Games People Play: Norman Thelwell, 75, artist

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The Independent Culture
THERE WERE lots of games in the street. I think it was the fact that there simply wasn't the traffic that there is now. We played with the other children in the street. Thinking about it now, it's difficult to remember how many games there were. There was no particular rough stuff that people objected to, except that we played ball games against end- of-terrace houses, and the dear old ladies would come out and say, "I've had enough. Do you mind banging it against someone else's wall?"

When it got dark, you had to close your eyes and count to a hundred, while the other children scattered up and down the street and hid in what were laughingly known as gardens. These were the little patches in front of the windows, and if you climbed in, someone usually had to pull you out again.

We'd also tie door-knockers together. We'd say: "Charlie's father is good because he gets mad as hell, and comes and chases us." So we would wait until it was dark, and tie the end of a reel of cotton to the knocker on Charlie's door. Then we'd walk to the opposite side of the road, and tap the door by pulling the string. The door would open, but they wouldn't be able to see anything, because the streets were not lit as they are today. The thing was not to giggle, and the only one who was really frightened was Charlie, because if we'd been caught, he'd have got his head cuffed.

Eventually Charlie's father would come out and look up and down the street, and say something that he shouldn't say to children - "You little buggers" - and we would disappear into the darkness.

Thelwell's `The Brat-race', his well known cartoons of small children and horses, is published in paperback by Methuen, price pounds 6.99

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