Wednesday, 3 March 2010

March - The Month of New Life

March -  who remembers now that the Roman God of War, Mars, lent his name to the third month of the Christian calendar.

For us, March is the month of new beginnings, new hope; when daylight finally returns to drive winter darkness out  and the birds sing their first, tentative, songs of love.

The first sound of the thrush in early March awakens the long train of memories, all the way back to childhood, when the mists rose above the land, dewdrops glistened in the gorse bushes by the railway embankment and grass and clods of soil in the fields crunched under your feet after the night's frosts, soon to be dissolved by the rays of the steadily climbing sun. Silver birches shone victorious and larch and spruce painted the Heath in tender green hues. Willows by the brook stretched their long, bare arms into the newly blue sky and shed their gnomish winter image.

Children's Games
Pieter Bruegel the Elder

After the long months of winter incarceration, March was the month when we children burst out into the light of backyard and garden, the village street and square; when the paraphernalia of outdoor games made their triumphant re-emergence from dusty corners and deep cupboards.  Many of the over 80 games Bruegel painted in 1560 were still known in the villages of the flat landscapes of Northern Europe in the 40s and 50s of the last century, and I remember playing tag and marbles, hopscotch and skipping, ball games, bowling hoops and whip top. Girls held hands, sang and danced to nursery rhymes and boys climbed trees.

There was little spare cash for buying toys in the early years, later on our parents 'organised' scooters, roller skates and even bicycles for us, many of them cobbled together from spare parts. In those days, necessity was indeed the mother of invention.

Now March is the month when work in the garden starts in earnest, when spring lambs are born and the brown March hares fight in the fields.

Mad March hares -  the most mysterious and
sacred of British animals  -  now 
performing their mating rituals.


  1. Beautiful words -- I remember those childhood games. For me, in the American South in the forties and Fifties, they were Kick the Can, Red Rover, Mother, May I? as well as plain old Hide and Seek. And Hopscotch and Jump Rope and Tag. I wonder if the electronic age has put an end to all of this?

  2. Aside from the birdsong, there's little more heartening than the sound of children playing. As the evenings draw out, it wouldn't be quite right without some whoops, shrieks and laughter.

  3. Friko, the children's games jumped off the page for me too. They were fun! Even though I didn't have many friends in school, I usually ended up playing jumping jacks or skipping, and I loved stuff like Simon Says and the neighbourhood, after-supper games of Kick The Can, which has to be the best game ever. Damn, I think I'll organize one of those with my grownup kids next time I'm home. At one time, I offered to go to my kids' elementary school to teach games - it was a bit sad to see a lot of them just standing around at recess.

    Your writing is lovely, as usual. March here is quite wet and grey and mopey, unusually so, but your post nudges me to change my perspective.

  4. Although I've lived in Oz for years the word March still means early Spring! Which is silly, because here the heat is going out of the sun and we're settling into the glorious,cooler Autumn.

  5. March is our month of melt. Starting quickly, and in Feb. this year!

  6. Hi Friko, another lovely post again. March, the herald of Spring and the sun shone today as well!

  7. Vicki - I almost fear it has; my grandchildren play only beeping games.

    Martin H - you are fortunate if there are children around you who laugh and shout and sing.

    Deborah - If you do manage to organise children's games for grown-up children, it would be such fun to read about it. Nobody is ever to old to play.

    Rinkly Rimes - thank you for visiting. Perhaps you could play a mind-game and pretend that the cooler days of the ozzie autumn have a promise of spring in them? Maybenot.

    Jenn - are you glad?

    mollygolver - yes, it's not been bad, has it?

  8. That is true, March was the month you could start playing outside again. My mother and I would walk the 600 meters to the bottom of the Sacré-Coeur in Paris and see some flowers starting to show their colors. Or we would go to the Tuileries Gardens so I could get my roller skates out. But for me then, March meant a present or two because it was my birthday on the 26th. I looked forward to that very much. Now I’d like to forget it because it means I am going to be another year older…

  9. You describe those glorious days so beautifully. They are some of my most treasured memories. Hide-and-seek games after supper with all the neighbourhood children. Carefree bike rides with the breeze in my hair. Looking for the smoothest, most recently paved streets for the best roller skating. Long, intricate games of bouncing a ball against the wall with different requirements for every bounce. Double-dutch skipping rope with sassy songs accompanying.

    Thanks for the memories! It's not quite spring here - but there is something different in the quality of light and the smell in the air.

  10. Friko

    Maybe the singing was wishful thinking but, generally speaking, the kids around here are okay.

    There are always exceptions. I have lived in areas where those exceptions have become the rule, and it wasn't pleasant. But credit where it's due.

  11. Mad March hare - that's me!

  12. It is so true how we grew up worlds apart and how similar the things we did are. I played all those games too. I particularly loved Jacks. Did you play that? When we were preteens we played Badminton with a birdie. You bat it across a net and have a partner, similar to tennis. The neighborhood kids are wearing shorts already.

  13. Love the juxtaposition of the pictures. After the Bruegel, the hares made me laugh!

  14. Hello Friko

    I loved the way that you wrote this piece, full of memories and feeling...and I too recognise the games from my childhood in New Zealand...we also played tricky trackers in teams, four square with the basketball or tennis ball, shooting hoops, 'filmstars'- which was a creeping up guessing game...

    thanks for the link to the past...

    Happy days

  15. We played all those games too - skipping, (double dutch) hopscotch, kick the fan, Red Rover. Summer nights with their long lit hours were magical. I hope my grandsons learn to play games that have nothing to do with beeping buttons - I'll take them in hand when they visit!

  16. May every day of this month be filled with joy and happiness for you all.

  17. There will always be an England, Friko!

    Aloha, Friend!

    Comfort Spiral

  18. Hello Friko,

    Happy March to you. Your post has taken me way back down memory lane. The games that Vicki Lane described were those that I also played. And...even if a girl, I also love climbing trees.

    Thank you for your reply to my other comment. Who knows, we might yet have that cup or glass together. xo

  19. A mad march hare shot accross my path yesterday but I supect that any sign of spring here wasprobably killed by the bitter frost we had last night.

  20. Vagabonde - after living in Paris how do you manage to live as far away from cities as you do now. We seem to have followed the same seasonal paths in our childhood.

    Bonnie - childhood games have memories all of their own and we tend to remember them.

    jinksy - so, are you racing about the fields?

    QMM - I don't know what Jacks is. I expect we played something similar with a different name.

    Fran Hill - It's all youthful exuberance, children and animals

    Delwyn - I am happy to have reminded you.
    Happy Days!

    Pondside - I could see children being very happy to be taken in hand and taught 'proper' games by you.

    Robert - thank you, robert, and may I return your good wishes to you.

    Cloudia - I expect so, the English tell me so, anyway. Aloha!

    Frances - Is that a promise?

    her at home - Enough already, don't you agree?

  21. I remember climbing trees, collecting bugs (I photograph them now), playing so many outdoor games..many like you've mentioned. In my early childhood, I longed to be outdoors.
    Great post in perhaps a little different world.

  22. Your writing is always so poetic and beautiful to read.

    I played all of the games mentioned. Jacks were small little metal pieces with projections and you played it with a small rubber ball. You would bounce the ball and try to pick up as many jacks as you could before catching the ball. This is not a good description; perhaps Wikipedia has a good one. It was fun and you could play it alone or with a friend.

  23. Here in the Arizona desert the rattlesnakes and the poppies come out in March and the bunnies are out year round.

  24. After such a long cold winter I think we will all become 'mad as a hatter' with the natural wonders of Spring.
    With the sunnier weather and longer days our spirits and hopes will lift.


Comments are good, I like to know what you think of my posts. I know you'll keep it civil.