When I was a child I loathed the organised games at parties we were taken to – perhaps it would be more truthful to say I dreaded them – especially games of a certain kind; the games a child I once taught used to call ‘winning games.’
I was rather slow and clumsy as a child and certain to doom any team I was ordered to join. When the inevitable happened and my team came last, I’d cringe with shame, and though the other children never expressed their anger openly I always felt scorched by their scorn.
However parties at home were much more fun, because we always played harmless games such as Hunt the Thimble, but my all time favourite was a jigsaw game. We always played it at Christmas, or on someone’s birthday.
A large number of old Christmas or birthday cards, carefully kept for the purpose, were cut up into five or six irregular pieces. One piece was carefully chosen from each card – one that was neither too obvious nor obscure – it was held back and put in a tin or basket, while the rest were placed around the house in clear view on tables, window ledges, mantelpieces, bookcases and so on.
I remember most clearly playing this at Lorton, where we had a large house with a multitude of rooms, corridors with window seats, and so on. We would each chose a piece from the tin and go hunting for the rest of the card. It was like a treasure hunt combined with completing a mini jigsaw.
Once our card was complete we raced back to the adult in charge of the tin and having shown it to them chose another starter piece. There was always a generous time limit, and the winner was whoever managed to complete the most number of cards before the time was up. As someone who had enjoyed doing jigsaws since I was very young, I had a good chance of success, but whether I won or not, nobody was pointed up as an obvious loser, and the mood was one of friendly rivalry.
It’s a game which suited a child who was not much good in a team, or who was of a nervous temperament, since no one was urging me to hurry, or relying on me for their own success.
Sadly, today a lot of houses might be rather small for this game, but I still remember it with great pleasure. If you host a children’s party of any kind, you could give it a go. I suppose it could be played in a garden if the weather is favourable.