A Rye Childhood

By Noel C.A. Care

Boys & Girls

Although most of us had sisters, except at home, or if there was no other boy, we never played with girls. They were always useless at football and could not play cricket for toffee. They had no idea how to throw a ball properly, and were hopeless at flicking cigarette cards. Our games of tops, they said, were far too rough and they could only manage wooden hoops. In general, girls were no use at all.

Ypres with Old Roof
Ypres with Old Roof

Their games seemed to consist of hopscotch, gently throwing balls and skipping. We could never see the point of jumping up and down to let a rope pass under you, particularly when accompanied by silly rhymes.

Hopscotch was the only game that did not require a rope or ball. It seemed to consist of drawing a magical pattern on the ground with chalk. A stone is then thrown into the various squares numbered one to nine and moving to retrieve it with hops and skips according to the pattern. They picked it up, standing on one leg, and returned to the start with the same hops and jumps. It seemed that the stone had to be throuwn into the squares in order. Not getting the stone in the right number, putting the foot in the wrong place, or down, if hopping meant you were out and the next girl had a turn.

This had one thing in its favour. There were no singing or chanting thymes. They did seem to manage to play this if they were on their own.

Skipping seemed to be a general favourite as all it needed was a piece of rope. Some girls had wooden handles to theirs and were then generally and unkindly called posh. We boys were never so nasty to each other.

It also seemed able to have any number of people taking part from one upwards. The girls, on their own did not seem to be able to resist saying their rhymes and you could hear.

“Salt, Mustard, Vinegar, Peper” or “One potato, two potatoes, three potatoes, four, five potatoes, six potatoes, seven potatoes more”

What they did with them they never told us.

If two or three girls were skipping with their own ropes one would suddenly say. “Im going to do bumps” This consisted of twirling the rope, fast enough to go under the feet twice whilst they were in the air. As if once was not enough.

When a girl succeeded, which was not very often, some less successfull girl would say “I suppose you think your clever”.

With the usual responce of “Better than you, so there”.

When there were a number of girls with a longer rope, two would turn it whilst the other skipped. As soon as one stopped the rope they had to take the place of one of the turners. This made sure they all had a turn, although there were frequent little squabbles as to which girl was next. Sometimes two or three girls would all be skipping at the same time. Then if one stopped the rople all were out. This seemed to cause more little arguments and sniffles. As if it mattered, they were soon back skipping again. We though girls were funny.

Another variation consisted of two turning with one jumping, whilst the rest stood in a line waiting. They could all chant, “One, Two, three O’lairey, My balls down the airey, Pick it up and give it to Mary, One two three says out”.

At this the girl skipping would run out and the next girl in line took her place. It all seemed a lot of jumping and running for nothing, but they seemed to enjoy it.

Their idea of ball games seemed far more gentle than ours. We would throw them hard and try to catch with one hand, so that we were batter when it came to playing cricket. We would also make it bounce off the ground, trying to make it difficult to catch.

The girls, if they were throwing them to each other, always stood a lot closer together and threw gently. Sometimes they would throw them up against a wall and then catch it. They would then progress to two balls, having one in the air all the time. Some bigger girls even managed to do three. Another variation, for them was to throw the ball against the wall and then jump, with legs apart, so the ball passed between them. Another girl would stand behind and catch it and take a turn in throwing.

They also seemed to like chasing each other, what they called Tag. To pick the person to be the first chaser, they would stand in a circle whilst one girl would count round the others to some rhyme. One of these, was “Inky, pinky, ponky, Daddy bought a donkey, Donkey died. Daddy cried, Inky pinky ponky o-u-t spells out.”

The person at which the finger stopped on “out” either stood back, whilst the whole performance was repeated until only one girl was left.

Alternatively the first person at which they stopped was “He, The object then was the rest of the girls would scatter, in a defined area whilst, “He” would try to touch or “Tag” one. They would then become, “He”. Even with girls it was never “She”. Why did they not have a ball and kick that, it seemed a lot better than just running about and squealing. Another funny idea of the girls was, if they were annoyed, to call each other rude or nasty names. It did seem that if one girl started on another, they would all start. The poor girl they were shouting at could be heard to shout “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me”. They usually then ran off crying, getting a handkerchief from some mysterious place and wiping their eyes.

The strange thing was that it was not long before they were playing together again and seemed all friends. The girl picked on would quite happily join in taunting another girl the next day.

The only time that we all played together was on an outing, such as the Sunday School Treat. We were then organised to play, usually rounders. The adults would make sure that the teams consisted of an even number of boys and girls and that each had a turn of bowling.

When bating it had to be a boy, then a girl. As I am sure everyone has played this at sometime in their childhood, even today I will not attempt to explain how the game is played.

Whilst we played the game, we would much rather have been playing cricket, or else had the boys playing the girls, which would have been, in our opinion much more fun.

The only time that we ever found girls of any use was if we fell over and took some skin off. They always seemed to be able to rake around in their clothes and find a handkerchief or piece of rag to wipe away the bits of gravel and stop it bleeding. After we had been patched up they would often comment “Dont sniffle, only girls cry, DONT THEY” in a rather nasty, superior fashion.

The boys, on the other hand, when playing on the Salts played either cricket or football. Playing cricket, of course, always depended on someone having a cricket bat of some description. Very few boys had one of these, and those we did have were battered and chipped. We usually had a ball or two between us and for a wicket used a convinient tree. Failure to have someone with a bat meant we played foorball, even in the middle of summer. Whatever we played was always fun. We did not need funny rhymes for our games.

Occasionally we would attempt to play marbles. Although most boys had one or two in their pockets, along with a handkerchief and odd bits of string, conckers, if it was the right time of year and, if you were lucky, a piece of toffee wrapped up that you had taken from your mouth before going into school, there never seemed to be any set rules for this. This was probably because we could not find many level, flat surfaces.

When we did play it usually consisted of trying to get your marble closest to one already placed in the playing area or trying to knock it out of the area. The one thing about this was it was only fun and at the end we all kept the marbles we started with. The various arrangements of the colours of some of the marbles we found most interesting as they seemed to run in streaks from the top, right round to the bottom. Others were all of one colour, usually green and not at all interesting.

“Rye’s Own” July 2006

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