On Sunday, Ro noticed that a game of Monopoly was out. It didn’t take up much room, being a travelling set. Pugsley had asked to play it, having noticed it in the cloakroom cupboard. I’d been surprised, but apparently there are children’s versions nowadays, I expect he was a bit puzzled to find out how much more complex it was than the one he is used to. It was especially complex because it was a Spanish version, and also because the print was so small. I could hardly read the road names on the board and had to pick it up and peer every time one of us landed on it. Some years ago, we started to collect different language versions when we were on holiday. Weeza brought one home from Greece, which is the hardest to play.
The board we normally used was an American one, using the original Atlantic City road names, and Ro said that that’s the one he thinks of as right – that is, to him it’s Boardwalk rather than Mayfair and so on. He said that at university he and his housemates played Monopoly a good deal one year. They had league tables and everything. I know. So does he. He was amused rather than defensive, however. We agreed that the reason that games usually go on for so long is because of the house rules that each family devises, and permitting borrowing. If you go strictly by the rules, as they did, it’s quite quick.
We talked about other games we used to play and who was best at which. I liked number and word games, but the rest of the family were not keen on them because I usually won – I had learned all the two letter words in Scrabble, for example, which put me at an advantage – although only because I’d gone to the trouble, they could have too. Al’s speciality was Cluedo. He had an intricate system of symbols which he used to note down people’s answers and was able to deduce everyone’s cards in minutes. We could never understand how he got the right answer so quickly. Weeza was good at games involving a visual memory, something I’m fairly hopeless at. I remember what I’ve read, but not what I’ve seen. Ro was always good at poker, something that stood him in good stead at university. There’s no fun in poker if you don’t gamble, but I’m not interested in gambling (especially not against my children), so we had a tin of coins, shared them out at the beginning and put them back at the end.
The Sage never was interested in games, but the rest of us liked them. Even when the children were well in their teens, I’d buy a new game at Christmas for us to play. Dilly likes them too, so we sometimes play them at that time of year even now. Pugsley, in the few weeks since we’ve last played together, has started to take them quite seriously. He’d throw his dice, study them, and then solemnly give the answer. “Six add five make eleven,” he’d say and move his counter. He doesn’t count on his fingers, he does the sum in his head. He is very much looking forward to starting school and has been practising his reading, writing and arithmetic in preparation. For myself, I’m still enjoying the holidays, now I’ve finally got time to think about them.