The Games That Used to Drive My Parents Mad (Probably)

When I was a child there were two times a year that a simple game would understandably drive my parents bonkers. The two times a year were August the 1st and December-time. The games were played between myself and my sister who would follow my lead on them because, obviously, it was fun to play them together, and it would end up requiring a threat of punishment before they would stop. The games were very similar and born entirely of the time they were played – the first was the Number Plate Game, and the second was the Christmas Tree Game.

The Number Plate Game was simple really – every first of August when I was a kid a new number plate would come out signifying the start of brand new cars. I’d be on the lookout for the new plates the day they were released, even sometimes standing at the top of my road watching as the cars drove by. I was a bit of a spotter as a kid, and I knew a lot of the car models and makes, and could name check them from very far away. I still can, in fact, and it’s something that I’m quite confused about exactly how I can do this. It’s not like I sit down with the lists of models and memorise them, it’s just that once I see a model and I see it’s shape it is committed to memory. I am also pretty amazing at remembering number plates on cars, presumably from years of playing this very game as a kid. This technique did not translate to anything else in my life however, as I can barely remember the simplest things day-to-day, and certainly not equations for high school.

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The game was one that would start and run for a few weeks, with me keeping tabs on how many I’d seen. It was always a bit of a buzz seeing a new plate appear, partly because in the past it was only refreshed once a year in August. When they changed to twice a year, which was an attempt to alleviate the bulk of registrations for all cars in that year all happening in August, the problems of the old [Letter][three numbers][three letters] system running out of combinations was made worse. This change meant that you’d get two slots a year of the game, but it was less of a buzz. Today, these days, they still change them each year (05 and 55 for March and September 2005, 16 and 66 for March and September 2016, and, fact fans, when it hits the 2026, it’ll be 26, 76) and whilst I still keep any eye out for the new plates out of habit, they have become less of an event. I do still remember last year’s first sighting of a 15 plate though sitting on a driveway of a house in Rutherglen on the 28th of February, the night before, something I’d never seen before.

The other game was spotting Christmas trees from the road in the lead up to Christmas. I remember that we used to count them too, and it would be a sort of competition that my sister and I would run against each other, but mostly it was just the same game as the Number Plate game. This one would annoy my parents immensely, as not only did we shout out when we saw one that we hadn’t seen before, but also it got earlier and earlier the older we got, with now trees appearing in early November. The funny thing about this game was the people had to place their tree at the window for it to be seen through the blinds or the curtains, and our tree in our house wasn’t at the window. It was (and still is) located at Christmas at the right hand side of the fireplace towards the back corner of the room. I think I remember it once or twice being close to the window because Lynn and I insisted it, but I’m not the best for remembering those kinds of things.

I don’t play this game anymore, but I’m sure I’ll teach it to Joni in time.