Take museums, for instance. In times of yore, you'd shuffle around in whispering reverence, gazing thoughtfully at cracked vases and shards of flint, while pulling the kind of strained, contemplative face that looked more like you were trying to ease yourself out of a particularly rigorous bout of constipation. Nowadays, these grand institutions of ancient odds and ends are all plugged in, switched on and high-tech.
To keep the mind-wandering kiddywinks happy, there are buttons to jab, touch-screens to scroll through and nubbins to nudge in an effort to make the story behind an ornate lump of primitive pottery interactive and cool. For luddites like myself, who possess all the technological nous of a medieval nincompoop, we just dodder on by and head for the that corner of the museum that houses the mangle to gasp and gawp in wonder.
The other week, an auld pal and myself took an amble about the National Football Museum in Manchester. And, yes, there were gizmos to prod and poke amid the dog-eared programmes and sweaty old serks. Tucked away on the second floor, though, was a Subbuteo table, all laid out in its scaled-down glory and luring a couple of late 30-somethings in with the seductiveness of a sultry, nostalgic temptress holding a tiny Mitre Delta.
As we elbowed and barged our way to the pitch, knocking gaping-mouthed 12-year-olds out the way like a locomotive with a cow catcher mowing into a herd of dazed cattle, the memories came flooding back. One such recollection was the anguish-laden cry that was as much a part of Subbuteo as missing pieces and hanked nails. "For God sake, dinna move," tended to be the shriek that would often be heard. With one flick of an index finger, which had been tensed back in anticipation like a coiled spring, the ball would skitter off the dining table, ricochet off the skirting board and lodge itself under the mahogany chest. The diminutive player, meanwhile, would career across the felt and land somewhere on the floor below.
Now, the perils of a Subbuteo figure lying in helpless isolation on a deep-pile carpet, amid a veritable jungle of table legs and clumsy pre-pubescent feet, were abundant. Fragile in its make up, the hand-painted miniature was as exposed and as vulnerable as a male streaker working a lathe. And that was where the "dinna move" clarion call would come into its own if this defenceless piece of plastic was to emerge unscathed.
On hearing the yelp, everyone in attendance would remain statuesque. One person would then slowly and carefully manoeuvre himself into ground surveillance mode, edging along the floor on his knees while simultaneously making flat, sweeping hand movements over the shag in an attempt to feel his way to the stricken player. Admittedly, it looked more like an obscure religious ceremony from the tribes of Sarawak than an innocent flicking of fingers but the relief was considerable when contact with the player was made, a quick medical was given and play could resume.
Such precarious pitfalls were all part and parcel of the game, of course . . . but there were far more treacherous situations. If your hovel didn't have a dining table large enough to accommodate a full-size cloth, the last, desperate resort was to play on the floor, which in itself was bordering on Subbuteo suicide.
As play moved into the shooting zone, your increasingly excited opponent would crawl eagerly along the carpet into position to pounce. Unfortunately, he would proceed to bring everything with him at the same time. The pitch, dragged along by a trailing knee, would envelop the players like a tidal wave, one of the goals would be crushed like a grape in a vice and the ball would have to be retrieved from the potted amaryllis. There was utter chaos and snapped figures even before a "dinna move" cry could be croaked.
Yet if that was bad, the invasion by the household pet was arguably more destructive. With a tense battle in the midfield developing, the family cat would plod on from the sidelines and decide to park its posterior in the centre circle. Considered attempts to shoo it away proved fruitless and physical force merely accentuated the carnage. The wretched beast would dig its claws into the cloth and, as you lifted it up, you brought the pitch, goals and players skywards in a wigwam of woe as equipment was strewn across the room in wild abandon.
Satisfied by the sheer devastation, the cat would slope off to lick itself in triumph . . . and there was nothing a 'dinna move' cry could do about it.