Until I was five the terrace yard was my playground and my cousins and brother my playmates. We played with marbles made of brown clay and with cigarette cards that were given free in packets of cigarettes. All the men in my family smoked Woodbines, Players or home rolled cigarettes but none of the women smoked.
We flicked the cards at a line arranged against the wall. There were lots of quarrels with the losers shouting ‘Cheat’. No one was completely bankrupted since if anyone lost their all, the others would offer one marble or card each to get them going again. I was never as generous once I played with outsiders.
Marbles were flicked with the bent first finger, the object being to hit the opponent’s ball. Later we cut gates in the side of a box and numbered them with the number of marbles won by any who got through. This game could win or lose the box owner a lot of marbles.
Dad made me a swing from a clothes line fastened to the lavatory door jambs it couldn’t have swung very high, there wasn’t room but I thought I was reaching the sky.
We moved house when I was five and the street became my playground. A clothes line was our skipping rope. It was stretched across the road and we skipped in time to rhymes:
"Dolly, Dolly touch the ground,
Dolly, Dolly spin right round.
Dolly, Dolly show your nicks,
Dolly, Dolly take your pick.
What you like a dolly or a pepper,
High jump, colours."
A pepper was very fast feet together whilst saying the two times table. I can’t remember the object of colours. There were no cars to disturb us but the clopping of hooves drove us off the road.
It was after our second move when I was seven that games became wild. Tin Lurky was a favourite with us kids but not with the neighbours. A tin was kicked by the one who was on. The others had to run and hide until found when the one who was on dashed back to the tin calling the name of the one sighted and kicking the tin again.
Spirit tapping was another favourite. We tied door knobs together then tapped on the windows.
Bonfire night brought out the worst in us. For weeks we collected rubbish and if the shops refused to give us any we tipped up boxes of fruit and stole eggs for ammunition in our raids on our opponents’ bonfires.
The bonfires were built in the streets and the ambition was to have the biggest in the district. Sometimes we were given old furniture- arm chairs, and even settees. We sat on these until tipped off so that they could be added to the fire. Front doors were blistered by the heat but as the property was rented no one cared.
Organised bonfires can never be as much fun. We worked hard for weeks to get the money for fireworks- running errands, collecting jam jars to return to the Co-op hapenny each and lemonade bottles which earned a penny at the beer-off.
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