Archive for the ‘games we play’ Category

The long summer

Gabe

Gabe was rigorous and determined in his commitment to doing nothing from mid-June, the end of his exams, and mid-October, the start of college. But connecting those two points was a third: exam results and the decision over his immediate future.

L & I had, with some difficulty, tried to discuss with him some options prior to results day, including deferring university for a year. As adamant as he was that he would do nothing during the long summer of 2019, Gabe was similarly fixed on either going to his 1st choice or taking a year off.

The morning came. The results were to be handed over later at school, but university admissions were confirmed first. Gabe walked into the kitchen, in his dressing gown, I think trembling. On his iPhone, the confirmation that he had his place at college. Later that morning: 3 A*s.

For the rest of the summer: he worked his way through the pre-term reading list sent by his tutors, but otherwise carried on doggedly doing nothing.

Eliza

Eliza received an offer of a holiday in Crete with the family of a friend. Initial misgivings about her running unchecked through Med club nights were allayed when we met the family and were shown the villa, located remotely on the island’s north coast.

Away she went for a week of beautiful warm weather, on beaches, beside lakes and the villa’s pool. She dove-tailed into her friend’s family, filling the gap left by an older brother who opted to stay at home. They returned, full of fondness and compliments for Eliza, who was equally grateful for the invitation.

Robin

With two European trips under his belt already in 2019, Robin had least to lose from a summer shorn of a family holiday. By mid-August, he was contemplating going back to school, without complaint.

While Eliza was in Crete, he and I took a day-trip to the North Wales coast. The clouds rolled back mid-morning as we finished a game of beach cricket. A lunch of fish and chips on a pub terrace, before we headed to another part of the beach for frisbee. Then, into the sea – Robin more willingly than me. Eventually, though we swam together in UK waters, perhaps for the first time. As evening approached, a game of crazy golf and a Mexican meal to round-off the trip.

Christmas – twice over

Our first Christmas, at the correct point in the calendar, was at home with Nan & Grandad. On Christmas Eve, we visited the Bridgewater Hall for the sing-along carol concert. The kids were as content as they have ever been at this annual trip, enjoying the music and finding the singing amusing not annoying or embarrassing.

Christmas Day and Boxing Day passed in a pleasant fuzz of family chat, presents, food and drink. Gabe particularly enjoyed playing Jenga, which captivated Nan. Robin was delighted with his bike, and so we rode around the neighbourhood in the dark on Christmas evening (the bike’s brakes having been made safe during daylight by Grandad). Eliza sauntered in and out, her social circle never more than a few clicks distant.

Our second Christmas, happened four days later, at Grandpa’s, with Auntie S, Uncle S and cousin F. While in Scotland, Robin accompanied me on walks across the sand at low-tide, laying out the plans he has devised for his future: living in Edinburgh or Glasgow, teaching. Gabe joined Uncle S and me at the pub one evening, keeping the conversation always lively and keeping up his end with a pint and a half. Eliza was the moving force of an attempted indoor decathlon after our Christmas dinner, until we all flaked out. Most memorably she won the ‘standing on one leg’ contest, fighting off fierce competition.

Gabe, Eliza and Robin – I hadn’t spent so much time with them in months and they were a delight, making parents and I think grandparents, very proud.

New Year’s Eve Quiz

The pinnacle of our New Year’s celebrations wasn’t the fireworks, Auld Lang Syne or Big Ben’s bongs. It was a quiz in five rounds.

The day’s build-up to the quiz included a game of squash for Gabe and me; a City match on TV; a trip to see Wonder at the cinema; and a dinner of pizza and curry.

We began quizzing mid-evening. Each of us had researched (or made up) questions on a different topic. The competition was keen, with only Robin’s interest wavering towards the end.

Round 1, posed by L, was on geography. Two rivers that run through Aberdeen? Standing in Paris, are you nearer Edinburgh or Rome? Which former state of the Soviet Union is last in the alphabet, etc.

Round 2, with Robin as quiz-master, concerned sport. Where was Bob Beamon’s long-jump record broken? How many countries were represented in gymnastics at the Rio Olympics.

Round 3, facilitated by Eliza, probed knowledge of popular culture. Marilyn Monroe’s real name? Which TV programme from the 1980s featuring a small rodent has been brought back in 2017?

Round 4, saw Gabe test our musical knowledge, with five second excerpts of songs for us to identify. The music ranged from Bill Haley to Ed Sheeran and Robert Wagner.

Round 5 was my cryptic family quiz and included: Who kept seeing violet [Violett]? Who came back to meet [meat] old acquaintances? Who went without insects in the ear for a month? Who gave up the chair for someone who wasn’t elderly, infirm or pregnant? (Answers: Robin, Eliza, Gabe, L)

We also talked about ambitions or resolutions for the New Year. Robin wants ‘to persistently get 4’s in English’ – his preferred school subject and equivalent to a grade C at GCSE while still in his first year of secondary school. Gabe wants to improve how he plays Chopin’s ‘Raindrop Prelude’ and progress to piano grade six. Eliza had already acknowledged wanting ‘to do more and spend less time on her phone in her room,’ as well as eat more fruit for breakfast.

We finished in time for midnight. Robin asked me to come upstairs with him as he didn’t like New Year’s celebrations, explaining that the countdown to New Year worried him that something bad would happen. With Gabe, we played some indoor cricket in Robin’s room, while Eliza and L watched Ed Sheeran on TV.

Bedroom cricket

Gabe

Gabe and Robin invented the format during the summer holiday – a concession to activity when they were at their most idle. The three of us play (Eliza and L, on occasions, too) but more commonly now it’s Gabe and me. The playing area is the length of Robin’s bedroom. We use a windball and a size 2 bat. Most ingeniously, the stumps are a pair of jeans hung from mattress tipped on its side.

Robin’s carpet makes the game. It takes turn – Warne-like turn for the well-spun delivery. And, given that there is no straight-arm restriction on ‘bowling’ the game is all about turning the ball, or as a batsman, countering that turn. 

Robin

Returning home from work, it might be thirty minutes before Robin registers my presence and appears. Usually, he’s in the living room or his bedroom, interacting with his phone. Recently, I reminded him that when he was younger he would run to the hall when he heard me come in the door from work and hug my knees. “Really?” He said. “I’ll do that again.” True to his word, last week, one evening as I came in the front-door, Robin burst from the living room and hugged me. Possibly, a little ironically, but appreciated nonetheless. 

Eliza

Eliza hosted a sleepover of gymnastics friends. It followed a gymnastics evening, which may have raised hopes that the girls would be tired. We set up two single and a double mattress for the five friends to sleep on in the living room. The rest of the family went upstairs to bed. The girls’ chatter and laughter carried on. Around midnight, the first text from upstairs was sent to Eliza, instructing her to quieten her guests. More agitated texts followed as the hours passed. Eventually, after 3am there was silence in the house.

Bordeaux week 2 – surf dudes and card sharks

Four of us left early(-ish) one morning to head for the Atlantic coast. Gabe, beach unfriendly, stayed at the gite. 75 minutes drive later, we parked, walked through a pine wood and dunes onto a long, wide beach. I discussed the possibility of a surfing lesson in French and then in English with Vincent, a lean, tanned surfer. Eliza and Robin were given clammy wet suits and waited for the rest of Vincent’s class. Eventually, he said they could start. 

For the next 90 minutes, as the tide swelled inwards, Robin and Eliza went from lying on the board to picking themselves up and standing, if only for a few seconds, as waves swept them towards the beach. “The best thing of my 13 years” said Eliza. Robin was just as enthusiastic.

Every night, we settled around the table to play cards. Whist, contract whist, black two, hearts, etc. Gabe had a lordly air, playing to win and controlling the music. We were each asked for a track, which he might censor, before calling up on Spotify and certainly criticise once it was playing. The cards games were keenly competitive, verging on the unfriendly. Robin, tired and less adept, was heckled for holding up play or teased for poor judgement. The edge to the evening was broken when we wrapped up the game and headed to bed.

New Year’s Eve games

Spending New Year’s Eve together at home, we decided to play games. The children turned the opportunity for some family fun into a contest. Points were awarded for positions in each game and an overall tally kept.

We started with the alphabet game – naming things of different categories (boy’s name, girl’s name, shop, city, musician, etc) beginning with a selected letter. Gabe and Eliza scrapped over definitions and rules, trying to undermine the other’s efforts with unwarranted ferocity. Robin kept up a running commentary of the categories for which he couldn’t think of anything – which was most. L won this round.

We moved to kitchen table table-tennis. Robin battled to second place behind Gabe, who was unbeaten, despite being taken into extra-time by Robin and L.

Round three was pairs (a memory game, involving picking pairs of cards from a pack spread face-down). Gabe bailed out and Robin played half-heartedly. Eliza was thwarted in the first game as she, L and I drew, but could not be resisted as her fierce concentration brought victory in the second game. It was now well past eleven o’clock.

As midnight neared, Eliza went into the garden to watch the local fireworks. L and Gabe watched the coverage from London on TV. Robin asked to be taken to bed and read to. “It will be exactly the same fireworks as last year,” he reasoned.

Christmas presents

The focus was stronger than ever on the presents the kids were getting each other, and L and me. They exchanged chocolate, and delegated some decisions to L. But there was also more adventure. Robin and Gabe both bought clothes (tops) for Eliza. Gabe rushed into a shop and grabbed the top he understood Eliza to have wanted, selecting the size based on the sticker on the hanger. Presumably he nodded when the assistant confirmed he wanted age 14-15. He is now challenged with finding the receipt so an exchange for a smaller size can be effected.

We were at Grandpa’s in Scotland and did our present-opening there mid-morning. Notable, amongst the wrapping paper, by its absence was football. For the first time in many years, there were no boots, shirts or even footballs given or received. After a meal for 11, we played Bird Bingo and Headbands (iphone version)

Football did come to the fore on Boxing Day when Uncle S/R took the boys and me to see the only Scottish League match being played that day: Dunfirmline v Falkirk. There was some discussion over which was worse – the quality of football or the hot chocolate. We all wondered how the man of the match adjudicator could have come to any decision.

The following day, we had a kickabout on a basketball court with Cousin F, before walking from South Queensferry to the middle of the Forth Road Bridge and back.