Saturday, January 28, 2006

Not Marching in the Field of Trasimene

I had a curry lunch with my old chum Flaminius Titus Ardlus Waddicus who had a Unique Glow about him. Ardle, as he is known to his friends, breezed into the restaurant plugged into his iPod and dressed in a brown Uniclo jacket, beige Uniclo hooded top, beige Uniclo baseball cap, a pair of Uniclo jeans and a pair of those trendy "N" trainers. A mutual friend of ours has suggested that he consider his advancing years, his spreading paunch, and refrain from dressing like 14yo shopping mall hoodlum; but to no avail.

I happened to receive the latest copy of History Ireland from the dear aged pater and had been admiring the works of various artists featured in its pages while riding the tram into town. There was an article about the Irish neo-classical painter and friend of Edmund Burke, James Barry, who in some respects reminded me of old Ardle since he, like him, sometimes evinces

"an overwhelming sense of victimhood... yet clinging to his youthful ideals and able to proclaim them with [Uniclo] style up to the end."

Mind you, I have to admit that James Barry would never have been spotted among the clothes racks of his local Uniclo store had one been available to him, for Barry

"dressed in ancient paint-encrusted clothes."

Ardle has been expressing an interest in things Latin of late and has taken occasion to enquire of me:

"Do you know the classics?"

Well, Sir, I thank you for your impudent groping for trouts in a peculiar river. If you must have an answer then I shall answer you in kind:

"Foreasmuch as it is given unto Man to Know Anything, Sir, I should say that up to a point, Sir, up to a point I do, but no further."

Ardle has taken to reading Livy. Barry and Livy shared a similar view of the moral purpose of their respective fields.

"Our art has the glory of being a moral art, with extensive means, peculiarly universal, and applicable to all ages and nations, to the improvement of the deepest interests of society."

The subjects to which I would ask each of my readers to devote his earnest attention are these - the life and morals of the community; the men and the qualities by which through domestic policy and foreign war dominion was won and extended. Then as the standard of morality gradually lowers, let him follow the decay of the national character, observing how at first it slowly sinks, then slips downward more and more rapidly, and finally begins to plunge into headlong ruin, until he reaches these days, in which we can bear neither our diseases nor their remedies."

King Lear Mourns Cordelia's Death, by James Barry.

As Old Ardle is to some degree a patron of the Arts, or at least, he has a very large CD collection, I thought he might be interested to see Boucher's Blonde Odalisque which was the subject of another article in the same magazine.

Having had our fill we adjourned to our customary cafe and had no sooner bagged the sofa when we had our noses pushed firmly out of joint by the waitress who told us the joint was closing at 2pm... far too soon for a leisurely game of igo! We therefore retreated to the NHK Starbucks. Ardle ordered himself a large portion of one of that establishment's sickly concoctions and then showed evidence of further retardation by sucking the coffee out of the inbuilt sucker on the plastic lid like a four year old. I tell you, from nearly 40 back to 14 and then to 4 in the space of a few bare hours!

The good news was that Ardle played with a pleasing celerity today so the game flowed along with the flow of the chatter. But for Flaminius Ardle Titus it turned out to be his Battle of Trasimene replayed in miniature. At one stage he likened developments to the movements of the Japanese and Russian navies in the Russo-Japanese War. He
was the Russians.

Now, I would not usually liken our Ardle to Flaminius Titus for Flaminius Titus was headstrong. A better comparison would be with Andre Maginot (except that he didn't wear Uniclo). But today, playing with headstrong haste Flaminius Titus Silliarse marched into Hannibal Hurlius his cunning trap.

Thus while our conversation kept itself within light and pleasant boundaries, such as for example, the pleasures of springtime when the birds begin to sing and winter clouts are cast, the heavy and doleful trap was quietly laid.

Flaminius "saw that part only of the enemy which was opposite to him" (Liv. XXII. iv.) until:

"Romanus clamore prius undique orto quam satis cerneret se circumuentum esse sensit, et ante in frontem lateraque pugnari coeptum est quam satis instrueretur acies aut expediri arma stringique gladii possent."

Many troops perished on the shore and the rest were crushed in the centre in a vicious grip.

Flaminius Titus is White. Hannibal is Black

David Hurley
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Friday 27th January: The Noda Revival Has Happened - Official

Last week Tim popped in for a beer on his way to Kulcha and he was here again tonight getting a buzz out of the noise of the tiles and the constant movement and shifts of the game even though he was sat at the table as a guest and spectator and not a player.

It certainly made for a lively first game as gossip was exchanged and good grub was served up. Mama makes simply the best Yakimeshi/egg&miso soup set that I have had anywhere. You get a large portion of steaming hot fried rice with a pleasing amount of oil in it - neither too dry nor too greasy so that when you stick your spoon into it, it gives but does not collapse; it yields up a stonking spoonful of nosh that does not spill all over the place and that can be delivered with one hand while the other is busily occupying itself with the tiles and, as it so happened tonight, with throwing in "Riichi" sticks and with turning over the tiles of another completed hand.

It had been a long and tiring day. After a night of being kicked around my futon a certain 3yo, I spent the morning listening to student "presentations" before offering them a presentation of my own: the finer points of the grammar and syntax of Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit, as for example, what occurs if the word "looked" is exchanged for "looking" in the sentence:

"Peter never stopped running or looked behind him till he got home,"

I spent the afternoon in the library trying not to be distracted by an obnoxious brat of a Japanese-Australian girl who was stomping around between her computer terminal and the printer while spitting fucks into her mobile phone.

I weighed up the worth of going over and handling her as the Duke of Albany handled Goneril:

"Shut your mouth, dame, Or with this paper I will stop it."

The dear deceased paternal grandfather would have done so. He used to tear strips off malefactors for his recreation; we never used to cease from wondering at how he did it - and how it never failed to do the trick; surly shopkeepers turned into "silly ducking observants"; sullen civil servants forced to comply with the rules of civility; wayward children soundly admonished and reduced to quiet complicity. He carried authority about with him. I decided not to try and emulate him, but to be like my Dad and keep Mum!

I spent the early evening over coffee in the staff room while a couple of students who had missed the mornings "presentations" because of infurenza came and made their excuses. Apparently, infurenza is a virus so awful in its debilitating effects that suffering students are rendered too ill to attend classes, but have just enough vitality to be able to float around campus all day with their friends.

It was now time for another round of Peter Rabbit, delivered this time to the last TOEFL class of term, which only four students attended. They persuaded me that the unheated classroom was too cold to study in and suggested that we relocate to a presentation room in the library. Topping idea; the library is not only warmer and more salubrious (despite the occasional intrusions of sluttish and foul-mouthed hussies), it is also farther down the hill and so closer to the bus stop which meant that I was able to catch the 7:40 bus into town despite letting the class run late, an unheard of occurrence until now and testimony to the power of Beatrix Potter's prose.

And so it was that I arrived deadbeat at the parlour, but that Mama's Yakimeshi and a beer with Tim had such a reviving effect upon my constitution that I found myself to be ahead of the game and up by over 100 points.

At that point Tim left for Kulcha (we presume) and cheerfully announced that he was taking my luck with him - which proved to be correct as Noda, whose tray had been empty, went on a winning run and Jaime also nicked a bit back so that I finished albeit the only winner of the first game, but on +47 rather than +147. Noda had clawed back about 50,000 points from me in the first game. He then went on to win the second and the third by over 50 points each. Jaime found himself unable to complete Tempai hands, but he was most Stoical about it as if it was he and not me who had been reading Justus Lipsius' "De Constantia" over the past week or so:

"Our minds must be so confirmed and conformed,
that we may be at rest in troubles,
and have peace in the midst of war."

He was put most severely to the test on his eight-dora (bonus tile) wait that went up in smoke when Noda completed a hand, and he was tried sorely when he was Tenpai on Kokushimusou, waiting for the 9-Bamboo. Noda, who had a 9-Bamboo that he would have thrown had the 6-Bamboo slotted in to upgrade his hand by one Yaku with Tanyao (no 1s and 9s), suddenly got the tile he needed to reveal a reasonable hand. David had also been merrily throwing out 1s, 9s, Winds and Dragons thinking that a lot had been thrown already (Jaime's discard row nicely disguised his Kokushimusou with 2 x 1-Coin, 1 x Green Dragon and 1 x 1-Bamboo).

It got down to the last hand of the third game before David got rid of his Yakitori - but it went. However, Jaime racked up another Chombo in exactly the same manner as he managed last week, and both times off David's discarded 9. Jaime had a hidden set of Winds, but neither his nor the table's and he neglected to go Riichi but was hasty in declaring Ron, which turned a payout from David into a much needed windfall from Jaime! A few hands later, Jaime declared "Ron" on a 5-Coins discarded by David, who was Oya. I asked him what he'd been waiting for and when he said "Fives and Eights" I pointed at the 8-Coins in his discard pile - but it happened that he was waiting with two heads: 5-Coins & 8-Bamboo! No Chombo!

It began to look as if Noda would be unstoppable but in the last game he carelessly discarded the 1-Coins which happened to be the Bonus Tile for that game and Jaime declared "Ron" and took 16,000 off him. Noda was mortified to have given away so much cash when he wasn't even Tempai!

By this time the only other group of players, who had been smoking out the parlour, left. Mama complained profusely about their smoking habits as she busied herself cleaning up the mess.

David, now on his fourth beer for the evening had a revival of fortunes, suggesting that bad play and beer and tiredness are not necessarily connected (pace Doctor Mogami)!

Play wound up at 11pm and we can confirm that the Noda revival is underway.

Noda -1, +58, +51, -20 = +88
David +42, -14, -45, +44 = +27
Jaime -41, -44, -6, -24 = -115

According to the Grand Accumulated Results Table, the rankings now follow order of seniority, which is just as it ought to be! Noda is now the runaway leader, with David moving out of the red and up into second place. Jaime has slipped from top to third but is still in the black on the year. Ray, who has been keeping a low profile so far this year, is breaking even on 0 points with 0 games played. That leaves Eri and Kenyon propping the table up, their scores unchanged as they did not play today.

However, we shall be able to start play earlier next Friday as university term has come to an end...

David Hurley
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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Introducing the 3PMJ Grand Results Table!

Well, OK, it is still only January and only three games have been played... But the beginning of the year seems like a good time to introduce a chart to keep track of the results so that we can all see how we are doing as the year progresses.

Name Played Score
Jaime 11 +132
Noda 11 +83
David 9 -1
Eri 2 -104
Kenyon 7 -110

This is the state of play so far:
The table will be updated regularly over at my 3 Player Mahjong News page.

David Hurley
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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The First 3 Games of the Year

Due to the exigencies of this toilsome life and its importunate and burdensome responsibilities the first three 3-Player Mahjong games of the year have gone, until now, unreported, which is a thing of no moment in and of itself, but which nevertheless does no honour to a weblog such as this that glories in the name of "Mahjong News."

Herehence let that fault by this report be somewhat mitigated.

Week 1: Friday 6th January - The Three Wise Men & Eri

In tonight's game Jaime gathered the gold while David's cash went up smoke like the sweet odour of frankinscense; sweet but not too sickly for though he lost and he lost all night he lost but little and there was good sport in the losing; there was the expense of playing the game, just as there is for the burning of frankincense. When one burns frankincense one is, as it were, burning money, yet taking delight in so doing. So it is with mahjong, sobeit that one treats one's purse with reverence as with frankincense and burns but a little over a period.

For Noda, however, his game, after reaching a certain limit of just over three score and ten was one of gathering gloom and it gave off an increasingly bitter perfume and I am sure he would not demur when I add that there was much sorrowing and sighing in evidence from that side of the table. However, his earlier winnings served to embalm him against total decay and there be no cause to doubt that the cause of his fortune shall not estoons revive awhile withal.

For Eri it was a Massacre of the Innocents all over again.

Jaime +83, -16, +21, +47 = +135
Noda 0, +74, -15, -37 = +22
David -29, -8, -6, -10 = -53
Eri -54, -50, --, -- = -104


Week 2: Friday 13th January - Kenyon's Yakitori

I am no prophet as may be noted by a perusal of tonight's scoresheet. Noda did not revive after last week's loss, although he kicked against the pricks for a while.

While David was present he was favoured by the gods in the first game, survived Jaime's challenge in the second, and paid a small homage to the gods in the third before legging it for the last tram with his winnings.

At that stage in the evening everybody mentioned so far happened to be in the black. We have yet to mention Kenyon who, obviously out of practice after the winter break (despite incessant practice with a little computer mj game that he has on his mobile phone), took over from Eri as the fellow responsible for bringing along the ingredients for a roasting, or in the words of Noda,

"negi mo, kamo mo..."

Kenyon's first game back at the table saw him go down to the tune of -70 with his "Yakitori" firmly skewered to the table. It so happened that towards the end of this game David won about 25,000 points of Noda with one hand, and then with the very next hand he won a similar amount from Kenyon. Kenyon then provided most of the points for Jaime's second game but he began to revive in the third, coming second to Noda in Noda's only strong performance of the evening (the prick-kicking part of his evening).

After David left, however, everything changed. Jaime lost the plot, Noda sank back and Kenyon revived! The tables were turned on the senior players and (I don't know how, dear reader, for I was not there) Kenyon equalled David in the high-score-in-a-single-game for the evening. He pulled off a remarkable recovery to finish second and had succeeded in pulling the other two players down with him into the red.

A precident may have been set in which three players leave a mahjong parlour at the end of the evening and all of them are losers!!

David +79, +1, -10, --, = +70
Kenyon -70**, -23, +7, +79 = -7
Noda -26, -3, +38, -29 = -20
Jaime +17, +25, -35, -50 = -43


Week 3: Friday 20th January - Jaime's Kokushimusou

Tonight should probably be given over to a discussion of the Noda revival but for two items.

Firstly, as the title indicates, Noda's revival was checked when he threw out the 9-Bamboo in the second game and Jaime declared

"Ron - Kokushimusou!"

36,000 points shifted back from Noda's tray to Jaime's in a moment and, as the score chart shows, put rather a positive gloss on what would otherwise have been a narrow win for Jaime.

Secondly, Noda's progress to victory was somewhat drowned out by a cacophany of yelpings and howlings as of a froward puppy that has had its nose severally tweaked and chastened by a prickly stick. Kenyon writhed like Saint Katherine on a wheel of fire as if he were the only fellow to have been Tempai on a fine hand with lots of bonus tiles only for another player to pull the rug from under him.

"Dominus dedit Dominus abstulit sit nomen Domini benedictum."

Or, as Langius said to Lipsius,

"Zephirus with his blast bringeth up some and withereth others."

Of the three players who played all three games this evening, Noda flared up like Sulphur, Jaime was up and down like Mercury and Kenyon was Salted. David arrived too late for the first game, suffered under Jaime's quicksilver hand in the second but after imbibing more of the amber nectar he revived in the third game so that he emerged from the fire singed and a little red but not burnt to a cinder.

Kenyon was hoping for a last round revival to mitigate his losses. He was the final Oya but was faced with a dilemma which was:

1. In recent games Kenyon has revived only after David has gone home early on the last tram.
2. Tonight, for David to catch the last tram Kenyon would have to lose swiftly and end the game heavily in the red.
3. But if David went home early, Jaime would go too and so the evening would end early, confirming Kenyon's losses.
4. Whereas, if Kenyon retained his Oyaship and began to revive, David would miss his tram and so he would stay for the duration of the evening, which contradicts the first term, which states that for Kenyon to revive, David must go home!

As it turned out, David swiftly put together a cheap hand and declared Riichi with a 2-5-8-Bamboo wait which was swiftly rewarded with a victory that polished off the game in time for him to catch the last tram home again, and so the game broke up with Noda the outstanding winner but with Jaime having done well on the strength of his Kokushimusou and coming in "second-and-in-the-black."

Noda +1, +6, +74 = +81
Jaime +25, +62, -47 = +40
David --, -37, +19 = -18
Kenyon -26, -31, -46 = -103

David Hurley
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Wednesday 18th January 2006: Men's Night at Dr Mogami's.

Towards the end of last year a couple of my longstanding "History in English" students had a bit of a post-class spat over the payment of the community centre room fee. The upshot was that the two ladies were "no longer able to continue to attend" the class, which left Doctor Mogami as the only remaining "member". He promptly requested that we continue but, as it appears that Mrs Mogami Jr is in charge of the domestic finances, he requested that the lessons be reduced to two a month so as not to stretch his budget. He suggested that we switch the location to the room in Doctor Mogami Sr's residence where we play mahjong.

Thus it happened that on Wednesday we found ourselves sat around the mahjong table on two occasions in the course of the day. On the first occasion we read and discussed about ten pages from Steven Ozment's A Mighty Fortress which deal with the Hohenstaufen dynasty from Frederick Barbarossa to Frederick IInd and its dealings with the papacy, the German princes, the Lombard League, the French, the English, and the Kingdom of Sicily. This seems to be the point where the book comes to life in spite of itself, although it did need a bit of work on the white board that the Doc recently invested in as well as the assistance of the excellent Penguin Historical Atlas of the Medieval World to get our bearings.

I returned to the mahjong room five hours later to join the Mogamis in our first game of four-player mahjong this year. We had not played for a couple of months; not since the time when I was off the booze and won the first three games outright and came top of two players in the final game of that profitable evening.

The Doc told me that he had a lot of booze in the fridge (gifts from satisfied patients) and I promised him that I would do my best to clear the surplus stock for him although the Doc then said that I could choose whether to drink or to play well.

In the first game Doctor Mogami Jr could do no wrong and his repeated victories drew various cries of anguis and irritation from Mrs Mogami Sr along the lines of:

"It's no good when only one player is always winning."

"He's the only one with a smiling face... This isn't very interesting..."

"Look at him smiling away again."

It was no good the Doc pointing out that his mother would have done the same thing in his shoes - mahjong is a supremely selfish game.

I was not losing much but in the last hand of the first game Mrs Mogami finally went out, at my expense and that put me in fourth place, below her in the red. Dr Mogami Sr had managed to finish second and in the black, which meant that the "maru" bonus points were shared with four going to the Doc and two to his father.

In the second game, with another beer under my belt, the luck came my way and I was able to use it to good measure so that I finished the only winner - but I did miss an excellent opportunity to earn a stack of chips when I had gone "kan" on South when it was my double wind. I turned the East over in the wall when I went "kan" which meant that I was now sitting on four bonus tiles as well as the four concealed in my hand! Hoping to intimidate the opposition, I went "Riichi" on a one tile wait, but had I delayed by a couple of rounds I would have been able to improve the wait. As it was, I picked up 4-Coins and threw it out only to have Mrs Mogami declare "Ron!"

Still, the second game yielded me six bonus "maru" and got me back into the black.

However, in the third game Dr Mogami Sr suddenly became the dominant player and won the game and four "maru" bonus points.

The result was Mrs Mogami was in fourth place and that all three men were in the black. I had come through on the strength of the six "maru" bonus points that I picked up at the end of the second game.

Despite five hours of play we were only able to complete three games and the last one finished five minutes after the last train pulled out of Hiroshima station, so although I walked off with the princely sum of Y360 I had to pay the taxi driver Y3,500 to get me home. I enjoy these evenings at the Mogamis' but the elder players do spend quite a bit of their time dithering about.

The taxi driver pulled a bit of a fast one on me, quite a neat trick; he casually asked, "shall I use the bi-pass?"

"Ok" I said. "Whatever."

And then I got to thinking about it. The clever chap had got it all worked out. The bi-pass gets you to home quicker, but the distance travelled is greater. Therefore the taxi driver can get more money for less time. I get home quicker but spend more money - actually, the difference in speed is not that great at that time of night since there is not a great deal of traffic on either road. My result is something like a score draw: home quick, higher fare. His result is a 2-0 victory: more mula, less time. Nice one my chevvy boy, nice one.

David Hurley
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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Sunday 15th January: A Fine a Way to Spend a Birthday

A slow start to the 3rd&40th birthday suited me just fine. I had a bit of a lie in after having spent the previous evening celebrating with the wife and daughter at what I regard as the best little restaurant in Hiroshima, namely, Toriwaka's.

The Menu

Toriwaka "Fish and Chipsu"
Tsukune (minced chicken balls on sticks). Beef & Potato Croquette
Moriawase Sashimi (a range of sliced sections of raw fish)
Prime North Hiroshima Prefecture Marbled Beef with Horseradish Sauce
with a side dish of Fried Beef Fat and Chipped Potatoes


The daughter was entertained by occasional trips behind the counter to view the fish tank and its contents. She was most impressed when Toriwaka pulled out one of the fish, whipped its head off and gutted it in a single flourish before turning it into a dish of pellucid slices of sashimi arranged fanlike around the plate.

Yes, I was feeling rather sated the following morning, but there was much to look forward to...

Item 1: Football
We played our penultimate match of the season out in Hatchihonmatsu against a team called Access (perhaps in acknowledgement of how many goals they let in - even more than us!). This team had so far this season lost every game and scored only one goal. When we arrived we were heartened to see several of the Access team with fags in their mouths and few of them evincing much of an athletic demeanour; they had brought with them a large retinue of wives and kids and the only person I saw kicking a ball before kick-off was one of their toddlers.

Today, our team consisted of ten young, fit and skillful Japanese players and the usual three foreigners: one old foreigner (myself); one middle-aged one (Dan) who keeps the sinews of his body together with an arrangement of tapes, garters and corsets; and one foreigner junior in years to the other two, but still much older than any of our Japanese team-mates, who has been suffering from a season-long lack of finish in front of the opposition goal which has been diagnosed as the onset of a sporting-man's midlife crisis (Jaime).

It turned out that our captain had a gimpy leg and had turned up merely to support the team in its endeavour to secure enough points to secure its future in the "B" Division of the Hiroshima City League. Still, with 12 players available it was soon confirmed that I would be the sub for the first half and that suited me fine - I was not looking to exhaust myself on my birthday.

Our team started brightly. We were all over them. The youngsters in our team worked their socks off. One player in particular deserves mention, our chubby number "Zero". He played with real determination on the right wing, going for every ball and battling away to turn it into the box. Unfortunately, our crossing into the box lacked incisiveness, and over on the other wing our corners were dismal efforts. Jaime worked hard up front too and it looked as if today would be his day as he threaded his way into the box several times and struck the post once.

Access gradually noticed that we were not taking our chances. After the first 20 minute onslaught had come to nothing Access began to threaten a few times too and the game became a more balanced affair, with our goalkeeper making a few fine saves - he has really settled into his role and today he pulled off his best performance none of his "mad runabout" capers, and with a constant composure when on the receiving end.

DEH launched another attack and this was when our chubby "Zero Hero" struck. On the ball he was like a dog with a bone. He fought his way through to the goalmouth and slotted the ball home from close range. That was a lovely moment; delight all around but we were only able to celebrate for a few minutes because Access responded in kind when one of their strikers sent the ball across the face of the goal and into the left corner.

At half time the captain told me to replace Dan at right back. Dan told me that the players were a bit dirty but that the one to watch was their no. 10 as he was big but also mobile and skillful. However, I was to ignore him when he wandered deliberately offside. It sounded like fun.

Within 3 minutes of the second half I was chasing a stout fellow towards our box and, determined not to let him get away, I stretched my stride and felled the fellow by (accidentally) treading on the back of his foot. Painful or what? He took it in good part and I do not think it amiss to stretch my leg out and mark my man, no more than a dog would think it so to stretch his leg out and mark his patch; I AM an old dog but not so old as not to learn a new trick or two and doglike too I find it convenient as well as necessary to pant as I chase back; it strikes fear into the striker if not more than once then once at least, provided he can hear but cannot see the panter.

It was interesting to observe the Access players while playing against them. They seemed to be out to enjoy themselves and this they seemed to be doing. They are not a team without merit but they do not strive confidently for victory. And yet, as the second half progressed without our team retaking the lead one could feel Access getting hungrier and more ambitious. Jaime had some chances but was stymied by bobbling balls. That we had not retaken the lead was also due to the dreadful offside calls of the linesmen which had begun in the first half and led to a "Jaime-shouts-at-the-linesman-and-throws-the-ball-away" incident. When Jaime threw the ball the Access no. 10 player ran across the pitch towards him presumably because he thought Jaime had thrown it at the goalkeeper (which he had not). Several players intervened to prevent an exchange of handbags. The linesmen would raise a flag on a shout rather than actually deciding for themselves whether or not a player was offside. Jaime's reaction was provoked by the linesman delaying his decision until he had run several yards with the ball (from a position that was not offside in the first place). On another occasion in the second half the linesman declared a ball played from our own half to be offside. Then he declared one of our players offside who had deliberately waited onside to ensure the decision would not go against him.

As if to even things up on the dodgy decision front, during an Access attack in the second half, the referee blew his whistle as a fine aerial pass came across to one of the Access strikers from their left wing. Play stopped and we scratched our heads as the ref said:

"Gomen nasai."

It seems that he had blown his whistle by accident. The ref then wanted to drop the ball but we allowed Access to retake the kick - a sort of "free cross kick" and perhaps an innovation! Five minutes later the ref again blew a "no foul" whistle. What was he on? Or rather, what SHOULD he HAVE BEEN on?

There now followed a concerted Access attack. Their no. 10 was involved in the lot of them, but I found that provided he was tracked he could be rendered ineffective and when he fell on his arse and claimed a free kick (which the ref rightly ignored) he took it in good part. They had a couple of corners. When it comes to defending corners I prefer to mark a post (because it does not move) and shout at the other players to mark the unmarked attackers. Today it paid dividends in that an attacker picked up the ball in the box and tried to slot it home - and there I was to block it - so I can claim to be a "Negative Hero" at this end in comparison to our "Zero Hero" at the other end!

Talking of him, in the last few minutes of the game he once again battled away and slotted the ball home to promote himself to "Double Oh Hero."

Access kicked off and the ball came forward to my right. I stretched for it, got a foot to it but a lame one and as I went to ground the ball went to their winger. I picked myself up and watched him slot it through to their no. 10 who had found some space in front of goal (part of the problem here is that our young Japanese players tend to hesitate from putting in a decent challenge on bigger players). Their no. 10 then turned and shot and the ball went into the right side of our goal. 2-2.

That was how the game ended and to tell you the truth I think it a fair result. Dan was rather subdued by the result and Jaime frustrated with his missed chances. I felt some responsibility for their equalizer, but I had thoroughly enjoyed myself and had also enjoyed the spirit in which this particular team had played the game.

We now have 7 points and I think we'll stay up, unlike our opponents who may shortly be accessing "C" Division.

Item 2: Yamato no Yu
Jaime and I recovered from the match in the bath-house in Mukainada called Yamato no Yu. The indoor baths are "super sento" style, but the outdoor baths use seawater pumped up from deep underground which stings your football grazes when you get in but is thoroughly therapeutic.

We squeezed in a quick cleansing beer before heading off to our next engagement, i.e. my birthday celebration at...

Item 3: Suikoden
Present tonight around the table were:

Ken-&-Noriko, Eri-&-Friend, Satoru

Noda, Don, David, Tim, Jaime

Topics of conversation worth mentioning:

1. Don enquired what my t-shirt was all about as I am a Leeds supporter. Jaime and Tim had given me a t-shirt with a photo of Rooney with the word "Rooney" emanating from it in several directions. The line that Jaime had taken, and which I chose to accept, was that since there is no reference to Man U on the shirt I can wear it as an England supporter!

This led to...

2. Don's hypothesis that "Rooney might be like Tyson" i.e. a young terror who burns out early. This led to an objection from Kenyon which was not followed up perhaps because I asked Don if he remembered "The Fen Tiger"...

3. Tim's recent interview for a job as an interpreter for a certain Japanese baseball player in America. What better job could there be for a Japanese-speaking American baseball fanatic??

Then Satoru arrived and presented me with a bag full of beer. It therefore transpired that at the end of an evening of five hours of non-stop drinking, the hardcore (Don, Tim and I), found ourselves outside Suikoden with a bag of 18 beers and promptly attempted to diminish its contents somewhat. At some stage - it gets rather hazy now - Tim led the way into town, past Mac (shut), past Chew Me (shut) and around the corner to Kemby's AM (open) for a final "one for the road" - which is where it ended up when I got out of the taxi that took me home well after "the last tram" had gone to bed.

A fine birthday, all told; a session of mahjong was all that was lacking that I am prepared to speak about.

David Hurley
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