I was fascinated by the Peter and Iona Opie book first published 1959 of their study of the language and traditions of playground games and rhymes of schoolchildren.
Some of these I learnt as a child initially came from my mother and sister, but most were learnt at my primary school in Lewisham, south east London.
We played ball, we skipped and we dashed around the play ground playing ‘He’.
‘Feinites’ little fingers close linked, was the magic word we used to get out of any tight spot, such as being caught at ‘He’
I suppose we would be classed as ‘deprived of outside stimulus’ in this day and age because my memory of our playground is everlasting tarmac or concrete wherever you looked – not a tree or a blade of grass in sight.
The big boys (eight to eleven year olds) were confined behind iron railings adjacent to the little one’s area (me and my friends aged 5-7). No bullying was allowed and there was always a master in charge of the big boys so I only remember a few bloody noses caused by passionate fights about some mysterious football teams called Charlton Athletic or Woolwich Arsenal!
My very first playground rhyme went a bit like this:
‘One, two, three a-lairy
My ball’s down the airy,
Don’t forget to give it to Mary
Early in the morning.’
This was chanted as we played ‘two-balls’ up against the extremely high concrete rendered wall which was actually the back of St. Saviour’s Church, which fronted Lewisham High Street.
When I started ‘Tales Out of School’ I felt I had to draw on this rich and intriguing heritage of our children, so I have included a few rhymes I remember in Tales out of School, together with some culled from the Opie book.
I hope they are a reminder of one or two of your own.
If you have any you would like to be recorded in my collection I would love to have them. please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org