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.