Entry 13 to the diary does feel as though maybe it should be avoided. Kept short. It has to be written or there can be no 14.
I have a superstitious streak. I’ll avoid certain things, like mixing red and white (blood and bandages), just in case. Yesterday, I passed someone on the stairs, we joked about it and then I tripped up the steps. I’m not saying that luck had anything to do with it, but, you know, it might not have happened if I had waited…
This is something that I share with my mother. When I was little, she once sewed green stalks on to a t-shirt decorated with strawberries that I had been given. Solving the problem of the red and white curse. Perhaps it’s in the genes, Mum believes she inherited her superstitions from her mother.
One of the first pieces of advice often given to budding genealogists is to talk to your relatives. The ability or impossibility of doing this features in Lines And Ladders. It is often the emotional crux of the performance.
I have played the game with my Mum and Dad. They came to Edinburgh and played in Miller’s Sandwich Bar. It was a slightly rushed game played as soon as they arrived. One thing that I took away from it was that if I am meeting someone I know and I haven’t seen for a while, it’s a good idea to get the catching up out of the way first.
When my brother, Eddie, and his girlfriend, Cheryl, played a couple of weeks later, I made sure we had time to chat first, so that when we started playing we were able to focus.
The stories that I tell when playing with family resonate differently. For this project and for my own interest, I have done quite a bit of research into our family history. Playing with family becomes a chance to tell about my discoveries, including a revelation about the birthplace of my great-great grandmother, Katherine McNeill. This is one of the stories that I often tell in the performance, but it mattered more when I told my mum.
I learn too. Cheryl told me that her family ended up in the town they now live in, as a result of wartime evacuation. Eddie and I talk about some of our shared history that makes us feel uncomfortable. We found space in the game to dig a little deeper.
The roll of the dice guides the conversation. Playing with my husband, I ask questions that I haven’t thought to ask for a while; we talk about family members who we miss, but don’t talk about enough.
Lines And Ladders is a way of making time to tell stories. It’s a way of pushing conversation in different directions. And I feel lucky to have been able to play the game with my family.
A pineapple jug that my Granny Kelly gave me for good luck with a dress I bought myself whilst I was in Edinburgh, thinking I might need the extra luck it would bring, but I’m not really that superstitious. Honest.