Scotched

The lawn is separated from the adjoining path by a line of half-buried red house bricks. Perhaps left over from somewhere, perhaps recovered from somewhere, they are showing signs of years of wear. Winter frosts cause spawling;that process where water soaks into the brick and then it expands as it freezes causing the bricks to split and chips of the brick to break away. Such chips were once a delight to find as they were as good as chalk for writing on roads and walls.

Perhaps it was not so much writing, as marking that was important. There were lines to be marked to show the starting and finishing points of races, on foot or on bicycles. There were lines needed to mark the playing areas of games. There were lines needed to mark hopscotch grids.

To be honest, I never once played hopscotch. I did draw hopscotch ladders, marking the squares from one to ten, and I watched other people playing it, but I never quite understood the rules of a game which seemed to have as many variations as participants.

Had I understood hopscotch, I would undoubtedly have been as stumbling in my attempts to hop as I was in my attempts to skip. French skipping was popular. Played with lengths of knicker elastic stitched together, it demanded at least three participants. Two people were needed: one to stand at either end of the rectangle for the skipping which was formed by the elastic being stretched around their ankles and a third person who did the actual skipping. It wasn’t so much skipping as jumping in and out of the rectangle carrying one length of the elastic over the other,  causing it to criss-cross. At least, that’s what it appeared to be – I was never quite sure of how it worked, apart from the fact that I always got it wrong.

Having hopped and skipped, there was also jumping – or vaulting. The more athletic would be able to run at a field gate, place one hand on the second or third bar, and the other hand on the top of the gate, and be able to jump clean over it, landing with their feet on the ground at other side. The ability of others to vault a gate was always something that impressed the handful of friends that witnessed it – I could never do it.

Scotched at such athleticism, I would have been delighted to have been young at the present time when there is not much demand for red brick, or chalk, or elastic, and when gates seem to lead a quiet life. An indoor generation now looks askance at such unsophisticated activity.

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