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THE GAMES WE PLAYED.   5. Kap-kap.  Spinning top  [4min read]

THE GAMES WE PLAYED. 5. Kap-kap. Spinning top [4min read]

<– Thanx Pat!

Most of the kids in our street preferred the red and blue banded top with a clear, varnished strip of wood at the base.  They were well-balanced tops that spun well.  The ultimate was a “veertjie”[little feather] which felt exceptionally light and smooth when picked up and it spun in the palm of the hand.  Their perfect symmetry produced a gentle hum, and everyone crowded around to listen to it. I only ever managed to own one of these.

String length was critical to a good throw, and  it had to be of suitable thickness with a tight twist.  Once the string length was sorted out, I threaded the string through a hole in a bottle cap and knotted it in place to act as a backstop when spinning the top.  I often teased out the other end a bit beyond the knot to make it easier to start wrapping the string upward from the metal peg of the top.  Some spittle on the string tip aided the process.

I used a point-down overhead throw; the best top spinners used a point-up throw and rotated the top a hundred and eighty degrees when they threw it.  There was always a sacrificial top to hit.  I cannot remember how this was decided.  The objective was to strike that top with one’s own top.  It was not easy to get a “boen”  which was a direct strike with the metal peg of one’s top.  To have a bit of red or blue paint on the peg was a sure sign of success and all would gather around to look at the hole in the affected top and also to fit the peg into the hole.

Many tops had a few such holes. The ultimate was when the occasional top split in two with a direct blow to the merriment of all except, the top’s owner.  It was the golf equivalent of a hole in one.

The next best contact was a “soen”[kiss], which followed body-to-body contact of the two tops.  The clacking sound of wood on wood was typical, and paint would rub onto both tops so that well-used tops had a mix of these “kisses.”  If one failed to hit the top, one had to scoop one’s spinning top onto one’s hand and,  while one’s top was still spinning, bring it back to drop the top onto the missed target.  Failure to do this meant that one’s top then became the target for the rest of the team to have a go at.

Many school holiday hours were whiled away in this fashion.  There was a regular “top around the block” session when a good part of a day was spent knocking the sacrificial tops all the way around the block.  A forceful scooping of tops was allowed when one had to bring back the spinning top on the hand to make successful contact.  This helped us achieve the greater distance needed to get us all the way before dark.

It always intrigued me how those with good hand-eye co-ordination were the people who excelled at most of our neighbourhood sports and games.  The best top spinners also won all our marbles and were often picked first for our soccer, rugby and cricket games, not to forget kennetjie.


How was it decided whose top was first on the ground at the start of a session?

Could one make a “veertjie” or was it just the luck with that particular top?


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