I don’t think anyone would disagree that summer has been a bit of a washout so far. If yourself and friends or family are feeling a bit bored during a rainy afternoon or damp weekend, I recently came across a book that would no doubt liven up any get together: “Indoor Games for Awkward Moments” could be just the ticket to pass the time until summer decides to show up (if it ever does).
Tower Project staff have catalogued many books on indoor games and entertainment, with cosy titles such as Fireside Amusements and Parlour Pastimes, so when I saw the title “Indoor Games for Awkward Moments”, although the subject was not unfamiliar, the title certainly caught my attention! Rather than just being a generic book of entertaining games, the author, Ruth Blakely, proves to be a keen observer of the tension and social awkwardness that can exist at social gatherings, and does not hesitate in describing them. In the preface, she writes “The object of this volume is to try and lessen the number of dreadful pauses which so many hostesses have experienced with their guests”. Straight away I had the feeling that I was in for something special with this book – I wasn’t disappointed: Blakely’s caustic remarks and scathing tone throughout the book had me laughing out loud, and made me wonder whether she really had the ideal temperament to write a book of party games, or even host a party at all. For example, before describing the rules of one game, she writes: “This is a very good game for making things “go” […] and getting guests to mix and so break the ice, which frequently does not thaw till it is nearly time for the party to break up.”
The book contains rules and descriptions of many games which are still commonly played at parties today, such as Who Am I?, Musical Chairs, and Guessing the Weight, but alongside these were some rather peculiar games, some of which I’m not sure I’d care to take part in if I wanted to leave the party with my dignity intact. Here is a selection of the best…
Obstacle Race: In this game a person is led into a room and witnesses various articles planted about on the floor. He is told that he will have to walk blindfolded over these objects without touching them. However, the trick of the game is that the obstacles are quietly removed whilst he is blindfolded, so the watching guests see him stepping very carefully, trying to avoid what is not there. Blakely remarks: “Note the look of disgust on his face when the bandage is removed and he realizes that he has been “done.””
Balancing a Bottle on the Head: Get a large empty bottle and balance it on the back of the head. Then from standing, get down on hands and knees and with the mouth pick up a cork which has been placed on the floor. Then get up again to a standing position, and remove the bottle from the head and the cork from the mouth. This sounds near on impossible, not to mention a health and safety nightmare!
- Miew: In this game a guest is blindfolded and led into the room where the other guests are sitting round. The blindfolded person, “The Cat”, must kneel at the feet of one of the guests and look up at them, saying “miew” in a pathetic voice. The one miewed has to say “poor pussy” three times with a straight face. If he smiles he must take the place of the cat, if not the cat goes onto the next guest. Apparently it is very difficult to keep a straight face during this one.
Charades: This perennially popular game is described in the book, but it seems that our host and author’s patience is wearing thin at this point, as she writes at the end of the rules, “The more original the scene the better, as the everlasting schoolroom scene is getting a little tiring.”
I think the author would have done well to remember that a relaxed host makes for relaxed guests. Maybe then there would be fewer ‘awkward moments’ to fill!
- Indoor Games for Awkward Moments / collected by Ruth Blakely. Classmark 1916.7.371