With Christmas just around the corner and thoughts of office parties and present purchasing burrowing into our minds like little festive tics, it’s time to take a few moments to get all warm and nostalgic.
Before you ask, no, this article is not about the spirit of Christmas, the joy of giving or the eternal seasonal struggle to get to Number One in the Hit Parade aka: good vs Simon Cowell.
For this particular winter stroll down memory lane I’ve plumped for something that was, in our house, regarded with an exceedingly high level of importance – game playing.
That’s right, a family game. We turned off the TV, surrounded the coffee table and ‘had fun’. It was fun too. Well, as I can remember through my childlike haze of Yuletide magic. Classic moments that I can recall were: my grandma answering Trivial Pursuit questions when it clearly wasn’t her turn, my brother, who had just returned from his gap year in Australia, teaching me how to play the card game Yaniv and, last but by no means least, my sister throwing a fit when nobody guessed that she was miming Dirty Dancing whilst playing Charades.
So, with battered box lids opened and hands clutching die shakers let’s indulge in the battles, arguments and bitter taste of defeat that inevitably arises every Christmas when somebody shouts: ‘let’s play a game!’
Nostalgia ratings are marked against TV programmes that we could have been watching instead.
I loved playing ‘Triv’ as we called it in my family. This was the one true game where we got into teams and slugged it out until the thickest lost. My mum really used to come into her own during the art and literature round and I think it wasn’t long after my 12th birthday that I realised I knew more about sport than my dad.
Nostalgia rating of: Wizard of Oz
This was not to be played with any grown-ups after they’d had a few sherries because the chances are that they’d release the little ball and before you know it the man would dive into the bucket and the rattling old trap would fall without a mouse in sight. Not much skill involved and took ages to set up.
Nostalgia rating of: Charlie Brown Christmas
Boo Monopoly! This was the game that my dad always won and I’m sure has in some ways contributed to me never getting a mortgage. I used to go for the orange ones and the yellow ones. However, by the time I’d got a set my father had usually strategically placed a couple of hotels on each side of the board and I was happy to go straight to jail to avoid paying him any more money.
Nostalgia rating of: The Grinch that Stole Christmas
Although not a family game by any stretch of the imagination, I did play a traditional game of chess with my uncle that would last for what seemed like an eternity. The uncle in question, who was a qualified mathematician, used to spend literally hours deliberating over each move and would invariably win. The one and only time I did win, using the kids’ favourite ‘Schools Mate’, Uncle Ian took a further half an hour staring at the board while I did a lap of honour around the kitchen.
Nostalgia rating of: Doctor Who
The Game of Life
This was deemed as a children’s game in our house although the subject matter of having babies and deciding whether to follow a career path, go to university or undertake volunteer work abroad were pretty much out of my pre-teen jurisdiction.
Nostalgia rating of: Jonathan Creek
Of course, there were many other games and pastimes that passed through my family Christmases and from Hungry Hippos to Cluedo, they all have a little nostalgic place in my heart. If I had to pick one particular game that was neither board nor boring as my all-time favourite it would have to be Charades.
This creative miming game was an absolute classic in our house and although I’ve tried I still cannot rid myself of the image of my fourteen year old sister straddling the arm of the couch as my grandma looked on in horror and my mum asked whether she was miming Champion the Wonder Horse.
Chris is looking forward to Christmas and glad he no longer has to share his bedroom with his gran.