Sunday, 29 July 2012

Olympic Dominoes?

It must have been hot this week because we witnessed an unprecedented event in our town.  The leisure centre's swimming pool, which boasts no flumes or wave machine but sometimes has the odd plaster floating around the deep end, was so busy that they had to turn people away.  Including us.  Whilst the alpha mums phoned around neighbouring towns' swimming pools, determined that their sweaty children would go swimming now, I gave up the fight easily, and we sauntered into town.

The kids were allowed a mooch in two charity shops as consolation for not getting their afternoon dip, and whilst Daughter can never resist a Jacqueline Wilson book, Son always checks out the games and toys first, and found a box of dominoes priced at £1.50.

Since we parted company with kiddy farmyard dominoes a few years ago, we have never progressed to real dominoes, so it was time to set the record straight.  And besides, I'm always keen to encourage any game which doesn't involve a screen.

Outdoor dominoes has become a rather surprising alternative to the swimming pool here. The temperature has soared so high that sometimes a relaxing game in the shade has been exactly what is required.  It was no surprise, when I did a bit of domino research (blogging takes you in some unexpected directions!), to find that it is a very popular game in the Caribbean and Latin America.  A quarter-litre of white rum often accompanies a Caribbean domino match and if the fair weather continues, the Wiltshire equivalent of a jug of Pimms could certainly prolong my interest in dominoes!

Rather than the children losing interest quickly, we've found that the the little wooden pieces appeal to the senses, with their dimples and dots and their celtic knot pattern on the back.  If, like my kids, you haven't played dominoes before, it is satisfying to gain mastery of a new game with all its quirky rules.  And then of course, there was the memorable game where everyone was able to lay their pieces in turn and we ended with a perfect domino rectangle.  Like board games at Christmas, it's not so much the games themselves, but the quality of the uninterrupted time shared with loved ones, that matters.

When tired of playing the game we have tried building domino runs, but it's not so easy on the uneven surface of a garden table.  I have learned that there are many more domino games you can play, and while I know that we won't occupy hours and hours, it's good that the simple black and white pieces may have a little more mileage. There are games where you have to lay your dominoes in different patterns, games with more complicated scoring systems, and memory games.  Check out Domino-Games for some ideas.

Naturally, the Olympics is never far from our minds at the moment.  We jested that dominoes should be an Olympic sport, only to find that as well as taking pride in its Olympic runner, Usain Bolt, some Jamaicans think that the national sport should be, you guessed it, dominoes! In 2010 Jamaica even ran a campaign to get dominoes recognised as an Olympic sport.  Apparently the IOC has to approve a sport seven years before the Games in which it will appear, and there are various other hurdles to be overcome (such as evidence of rigorous enforcement of the World Anti-Doping Code!) so unfortunately we won't be seeing Olympic dominoes in London this year.

For now let's hope that there will be more sunny days where we can hone our domino skills to Olympic standard, under the shade of the parasol and our neighbour's apple tree.


  1. I haven't played dominos in years! And I never knew that there were versions other than what I always played. I'll have to see if we can dig up our old set and take them with us next month when we go away for a few days. It sounds like you all had a lot of fun.
    We've been playing croquet and horseshoes this summer, in the shade. I hope your good weather holds for the rest of the holidays!

    1. Yes, I realised that dominoes have been an underused resource in my life! If you check out the domino-games website I have no doubt you'll find some games that are appropriate for the age of your family (you might need to take some notes of the rules though; some of them are quite complicated!) The weather's not quite so hot this week; just hoping it stays dryish as we hope to go camping next week!

  2. Domino runs are our favorite thing to do with dominoes. We got extra ones at the thrift shop so we could build more. Maybe you could put a piece of plywood or cardboard on your garden table to make a more even surface if you want to try the runs again.

    1. I'm imagining the scientific approach of your family results in some elaborate domino runs! We'd had the same thought to look out for extra dominoes for more advanced domino runs - 14 dominoes is a bit limited. Plywood/cardboard would definitely eliminate some of the domino run false starts we've had on the garden table...the Olympic womens' 100m swimming had the same problem last night so it's not just a domino issue (a man with a toolkit to sort out the starting beep machine is Olympic swimming's plywood equivalent)!