March of the grass band

Lazy sum­mer days are here again, in which a sim­ple patch of meadow can pro­vide hours of in­no­cent amuse­ment. Si­mon Lester re­calls child­hood games with flow­ers and grasses

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

Si­mon Lester re­calls child­hood games with flow­ers and grasses

DO you know how to find out if some­one likes but­ter? Take a gleam­ing yel­low but­ter­cup and hold it un­der their chin—if you see a golden re­flec­tion on the skin (you will), then they must like but­ter.

The same piece of grass­land on which you’re sprawl­ing should also boast a host of dainty white daisies, from which you can fash­ion a range of flo­ral jew­ellery. Pick the daisies with the long­est stems, then, with your thumb­nail, gen­tly cre­ate a split in the stem and care­fully thread the next daisy through the hole. Re­peat un­til you have a long enough chain for a bracelet, neck­lace or tiara or at­tempt to en­ter Guinness World Records for the long­est chain (thought to be 1,463ft, made by Hessle Ju­nior School, York­shire, in 1974).

In this same meadow, there will be grasses with seed heads that look like trees—bents and meadow grasses are perfect. Pick one stem, face your play­mate, hold it up and say ‘here’s a tree in sum­mer’. Stroke your fin­ger and thumb up from the bot­tom of the flower head, col­lect­ing all the seeds on top of your pressed to­gether fin­gers, and say ‘here’s a tree in win­ter’, show­ing them the bare grass stem. Then, push up the seeds be­tween your fin­ger and thumb, declar­ing ‘here’s a bunch of flow­ers’. Fi­nally, chuck the seeds up into the air, in the di­rec­tion of your play­mate, and say ‘here’s the April show­ers’, while laugh­ing hys­ter­i­cally.

The gar­ish yel­low-or­ange pom­pom flower of the dan­de­lion—named after the French dent de lion, mean­ing lion’s tooth, due to the shape of its ed­i­ble, jagged leaves— evolves into a soft, round ball of seeds that de­lights both goldfinches and chil­dren. Tell the time with the ‘dan­de­lion clock’ by count­ing how many puffs it takes to dis­perse the del­i­cate white para­chute-like fil­a­men­tous ach­enes from a glob­u­lar seed head.

This much-ma­ligned weed of­fers more en­ter­tain­ment in the form of nat­u­ral tat­toos. When cut or picked, the stem of the dan­de­lion ex­udes a white sap that dries brown, al­low­ing dec­o­ra­tive dots and cir­cles to be art­fully daubed on arms and hands (they’re eas­ily re­moved at bath­time). His­tor­i­cally, this sap was ap­plied in the vain hope of cur­ing warts, corns and ver­ru­cas.

For something slightly more en­er­getic, ping­ing plan­tain heads at each other is enor­mous fun. Find a patch of rib­wort plan­tain, which likes to grow on open grass­land. Pick a long-stemmed ex­am­ple with a nice big flower head, loop the lower stem around the top of the stem be­hind the flower head, pinch it tight, pull the loop and the flower head will ping off. This can lead to a duel, all-out war or a con­test to see who can ping the most heads into a con­tainer.

Stick­y­weed tig is also highly en­ter­tain­ing. Also known as goose grass and cleavers, be­cause of the way it ‘cleaves’ or clings to clothes and an­i­mals’ coats, you’re most likely to find Na­ture’s Vel­cro— de­signed to dis­perse its seed (known as Bobby’s but­tons)—grow­ing in a hedgerow or climb­ing up a wall. Es­sen­tially, all play­ers need do is chase their friends around, attempting to at­tach strands of ‘sticky weed’ on each other’s backs. The per­son with the fewest Bobby’s but­tons at­tached to their jumper at close of play is the win­ner.

Fi­nally, for the march home, for­mu­late a ‘grass band’. Select a fresh, slim blade of grass, trap it be­tween the top and bot­tom of both thumbs, cup your hands, raise it to your lips and blow. Achiev­ing the proper brass sound may take a bit of prac­tice, but you’ll soon be re­pro­duc­ing a fair ren­der­ing of Colonel Bo­gey to round off an af­ter­noon’s en­ter­tain­ment that didn’t in­volve a sin­gle iphone or Plays­ta­tion.

Chuck the seeds up into the air, in the di­rec­tion of your play­mate, while laugh­ing hys­ter­i­cally

The in­no­cence of youth: most chil­dren will find that there is end­less en­ter­tain­ment to be had out of doors—once you’ve de­tached them from the Plays­ta­tion

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