Make do and mend challenge: Entertainment week

After a fun few days of making my own toiletries, I’m on to the fourth and final week of my make do and mend challenge. This time my task is to make my own entertainment and find new, unusual or long forgotten pastimes with which to wile away my time, rather than just vegging out in front of the telly. Nowadays we are spoilt rotten. So much of our entertainment is hi-tech and there for the taking that we don’t need to use our imagination to find ways of passing the time. We can switch on the TV or radio, browse the internet or play with a computer game if we are bored. Yet it only seems like yesterday when back in the playground at school we were making up our own games and stories from thin air.

DJ – a board game lover – suggested I kick off my task with a game of Nine Men’s Morris. It’s an ancient pastime which dates back to the Romans and was the Wii of the Middle Ages, when the craze reached its height. Nine Men’s Morris boards have been found scratched into the cloister seats at numerous cathedrals around the UK and the game is even mentioned in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

I’ve never been much of a board game fan, though. The problem is that I’m impatient, competitive and a sore loser, which doesn’t make for a good combination. Plus I tend to lose repeatedly because I lack the patience to spend hours developing the level of skill required to win. While we share many hobbies, DJ sometimes misses the days when he lived in a shared house with another board games nut, Pete. The two of them would happily spend all weekend playing backgammon or Risk. In contrast, I am so competitive that I once got the huff and stormed off during a drunken game of strip chess, which I also lost. But for the benefit of the make do and mend challenge, I decided to give it a go and see if my patience with board games has mellowed with age.

I was keen to make my own Nine Men’s Morris board, but DJ tactfully pointed out that perhaps I should wait until I decided whether I liked the game before I took the trouble to do so. I considered drawing one out in the soil in the back garden – DJ remembers seeing people in Africa when he was growing up playing a similar game called Mancala in the ground by the side of the road – but it kept raining. Instead I came across a board pattern on the internet and printed it off and we used different coloured beads (again, my collection of beads came in useful) as our markers or ‘men’. The board was a bit precarious but worked well enough.

Each player starts with nine markers and a board with spaces and lines as shown above. The players take it in turns to place their markers around the board and when they are all present, the players each move a marker in turn to a space along the lines. When a player forms a ‘mill’ – three adjacent markers in a straight line – he or she can remove one of his or her opponents’ markers. The game continues until the loser (me) has only two markers left or cannot move. Needless to say, I lost every single game DJ and I played although my strategy was beginning to improve slightly towards the end of the afternoon. DJ admitted that he was beginning to worry in one game when I managed to lift three of his pieces from the board, but soon he recovered his composure and helped himself to the rest of mine.

It’s a simple but absorbing game and I can see why it could become so addictive in the past. I really wish I enjoyed board games more because with something like this you could easily amuse yourself with a game anywhere in the world for no money whatsoever, wherever you are, as long as you can scratch out the board, have some counters to use and a willing opponent.

Do you enjoy board games? Which are your favourites? Got any other suggestions for my make do and mend entertainment week? Leave a message and let me know.

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7 Responses to Make do and mend challenge: Entertainment week

  1. Bill says:

    I have never had the patience for crosswords, & could not learn chess. I am far too practical. We used to have a pack of picture cards, one pack had wild animals, another had flowers, one had trees. Each card had the name on the reverse. The trick was to ID as many pics as possible correctly, in the shortest time. We also had much entertainment from our fag card collections, & Brooke Bond also issued cards with every quarter of tea. We also had our Golly- . . . collections, from Robertson\’s, sadly, for some daft reason, no longer "PC".We also used to race through a number of different First-Aid dressings, including slings & splints, in the shortest possible time. We did much the same with a number of different knots.Have you tried skipping or hoola hoops to music? Both extremely good for circulation, as also respiration. Improve the blood oxygen, therefore the blood sugar, each by 10%, the stamina, speed of reaction etc. will automatically improve by the same 10%.

  2. Bill says:

    A good place to commence with knotting: fun!

  3. Christine says:

    Board games do require a certain level of patience on concentration as well as free time – much the same as learning a musical instrument or singing which is another form of home made entertainment. Painting and embroidery likewise require time, patience and concentration. Bill\’s knotting idea is a good one as you\’d be amazed at the number of times the knowledge will come in handy. Gardeners can use a knowledge of knots – from erecting cane supports for beans and peas to hanging up nets to store onions come instantly to mind. But again patience is required and concentration too. It\’s odd though – for an impatient child, I sure didn\’t mind doing handicrafts (knitting and embroidery) which required time spent at the job. I do love Aran knitting patterns. But then I had the example of handicraft orientated grandmothers who grew up way before TV became common place. They were also musical and great readers. It left me with many ideas for free time. I remember the great card collecting age too Bill. It kept us busy as children didn\’t it? Along with simple ball games – all you needed was the ball and a wall if there were no friends who played rounders, football, French cricket ….It\’s sad that so many of us have grown up without any other influence than a television for spare time. I can\’t settle down to a TV as it doesn\’t engage the mind or the hands enough to make it worth having one.

  4. Christine says:

    You would possibly enjoy Pass the Bomb which requires fast thinking and total malevolence. Have you tried Twister? The person in charge of the "clock" item certainly can have fun once you get into the swing and learn to cheat without getting caught. Hmm – wonder why I\’m never invited to play twister any more?

  5. Kerri says:

    My nephew hates Pass the Bomb, he\’s a really bad loser and will cheat at anything and everything…that is one game he can\’t cheat at and it annoys the hell out of him. 🙂

  6. piper says:

    I\’ve never heard of this pass the bomb game. Will have to investigate. Thanks!

  7. David says:

    Ooooh, strip chess sounds very slow and teasy! I have a wee book called "Discovering Old Board Games" by R.C. Bell which has enough easily roughed-up board games, dating from 3000BC, to last through a nuclear winter. It\’s one of the "Discovering" titles in the Shire Books series. This one is ISBN 0 85263 533 8 should any of your readers be interested. Now – you\’re on – pawn to King 4…

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