|Guestling Woods East Sussex|
Evey, Ivy, O-ver,
Did you play this one? You'd need a big group, and a big rope with two enders, or one ender (nobody wanted to be an ender) and then you'd tie the other end to a drainpipe. Anyway on 'Bluebells, cockle shells' the rope would be swayed, not turned all the way over until the word 'over' in the rhyme. At this the next girl, it was always a girl (and there was only Barry Morgan in our school who could skip I may be wrong here) would run into the rope. She'd sing;
I like coffee I like tea
I like Sheila in with me
And then Sheila would jump in and you'd both skip together and spell out her name as you jumped. But sometimes, and this would be around 1970 in London, I can remember singing;
I like coffee I like tea,
I like sitting on a black man's knee
Which seems completely shocking today - although we didn't think about it then - and did I think I was skipping about my Dad? Not at all, this was the same mythical black man who famously got caught by his toe, best mates, no doubt with the man from China who was forever doing up his flies. Skipping rhymes were always odd and sometimes rude and sometimes completely scatological. Can I just say I am glad those days are gone? I never felt these rhymes were a sign of any kind of innocence.
But that picture, of my walk last week near my new home got me onto the subject of this months' blog and one of my favourite books, Iona and Peter Opie's wonderful book The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren.
I first bought this book in a school fair on a second hand bookstall. Since then I have sought out loads more of their books, collections of rhymes from British playgrounds from the 1950s to the 1980s. These include The Singing Game, and The People In the Playground. If you don't know them and are at all interested in children's play or children's history in general it is so worth seeking them out.
The collected rhymes and songs from all over the country, singing games and clapping games with slight variations depending on north or south. We used to sing (in London);
Under the brown bush
Under the tree
becomes, in the midlands;
Under the bram bushes
Down by the sea
And thinking about it I can still do loads of the verses of Under the Brown Bush, which was a clapping, not a skipping song. As was When Susie was a baby the verse that chronicles Susie's life from baby to skeleton and finally ghost. The verse for 'teenager' sticks in my mind.
When Susie was a teenager,
A teenager Susie was.
She went 'Ooh, ahh, I lost my bra
I left it in my boyfriend's car
There were lots of skipping rhymes that involved the word Mississippi for no good reason. My generation was, I think, very in love with America.
But I think this one was my favourite, it's another skipping one;
Bubble car, bubble car,
Goes round the co-ooooo-rner (runs out of skipping rope and round the enders)
And slams on the brakes (runs back in and traps rope on the word brake).
What was yours?
Catherine Johnson's next book is The Curious Tale of The Lady Caraboo out on July 2 published by Random House