On Sunday night, my children, my husband and I sat down at the dining table to play a game of Cluedo. We try to make a point of having a family board game most weekends. Sometimes it might be Scrabble, other times Monopoly. It doesn't really matter what we play. The main value of the experience is in coming together, away from gadgets and TV, to concentrate on spending time with each other. Most of the conversation will be centred around the game but we'll also swap stories about the week that has just passed and discuss what might be coming up in the days ahead.
As a child, board games, card games, and family gatherings were a regular event. Sometimes it would just be me and my parents (I'm an only child). On other occasions, the neighbours would come in, or for a special night like New Year's Eve, there'd be a party of friends and family filling the house with laughter and chat.
My mother would discuss family members and tales of childhood (normally involving her being naughty) with her cousins and sister. She spun a wonderful tale of a girlhood spent running riot in rhurbarb patches and sliding on a tray down muddy hills.
In my own life, I do my best to share stories of my own childhood, my parents and life in general with my children but there is a constant battle against gadgets, TV and computers. As a society, we seem to rely on these outside devices to supply us with stories, rather than looking in, to our friends and families, to share stories in a more traditional, oral way.
There is something very comforting about coming together to share a story, especially when it's a story of a shared heritage, but looking people you care about in the eye as you recount a tale of whatever can be a wonderful experience too.
I think it's time we learned to turn off the gadgets, even if only for a while, and return to the concept of gatherings simply for the purpose of communication. Play cards or a board game by all means, but take the time to look the other members of your party in the eye and talk.