“One group had started a game of Shove H’penny and there was rather a lot of Shoving going on”.  It is the only recreation we hear of (in the first description of the Inn of the Seventh Happiness) until we get to book 4. There we find Mariusz (Hugo) reading the newspapers and exploring this new land he’s found himself in.  He reads the football results and some description of the Sowerby area that sounds like it could be full of inter-village competitions and therefore ripe for business development.  One of my readers and I had a lively discussion on Mariusz’s view of the football results, since he would have been reading it as American football, whereas in the realms it would be English football or soccer (although there is a slight possibility it could be Rugby football).  My point is that without further information e.g. by seeing the game or someone describing the rules, Mariusz would not know it was not the game he thought it was (save possibly for the scores).

In general, recreations in the realm follow many that would exist in rural England.  Shove Halfpenny (pronounced “Hape-nee”) is a traditional pub game with a board marked with cross-wise lines.  A halfpenny (an old coin roughly the size of a nickel, 10p piece or 50 euro piece) is placed on the board at the edge, slightly overlapping the end, and the player hits it with the heel of the hand so that it slides along the board.  How far it goes (and who it nudges further along if it hits them) determines who wins the game.  I think some other people may be playing darts at the inn and other games such as these are found in different parts of the country.

Outdoor recreations are available to all people, even in the more feudal castles.  Team activities are prized and inter-castle leagues of cricket and football are avidly followed by the newspapers.  There tend to be local leagues in more populated areas.  Marsh is of course quite oblivious to interaction with the outside world but people there but have their own recreations.  Treasure hunts are a feature of the Yule celebration, there are hide and seek games in the marshes and they enjoy boating for leisure.  There is also an annual ‘duck race’ whereby children or families fashion a ‘duck’ out of reeds which is designed to float on one of the waterways over a set course.  Everyone sets their ‘duck’ free at the same time, and the winner (and their family) gets a special prize from the King.

As well as boating, people in the realms enjoy many outdoors leisurely recreations, often involving food such as a picnic.  They delight in the world around them, but rarely travel to new areas just for leisure.  Only those in the last stages of their training are allowed sufficient leisure to spend time travelling, and that is encouraged as a way of completing their studies.

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