An Autumnal Sunday afternoon in Camden, London. 1998.
My son, aged 29, my daughter aged 9, and two dear friends-
are sitting on a rug playing Monopoly.
‘Cosy.’ I thought, but I didn’t join them.
I hate Monopoly.
Reclining upon my sofa, in an attempt at a casual sprawl –
promising not to interfere – (Maybe?)
not to judge.
(For the first 20 minutes or so.)
My many hisses, teeth sucking and grunts are barely audible.
They are engrossed- a tight quartet of would be winners, each one,
head down, hunched over the board, tense with the chase-
avoiding Jail at all costs.
Wanting to land on money dripping Park Lane and not Pentonville,
or a Tax Square. £200 to pay!
Elegant Mayfair, not Old Kent Road. For heavens sake. Heaven?
This a game from Hell.
One by one they will cheat and display behaviours-
I had not noticed before? Or had I?
Son begins to gesticulate wildly.
Daughter shrieks with glee as she lands on Strand. ‘Yes!’
‘You’re so LOUD!’ Shouts Son.
Friends laugh; hollowly – so far, an hour in,
they are not doing well. My children are ruthless.
At each throw of the Dice, Son stabs the Squares around the board
with his Racing Car. How utterly stereotypical, I want to say.
(He always picks that one.) As if he owns it?
Daughter, with the Top Hat, cackles, a maniacal sound-
as she lands a community Chest card.
It is your Birthday collect £10 from each Player.
I notice a distinct lack of grace in the handing over of Bank notes.
‘Its only bloomin’ Monopoly money.’
I protest, with a mock sob on my breath.
‘Shhh!’ They say, as a 4 headed voice.
Friend 1 picks up his Boot, currently sitting on Bond Street,
and buys a Station,
‘Not a good move, you should have gone for broke and Mortgaged a house.’
Says friend 2. She is The Bank. In life she is a social worker.
I say, or rather yelp.
‘My kids are learning the art, of greed, cheating and dept!’
I am no longer a silent audience…
The Dealer, the Banker, the Cheater…? yes I know?? I think it.
Daughter needs to go to the Bathroom and begins to wriggle,
They all yell
‘You’ll cheat’ she calls, galloping to the Bathroom.
Their laughter is not all together from a funny place..
has she hit a nerve or two?
I make a pot of Tea and open a bottle of Wine..
I need a glass. Distributing liquid sustenance and a slice of cake.
Daughter, still fiddling with her clothes, rushed into the room,
‘You should have been watching them.’
To me, the Mum,
in what I consider a rather petulant manner.
Friend 1 is in Jail and not moving, waiting, like our Cat,
for a mouse in the house to hunt. The pounce.
He, is tapping his fingers on the side table as if he were –
rolling a paradiddle on a snare drum. He is a drummer.
Normally, an easy going chap.
Tap tap tap as Boot, Car, Wheelbarrow and Hat circulate the board.
Free parking, GO and Waterworks and Kings Cross Station.
My eyes begin to droop.
The light is fading outside.
As I drift away, I catch a nightmare.
My Children and friends are thieves and hustlers, out to rob me ….
Then, suddenly, I am chased by a Policeman waving a truncheon.
Am I about to be slung into Jail?
Then, in a terrifying twist, I am in an alley way –
with The Bow Street runners at one end-
and the world controllers at the other.. It’s a take over?
I am at The Angel Islington, a short woman, lost in a crowd
of – tall be- suited Oligarchs and mean Dictators.
The Far right and the Far left lined up,
on opposite sides of Upper Street,
singing anthems and strangely, all with shaved beards-
neat – and close shaved and wearing sunglasses-
American Police style.
The following Summer, I was in the Lake District staying with friends.
‘Bring some games.’ they said.
My daughter elected herself as the chooser and packer.
Cards, Scrabble, at my pleading, and Monopoly.
No Sonic the Hedgehog, as there would be no TV. Backgammon-
she had learned how to play the game when she was 6.
By the age of ten, she thrashed me, and most of my friends.
No fun for me anymore! She could see the best moves-
way ahead of my numerally challenged brain.
Off to a wonderful break in the peaks and lakes, rivers and valleys and sweet rural air in our lungs, far away from the polluted London streets.
As Autumn shortened the days once more, and a session of some game or other was on the Cards!
Yes, I had left the Monopoly in The Lake district.
‘On purpose.’ accused the daughter.
‘You did that on purpose, because you hate it.’
She could be quite dramatic.
‘Yes’ I said not wanting to lie, then, feeling mean.
I promised to buy another.
I didn’t. She, straddling childhood with womanhood beckoning,
became obsessed with Tele – Tubby’s & The Spice Girls.
She forgot all about Monopoly.
I did not subject her to ‘the Monopolisation of the Pop Industry and –
that there were far more interesting groups and…..’ ?????
I have not owned a Monopoly board since that holiday in –
The Lake District, Cumbria
I would rather play Ludo.