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You're sitting there in the room with Aunty Enid yawning, just on the border crossing to the land of nod. Niece Wendy and nephew Colin, in the corner, twitching, eyes darting round the room, with one hour of unspent energy threatening to erupt at any moment. Uncle Derek talking animatedly about some bloke at work who has something that he shouldn't, a promotion, the key to some room, the ear of some other bloke in charge of something or, it occurs, the good sense to know when to shut up. And then there's Margaret in the kitchen simultaneously clearing away the lunch and preparing the tea with that slightly distant look of 'there must be more to a family Christmas than this'. She's right!

Go back to before the days when entertainment was beamed into your house. Before repeats of Morecambe and Wise took on semi-religious overtones, when even a 'White Christmas' happened without the intervention of Bing Crosby. With no alternative, families either found ways to enjoy themselves or, being little different to families today, found ways to leave early.

The long tradition of the party game has its roots back in the mists of time. Recent archaeological evidence has turned up a prehistoric game called 'With my small eye I see' where one person would give the first letter of something he could see and the others would guess what it was. However, in these limited times most words started with 'U' and ended with 'gh', all apart from 'Sabre Tooth' which usually signalled the rapid end of the game.

The party game developed through the ages up to a point where the modern sophisticated family will happily sit round in pursuit of such trivial questions as 'Where in the world is the highest saltwater pancake?' or 'What's the only species of lemming that can't yodel?'.

Through the ages one problem with games for families is that there's never one suitable for Wendy and Colin (30 seconds from meltdown) and Aunty Enid (currently producing more z's than the last page of a dictionary). Unless, that is, the games are physical rather than mental. Take away the requirement for 40 years of accumulated general knowledge or the linguistic ability of an Oxford professor and the age differences start to melt away like the legs on a barbecue fairy.


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