A Knight Knows The Weekly: Maintaining Britain's Standards
Britain's Heritage of Games
This feature is concluded.
Game: Kiss-the-Stick.
Played chiefly in: Shepton Mallet.
Objective: Kiss the stick.
Obstacles: Stick rapping face.
Rating: Hilarious.
Game: Scope-Ope.
Played chiefly in: Jarrow.
Objective: Water retention.
Obstacles: Jabbing branches.
Rating: Thrilling.
Game: Whither Exmouth?
Played chiefly in: The environs of Exmouth.
Objective: Discovery of Exmouth.
Obstacles: Selective memory.
Rating: Challenging.
Game: Lionel-Pop!
Played chiefly in: Damage Barton.
Objective: Discovery of appointed "Lionel Stander."
Obstacles: Blindfolded; other players gargle hoarsely as decoys.
Rating: Well above stand"e"rd.
Game: Foot-ball.
Played chiefly in: Rugby.
Objective: Propel the "ball" into the "goal" without using your "hands."
Obstacles: "Tackling," "passing," "goalkeepers."
Rating: Absurd.
Game: Pinch-Me Punch-You.
Played chiefly in: Bude.
Objective: A hide-and-seek variation; if the "Pinch-Me" or "Punch-You" players are found, seeker must run back to cree first and shout "No hands, no hands" to avoid physical penalty of pinching or punching.
Obstacles: Burning petrol sprayed from circling helicopter.
Rating: Rough.
Game: Kerby-Climb.
Played chiefly in: Kelvedon Hatch.
Objective: Climb kerb.
Obstacles: None, though players must be very small.
Rating: Relatively vertiginous.
Game: Hair Hockey
Played chiefly in: Jedburgh.
Objective: Variation of air hockey in which the effect of an expensive, uniform air-cushion across the playing field is reproduced by dangling both players and puck from human hairs, which are near-invisible in normal lighting conditions.
Obstacles: Necessary scaffolding impedes informal and spontaneous nature of game. Best confined to playground climbing frame or unfinished building site.
Rating: Skilful.
Game: Paper-Bounce.
Played chiefly in: Norman's Bay.
Objective: Items of increasing weight are tossed up and caught ten times in a single piece of broadsheet-newspaper held at each corner by a player. Generally, the order of items is: pebble; stone; grass clod; bicycle-horn; milk-pudding; kitten; cat; rock; child; fat child; gas-stove (800-watt microwave oven acceptable); fifth, "dummy" player or player's equivalently sized relative; horse; freestyle.
Obstacles: None but the paper breaking and tangential bruising; this is a team game. Reportedly a game of Paper-Bounce in 1906 using the centre sheet of The Times progressed steadily over four days to introducing a neutron star, which on impact with the paper collapsed through the earth's crust sucking in all players behind it, but two of the five corroborating witnesses were found in 1908 to be in the pay of The Times Shell-Deflecting Waistcoat, Ltd.
Rating: Indicative.
Game: Sneerbucket.
Played chiefly in: Veryan.
Objective: Wilfully ignore the achievements of a bucket and instead decry and belittle it until the bucket cries. If more than one player takes part, all players sneer at once, attempting to smother their opponents by volume.
Obstacles: The chilly realisation years later that the bucket is still better than you.
Rating: Enduring.
Game: Cacklesack.
Played chiefly in: Tarland.
Objective: Propel an empty sack the length of the course solely by the power of tightly focused laughter.
Obstacles: The Brooms of Doom.
Rating: Punishing.
Game: Clog-Dancing.
Played chiefly in: Kessingland.
Objective: To be the last player dancing. Participants stand in a circle, with someone handling the music (or, at the least, drums). Players begin dancing and, the turn moving clockwise round the circle, can elect to hold the pace or increase it. Dancers must keep time to the music, and once the pace increases, it cannot be slowed.
Obstacles: Arteriosclerosis.
Rating: Darwinian.
Game: I'm Beatrix Potter.
Played chiefly in: Crowborough.
Objective: Players compete to provide the most convincing impersonation of the well-known author - without props.
Obstacles: Roving bands of clubbing toughs employed by the Potter Estate to crack down on impersonations which haven't been cleared by the official registration process.
Rating: Nervy.
Game: Drudgery!
Played chiefly in: Machrihanish.
Objective: Complete in the shortest time, but with the acutest attention, a series of household chores - vacuuming, washing-up, weeding the garden, tidying the cupboards, ironing clothes, beating rugs, &c.
Obstacles: Tardiness brings a rap across the shoulders from a stick borne by the maid.
Rating: Suspicious.
Game: Five Steps to Doom.
Played chiefly in: West Runton.
Objective: A course is drawn along some arbitrary line of difficulty - say, a plank over a stream. Players must take five steps, each in a different style: the first hopping; the second backwards; the third with a mid-air twist; the fourth a regional variation; and the fifth on tiptoe. If the player takes a sixth step, they are ritually killed.
Obstacles: The temptation of taking that sixth step.
Rating: Underdeveloped.
Game: Conquers.
Played chiefly in: Leek.
Objective: At heart a normal game of conkers, but enlivened by the players' participating in the style of a famous conqueror from history. Points are awarded for authenticity of impersonation, which may be helped by carefully researched costumes, or, in more informal games, simply made wigs; bonuses can be won by growing your conker in the shape of the miniaturised skull of your chosen conqueror; or retrospectively should you become a conqueror later on. (Address such claims to the national Conquers board, currently in hiding.) It is considered bad form to play if you are already a conqueror, or have conquered specifically for that game.
Obstacles: Fred Harris, who has vowed to destroy the game for largely unknown reasons and is currently at large. Some maintain this adds an element of excitement to Conquers, but not after Harris has run them over with his garden roller.
Rating: Polished.
Game: Extendy!
Played chiefly in: Chertsey.
Objective: Be the last player remaining in the game by "extending" it beyond all natural levels of interest and skill. Players can add new rules and goals arbitrarily, directly contradicting earlier ones if they like, with the sole purpose of driving what entertainment value the game may once have possessed deeply into the cold, cold ground and causing everyone else to give up in broken dismay.
Obstacles: Death. A properly run game of Extendy! with a full set of obdurately self-destructive players can run for up to 117 years, and nothing upsets a participant more than another dropping dead before they've officially resigned.
Rating: Not a spectator favourite.

Game: Homing-Pickles
Played chiefly in: Umberleigh.
Objective: It is the silent midnight redundancy of a closed-down school playground and each player must stand still, eyes rendered useless by satin blindfolds, in the spaces marked out on the hopscotch board. The inside pockets of their long flapping black cloaks are stuffed, ritualistically, with fresh pickles. The players must make it home via any means at their disposal, but mostly by running really fast. After a count of up to twelve, a pack of suitably incensed hounds is unleashed after its prey. The drooling beasts have been cruelly starved of pickles for more than four weeks. The hounds will rend and tear in an unstoppable flurry of teeth and woofs in order to reach the tart bounty.
Obstacles: The dark mist-filled streets, riddled with surprise cats and lone drunks rambling about their shoes. The cats will not have shoes. Milkmen.
Rating: Invigorating.
Game: Burgle-my-Neighbour.
Played chiefly in: Wolverhampton.
Objective: Material gain.
Obstacles: Man-traps.
Rating: Vapid.
Game: Stab-me-the-Bishop.
Played chiefly in: Luss.
Objective: Undulate your pseudopods.
Obstacles: "Bishop Stab-me" and his Khyber knife.
Rating: Delightful.
Game: Big Badger.
Played chiefly in: Clitheroe.
Objective: Kick balloon out of rowing-boat set adrift on foamy canal at dusk.
Obstacles: Must have exactly seventeen players.
Rating: Vicious.
Game: Jelly Jelly.
Played chiefly in: Graffham.
Objective: Flip tin can by laundry-pole into goose's eye.
Obstacles: Goose on train.
Rating: Freudian.
Game: Stumble-Bumble.
Played chiefly in: Tregurrian.
Objective: Throw the "bee-ball" between a circle of players, who move further apart with each round.
Obstacles: The "bee-ball" is a heavy glass jar filled with bees.
Rating: Merry.
Game: Letter-Bomb!
Played chiefly in: Lauder.
Objective: Discover players' secret letters by asking questions: players cannot use their letter in answers.
Obstacles: Tied to bomb.
Rating: Tense.
Game: Sir Tusky the Brave.
Played chiefly in: Mablethorpe.
Objective: Dislodge your opponent's "frew-butty" with a well-placed "tar-boot."
Obstacles: "Jeremy Gank's dancing bears."
Rating: Intriguing.
Game: Martin Cufflemow.
Played chiefly in: Ardgartan.
Objective: A park game. One player is designated the Martin and must make their way across the park at a steady pace, all the while performing rhythmic sweeping motions with their posed hands, as if mowing the grass. Their opponents, who have concealed themselves up trees, behind bushes and in shallow pits, must try to land a cuff as the Martin comes within range.
Obstacles: A starved tiger wearing a belled hat is loose in the park.
Rating: Contentious: today's social historians refute the traditional reading that the game is based on the life of Martin Luther, citing the many parallels with that of Una Stubbs.
Game: Uncremate!
Played chiefly in: Clent Hills.
Objective: In the initial round, players must gather ornamental urns containing the cremated remains of friends, relatives or reasonably well-known celebrities. In the second and main round, players use adhesives of their own choosing (usually a simple floury paste) to mould a recognisable head from the ashes. The group as a whole judges the fidelity of each likeness in turn, promoting confidence in the BRITON'S FAIRNESS, and the winner is crowned King or Queenly King of the People Flakes.
Obstacles: Rain; the fleetest participant is elected "the vicar" and attempts in exciting chases to cree to wrestle away urns in the first round, and any player so losing their urn has the ashes poured down their collar; the vicar.
Rating: Healthy.
Game: Botherball.
Played chiefly in: Bala.
Objective: Iron nerves and an inviolate lackadaisicality are the keys to Botherball, in which balls of increasing size from marbles to bowling-balls are flung at players from a steam-catapault; the winner is the last who can be bothered to move out of the way.
Obstacles: The struggled-for acceptance of peers; the remarkable fragility of unset bones.
Rating: Character-building.
Game: My Friend Thuddy.
Played chiefly in: Sennen Cove.
Objective: A question-and-answer game in which one player's imaginary friend, Thuddy, is posing as a famous historical figure, whose identity the other player must guess. Questions and answers are given in a strict format: for example, "Who likes ice-cream?"; "My friend Thuddy"; "Who likes land reformation acts?"; "Not my friend Thuddy." The guessing player has between 10 and 20 questions to deduce whom Thuddy is impersonating.
Obstacles: Thuddy is an invisible malevolent steam-hammer which pounds molten iron into shape for heavy industry, and will pursue you relentlessly from the shadows for the rest of your life if you fail to win his game.
Rating: Folklorey.
Game: Appease the Hideous Man-Beast.
Played chiefly in: Ebury Hill.
Objective: Players attempt, in turn, to knock a marble out of the ring by shooting their tolley. A succeeding player may take another shot; but if no marble is knocked out, and the tolley remains in the ring, another player may attempt to knock that tolley out and thus eliminate the first shooter. Shooting must be performed strictly according to the rules of "knuckling down."
Obstacles: The distraction afforded by the noise from next door's game of Marbles.
Rating: Accurate.
Game: The Pair-Off Knuckle-Rapping Game, Where If A Player Misses The Other's Knuckle, Or, In The Case Of A Fake Strike, The First Player Flinches, A Penalty Is Awarded Which Is Generally Humiliating, Such As Having To Sing A Popular Hit All The Way Through A Capella, Or Giving Your Middle Name, Or Confessing Who Among The Players You Fancy; And While Players Are Rapping Knuckles, They Must Hold Their Breath, And The First Player To Breathe Loses That Round.
Played chiefly in: Crowborough.
Objective: Players compete in pairs to rap each other's knuckles, and if a player misses his opponent, or his opponent flinches while he is delivering a faked blow, the outmanoeuvred player must perform a penalty. These are generally humiliating - for example, singing a popular hit all the way through, a capella, or giving your middle name, or confessing who among the players you fancy.
Obstacles: Players in a round must hold their breath while rapping knuckles, and the first player to breathe is out.
Rating: Overstated.
Game: Folds Of My Face, Depths Of My Heart.
Played chiefly in: Haltwhistle.
Objective: Popular among the delightful romantics of Colleges for Young Ladies, this is a game supposed to reveal the name of your true love. A precisely mixed chemical soup is injected into a player's face, enhancing its plasticity. While the player closes her eyes and thinks of their true love, or possibly a pony, the next player clockwise stretches and folds her face in an elaborate style of interleaving flaps. Once the shape is achieved to this player's satisfaction, the first player tries to unfold her face to reveal the depths of her heart based on the order of features revealed. The formulae vary from College to College but, generally, unwrapping the left eye is seen to indicate the colour of the true love's hair; the right eye, the true love's clothes; the nose, that the true love will have a nose (or will not, if the chin is revealed first); with the contours of the ears spelling out the true love's name, the left and right ear governing vowels and consonants respectively. Freckles, &c, are usually taken to be diacriticals. Once the face is completely unwrapped, play continues clockwise.
Obstacles: Misplaced features, or features which slip below the clavicle, are taken to be a sign that the player will die alone and be partially eaten by her own cats.
Rating: Giggly.
Game: Blimey, That's Grim.
Played chiefly in: Barns Ness.
Objective: A "round" game in which players tell the group meandering, relentlessly downbeat stories in which, typically, the entire cast ends up dead after wasting their every chance.
Obstacles: The saturating dispiritedness, combined with a driving pointlessness, as players are disallowed from commenting on or rating a story in any way except to say at its conclusion, "Blimey, that's grim."
Rating: Grim.
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