical Chairs, Pin the Tail on the Donkey, Simon Says, Blind Man's Bluff and a curious affair in which each child would follow a trail of wool wound all around the house; around chair legs, between banisters, under tables and through doors until at the end of its length a tiny gift would be found. Imagine 20 small children each with a piece of tangled wool to unravel and only a boiled sweet to look forward to at the end...and that was a bonus. These were the days before Pass the Parcel contained a present in every layer and the game is carefully manipulated so each child gets a prize. Back then there was just the one prize at the end, usually won by the biggest, boldest and pushiest child. Like it or lump it. And lump it we probably did.

One of these games came to mind this morning as I went about my hen feeding. Who remembers 'Kim's Game'? I think it stems from the early days of scouting and was intended to improve memory and observational skills. From Wikipedia I learn it was inspired by Rudyard Kipling's story 'Kim' and taken up by Scouting's founder Robert Baden Powell:

'The Scoutmaster should collect on a tray a number of articles - knives, spoons, pencil, pen, stones, book and so on - not more than about fifteen for the first few games, and cover the whole over with a cloth. He then makes the others sit round, where they can see the tray, and uncovers it for one minute. Then each of them must make a list on a piece of paper of all the articles he can remember… The one who remembers most wins the game.'

This morning it is as if somebody has whipped that cloth away. The snow has all but gone overnight and the landscape is revealed. For nearly a month the ground has been covered in either frost or snow; it's never really gone up here at the end of the Long Mountain. We've gazed out at a not unpleasant monochrome vista - the monotony of black, white and shades between broken now and then by clear blue skies or the twinkling of ice crystals.

This morning though I spy green - much green - which while I knew it was there comes as quite a surprise - there is so much of it. I also spy lots of little details which I'd forgotten about, masked as they were under many inches of snow. Leeks, parsnip and cabbage - bowed but not broken; the glaucous snouts of early bulbs pushing through still frozen soil; onions and garlic; the galvanised hen trough I lost track of. Look - there are needles from a bit of pre-Christmas tree trimming (December 18th) and the grit we threw down in the first ice age just before New Year. These details emerge, hardly important like finding a woolly mammoth, but little snippets testing the memory.

But look at this - in my photograph the thaw has defined the ridge and furrow in the field we now call the Church Field - for obvious reasons, it sits below St Mary's Church - but was once known as Broomy Leasow. For me the real revelation is in the foreground and what appears to be more of the same - but it is possible these plough lines may be of more recent date.
I'm off now to take a good look around me while I have the opportunity - I hear rumours that heavy snow is forecast for Wednesday and my landscape may well be under wraps once again.


Wipso said...

Thanks for jogging my mind to the same happy memories of childhood party games. Glad to see your snow has gone. I'm sure it's made life a lot easier for you.
A x

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

Yes , I'd heard that there's more "seasonal weather" to come . Everyone here is hoping that means enough ice for an Elfstedentocht , but since that needs a week of -5 C. at least , unsurprisingly I'm not .
And as for childhood party memories . Cruel to remind us ! Too traumatising .

snailbeachshepherdess said...

I remember Sunday School parties with those games in the assembly rooms behind The Bridge Hotel, I remember a pink dress with small white furry dots just like snow - drat I've just mentioned the s word again.......the greenness is almost overpowering now.

Pondside said...

I heard a rumor that the big melt was taking place in the valley below you - I guess the rumor is unfounded if you are about to get more of the white stuff.
Our birthdays were much like you described. There's be a 25 cent piece in the cake - just one. There was one prize for each game and no goodie bags at the end of the day. Parties are such a production today.

Nutty Gnome said...

Were you at our birthday parties then?! Ours were exactly the same except dad always did a treasure hunt in the front room -safety pins sellotaped under the gas fire, that sort of thing! and a piece of cake to take home :) Thanks for bringing back sopme great memories!

I wandered into here from Pondside's blog and have passed a very amusing half hour or so reading through all your posts and enjoying them immensely!

Here in derbyshire we didn't get the depths of snow that you did - only about 8inches at its worst, but I'm quite glad it's all gone now. May the forecast be wrong! :)

her at home said...

look like strip lynchets to me ( not sure if that spelling it right but, unless I have goen totaly mad and lost all my memory I think it it is medieval field systems..

Anonymous said...

Ah yes...I remember those party games, sticky-out party frocks, angora boleros and red Mary-Janes!
Interesting too, the old field workings, showing up so clearly.

Preseli Mags said...

I have to admit that I cling resolutely to the old fashioned idea of a children's party. Mine still want to pin the tail on the donkey and play musical statues (but we do 'fix' the pass the parcel!) I hate these huge parties where every child in the class is invited. It always makes me think that it's either the parents showing off or over compensating for something. (Oops, steps off soap box!)

Was't it strange to see all that green after so much whiteness? I was thinking of you this morning as I watched the weather forecast and wondered if you were about to get some more snow.