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Mirth and Dancing
Sedentary Games


This is an unsuspectedly instructive (and, we hope, amusing) game which is one of several that have been invented specially for users of this book. It derives from the saddening reflection that, marry whom we will and try as we may, we cannot endow our offspring with the temperaments, gifts or characters which our own experience of life tells us would be the best with which to go through life without discredit or despair. We may attend pre-natal clinics in the hope that the unborn jock or Jean will inherit the qualities of our own favourite uncle or our admired sister-in-law, but for all that we and the scientists can do, the little wretch may come into the world with the mental outfit of cousin Tom, with his ticket-of-leave, or of great-aunt Sarah, who did not drink herself into the grave until she had driven the rest of her family into it. Worst of all, it may have its parents' most regrettable faults in an aggravated form and without their compensating virtues. The most we can achieve is to wait and hope -and see, trusting that, if we have got a sow's ear, large sums of money spent on the latest psychological treatment will turn it into a piece of useful, decent leather. Happy Families enables us to imagine for a short time that we are controllers of destiny.

Each player has paper and pencil and too points to distribute between the ten listed qualities for an imaginary boy or girl to whom we should most gladly be parents. Alternative lists can be substituted if the two here given seem to fall short. But whatever the ten you decide upon they must in any single game be common for the boy and the girl and to all the players.

N.B. - The condition of good health has been omitted from both our lists as being of course.

Looks and/or Charm Stupidity
Intellect Conceit
Athleticism Conventionality
Artistic gifts Hardness
Sensibility Sex appeal
Wit and/or humour Selfishness
Will-power Ambition
Affection Good spirits
Religious feeling Enthusiasm
Wisdom Swank

Players may put noughts for any qualities they think their child would be better without. But they must make up for this by increasing points for the qualities they consider desirable and, when added up, the points must reach 100, even should the 100 be confined to one quality. The process is completed first for Jock, then for Jean, and the finished paper is passed on to the right-hand neighbour who reads it silently and awards marks, taking 100 as the maximum and judging according to the merits as a whole. The papers are passed on from hand to hand till all are thus marked by each person, their own excepted. They are then all read aloud in turn by one player. The person who has the highest general marks is winner.


Each person writes down his or her name at the top of a long slip of paper and hands it on to his or her neighbour on the right. One player, who is in charge of the game, then reads out the first "quality" on our list (or on any list invented for the occasion) and the players write down at the bottom of the paper what measure, etc., of this quality he would prescribe for a mate were he Providence intending a happy marriage for the name at the top of the paper. He then folds over the lower end of the slip, so that the next player, to whom he passes it in turn, will not see his opinion. The next player, aware only of the name at the top, plays Providence again by appending his reply to the second question as this is read out. And so on, until each paper has been the round, without, however, returning to the named person. The named persons then receive their own papers back and each in turn reads out the description of his or her mate. After this the papers once more go the round, each player (except the one named at the top) recording his or her opinion of the match as a whole - with a view to its prospects of a happy married life - by allotted marks, with 10 as the full mark. The player in charge then re-reads all the papers aloud, in each case giving the added-up marks. The person who, in the estimation of the company, is most satisfactorily mated, is the winner.

N.B. - Our list allows for ten players. If there are fewer it must be cut to the required length; if more, additional qualities must be added.

Social estimation Age
Temperament Tastes
Worldly goods Nationality
Profession or position Will-power
Appearance Talents


Being the silliest of all round games, this is fittest for a tedious railway or coach journey when cards and other distractions have palled. Somebody takes the lead by cocking his thumb up on his knee and saying "Simon says thumbs up!" Everybody does the like. Other commands are "Simon says thumbs down", "Simon says trot-trot-trot" (which means that the players must keep jigging the downturned thumb while the leader repeats the words) and "Simon says stop trotting". But the name of power is Simon. If it is omitted the command is bad, and he who obeys it is out.

N.B. - The only merit of this game is that it can be played for money. Any average punter can think of a dozen ways of doing this, but the simplest is to have a kitty into which everybody puts a chip to start with, and then a leader is chosen by lot. A player who falls out can buy himself in three times at a chip a time, and can take the bank (become leader) on payment of two chips. Should two or more players wish to take the bank at the same time they must bid against each other, the highest bidder winning. The leader may not bid. The game goes on until only two are left in, one being leader. At this stage no player can buy in except the one who is left, which means that leader and player can change places as often as they like by the player paying in two chips. The leader who catches the player out wins the kitty.


A captain is chosen. He asks the first player the name of the letter and the answer is A: (1) Name of ship, (2) of captain, (3) of cargo, (4) where from? (5) whither bound? (6) B: and so on. Promptitude is essential, and if the answer is not forthcoming while the other players count three aloud the defaulting player loses a life. Three lives lost eliminates him from the game.


Each player tries not to complete a word but to force somebody else to do so, the round proceeding letter by letter. A person so forced loses a life, but has three lives.


The Yezidis of Iraq, a simple and logical people, argue that as the Devil is admittedly an influential personage in human affairs, one ought to do nothing that might offend him. Accordingly they not only refrain from pronouncing his name (Sheitan) but all words beginning with sh. This complicates their lives - how much so can be tested in any company. Let the company agree that a certain letter of the alphabet (or combination of letters) is taboo and that no word containing it may be used. Then, strictly observing the taboo, let A ask B a question, which B answers, also observing the taboo, after which B fires a question at C, who in turn does his best. And so on. Any player who utters a taboo word or fails to answer while avoiding it throughout three seconds counted by the others, is out, but this does not prevent him from putting his question to the next player.

There are other variants of this game. Quite a good one is:


One of the company assumes any sort of fantastic dress that may be handy and calls himself the Old Man of the Woods. The other players assume the names of wild animals-lion, tiger, bear, etc. Each in turn is asked by the Old Man of the Woods what he has been hunting and what he has eaten to-day, and answers any nonsense that occurs to him. If the answer contains a letter that the Old Man of the Woods has secretly decided to be taboo, then the player is pronounced "guilty" and pays a forfeit for each time the forbidden letter occurs in his answer.


Several categories-persons, things, etc. - are chosen, and a letter of the alphabet. Each player, subject to a time limit, is to write down ten names in each category beginning with the chosen letter. Score one for each person who has got a name not written by anybody else. (There are many variations of this game, and new ones can always be devised.)


This is a sit-round-the-fire game in which the players wear their glummest Sabbatical faces-excepting one, who grins all he knows how. After a moment or two this obliging idiot passes his hand across his face "to wipe off the grin", which he then throws with a gesture at another player, who in turn does his smiling best-and so on. Any player who smiles without being thrown a smile or who fails to stop smiling, having thrown his smile away, is out.


Read out a list of famous nicknames, allowing ten seconds for the players to write down the true name of each person alluded to: e.g. the Swan of Avon (Shakespeare), the Great Lexicographer (Dr. Johnson), Ursa Major (Dr. Johnson), the Stagirite (Aristotle), etc.


A asks his left-hand neighbour B some fool question, to which B gives what answer he can, not being a mere yes or no. In the same way B questions C, and C questions D, etc. When the round is complete each player has to repeat (a) the question he had from his right-hand neighbour and (b) the answer he had from his left-hand one.


This is a good game for players who are shy of speech. Two players go out as for ordinary "clubs", while those in the room decide upon something they think will be difficult to guess, such a "a hair of the dog that bit you". The players who come in are to try which of them can make the discovery first. They go round in opposite directions, asking questions as fast as they can, but are answered only by nods, becks and wreathing smiles, or by shakes of the head. They may speak as much as they like, but all answers must be in dumb show and, although gesture in moderation is allowed-as, for example, rough measurements given with the hands-there must be no employment of the dumb alphabet. The questioner who elicits the secret first has won, and the one from whom he had the final clue goes out next time with the unsuccessful player. Or it may be played with a number of small clubs, the successful questioner always joining the club which gave him the clue until the largest club wins. In this case the unsuccessful questioner must go out in the company of one player from the unsuccessful club in which he finds himself at the end.


Each player has a piece of paper upon which he puts five dots disposed as he pleases. The slips are then mixed in a hat, nobody being allowed to draw his own. When redistributed a drawing has to be made on each slip which shall touch all the points in its outline. The drawings may be confined to animals or human beings or faces. When finished they are passed round for marking, five marks being the maximum. All the marks are added up at the end and the highest-marked drawing wins.


One player starts addressing the company as provocatively as possible, having reference to the various known prejudices of members of the audience! At every pause in the discourse every member of the audience must say "Hear, hear!" with enthusiasm, either real or realistically simulated. If any member of the audience either fails to utter the response within an appreciable interval or with manifest lack of enthusiasm, the speaker notes the fact and passes on the speaking to that one to continue. And so it goes on. Each person who thus has to become speaker loses one life, and each speaker who passes on the post gains two lives. To begin with, each player has five lives. The one who first gains ten lives has won.


Two go out. Those who remain in the room choose the name of some famous man or woman, the number of letters in the name corresponding to the number of players in the room. They sit in any order (though if you want to make the game easier they may sit in the proper order for the spelling of the name). The two who come in put questions, racing all the time, to the sitting players, each of whom has chosen, in addition to the common name and unknown to the rest, some other famous name beginning with the letter assigned to him. The questioning player who first discovers the common name has won.

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