Monday, 10 January 2022

Memory Mixtape #10: Knock Knock

We had a little debate in the office a week or so before Christmas about what you call the mischievous kids' game where you knock on someone's door and then run away before they answer it. Popular names included Knock-a-door-run, Knock-down Ginger and one out there suggestion of Knicky Knocky Knoo... but it seems there are endless regional varieties... Ben apparently played one where he knocked on back doors in a row, jumping over the hedges from one garden to the next. Which sounds risky, dubious and vaguely Ferris Bueller-ish. 

I only took part in the game once as a child, and I don't remember it having a name. But I do remember the consequences...

One wet Saturday afternoon, we were playing in Helme Churchyard, which was next to our junior school. My mate Liam lived just up the road and I'd often go over to his to play with him and his younger brother Matthew (inexplicably nicknamed "Plum"). This particular Saturday though, we'd been joined by the Muffat boys, local ne-er-do-wells, and so when we heard someone playing the organ inside the church, the elder Muffat suggested we tried our luck.

And so we took turns to knock on the church door and then run away as fast as we could. 

Of course, by the time it came for my turn, the mysterious organ player was ready for my approach. (Should I have listened to hear if the organ was still playing? Definitely. But in my defence, I was an innocent young soul.)

So I knocked on the church door. But before I could turn and scarper, the door swung open and I was caught. And who should it be... but Harry Brown.

(Not that one, but it might have been at little less terrifying if it was.)

We knew Harry Brown by reputation alone, and by the fact that he was married to one of the dinner ladies at our school. But Harry Brown didn't work at our school, he worked at the High School. In fact, he was Deputy Head at the High School, and one of the most fearsome teachers to stride the halls of that establishment. (When I arrived at there myself, I vividly recall one wet lunchtime when the school hall was filled with a raucous assemblage of pent-up teenagers causing havoc because they couldn't go outside... until Harry Brown walked through the hall and silenced every one of them without saying a word.)

Harry Brown tore a strip off me. He was one of those teachers who could shout without ever raising his voice, and he threatened me with the police, MI5, the KGB, and asked for my phone number so that he could inform my parents. (Which he never did. Indeed, when I told my mum about the scolding later on, she was on the verge of ringing him up and giving him what for, for scaring her son. Not the first time she would take my side after a bollocking.)

I never played Knock-a-door-run again. And in later years, when, as a homeowner myself with a young baby in the house, we were plagued by a brief bout of said persecution from the local kids, I came to realise how distressing that game could be from the other side. Although I never had any sympathy for Harry Brown...


  1. Knock Down Ginger, where I come from. Can also report that the kids where I live now call it Ding Dong Ditch.

  2. Someone I used to work with called it "knock on the door and running away".
    Not the most imaginative chap, or indeed the sharpest tool in the box.

  3. "Cherry Door Knocking" is what it was called down here.

  4. Knicky, Knicky, Nine Doors, here in Canada.


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