For the last two years I’ve joined in the #atozchallenge, namely to post every weekday in April using each letter of the alphabet in turn. In 2015 it was places I’d been to, in 2016 it was London themed. This year it is a dictionary of my family, recounting incidents small and large that have taught me lessons down the years, caused me consternation or generally seared themselves into my memory. I hope you enjoy them. To find other bloggers doing the challenge and maybe be inspired yourself, check out the A to Z Blogging Challenge Blog, here.
We played many board games as children. The obvious ones like snakes and ladders, more advanced like scrabble – there was a children’s version first where the words were given to you – and Monopoly. Though playing Monopoly with the Archaeologist was a trial because he was ruthless at exploiting my youth and naivete and, dare I say it, my generosity. I could guarantee inside an hour he’d have bankrupted me.
We played a game called Halma. Here’s an explanation. I don’t think I ever saw it afterwards but it featured on our regular Wednesday evenings when we boys were taken to my grandmother’s – my nana – for tea, games and TV – before being collected for bed time. I don’t really know when this started but I remember enjoying it for several reasons
- We would have tea sat on the living room carpet in front of nana’s electric fire – it was always winter back then, that or she was always cold – being allowed to sit and have tea on the carpet and not at a table was, frankly the epitome of decadence
- we played these board games where, because nana was a willing accomplice I didn’t come last as was my usual position in games where it just involved the Archaeologist and me
- nana was also nervous and played up splendidly if we introduced floating sugar cubes or plastic spiders – joke shop purchases were always worth the saved pocket money if nana was involved
- she let me watch Top of The Pops – believe me this was quite something. And because she understood I wanted to and the Archaeologist certainly didn’t but he could be bribed with chocolate she bribed him; in truth he was pretty content to go off and read for the half an hour. I certainly never watched TOTPs at home.
But even better than all this was chess. She taught me chess. The Archaeologist never seemed to show much interest in it – not sure why – but nana would often get out the board, especially if the Archaeologist was into some particular book, and offer to teach me. It became our game and, because no one else played it, or at least I don’t remember anyone else doing so, it felt really rather special.
When I look back I now see how frustrating nana was to my parents; she was needy and demanding and made dad’s life something of a trial with her jealousies and childishness. But for all her fallibilities she understood this little boy and how he often felt second class to his older, wiser and, brighter brother. And for those moments when she levelled the playing field just a smidge, I shall forever be grateful.