*

Dreams and Nightmares 43/page 10

 

What’s My Line

 

Skipping games were to be very popular in the days before TV.

 

Straight skipping, cross skipping (and straight and crossed combined) were practised and perfected, forming huge beauteous cat’s-cradles above the cobbles. And the rhymes that accompanied such games could have filled a bumber hymnal.

 

One gang of skipping wastrels, who lived amid the dead ends off Change Street, were led by one Digory Smalls. The rest, of course, were girls, in hastily run-up frocks. The question why a boy like Digory should interest himself In such frivolities did not even arise. Everyone took it for granted. Even the grown-ups who often sat outside at the terraced walk-in parlour doorways nodded knowingly. They then pointed up to the TV aerials

decking the chimneystacks like so much costume jewellery, as if such things were actually relevant and that they knew what the future held in store. Most residents had the loose ends of the aerial leads dangling inside their parlours, waiting for the invention of TV sets….

 

However, most of such flex had been stripped from the wainscoting to be used in the skipping games. Digory’s shrill voice could be heard echoing even beyond twilight … when there were none of the girls to skip through the double-U’s … or, for that matter, to help turn them from the smooth-lathed wooden handholds.

 

It soon became too dark for Digory’s solitary skipping rhymes to be heard clearly. But urchinesses, crawling deeper under the lumpy duckdowns, dreamed that their skipper (who was allowed to stay up irreligiously late Into the peculiar waking world of grown-ups) crooned songs that nobody understood, least of all the singer himself:­Skipping, skipping, skipping ghosts,

The looping lines of night;

Turning, crossing, tatting ghosts,

The witching lines of night.

 

Turning, turning, turning frocks,

The washing lines of night;

Twirling, crossing, hemming frocks,

The whipping lines of night.

 

But that all happened in those strange heady days before nationwide TV. D. F. Lewis

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