Mere bagatelle

If you asked anyone of my generation what Minecraft was, they’d probably say it’s something decorative made out of coal you’d put on a mantelpiece.  For those without grandchildren, it is a computer game.

In the ‘60s, growing up a computer was as big as a house, and you only saw one if you lived next door to Alan Turing.

One of the things which entertained me indoors was a bagatelle board.   If you were to describe it – a wooden slab, full of nails, splinters and with ball bearings hit viciously with a wooden stick – it sounds more like a Medieval torture than a schoolboy pastime.  

A good Balham primary school mate had one and, because neither of us had school dinners (both had allergies to caterpillars – which were prevalent within the salads), we’d play most lunchtimes.  I think we both secretly hoped we’d have an international bagatelle scout come and watch us.  This was unlikely, as my mate always kept his bedroom door shut – plus, we’d been warned at a very early age to look out for bagatelle scouts.

We also had a shove halfpenny board but, after decimalisation in February 1971, frantically stowed it away in case the Inland Revenue came to our flat looking for illegal currency.

Penny up the wall anyone?

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