The Back Yard

Justin Newcombe's tips for creating a gorgeous and productive garden

The back yard: All fun and games

By Justin Newcombe

Looking back in time for entertainment ideas proves a hit with the kids, writes Justin Newcombe.

Justin Newcombe in the process of making Quoits. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Justin Newcombe in the process of making Quoits. Photo / Steven McNicholl

I recently took my kids to an exhibition on the history of home entertainment. The show contained obscure ancient world games, pre-settler Maori games as well as colonial entertainment stretching into the present day. It was a great show. As you would expect there was a throng of kids heading for the spacies parlour, as it was called back in the day.

But though this exhibit was popular, I'd have to say the kids using it weren't the ones having the most fun. That tribute went to the early colonial games which included quoits, stilts and skittles.

Since it's school holidays, I thought I'd show you how to set up these simple games for my DIY this weekend.

Quoits claims its origins in the peasant customs of ancient Greece. It was spread by the Romans and adored by the Britons. Quoits became a pub sport with fighting erupting regularly between rival teams and their supporters. Of course it was the quoits that caused all the trouble and not the drink - has history taught us nothing? It became such a problem that both Edward III and Richard II banned the game, but, just like alcohol prohibition it just made quoits even more popular.

That all sounds pretty sexy but what the heck is quoits? It's the game where you throw a rope ring around a peg in the ground.

If quoits doesn't do it for you then what about stilts? At the show we visited, some very determined kids were lapping up the challenge of stilt walking. Stilts were common at medieval European festivals and tournaments for both combat and entertainment. Apparently they were used widely by French shepherds who had to traverse difficult marshy country. Because they started on the stilts as children, they became extremely nimble and adept at using them and the extra-long gait meant they could cover great distances at some speed. This unusual tradition persisted right up until the beginning of the 20th century. Rather than some strange sort of stilt dog trailing though, I thought stilt soccer might be a good idea. You just need two colours of stilt, a ball and some markers for goals.

Lastly there's skittles. To gain a historical perspective on skittles, all you need to see is two mates trying to knock a tin can off a fencepost with a stone. That's something prehistoric people probably did and is still entertaining today (go out and try it), big bunch of knuckle draggers that we are. Hitting objects with other objects is the basis of so many games from billiards to ten pin bowling, lawn bowls and croquet. An important evolutionary phase in this primal notion of throwing stuff is skittles. Skittles today exists in many forms but the basis is still the same. We give points for how many skittles you can knock down in a single throw. You could colour-code or number them and the better throwers can take aim from further away. I use a tarp as a back stop and fire logs as the skittles themselves.

Although we may live in the age of technology and endless entertainments we should not forget that something doesn't stop being enjoyable just because we stop doing it.

If there's one thing that never goes out of fashion, it's having fun.

- NZ Herald

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