Ever since the dawn of time, mankind has had an irrepressible urge to throw things. Of course, thousands of years ago we were throwing for survival: chucking spears at big hairy animals in order to get our evening's meal. In these enlightened times however, we throw things just for fun. In built up areas this can be quite a problem: it is not advised, for instance, to throw big objects at (a) your neighbour's greenhouse, or (b) your neighbour, as both actions are likely to get you into trouble. Water, it seems, is quite a good, safe target (so long as there are no people in said water).
And when, after many hours of throwing small rocks in the hope of making them bounce across the water's surface, you decide to retire and do something a little more tranquil, there are many other games to try that require little or no effort. In some cases you can just lie on your back in the grass by the river and won't even have to move: bliss.
So here we present our guide to 'Skimming Stones and Other Games Down by the River'1...
Take a flattish smooth stone and throw at an angle almost parallel to the surface of the water. Whoever's stone bounces or skims the surface the greatest number of times wins. Stones should be chosen carefully and must not be too heavy or too light. Avoid sharp edged stones as this may cause damage to your hand upon the stone leaving it. Also sometimes called 'Skipping Stones' or 'Ducks and Drakes'.
When a river flows fast fling one stone into it to create a set of ripples. Then, as they travel downstream, try to hit the inside of the ripples with the next stone and so on. You can begin as far out from shore as you can throw (hardest) or very close by (easiest). You can play as a team with each person taking it in turns to fling the next stone.
This is essentially about making a certain kind of noise as a stone hits the water. Again, the river needs to be flowing fast. The stone needs to be spinning and thrown high into the air, and only certain parts of a given stream or river seem to do the trick. But if the conditions are all met then the stone is swallowed by the water with an immensely satisfying thwunk, which once heard is unmistakable. May the best thwunk win!
The purpose of Sink is simply to sink an object or thing in water, mud, or any substance in which something can be sunk. Sinking is allowed in any manner. For instance, chunks of mud can be used to sink a tobacco tin, or small stones can be used to sink a floating plant. It is the duty of all persons playing Sink to help find more objects to sink, once each object is sunk.
Hunt the Monopod
Someone stands on one foot, gripping their other knee with both hands. This player is the Monopod, who hops around on one foot while the other players chase him and attempt to push him over. It doesn't usually take very long.
Variations: the Monopod chases the other players and attempts to kick them with the unused foot. Or, everyone is a Monopod, and a battle ensues, until only one person is left standing.
You get some of the coolest views from the tops of trees, and one of the things Baden Powell said was 'People never look up'... which is amazingly true, and very handy for spying.
As Neil Finn once wrote: 'The highest branch on the apple tree / Was my favourite place to be', and he was right, though yew trees are particularly fun, because you can climb quite a way up inside and it's like Mother Nature's own tree-house.
Upon climbing a tree, be sure to anchor yourself well. As a friend once remarked, 'Falling out of trees is considerably less fun than climbing them'.
Let the Balloon Go
Not so much a game as a piece of mind. Simply get a big bunch of balloons and lie on your back in a large open space. Let one balloon go and watch it for as long as it can still be seen. Once it is out of sight, release the next balloon and repeat.
This mindless, Zen style entertainment is perfect for a hot summer afternoon!
Get a seeded dandelion (one that's gone all white and fluffy) and blow on it. The number of blows it takes to blow all the seeds off is the time (so four blows means it's 4 o'clock) which, while patently untrue, is a cute concept.
A popular children's variation is to attempt to catch the seeds as they float through the air. If successful they can make a wish as the little white bit at the bottom is a tiny fairy which is hitching a lift!
Like on your back and gaze at the clouds in the sky, making shapes and pictures. Ideal company for this strangely addictive pastime is either a six pack or some friends to banter with. If bantering, you can simply say something like 'That cloud looks just like my Mum' whilst pointing in the vague direction of any cloud you happen to see. Your friends, not wanting to admit you can see something they can't say, 'Oh yeah!'. Repeat until you get bored, fall asleep, or kidnapped by badgers.
To do this one needs a suitable small creek or off-shoot and two or more combatants. Both sides try and either divert the creek or dam off the off-shoot by building mini-dams with river-stones, mud, sticks and whatever else comes to hand.
It's a great way to cool off in a smaller creek, although if you play against a team of beavers you will inevitably lose.
Another, riverside game is pooh sticks, a wonderful way to keep children amused and pass the hours on a sunny afternoon.