During our holidays by the seaside each December, we didn’t spend the entire time trying to nick a tree…rather we spent our energy doing slightly more constructive things like playing games. I’m not talking about hide and seek. These were a little more sophisticated that children and adults alike had great fun participating in. They were conducted mostly at night when the pitch dark was an essential element. Friends from around the village soon heard about the fun we were having and flocked to come and join in. The more people that were involved the better and the more exciting it was as a result. My Aunty Sally and Uncle Clive being the fun loving people that they were, were responsible for bringing these games to our family and making them a tradition. It’s one that my sister Karen and I still treasure and keep alive within our own families.
One of the games was called Smee, short for ‘it’s me’. This is similar to hide and seek with the difference being that it’s played only in the dark, and the person that is hiding has to be touched to be found. Once the person has found the hider, they have to sit in dead silence with him/her. The objective is to not let the rest of the people still searching know that you have found the hider and disappeared. Thing is, the others always quickly realized when there was someone missing and then the frantic search would accelerate ten fold. Eventually there would be 20 people piled up on a bed or in the fireplace with a lot of muffled giggling taking place. The last person to arrive would be the one that had to go and hide on their own in the pitch dark next. Many times this would inevitably be yours truly. I couldn’t have been older than 5 and was not a very good hider. I would choose simple places to hide like behind the door, which was obviously the first place people would look. On one particular occasion while I was hiding, my good old reliable bladder decided that it urgently needed emptying. At this point I could make excuses and tell you that it was probably down to all the excitement, which it probably was of course, but I know other family members don’t agree. This is another one that I’ve never been able to live down by the way, as I stood behind the door and wet my pants. I could’ve drifted casually undetected from my hiding place to my room and quickly got changed, but I wasn’t that good. Instead, when the lights were eventually switched on again, I became the laugh of the century, as my mum quickly shuffled me into my room so that I could put an end to my embarrassment. Not that anyone would leave it there!
Another game was Murders in the dark. This involved a card being dealt to everyone. If you got the queen of hearts you kept your mouth shut because that meant you were the murderer. If you got the jack of spades you were the detective and had to exit the room for the time being. That’s when all the lights were switched off again and everybody had to move about in the room in complete darkness. The murderer was in the room somewhere and could choose his/her moment to strike, by putting their hands around any persons neck. If you felt hands on your neck it was your cue to make as much of a performance as you wished, gracefully draping yourself over the back of the sofa if you so wished. That is when the detective would come in, switching on all the lights to interrogate everybody. The aim was for the detective to find out who did it. Ummm…it was here that I had yet another accident which in my defense was due to the fact that I got such an enormous fright from my mum screaming her head off in my ear. I didn’t climb onto the sofa, I flew onto it when this blood curdling scream that I didn’t recognize filled the darkness. I don’t need to tell you what happened next…use your imagination.
Swart Piet was a game that was played sitting around the dining room table. Everyone would receive a set of cards and the objective was to get a full set of the same type of card. Everyone passes a card face down, to the person next to them and so it goes on until someone achieves a full set and then, as inconspicuously as possible puts their cards down on the table. The last person to catch on and put their cards down would be the one that got a black mark on their face. This was done by taking a cork from a bottle and burning one end with a cigarette lighter, until it was black and soot filled which would then cool off and be plastered onto the losers face. We all had out turn in having to face the black cork. Those were the days!