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  • Martin Castle


I didn't grow up with pets (apart from the school hamster one holiday and who disappeared into the sofa) and it wasn't until George was young that Ginger & Pickles (guinea pigs) and Choc & Chip (cats) appeared on the scene, did I get used to the idea of sharing my space with another species.

As well as twenty-odd chickens, some of whom think they would like to live in the house rather than free-ranging outside, there is Hopscotch and Mouse, our two cats. This is Hopscotch - a bit of a big boy (infact so big he doesn't fit into the photo) but a real softie. He looks very purposeful here - usually he is asleep on the ............. (insert relevant noun) - sofa, bed, chair, armchair, carpet, cushion, warm brick patio, garden bench, garden table, lap, shoulder, under a warm shady shrub, plonked on the catnip etc etc.

Hopscotch is really a bit of a tart - he'll roll onto his side for anyone - even a visit to the vet might be a chance for a bit of attention. He's also scared of nothing & nobody - not even Dan - a giant dog of our acquaintance.

Mouse, on the other hand, is shy, cautious and very cat-like in her aloofness but beautiful and with the face of her bigger wild cousins.

She had major surgery on her hind legs as a young kitten (thank goodness for insurance and we're still on the 'winning side' in that equation). She has areal affinity with Katayoun.

He's called Hopscotch because when little he would hop about the room and he's ginger (cultural stereo-type there). And Mouse is so named because she is as quiet as a ...

His name got me thinking about the game. When I was little and living in Basildon, Essex I thought of it as a girls game - us boys were off kicking footballs and playing 'war' in the big yard at the back and in the ditches at school. But that is not a true picture. It strikes me that the game is perfect for people stuck at home during the lockdown - physical exercise, coordination, counting , rhyming and competition.

Why not try a game: here's the recipe -


Chalk or masking tape

A pebble, stone, bottle top, button, shell or similar to use as a marker


1. Use chalk to draw a hopscotch pattern on the ground or use masking tape on the floor.

2. Create a diagram with ten sections and number them.

3. Each player has a marker.

4. The first player stands behind the starting line to toss his or her marker in square one.

5. Hop over square one to square two and then continue hopping to square ten, turn around, and hop back again.

6. Pause in square two to pick up the marker, hop in square one, and out.

7. Then continue by tossing the stone in square two.


All hopping is done on one foot unless the hopscotch design is such that two squares are side-by-side. Then two feet can be placed down with one in each square.

A player must always hop over any square where a maker has been placed.

Getting out:

A player is out if the marker fails to land in the proper square, the hopper steps on a line, the hopper loses balance when bending over to pick up the marker and puts a second hand or foot down, the hopper goes into a square where a marker is, or if a player puts two feet down in a single box.

The player puts the marker in the square where he or she will resume playing on the next turn, and the next player begins.

The image above is a very simple version - there are many others.

The first books mentioning the game are the Book of Games, by Willughby, and the Poor Robin’s Almanac (a yearly almanac published by Benjamin Franklin, under the pseudonym "Poor Richard" or "Richard Saunders", from 1732 to 1758). Both refer to the game as “Scotch-Hoppers,” where a “Scotch” just means the line which separates the numbered boxes. Francis Willughby (1635 – 1672) was an English ornithologist and ichthyologist and a founding Fellow of the Royal Society. He was also an early student of linguistics and games. His Book of Games giving details of dozens of games and sports was unfinished at his death and wasn't finally published until 2003. Not a cheap read but if it floats your boat it is available through:

Maya Angelou is a much quoted writer with success in numerous genres. She is probably best known for her autobiographicaol work I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings but she was also a prolific poet. Her Harlem Hopscotch of 1969, whilst ostensibly about a simple game that children play on summer days, is laden with thoughts of how difficult life could be for people of colour in the USA. Maybe there is also a hint of the distraction this game could bring when times are tough.

Harlem Hopscotch

One foot down, then hop! It's hot.

Good things for the ones that's got.

Another jump, now to the left.

Everybody for hisself.

In the air, now both feet down.

Since you black, don't stick around.

Food is gone, the rent is due,

Curse and cry and then jump two.

All the people out of work,

Hold for three, then twist and jerk.

Cross the line, they count you out.

That's what hopping's all about.

Both feet flat, the game is done.

They think I lost, I think I won.

Maya Angelou - born Marguerite Annie Johnson (1928 – 2014) was an American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. Her life is too interesting to note in short form so check out her autobiographies. Her poetry has influenced modern hip-hop music.

For a fun non-traditional view of this poem take a look at the following video:


This is a somewhat strange recipe and I put it here 'cause it links to the title - tenuous I know but indulge me! Have to admit I've never made it but will have a go. Apparently butterscotch chips are a secret ingredient in many American sweets, including browned blondies!

Hopscotch Treats


1 cup (6 ounces) butterscotch chips (see below)

1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter

2 cups miniature marshmallows

90g/3oz ounces chow mein noodles

Method 1. In a saucepan over low heat, cook and stir butterscotch chips and peanut butter until chips are melted. 2. In a large bowl, combine marshmallows and chow mein noodles. 3. Add the butterscotch mixture and stir to coat. 4. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto waxed paper-lined baking sheets. 5. Refrigerate until set, about 10 minutes. How to Make No-Bake Butterscotch Chips


¼ cup coconut oil, melted

1½ tbsp molasses

1 tbsp butter, softened

½ tsp vanilla extract

½ cup powdered sugar (icing sugar), sifted

2 tsp arrowroot starch


1. Line one baking sheet with wax paper and set aside.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, use a spoon to combine the melted coconut oil, softened butter, molasses and vanilla extract. 3. In a separate smaller bowl, sift together the powdered sugar and arrowroot starch. 4. Pour the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients and stir together to combine well into a thick ball of cookie dough-like batter. 5. Spoon the mixture into a heavy-duty piping bag fitted with a plain round tip. 6. Pipe small chips onto the wax paper-lined baking sheet. 7. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for at least 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the butterscotch chips have hardened. 8. Pour the butterscotch chips into a self-sealing container and store in the fridge for up to two months.

This recipe is easy to double or triple so you can make as many butterscotch chips as you need.

Robert Macfarlane's Word of the Day is ...

"susurrate – to whisper, murmur, esp. of noise produced by numerous individual sources of sound (bees humming, leaves rustling etc)."

ps: Maya Angelou talks about her remarkable life on Desert Island Discs from 1988 - you can find it on Spotify - search under her name - and it is also on BBC Sounds.

pps - written whilst listening to Billy Joel's The Stranger - bringing back memories of my summer of '77 and digging on Angelsey.


“Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud.” - Maya Angelou
"For all those people finding it difficult at the moment, the sun will shine again and the clouds will go away." - Capt Tom Moore.
"When everything seems to be against you, remember the aeroplane takes off against the wind, not with it" - Henry Ford
and I rose up, and knew that I was tired, and continued my journey” - Edward Thomas.
"Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible." - St. Francis of Assisi
“All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well”. - Julian of Norwich

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