Americans are stealing Scotland’s playground games! – Susan Morrison

Children at Play - Girls playing skipping ropes - Lapicide Place - Leith
Children at Play - Girls playing skipping ropes - Lapicide Place - Leith
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Scotland’s playground games are being turned into fitness crazes by canny Americans, writes Susan Morrison.

The young woman was most enthusiastic. She told me this was a brand-new fitness craze in America. You get a rubber ball that fits in the palm of your hand, you bounce it off the ground at a wall and you catch it when it comes back and start again, and when you get good at it, you use two balls and when you get really good at it, you spin around in between the balls coming back to you. It is, she said, breathlessly, a seriously dynamic cardio workout.

A game of peevers gets under way in the same Leith street

A game of peevers gets under way in the same Leith street

Women over a certain age will be nodding with the same slow bemused expression I had when my excited friend was talking to me. She was ­talking about balls. Feel free to snigger at the back there.

In my primary school, no wall was left unmarked by the scores of multi-coloured rubber balls battered relentlessly against the sandstone at playtime and lunchtime. The constant thud must have driven the jannie mad.

Mind you, not all year round. At some secret signal, the balls were put away and the elastics came out. I don’t know if this is a US fitness craze yet, but it’s only a matter of time. Bags of elastic bands of all colours were looped together to form long strings which girls jumped over. Well, I say jump. There isn’t a woman over 50 who doesn’t recall the rasp of an ­elastic rope up the side of the leg when an ill-judged scissor jump went wrong. Think Chinese burn, but longer, and with a right vicious sting at the knee cap.


In their turn the elastics would mysteriously vanish, and the ­skipping season would start, big long ropes with a wee lassie on each end. In and out you jumped, whilst singing about dusty bluebells and sailors who went to sea-sea-sea to see-what-they-could-see-see-see.

There were a disturbing number of songs concerning abandoned women and babies going down the plughole now that I think about it.

Seriously dynamic workout, is it? You do realise what’s happening here? These bloomin’ Americans are nicking what could be Scotland’s contribution to the world of workouts. Balls, elastics and ropes? We’ve got ourselves a brand-new fitness craze – with singing. We haven’t even talked about peevers.

We’re on to something here, Scotland.

There was one other playtime activity. One minute the peever beds would be rattling with shoe polish tins with a pebble in them and then came that strange silent signal, and the chalk lines would vanish to be replaced by scraps, little coloured shiny cut-outs of weirdly sinister skinny Santas, gingerbread houses and fat cherubs on clouds in ­different sizes. The best ones were German. The jannies must have heaved a sigh of relief.


Swapping scraps was far more sedate. You sat next to your best mate. You had a book to put your scraps in. For some reason it had to be a grown-up book, with no pictures. Angela McNeill caused a bit of a stushie when she was found to have repurposed a Book Club Pick of the Month, the novelisation of the big screen hit, Last Tango in Paris. It was quite the publishing sensation at the time, but most definitely not what you want falling into the hands of a classroom of nine-year-olds.

You sat in a sunny corner with your book and swapped out your doubles or bargained away some of your smaller sunny cherubs for a giant ­gingerbread house. That’s all you did.

Now, that’s an exercise I could get behind.

It takes guts to have my surgery

The English used to have a fairly thorough form of execution known as hanging, drawing and quartering. String you up, haul your innards out and then cut you up.

It’s a method of doing you in that brings a whole new meaning to the term ‘overkill’.

Incidentally, I’m not sure what sort of impact it had on crime rates, but I’m willing to bet there’s now a party south of the Border campaigning to bringing it back.

Well, it occurred to me last week that the surgery I’ve just gone through is the middle bit of the court order, only under more hygienic circumstances and minus a baying mob. Also, I have a longer recovery time.

Archie won’t be sitting around when it comes to his birthright

Of course there is no title for the new royal baby.

This is how every plot line for every savage battle by every embittered claimant for the throne starts, from Shakespeare to Tolkien and George RR Martin.

A royal son, denied his birth right, festering in the shadows, nursing resentments, banging out the odd soliloquy, until the moment comes when he strikes down his rivals and seizes the crown.

Admittedly, there’s usually only one or two competing claims to deal with. Our boy has his work cut out with seven, but my money’s on Archie. Get popcorn. This is gonna make Game of Thrones look like a Treeza May cabinet meeting.