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Pastimes for Peter Pan

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This game relies entirely on wide general knowledge, hardly comparable with the more relaxed, jocund party skills demanded of guests earlier this century. When Carol Kennicott, heroine of Sinclair Lewis' novel Main Street, entertained her Mid-West neighbours around the 1920s she required them to remove their shoes prior to a game of 'Wolves and Shepherds' (the men were the wolves, and had to regain their sheep-shoes from lady shepherds, who had previously hidden them.) Simple stuff, but for the college-educated bride Carol a definite improvement on her first social experience in Main Street: an evening which included an imitation of a Norwegian catching a hen, a Jewish story, a parody of Mark Antony's funeral oration and a recital of 'Old Sweetheart of Mine' – something Carol was doomed to hear nine more times that winter.

Over in Britain things were little more sophisticated, even among leading intellects. Invited for a weekend with Mr and Mrs H.G. Wells, guests were expected to change into fancy garments kept for dressing up, with flowered curtains from the bedrooms also pressed into service. Wells himself would sometimes lead the final procession round the dinner table vigorously banging saucepan lids together before sitting down for the meal. A other times there was hockey on the lawn or else The Smuggling Game, where a football had to be secretly transported from one end of a pond to the other without being spotted and seized by the opposing team. Meanwhile over at Well Hall or else down at their country retreat at Dymchurch, Wells' friends E. Nesbit and Hubert Bland were playing similarly active games with their guests: Devil in the Bark, for example, or Hide and Seek, even when Nesbit was well over fifty. Quieter activities included Subjects and Adjectives (nouns in one hat, adjectives in another, each player drawing one noun and two adjectives then introducing them into lines of verse as convincingly as possible).


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