As I grew up the games I played changed. This was in part because I was sent to boarding school at the age of ten, so there were always plenty of boys of my own age to play with. The problem of having nobody to play with at home only reappeared during the school holidays. Being at boarding school meant that a lot of games had to be played indoors after dark. Having friends to play games with in the evening was a novelty.
Sardines is the obvious indoor game. We did play Sardines at school, but not very often – I think the staff must have disapproved of us crowding into various inaccessible parts of the house. The airing cupboard was a good place to hide for example, but I doubt that matron would have agreed had she known about it. Other less intrusive games were more commonly played. The great time for playing indoor games was on winter Saturday and Sunday evenings, when there was no prep to do. You would call ‘prep’ homework, but as we were at boarding school and didn’t go home in the evenings, it was ‘preparation’ (to give the task its full title, that we never used).
Battleships was popular, and it only required a piece of paper and a pencil to set it up. Other games needed a bit more in the way of equipment. Board games like Cluedo and Totopoly could only be played if somebody had the box, without too many of the pieces missing. This was even more important with a game of cards. Monopoly is fine if a few of the notes of money have gone AWOL, but even a simple card game like Pontoon is not very satisfactory if played with a pack of 51 cards.
With the coming of summer any indoor pursuits were hidden away. Tennis, Croquet and French cricket did not require more than a minimum of two people to play and were therefore suitable for small numbers. A proper game of cricket itself requires 22 players and needed too much organisation for ad hoc play. The kicking around of a football had been a game good for any time of year when I was at my day school, but because my boarding school was a Rugby playing school football was completely ignored. I cannot remember any of my friends even possessing a football, and kicking a Rugby ball around is not particularly enjoyable unless you are a very good player. Needless to say I wasn’t, but I still had a “Rugger” ball. During the cold winter of 1963 we had a go at skating, but as no-one had any skates this just meant sliding around on the icy pond. Tobogganing was much more satisfactory because several of my friends had sledges, which two or three of us could pile onto. Snowballing was the best fun of the lot, and need no equipment at all.
I have played a few games as adult, both physical and mental. Three card brag was a card game I played as a twenty something; Badminton was good exercise when I was thirty, and Tetris I played endlessly when I first got a computer at over forty. Although they are very different – some require a bit of muscle and some don’t- they can all be addictive while you are playing them. On the whole I do not feel the need to play games nowadays. To watch other people playing games has never been a hobby of mine. My wife and son love going to watch the Canaries (Norwich City Football Club) at Carrow Road, but for many fans watching footie entails sitting on the sofa with a can of lager. This is the very antithesis of a healthy lifestyle.