Today we made it past the park, further than the bakery… that’s right. Today we went all the way to the supermarket in the middle of Antony. The sales are on and I managed to avoid a big splurge… mainly because I had Elena slung across my chest.

After I’d done all the errands (yes, Luuk, I got my passport photos) we headed to the park. We were earlier than usual: other children were still there, yet to be dragged off for their lunch…

There were these three little girls playing with their dolls there at the playground. I bet they got dragged out of the house, away from their whole constructed doll story-world for some good healthy fresh air. I’m projecting of course. These three-year olds speak more french than I do. They didn’t tell me about their game. Rather, I’m remembering some of mine.

I spent most of my childhood in the company of my younger brother and sister, and much of it with the addition of our neighbour Louise. Our favourite ‘make-believe’ game was to be orphans… I’m not sure exactly why this held such great appeal. We are the ungrateful owners of good parents. We all have pretty good relationships with our ‘rents so go figure, our favourite game was to pretend they’d died when we were babies…

I blame ‘Annie’. I’m sure that movie influenced the game because we always had a cruel and stupid orphanage mistress. Very Miss Hannigan. We were usually trying to escape from the orphanage. Not a very original plot.

On some occasions we veered from the Annie story-line and had magical powers. With or without the supernatural we did have elaborate back-stories, costumes and plots to escape, as well as punishments when we got caught.

It was all very involved.

When our actual real life parents insisted on taking us out – to the shops, or heaven forbid, the park – we hated to leave our game. Desperate to stay immersed in our imaginary world we would integrate the outing into our story-world. The evil parent became our evil orphanage mistress and the outing was usually some kind of child-labour.

I loved playing these games. The orphan game was just one of many, but a very popular one. I loved coming up with the stories, and I wasn’t the only one. We would colaborate and take turns directing the outcome. One of us would do the voice of the orphanage mistress and that person could throw all sorts of obstacles and punishments at us.

I realise now that some of the stories we imagined and pretended are actually pretty similar to things we do for real as adults. We used to play shops, throw tea parties, look after pretend babies… wait, that sounds like my to do list: get groceries, make dinner, feed and bathe the babies…

It was such fun when it was a game. The difference, I suppose, was that the game-version had a plot, a purpose. Made-up stories tend to follow certain patterns: there’s a goal, a series of obstacles, successes and failures, and ultimately some kind of resolution. We are guaranteed some kind of satisfaction, which isn’t at all true in reality. Though I did just see a pinterest pic that suggested we’d do better with a theme song. Or perhaps real life just doesn’t throw enough obstacles at us? Nah.

To be fair, I don’t remember ever pretending to do laundry. I do remember making huts with the laundry, but that’s not really the same thing, is it?

Anyway, our games were often interrupted, but in the end, taking the game-story further afield usually made it more exciting. The plot took new twists and we had to get creative to integrate a new setting, even new characters, into our imaginary world.

It’s just like writing a novel, really, making up games and stories. Or perhaps more like writing a television series – a team of writers (four of us kids, collaborating) and then actors bringing it all to life (us kids, playing it out).

I’ve been inventing stories for a while longer than I’ve been writing novels. And I could apply some of the tricks of the great-game-story trade to novel writing, I suspect. For example…

– throw another obstacle at the characters

– take them further afield (into a new setting)

and if you’re really stuck…

– give them all a magical power!

If only we could do all three to lift ourselves, in our real lives, out of stagnation. Instead of an obstacle (cause really who’d want to make their life more difficult?) we can embark on some kind of new challenge or adventure. And we can usually change our setting – I know getting out of the house can do me a world of good.

Shame I can’t just pick out a magical power. Wouldn’t it be fab? Free shipping on magical powers from amazon? Instead, it’s Ballykissangel on DVD that’s calling my name, but I don’t think that will help me get this novel finished.