Writing the post about playing with my family, I started to think about how to describe the other people who have played with me.
Some are friends, people I know well, have known for ages or have been getting to know for a while. Playing with friends is a chance to find out more about their background; it prompts different conversations from those that we would normally have over coffee. Rather than chatting about work or what we’ve been up to, we find ourselves talking about growing up and about family.
Other players are strangers. People that I meet for the first time when we play the game together. These are the people that I am thinking about today. The word ‘stranger’ seems inadequate and ‘people that I meet for the first time when we play the game together’ is a little too wordy, but describes the group more accurately. The nature of the game means that by the time we finish playing we know quite a lot about each other.
At the Living Memory Association in Edinburgh, I played a game with Sheila Webb. She had grown up in Sheffield, but moved north to Edinburgh when still a child following the death of her father. We talked about her family and we talked about Sheffield. Maybe I was a little homesick by this point, but I really enjoyed sharing memories of my adopted home city. Sheila recalled the evocative perfume of plants from the step outside her Sheffield home; a scent that could still conjure place. She remembered re-visiting the city years later as a married woman and seeing a small seemingly insignificant thing – a pipe in a wall – that took her back to a moment so many years earlier.
We spent a long time chatting and playing, but the details in my notes seem slight. As I sit here and try to recall facts, I struggle.
But I remember the feeling. I remember a friendship made through the game. I remember Sheila who had faced so many difficulties in her own life sharing her stories. I remember her making me smile with her memories. I remember the hug that she gave me when she left.
The research is about experience. One thing that Sheila said was that the game was emotional, that not all the emotions were happy, but that it was nice. I’ve underlined ‘nice’ in my notebook. It’s good sometimes to talk about sad times, about people we miss; I found this when I played with my family, but I also found it when I played with people that I had never met before, including Sheila.
‘Nice’ is a funny word. It’s a positive, but inflected with a sense of inadequacy. Maybe it is a perfect word here, talking about our own family can be comfortable and also uncomfortable. The ladders up and down ensure that the performance moves between both and, I hope, overall that the experience is nice.
Games can currently be booked at Cakes & Ale Café, Bookcase, 17-19 Castle Street, Carlisle, CA3 8SY – Sunday, 3 February to Saturday 9 February, 2019, A week of games at 2.30pm every day!
Reserve a FREE place: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/lines-and-ladders-tickets-52900082571