Saturday, July 28, 2007

Friday 27th July: Noda is a Dead Parrot!

David was joined by Ray at Kemby's for some preliminary tuck, and double rations of beer as it was Happy Hour.

Noda's Golfing Holiday...
Ray expatiated over the beer on the theme of arranging a holiday for Noda. Noda is a fanatical golfer. A few months ago Jaime was given the task of organising a golfing trip for him around New Zealand. Just recently Ray was commissioned with the task of organising a similar trip around Ireland. Noda, being Japanese, doesn't get much in the way of holidays, but being Japanese, he sets about to squeeze as much manic activity into each and every day as possible. Thus, in a seven day trip, Noda and his chums are planning to play golf on a different golf course in a different part of Ireland every single day. No Irish travel agent has ever been burdened with such a challenge. Eventually, a driver was tracked down who was willing to follow the Japanese schedule and drive the Noda party around the emerald Isle. The gruelling schedule will see Noda and friends march off the 18th hole and into their mini-bus and then get driven several hundred kilometres to the next venue where, the following day they will be up at the crack of dawn, or Dawn's crack - if you prefer the Saxon genitive - and thrashing their way around another of those lush Irish courses, with no time to linger for any Irish blarney. The final day's golf will be followed by a 200 mile drive to the vicinity of the airport, then they'll have to get up at 4am or something and jump on a connecting flight to Amsterdam. Naturally there will be no time to taste the pleasures of that sinful city as they will have to get straight onto their intercontinental flight back to Nippon. All of the aforementioned will be conducted in a haze of Guinness, whiskey and dodgy oriental rice alcohol, I don't doubt...

Anway, back to tonight's events, David had assured Jaime that tonight's mahjong session would begin at 7pm, but that began to look optimistic once Ray's mega chicken sarny with chips and salad had arrived with barely fifteen minutes left on the clock!

Then Kenyon joined us, and as only a few minutes of Happy Hour remained there was some debate as to whether or not he'd get double portions of booze, and if so, whether or not he - being more of a sipper than a swiller - would get it down the hatch in time... Now that Kemby's have introduced a ticket system for every second Happy Hour drink it was noted both that Kenyon wasn't given a ticket and that he didn't ask for one! Had Tim been around (or Allan, r.i.p.), the missing ticket would have been procured and the free beer divvied up. Is the issuing of tedious tickets connected with the recent shutting down of the free booze stamp-cards? It used to be the case that you could get a free beer once so many stamps had been stamped into a little booklet. Tim used to get about five free beers a week. But suddenly, in a fit of shortsighted stingyness, Kemby's withdrew the scheme; and now we get issued with silly little tickets to claim our Happy Hour beer... Hmm. Suppose we should be thankful that Happy Hour exists at all!

Nevertheless, our not bothering with Kenyon's missing beer at least sped things up a bit and we were just 15 minutes late for the start of the mahjong at the old Kodama mahjong parlour.

As there were five of us we agreed to draw lots and Kenyon sat out of the first game and observed David playing a fairly laid back game and keeping out of trouble as Jaime established an early lead at the expense of Ray and Noda. When David declared an early Riichi with a one tile (9-Coins) wait, Kenyon made bold to declare that Noda would pip him to the post so David took the liberty of peeping at Noda's hand and was amused to see that it was about five tiles away from Tenpai, leaving plenty of time for Ray to do him the courtesy of giving away the 9-Coins!

As David was the second placed player at the end of the first game he and Kenyon switched places and roles for the second game. Kenyon and David differ in their style of play but the result was similar, with Kenyon finishing in second place and Jaime once again taking the game. This time, however, Ray had got himself into the black in third place so Noda took all the punishment, and if I remember rightly, grumbled a bit when he was caught out by Kenyon on a tile that - ah, much abused phrase - "ought to have been safe"!

By now Hidé had arrived so we set up a second table and drew tiles. Ray was left on the original table with Noda and Hidé, while David, Jaime and Kenyon set up shop around the table in the far corner.

If Ray had blanched somewhat at being left to fend for himself on the Japanese table, his misgivings were misplaced. It was at this point in the evening that the famous "Ray Revival" took place. He strung together the best combination of game scores for the evening so that when the "Ray Slump" (i.e. the "Hidé revival") hit it still left him on a big enough positive result for the evening to carry him back into the black on the Grand Accumulated Points Chart! His third-game victory was almost entirely at Noda's expense and his fourth-game victory was charged to Hidé's account, along with the Yakitori that was still left sitting on his side of the table.

The result of that superb performance was that Noda had sunk back into the red for the first time in several weeks. Noda's assault on first place, which had threatened and yet not delivered for some time, was killed off tonight. I don't doubt he'll be back soon, resurrected and terrible as an army with banners and all that, but for the time being at least, Noda is a dead parrot despite his modest fourteen point revival over the last two games.

Meanwhile, over on the foreigners' table, the third game saw each player completing several big hands. First Jaime took 24,000 off Kenyon, then Kenyon took it back, then David took 18,000 points off Kenyon. I think it was at this stage when Kenyon declared Ron when Jaime set aside the Pei and turned over the hidden part of his hand to reveal Daisuushi. (Pei is a Bonus, or Dora in the three-player game because there is no "North" player - a player can go out when somebody else sets aside a North bonus tile if it completes Kokushimusou, or Dai/Shosuushi - Big or Little Four Winds.)

However, the game went to David and was enough to see him avoid defeat for the evening although he finished modestly down in the last three games.

As a rule, David needs to win early to mid evening because Kenyon tends to get his game together as the night progresses. It all comes back down to swilling and sipping. Your
swiller thrives on early inspiration (and the occasional very late "don't-ask-me-how double-vision victory") whereas your sipper is all fingers and thumbs in the beginning but retains a clear head for the later play. Your middling slurper, however, such as Jaime, for example, might well find himself becalmed in the latter stages of a mahjong session.

Thus it was tonight, that David, after the inspiration of the third, declined through the fourth, fifth and sixth, but only at a moderate to match his relatively moderate swilling. Jaime lost his early slurping inspiration and his final four games cancelled each other out.

Kenny-boy, on the other hand, continued to fiddle-faddle around until the last game. Ah, the last game! There was Kenyon discarding Bamboo like billy-oh. David idly supposed that Kenyon was planting a bamboo forest and so he merrily developed his own hand by discarding Character tiles, Winds and Dragons. Jaime had the deeper insight and suspected a cunning attempt at Kokushimusou, but nevertheless tried to squeeze out the 9-Bamboo - David looked at it with some surprise, thinking it risky to throw such a tile to Kenyon's Bamboo hand. Indeed, Kenyon promptly turned over a completed hand - Kokushimusou! Kenyon, for his part, had supposed that David had known what he was up to and had been supposing that he was not ready!

Kenyon's last game revival brought him back into the black for the evening, and as a result, all four foreigners forged forward. David moved up modestly, but with Noda's big loss and despite Jaime's return to triple figures, some space once again opened up between first and second and third places. Noda fell four places into the red. Ray got himself back into the black but Kenyon's modest gain was not enough to get him off the bottom of the table. Hide's loss was relatively small and he drops below his father-in-law into ninth place.

Jaime +42, +47, -19, +28, +22, -36 = +84
Ray -25, +2, +51, +60, -54, -- = +34
David +9, --, +48, -7, -14, -17 = +19
Kenyon --, +11, -29, -21, -8, +53 = +6
Hidé --, --, -1, -67,* +47, -- = -21
Noda -26, -60, -50, +7, +7, -- = -122

Hiroshima Sunday Blues Football Update

Last Sunday DEH played FC Dynamo on a brand spanking new astro-turf pitch near Hatsukaichi. We were down 2-0 at the end of the first half. Then the two foreigners came on in the second half, Jaime up front and David right back. It was a classic game, one of the best to be involved in. Jaime has written a report of our great 3-3 come-back over at Hiroshima Sunday Blues.

David Hurley

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday 20th July: Hide's Sense of Purpose.

In the first half of tonight's game it was a battle between Noda and David for the top spot, with David securing top place in the first game, Noda taking it in the second and David taking it back in the third.

Impressive as that may sound, it cannot be said that either player was in impressive form. Noda bumbled and stumbled along having had several glasses of shochu too many, and David was at times all fingers and thumbs with his tiles. Twice in the evening he took tiles ahead of Jaime and attempted to play as Oya out of turn. Noda declared no
Chombo, perhaps mindful of his own frailty, and once we even threw our hands in before the first tile had been played because of the confusion.

At the beginning of the third game we shuffled tiles to rearrange seats, but as predicted, the tiles dictated that we remain in our original places.

But then Hide arrived and brought to the table a new sense of purpose. He was in dynamic form tonight and either won or finished well into positive territory in the next four games of the evening to take top spot from David and push Noda into the red.

David got clobbered for a rather expensive double Ron in the fourth game when he attempted to declare
Riichi while playing between Hide (the Oya) on his left and Noda on his right. In the following hand Noda declared Riichi and then threw in his hand and declared a Chombo! While it was amusing to see old Noda commit a Chombo, it was also disconcerting inasmuch as it meant that Hide could retain the Oya.

Chombo was his undoing. From that point on his game declined, and his last game brought in the worst result of the evening, -77.

David, who was teetering perilously close to the red, suddenly recovered in the fifth game to provide himself a nice cushion from which to give something back to the market before retiring for the evening.

Jaime, who was present all evening, has not been mentioned so far. His evening consisted of a downward slide, now shallowing out into a trough, now steepening into a slough before a mild late recovery preserved his position in the black side of the Grand Accumulated Results Table!

Meanwhile, Hide, who had been languishing with Kenyon at the bottom, cut his negative score in half and moves up four places to the dizzying heights of
-56! Having overtaken his younger brother (-168) and his father (-72), he now has his missus (-10) in his sights...

Hide --, --, --, +20, +30, +42, +27 = +119
David +34, -17, +25, -40,* +67, +4, -30 = +43
Noda -7, +26, -30, +57,** -77, --, -- = -31
Jaime -27, -9, +5, -37, -20, -46, +3 =-131

David Hurley
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Friday, July 20, 2007

Tuesday 17th July: Eri.

"...thou art pleasant, gamesome, passing courteous."

I received the news from Gregg today, the bad news we have been expecting and yet hoping not to hear. Eri, the ebullient "Mahjong Queen" of the "Cock's-eye" club departed this life in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Eri was one of the best students of English that I have taught in my time in Japan. She combined an intelligent grasp of the language with a love of using it in class and out. Private classes were never dull; it was simply a matter of relaxing in one's chair and letting Eri go wherever she wished with her chatter and offering a few guidelines here and there as she flowed along. Whether we were engaged in general conversation or preparing for exams with chunks of complex text did not seem to matter; everything was heartfelt with Eri.

Her horizons were broad but darkened with great banks of clouds, yet her sun was never completely obscured, her sky never entirely overcast.

Her favourite foreign writer was Checkhov and the last time I saw her I gave her my copy of his short stories in English in the hope that she would be able to have her visitors read to her if she wished. I had brought the book back from England in January as Eri had requested that we discuss Checkhov in the private classes that she was hoping to renew. As it was, she managed to take just one class.

As it was, all the time she was able to receive visitors she entertained like a queen in her court; she was assailed by pain and fatigue but never complained (although she seemed to enjoy contradicting her mother in front of the nurse). She chatted brightly when she could, with a gamesome spirit and without any expression of self pity. She assessed her own fate with equanimity, both her past life, and the time that remained to her, and showed all her accustomed interest in the fortunes of her friends. The last time I saw her she said she hoped she would "last until the summer" but doubted that she would be able to make it to a summer beer garden party. I had not realized how close this wretched summer was.

The first time Eri was admitted to hospital she asked me to read something from the Book of Common Prayer when I visited. I happily agreed to that, neither seeking nor expecting in the least to effect a conversion. Eri, cosmopolitan in many ways, was emphatically and patriotically Japanese and therefore, as she would say, a Buddhist.

Her favourite Japanese writer was Dazai Osamu.

At the mahjong table Eri's chatter would often be to the detriment of her game and her method of play was at times unconventional and not a few times did she have to be chivvied into discarding a tile, but above all her chief qualities in the mahjong parlour and elsewhere were that she was pleasant, gamesome and passing courteous.

David Hurley


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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Sunday 15th July: Neil Ends His Stay in the Black

Six blokes and two blokes-in-training turned up at the Panorama Beer Garden on the roof of the Fukuya department store opposite Hiroshima station. As beer garden parties go this one has to be the mellowest of them all - a sign of our age perhaps. Apart from Tim who drank stolidly at his usual pace throughout, the rest of the senior body was definitely sipping rather than quaffing. Of the three juniors only one was above the legal limit and he showed more enthusiasm than usual for the knappy ale by drinking with the seniors and appeared to suffer for it at the mahjong table later that evening...

As for the food, the consensus was that it would have been worth paying the extra 700yen for the much finer fair offered at Granvia Hotel just over the tracks from Fukuya, even if the space is more constricted and the view not so fine. It must be another sign of age when blokes place more value on the quality of food than on the quantity of beer.

I was unable to join the rest at the mahjong game at Jaime's tonight so I can say little about the session except to note the scores and their consequences:

Neil +81, +9, +13 = +103
Jaime -23, +38, +58 = +73
Kenyon -32, +9, -26 = -49
Ray -26, -56, -45 = -127

Neil managed to register his first victory in over two years and returns to the southern shores of Kyuushu with the satisfaction of having ended his brief return to the mahjong tables of Hiroshima on a grand total of +12 after twelve or thirteen hours of play.

It appears that Ray's run of success was almost as transient as the conquests of Trajan, and Kenyon finds himself deposited back upon the bottom of the table while Jaime advances to second place...

David Hurley

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Friday 13th July: Neil Joins the Fray; Sean & Ryan Dip Their Toes In.

A festive spirit prevailed tonight. Neil, one of our former colleagues in the days when we were all "dokushin kizoku" (batchelor aristocrats) at a certain English language school of ill repute, was back in town for the holiday weekend, blown in from Kyuushu by the typhoon.

We had agreed to meet at
Koyo (a.k.a. Jantopia) jansou, to enjoy its friendly atmosphere. The move was proposed by Jaime. It was a cunning ploy on his part to turn around his recent fortunes. Pleasant as the parlour may be, the tables at Koyo have always played in favour of Jaime; they have never furthered the progress of David; indeed, pleasant pastures often prove painful to the progress of the pilgrim, as did By-Path Meadow to Christian and Hopeful, or the well watered plain of Jordan to Lot.

It will be remembered that the David's recent good form at the tables of both the four-player and the three-player games resembled in magnitude, if not in glory, the double success the emperor Trajan had enjoyed over the pagans of Dacia and the star-gazers of the East. David's successes had even continued across the dreaded change of quarter as June gave way to July and the previous night he had enjoyed victory in the four-player game at The Good Doc's.

A victory by the PLC in tonight's 3-player game would have completely routed the "4-player/3-player" rule in which victory at one table is said to presage defeat at the other. However, change is not conducive to the maintenance of empire and David's conquests proved to be no less "transient... rapid and specious" than Trajan's asiatic successes.

It will also be remembered that Trajan's successor to the imperial purple was none other than that great and energetic defensive strategist, Publius Aelius Traianus Hadrianus, a.k.a. Hadrian, of wall-building fame.
"The resignation of all the eastern conquests of Trajan was the first measure of his reign. He restored to the Parthians the election of an independent sovereign, withdrew the Roman garrisons from the provinces of Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Assyria, and, in compliance with the precept of Augustus, once more established the Euphrates as the frontier of the empire." (Gibbon, D&FRE, Vol. I cap. I.)

Tonight's was a ten-hour mahjong session in which numerous games were played and numerous beers quaffed and many pleasant distractions served to amuse the varied company.

Kenyon and David were the first arrivals. Then Jaime, Ray, Tim and Noda arrived as a party accompanying Neil straight from four swift "Happy Hour" beers at Kembys.

This was the part of the evening in which the laurels of victory were handed out with considerable liberality to the regular players of the drunken party so that at the end of the first game the results were:

Drunken Regular Players
Jaime - Victory
Noda - Victory
Ray - Victory

Drunken Occasional Player
Neil - Defeat

Other Regular Players (Sober or Not Yet Inebriated)
David - Defeat
Kenyon - Defeat

Non-Participating Drunkards Also Worthy of Mention

Noda, Ray, and Kenyon occupied one table, David, Jaime, and Neil the other. Five tiles into the first hand of the first game Jaime completed the first of many swift hands. Four tiles into the next, and the next hand a similar process occurred and we were half way through the game before you could say "Bob's your uncle" and there were still two
Yakitori tesserae on the table. Then Jaime racked up a few 100-Tenbou until Neil eventually completed a hand. Another swift victory brought us to last Oya and whoever it was did not last long at that post, so victory went to Jaime, with Neil suffering a modest loss and David commencing his "retreat from the Orient" with his Yakitori tesserae still on the table.

Over on the other table Kenyon suffered at the hands of the drunken regular players but avoided the ignominy of getting skewered. However, the sober player proved the least continent as the negative results accumulated to the prejudice an already tenuous mastery of the passions. I think it was Noda's two-in-a-row completion of Kokushimusou as Oya that was the last straw for Kenyon. Or was it that time, familiar to us all, when Kenyon was
Tempai on Kokushimusou himself, only to see Ray go out? Anyway, he jumped off his chair and paced up and down in a Choleric frenzy that I had not thought a herbivore capable of - choler being the humour natural to one who surfeits on summer mutton.

Ray inherited a number of 100-tenbou although as starting Oya and already on the South round he had yet to complete a hand. His corner of the table was looking rather crowded, as the photo shows!

Whereas play had started swiftly on Jaime's table, it shortly slowed down apace as two new guests, Sean and Ryan, joined us to observe the game for the first time. By now David was entering into his cups and liberally abusing Neil for robbing him of the tiles he needed from the wall by his slow but all too frequent, and vain, declarations of "Pon". (After all, what else does he return to Hiroshima for if not for the abuse he receives at our hands when he gets here?)

Kenyon's calls for a change of table seating arrangements went unheeded (despite their impact upon the eardrums - loud noises often serve to deafen the hearers - ) as our games never quite seemed to come to a simultaneous end and none of the other players on either table found himself inclined to wait upon the sober player's pleasure. Ray, their table leader, was quite happy with the way things were. Their table was now playing at a faster rate than ours and finishing ahead of us, Noda declared for a final game with seating arrangement as it was, so Kenyon rejoined the table and promptly turned in the best single result of the evening, reclaiming all the ground he had lost and finishing in the black on +2.

The effect of that turnaround had been to push Noda back into the red, which proved useful to David at the end of the evening as it contributed to preserving his position at the top of the Grand Accumulated Results Table in spite of his racking up the biggest defeat of any player in one session so far this year!

Noda and Ray departed the scene (in fact, Noda nearly flew from it by missing his footing at the top of the stairs) and so an opportunity arose for us to host a training session on one table and a regular game on the other.

Jaime hosted the first half of the training session and Neil second.

Kenyon joined David and Neil's table, where his precipitous swing from the extremity of unmitigated disaster to that of outrageous victory continued through three more games, and d
id not begin to abate until a Chombo in the 8th was followed by another in the 9th game where he finally gave 39 points back to the market for Jaime to scoop up. Indeed, Kenyon's late night advance did not prevent Jaime from continuing to make progress as well. Nor did it prevent the Poor Little Cypriot from ordering and polishing off his 11th beer for the evening and registering a loss throughout of approximately 20 points per beer! Perhaps it was that 11th beer that caused him to commit the most absurd of Chombo breaches - a breach in the wall which, when all the tiles had been replaced, left him with just ten tiles in hand!

I should say Kenyon's evening accurately traced the fortunes of Sobriety when confronted by Inebriation; in the early stages your sober fellow can do nothing against the exuberant inspiration of the freshly intoxicated, but as the evening wears on he gains the advantage of a clear head over a befuddled noddle.

Jaime took the middle course and retired from his cups at a prudent moment and steered himself home.

David, however, who was late out of the traps, pressed on regardless, drinking with neither exuberance nor incontinence, but sinking, ever sinking, at the moderate rate of one beer every fifty minutes. Ah, how many wretches has a policy of "moderation" sent to Hell in a handcart?

In the penultimate game, David, by now sinking beneath the twin impresses of time and his tipple, tossed out a Red Dragon only for Kenyon to pounce and reveal a completed Kokushimusou! Jaime had seen the danger and held onto one of the other Red Dragons. David had only got so far as noticing that a couple of end tiles were cunningly placed among Kenyon's discard pile and thought no more of it!

That was the fourth Kokushimusou of an eventful evening - Jaime had completed the third sometime earlier; but, to reiterate, the most amazing eventuality was Noda's going out on Kokushimusou twice running.

Somewhere in the mist - er, I meant to type "the midst" but I find "the mist" somehow more apposite and pertinent - of these events Tim (who had, by the way, quit our company long ago for the pleasures of Sin in the Tents of Wickedness) returned with Alex, the renowned bartender of Kulcha. Our amiable Mama-san was once more aroused from her slumbers before the television and cheerfully set about pouring Tim his umpteenth beer of the night and then with equal equanimity received instructions from Alex about how to mix up his own choice of brew. There then ensued a conversation about Tim, a young lady, and Neil, and the carte blanche the first of the three was offering the third to do him the courtesy of showing her his favour...

A sense of modesty and propreity causes me to pause and spare the details of the denouement of that particular conversation, but I trust the varied scenes that presented themselves to our two observers, Sean and Ryan, will have beguiled them into joining us on a regular basis!

The results:

Kenyon -42, +11, -12, -91, +132, || +52, +89, +52,** -39,** = +154
Jaime +57, +21, +71, -30, (--), || --, -13, -17, +50 = +139
Ray +10, +31, +40, +14, -66, || --, --, --, -- = +29
Noda +32, -42, -28, +77, -66, || --, --, --, -- = -27
Neil -13, -25, -36, +23, (--), || +3, -43, --, --, = -91
David -44,* +4, -35, +7, (--), || -55, -33, -35, -11,* = -202

* Yakitori
** Chombo

The jaws of the Grand Accumulated Points Table are closing! The current top player performed the worst, the current bottom player performed the best tonight. Kenyon's recovery puts him on the same number of points as Hide, but as Kenyon as played more games his batting average is not so bad so he moves off the bottom. David sets a new "worst result" record but manages to stay top; Noda drops back to 3rd place; Jaime gets back in the black; Neil enters the fray in 8th place and Ray improves his situation in fourth.

David Hurley

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Thursday 12th July: The Conquests of Trajan and his Column.

Having recently expanded the realms of his empire by ravaging the regions of Dacia well beyond the limits set by his previous advance up the Grand Accumulated 3-Player Mahjong Results Table early in the spring, Emperor Traianus Davidus set out in the footsteps of the ancient poet, Bassho, on a second exhibition against one of the tribes of the east which shelter behind the broad islands over against southernmost tributary of the Great River Mogamus. That river is noted for the speed of its current and the people who dwell thereabouts for their skill in medicine. Indeed, such is the fame of their medicine that the chief men of the tribe were preoccuppied with dishing out powders and potions and were still in their witchdoctors' gear when they were taken by surprise as Traianus Davidus marched into their encampment a full 15 minutes earlier than expected. They were alerted to the danger when the tribal totem, a little fluffy dog sporting a pink bib, began to yap excitedly and run to and fro in the entrance way to the encampment.

While the elders and chief men of the tribe girded up their loins, Trianus Davidus attacked the baggage wagons and made off with sandwiches and beer.

Now the people of the East are players of classical Japanese four-player mahjong whereas the heretical Dacian schismatics proclaim the merits of the three-player variation.

It is an ancient tradition that the general who takes to the field against the peoples of the east and overmasters them by martial prowess often comes a cropper when he turns his face and his forces against the Dacians. Likewise has it been remarked that a general who masters the field in Dacia seldom manages to march his eagles to victory in the east.

Battle was joined and ranged over three encounters. In the first, Traianus Davidus won the early skirmishes with a nice Haneman hand (courtesy of three Dora tiles) as Oya, but his forces were halted for the rest of that skirmish although they did not give up much ground, and Traianus Davidus was able to wrest the initiative back towards the end of the game. He did this by adopting the tactics of the German tribesmen, stripping off his armour and going biserker. Mrs M had declared Riichi and so Trianus Davidus promptly did the same and flung himself amongst the enemy brandishing his Issen Tenbou and closing upon them with a cry of "Okake Riichi" - which promptly turned into "Ippatsu, Tsumo..." and I forget what else to discomfit them and cause them to flee from the field.

Dr M jr had suffered most in the first encounter, and suffered almost as much in the second. Play flowed as swiftly as the eponymous river that Bassho described in one of his haiku. There were several comic moments, as for example when Mrs M retracted a "Pon" declaration a couple of times, giving away the fact that she was waiting for something, but not the Wind or Dragon that had just been discarded. The first time it happened Trianus Davidus gave away the required Wind, but I don't think Mrs M was able to complete her hand. However, on the second occasion Trianus Davidus kept close to hand the Red Dragon that he suspected she needed, but Mrs M completed her hand anyway by other means; a generous donation by Dr M jr, if I remember rightly.

Dr M jr claimed the North Wind by a declaration of "Pon" when his seat was no longer in the North. He made a good show of having bungled, but whether that was the case or whether it was an example of the crafty cunning that is as natural to the people of the East, I dare not say.

Dr M jr, the tribal elder, prevailed in this encounter, but the losses accruing to Traianus Davidus were not fatal to his ambitions and a severe blow had been administered to the forces of Dr M jr who had threatened his left flank with a triple attack taking advantage of the South Wind. Unfortunately for him his attack was scuppered by the tribal elder took him down and touched him for a token amount of booty.

There was a general reorganization of troops for the third and decisive encounter, with Dr M sr now ranging at large on Traianus Davidus's left flank, Dr M jr occupying a more defensive location on his right and Mrs M in the centre.

Half way through the game Traianus Davidicus had retreated somewhat but was still hopeful of victory when he, as Oya, put together a hand consisting of the old 7-Pairs (Chitoi), with the missing tile being none other than the South Wind, the Dora for that game, and with none yet showing on the table. He thought better of declaring Riichi and sat back and waited for the trap to be sprung. Sure enough, the tribal elder, Dr M sr, thinking the coast was clear to pop out the South, did so and suffered when the hidden Dora indicator pointed to a couple of tiles in Traianus Davidus his hand.

The South Wind was active again in a later hand when Dr. M sr declared Riichi, then Traianus Davidicus, seeing he was still Oya declared as well with a South/7-Coins wait. No sooner had he done that than Dr M jr also declared Riichi and began to pray earnestly to the pagan deities. If his orisons were accepted the requests they contained were not. Mrs M now contemplated throwing herself into the fray with a fourth Riichi but declined to do so and played safe. Dr M sr discarded without event and Traianus Davidus then drew the South Wind to complete his hand with Riichi, Tsumo, Table Wind, and three Dora bonuses. It was that hand that won him the game, but actually, Dr M sr pointed out, had Mrs M declared Riichi the hand would have been abandoned. In the four player game (as played here) a fourth Riichi automatically terminates play.

Perhaps the deities had opened half an ear to Dr M jr's prayers for he was able to declare Riichi and to complete the final hand of the evening to get himself to the dizzy heights - er I should rather say "the not so low depths" - of minus two. He still finished as the evening's bottom player. Mrs M was third. Dr M sr came in just above the bar, not on the main points but on the strength of a Maru (O) bonus, while Traianus Davidus marched off with the spoils of victory to set up what is known in the English speaking world as Trajan's Column, an edifice of words made up chiefly of balderdash which you have just been perusing at your leisure.

Trajan (53-117AD)
Conquerer of Dacia, and the East, a virtuous pagan resurrected by Pope Gregory I and baptized into glory by the same.

Famous also for the size of his Roman column.

Of Traianus, or Trajan as he is rendered in English, Gibbon has this to say:

Trajan was ambitious of fame; and as long as mankind shall continue to bestow more liberal applause on their destroyers than on their benefactors, the thirst of martial glory will ever be the vice of the most exalted characters. The praises of Alexander, transmitted by a succession of poets and historians, had kindled a dangerous emulation in the mind of Trajan. Like him the Roman emperor undertook an expedition against the nations of the east, but he lamented with a sigh, that his advanced age scarcely left him any hopes of equalling the renown of the son of Philip.

And of his conquests he writes:

Yet the success of Trajan, however transient, was rapid and specious. The degenerate Parthians, broken by intestine discord, fled before his arms. He descended the river Tigris in triumph, from the mountains of Armenia to the Persian gulf. He enjoyed the honour of being the first, as he was the last, of the Roman generals, who ever navigated that remote sea. His fleets ravaged the coasts of Arabia; and Trajan vainly flattered himself that he was approaching towards the confines of India. (20) Every day the astonished senate received the intelligence of new names and new nations, that acknowledged his sway. They were informed that the kings of Bosphorus, Colchos, Iberia, Albania, Osrhoene, and even the Parthian monarch himself, had accepted their diadems from the hands of the emperor; that the independent tribes of the Median and Carduchian hills had implored his protection; and that the rich countries of Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Assyria, were reduced into the state of provinces.

On the death of Trajan and his legacy:

But the death of Trajan soon clouded the splendid prospect; and it was justly to be dreaded that so many distant nations would throw off the unaccustomed yoke, when they were no longer restrained by the powerful hand which had imposed it.

David Hurley

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Friday 6th July: "I Do Not Create, I Transmit."

In this evening's first game Noda and David were completing hands at the expense of Jaime until Jaime finally completed a hand to get rid of his Yakitori tessera and become the last Oya. At that point fortunes reversed. Fortune now shone upon Jaime and presented him with a series of hands that swiftly set themselves up while David and Noda wilted before the heat. So the final score of the first game was an unexpected +91 for Jaime with the other two sharing the pain more or less equally.

Hide-san slotted into the spare chair for a more evenly fought second game in which David managed to finish a few thousand points up, enough to grab all the points as the other players were all slightly down.

Everybody changed seats for the third and fourth games, with David and Jaime both ending up sitting opposite their starting seats and therefore still sat in a similar relation to each other, with Jaime on David's right, Noda opposite (instead of on the left) and Hide-san on the left (instead of opposite). David ended up in the seat he had deliberately avoided on arriving at the parlour, preferring the security of the corner seat even if it did mean sitting on Noda's right and having to play while he was
Oya, the compensating advantage being that Noda would be out of the games in which David was Oya. However, the seat that David had rejected turned out to be chief corner stone of his evening.

But first, Hide-san made his presence felt in the third game. One of the hands he won drew a cry of anguish from Jaime, who had given away the winning tile to preserve a
Tempai wait on a potential Suuanko hand. Hide was the only winner of the third game.

We turn now to the fourth game. Confucius, who is credulously affirmed by some to be the inventer of mahjong, was once heard to say,

I do not create, I transmit.

It was rather like that in the fourth game. Fortune now smiled on David. He did not do anything, it was done through him. He was merely the transmitter. The transmitter nearly blew a fuse once or twice, which is to say that although David did not create his fortune he did almost destroy its transmission through his hands in the fourth game.

David was the starting
Oya and just a few tiles into the hand he went out on Jaime's discard for a Haneman score. Just a few tiles into the second hand, exactly the same thing happened.

There then followed a farcical moment when David popped out a tile without having got all their tiles in his hands, but he just as quickly popped it back into his hand again and
Chombo claims were not pressed home...

Hide-san, who was not in the game, started to take an interest in David's hands and marvelled at the way hands formed themselves. A potential
Ichitonkan (1-9) eventually completed itself when the 5-Coins plopped into place setting up a two-tile Bamboo wait, which duly appeared from off the wall. In the next hand a "Bamboo forest" grew almost spontaneously and when the 7-Bamboo appeared it was only with a nudge from Hide-san that David realized that he had completed another hand!

Jaime then did the honours for the completion of a
Chitoi hand and I forget what else. At one stage in the game Jaime was in debt to David to the tune of 65,000 points, and then began to slide into debt with Noda who went out on the eighth hand of David's reign.

Jaime's last shot as
Oya was short lived, and David gave away a tile to Hide-san and then a red 5-Bamboo to Jaime to wrap the game up as the only winner on +116.

Jaime would have stayed for a fifth game and a chance to recover losses, but Noda and David both wanted to shut up shop and so that was that.

In tonight's session, each game ended with only one winner, with David winning two, Jaime and Hide-san one each and Noda none. So David pushes ahead into new territory and Noda falls back but nobody changes places on the Grand Accumulated Points Chart.

David -48, +21, -6, +116 = +83
Hide --, -9, +33, -4 = +20
Jaime +91, -3, -22, -98 = -32
Noda -43, -9, -5, -14 = -71

David Hurley


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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Friday 29th June: Hide-san supplies the ducks and the onions...

The first game had hardly got underway when the old yakimeshi set appeared in front of The Poor Little Cypriot who then got clobbered by Noda a couple of times at the table. Jaime received similar treatment at Noda's hands but the result was not too serious as the English party finished on -15 each.

However, it was a clear signal that Noda was back in business. He finished above zero in all four games tonight, and top in two of them to come top overall for the evening. Noda advances to second place (again) on the Grand Accumulated Points Chart.

Hide joined in the second game but tonight his impact on the game was quite different from last week's barnstorming intervention. Tonight it was more a case of Hide "bringing the duck and the onions" for the stew pot (as the quaint Japanese saying goes) -
kamo mo, negi mo...
Hide came bottom in all three games that he played and seemed unable to complete a hand or was pipped to the post by one of the other players. Twice in the evening Noda, Jaime and Hide all declared Riichi, and both times it was Jaime who won the hand.

When Hide went out on David's discard at the beginning of David's turn as
Oya it was for a mere 1,000 points.

David had digested his dinner in good time for the second and Mama's
yakimeshi proved particularly invigorating tonight as he took the second game.

We did Noda's special tile choosing routing to reallocate seats and the result was that Jaime and Noda changed places, so Hide was stuck in the disaster area. However, although Jaime faired better in Noda's original seat, Noda took most of his luck with him and added an extra sixty two points to his total in what had been Jaime's seat.

Jaime was still hoping to break even as last
Oya for the evening and had won a couple of hands when David suddenly took the 9-Bamboo off him for a 2 Dragon, Chanta hand for Mangan or 11,000 points including table bonuses, which was enough for David to nick top spot in the game from Noda, and also to consign Jaime to the red on the Grand Accumulated Results Table.

Noda +30, +2, +49, +13 = +94
David -15, +58, -14, +38 = +67
Jaime -15, -26, +11, -9 = -39
Hide --, -34, -46, -44 = -122

David Hurley

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