Sunday, January 27, 2008

Noda Receives The 2007 Cock's-Eye 3PMJ Trophy

Noda received the 2007 Cock's-Eye 3-Player Mahjong Trophy at Kodama jansou on Friday 18th January.

This years trophy is in the likeness of a hawk louring on a rock, or a craggy outcrop, or a tree trunk or something. It replaces the misplaced "Bull" trophy* and is a particularly fine piece.

[*See blog entry for Friday January 28: "Never Trust A Japanese Lady With Your Bulls", below.]

Or "pieces" I should say, because if you are not careful one of the wings will fall off.

Unfortunately, the chap in the basement of the antiques emporium where I unearthed this admirable artifact neglected to include two brass pins when he wrapped up the pieces; so we had to make do with matches to hold the wings in place.

The body of the bird is easily detached from the shapeless lump upon which it stands. One false move and the bird will fall off its perch and the plinth will drop off the bottom. That's why Noda is holding the thing so carefully.

I didn't get around to commissioning a brass plate with the legend "Noda - 3PMJ Champion 2007" so we had to make do with paper, biro and sellotape.

The 2007 Cock's-Eye "Louring Hawk" Trophy is expressive of the manner in which the 2007 champion who, after falling to pieces in the early running, got his act together towards the end of the year, soared to a great height on the Grand Accumulated Results Table and loured upon the prey beneath him with a threatening eye. If the hawk has a tendency to fall off its perch, so too, from time to time, does the champion - to the great delight of the other players.

The Louring Hawk is a fitting replacement for the Bull, which was so shockingly disposed of. It surpasses the Bull in size and weight and is such a thoroughly Awkward and Hideous Monstrosity that no further punishment need be inflicted upon our benighted champion and his lady than but one, which is that the Precious Eyesore be placed in a prominent position in the Noda household's display cabinet for the rest of the year.

Or, if the lady will not be gainsaid in her determination to rid the residence of its latest Work of Art, she'll find the Louring Hawk no demure and modest Terracotta Bull to be disposed of with a toss of the hand; no, she'll have her work cut out, she will; she'll have to go about, and about she'll have to go to dispose of this year's Cumbersome and Atrocious Trophy, and no small going-about will that going-about be.

Tim did the honours in presenting the "Louring Hawk" to Noda, who seemed remarkably sanguine in the receiving of it. Part of the cunning plan was to present Noda with an object of such utter ghastliness as to cause him never to aspire to be champion again.

Tim gave a brief speech to the assembled company in which he also paid tribute to the memory of our late friend, Eri, who was amongst us this time last year and hopeful of recovery. 

After Noda had received the trophy, Jaime and David whipped out the cigars they had bought at the new whisky and cigar bar on the second floor of Kemby's. Jaime went for a long Cuban infused with brandy, and David selected a stubby Davidoff. Tonight was our turn to smoke out the mahjong parlour. Fifty-one weeks of the year the Japanese players smoke their cheap cigarettes and fill the parlour with their noxious odour, but tonight they got a shock when the two of us in our smoking humour blazed away for much of the night like Quilp the Dwarf, and puffed out a rich miasma of Caribbean smoke, which turned Mama's freshly painted walls yellow in the twinkling of an eye.

Jaime's was longer, but David's lasted longer. As it was with the smoke, so it turned out to be with the tiles. Noda played a short game and disappeared with the freshly dismantled Hawk having taken everybody to the cleaners and finished on +130. No qualms there then about receiving another Hideous Monument at next year's prize giving...

Once Noda had departed the parlour Ray threatened to take over the running and extricate himself from the bottom of the pile, and in doing so, helped Jaime to chalk up the year's first Yakitori. Meanwhile, Kenyon re-entered the fray to win back his modest first game losses, plus one! 

David had been muttering about how the Davidoff had not raised him very far into the Delectable Mountains. He had spent much of the second and third game fiddling about relighting it and so forth. The Davidoff repaid David's attentions, however, not so much in that Extacy of Relaxation which is the particular reward of a Good Smoke, but in keeping him sufficiently compos mentis to take his advantages when they presented themselves, vide licet in the fourth and fifth games. 

The sixth game, being the last, went to Kenyon and pulled him above the bar, so the final scores for the night were:

Noda +133, -3, --, --, --, -- = +130
David --, -7, -24, +58, +45, -6 = +66
Kenyon -14, --, +15, -34, +12, +46 = +25

Jaime -48, +26, -36,** +5, -17, -22 = -92
Ray -71, -16, +45, -29, -40, -18 = -129

** Yakitori

David Hurley

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Friday, January 25, 2008

English-Sensei Forced To Practice Golf During Lesson

Barnham Broom Golf & Country ClubI happened to mention to Mrs Wada that I was off to England in February and would be staying at Barnham Broom Golf and Country Club.

Now, I never said anything about playing any golf, I merely said that I would be staying there. But Mrs Wada, who happens to be both and a keen golfer and the Big White Chief of the Takanosu ("Hawk's Nest") Golf Club near Hiroshima, immediately picked up her phone and rang her golf instructor-wallah and booked her English-sensei-wallah in for a golf lesson - something I would never have done on my own initiative. She told me that he was a professional golfer who had played in America and that he therefore had a good command of English, at least for the purposes of teaching golf, and that he was an all round good egg who wouldn't laugh at my cack-handed slashings and hackings. That I doubted.

It will be evident from the foregoing that Mrs W is a very keen golfer. Some may go so far as to aver that she seems to be keener on playing or practising golf than studying English and I must offer some grist to their mill by admitting that the golf lesson was indeed scheduled to take place during the hour usually appointed and set aside for the study of English on a Friday afternoon.

Whereas others approach a golfing session with some such target in mind as "get my score below 90", or "whack the ball 550 yards in a straight line", and so forth, my only aim is not to make a complete ass of myself. It was the same with this here practice session I had been maneouvred into. Just don't make a complete pratt of yourself, Hurley. Difficult, I know, but with some preparation one might at least be able shoulder one's clubs with some semblance of hope in one's heart. So, with that in mind, I shuffled off to the local golf-supplier's and bought a new golfing glove.

Mrs W. was right. The instructor, Mr Tsuda, was a mild mannered, easy-going chap who made the whole process both pleasant and obviously beneficial. He watched me for a minute and then asked politely (no flicker of a malicious grin crossed his face), "How much golf have you played?"

"Er, not much. Just two or three times a year for the last two or three years..."

"How many games altogether?"

"Er, maybe ten or fifteen."

"Do you practice?"

"Ah, um, only just before games, never after."

"What do you want to achieve?"

"I don't want to go around feeling embarrassed when other people are watching."

"What score do you want to get? 100?"

"Ah, yes, well, 120 would be nice."

First thing to do, apparently, is to avoid hitting the ball out of bounds. It would seem that in order to do that you have to hit the ball straight, and to get to that point there is a whole concatenation of procedures you have to remember to follow without thinking too hard about the fact that you are - or ought to be - following them.

I received some good clues, though. "The Japanese emphasise bending knees too much", was one such usual hint as it seems that I was bending - or buckling - at the knee and nowhere much else. He showed me how to hold the club, get into posture, approach the ball - all stuff I've read about in old David Leadbetters Book.

Then got me working on the arc and the twist of the wrists. First of all he pointed out that I ought to twist my wrists (not just flap them around), and then he pointed out that it would be better to twist them sooner rather than later. Twist your wrists before you think you should, he suggested. It worked perfectly and the ball soared straight off the tee. It was pretty good stuff. I felt comfortable, had actually leart something and was enjoying the experience - especially when I remembered that I ought to have been teaching English.

David Hurley

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Never Trust A Japanese Lady With Your Bulls

Mr Noda has blown it!

Last January he was presented with the Cockseye Three-Player Mahjong Trophy, an earthenware statue of a bull, which was his to keep for the year (view the report, here).

At the end of the year he was supposed to hand it back in to the Central Committee so that the bull could be presented to the winner of the 2007 Cockseye Three-Player Mahjong League.

Unfortunately, however, due care was not taken, and it transpires that Mrs Noda has...


As Mr Noda is therefore unable to fulfil his obligations to the Central Committee, he has been duly stripped of his title and an even bigger bull (which the Central Committee has yet to procure) will be awarded to the new winner of the 2007 Cockseye Three-Player Mahjong League, which a quick perusal of last year's table reveals to be none other than David, which is to say, er, oh gosh! MYSELF [insert blushing emoticon here]!

The only way back into the fold is for Mr Noda to repent, and be seen to repent, for his negligence by paying a fine in the traditional manner, namely, by standing the members of the Central Committee drinks all round.


Last week Noda, Jaime, Ray and David played the first game of the New Year. As David was toiling at the coal face until the tardy hour of ten at night, he was the last to join the table.

However, his curiosity as to the progress of the first session of the year was satisfied by news updates from Jaime, who also sent photographic evidence of how the very first game had gone (left). As you can see, Noda had been hit with Double Ron, and Jaime and Ray were nicely in the black.

By the time David arrived at Kodama-jansou Tim had left and the players were just starting their third game, with Jaime now the clear leader and Ray heading towards the red with Noda.

David declined the other players' invitation to join the table as his stomach was rumbling and he preferred to devote his whole attention to Mama's Yakimeshi Setto. Even so, David barely had time to polish off his last mouthful of rice before the game had ended.

David joined in the fourth game, and despite being about to nod off after a greulling day's labour, he was well seated as "North" to Noda's "East" and so avoided the worst of Noda's attempted recovery. Ray's crafty defensive tactic of not declaring a hidden 1-Character, and then Green Dragon, Kan so that he would have several safe tiles to discard when someone else declared Riichi staved defeat off for a few plays, but once safety had been exhausted, Ray's knack of choosing to pluck from his hand exactly the tile that needed sank him after all.

At the end of the fourth game Noda thought he had won, but David's risky declaration of Riichi on a one tile (7-Coins) wait immediately after Noda had declared (on a three-tile wait) paid off as David drew the tile from wall. That result was enough for David to pip Noda to the post by 1,000 points, or one "issen tenbou".

Noda had finished for the night, and David thought it more than prudent to call it a night as well, although it was a pity to finish so early on an night when Ray was able to play.

So Jaime finished top dog in three figures for the night, to claime the "first leader of the year" award, with David in his favourite position of "second and in the black" and Ray picking up the first wooden spoon of the year.

Jaime +35, +36, +65, -29 = 107
David --, --, --, +27 = +27
Noda -50,* +12, -21, +6 = -53
Ray +15, -48, -44, -4 = -81

*Double Ron

David Hurley


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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Shock Report: Japanese Don't Do It In Kimonos Any More...

New Year's Day is not the day to visit Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island, if you want to avoid the crowds. It used to be a good day to visit if you wanted to see lots of Japanese ladies kitted out in kimonos, but there was hardly a kimono in site this year, just a rather drab assortment of padded coats and jackets...

The shocking truth is that the Japanese don't do it in kimonos any more. Some go so far as to assert that the Japanese don't do it at all, as was reported in a 2006 A-Bomb City exclusive podcast report.

Someone told me today that in the days of yore, the Japanese would dress up in their best kimonos because they were going to pay homage to the gods at the beginning of the year, rather as people used to put on their "Sunday Best" to go to church or chapel before the advent of the Neo Dark Age turned Sunday into Shopping Day Seven and all was reduced to a common, beastly mediocrity.

In the photo at the top of this report, the bunch of old coves who are waiting to get into Itsukushima Shrine look as if they are queueing up for a January bargain sale rather than for the sale of New Year's blessings.

It was a lovely clear day, so there was a good view of the snow-dusted mountains in the background, but it was freezing cold, which is perhaps why our delicate contemporary Japanese with their runny-nosed susceptibility to all manner of "alerughee" and "infurenza" chose not to dress up in their kimonos. You may have heard that the Japanese are very "delicate" or "sensitive" - so they are, to catching colds.

Here's a shot of the torii gate from the Noh stage, cunningly angled to conceal the the hideous monstrosity of a building that is the headquarters of some modern Buddhist cult and was built half way up the hill across the water directly opposite Miyajima.

Turning back to the main building, you can see the winter screens, put up to protect the delicate sensitivity of the visitors from the wrathful nipping cold of barren winter.

"The eye never tires of seeing," Bacon wrote, but it does get a bit jaded after too much exposure to a single shade of Vermillion. Fortunately, some relief was to hand in the earthier hues of yon gracefully roofed pagoda (above) or in the snow-crusted planking on this here bridge to nowhere crossed by nobody not no how for nowt. That snow shall melt ere it be dinted with footstep of saint or sinner, I'll warrant you.

David Hurley

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Thursday 27th December: Old Japanese Proverb: "Makeru Ga Kachi"

A pile of boxes covered the floor of the tatami anteroom of the residence of the senior docs. It transpired that the senior doc and the lady wife had been clearing out some cupboards in anticipation of the celebrated ritual of Japanese New Year house-cleaning. They had dug out a load of old urushi lacquerware trays and some ancient bone-and-bamboo mahjong sets. It was intimated that perhaps Yours Truly, what with his reputation for being, albeit in a modest capacity, something of a Patron of the Arts, might be favourably inclined towards the proposition that the aforementioned portable artefacts be bequeathed upon his person and removed from the premises that same night.

The transaction completed, a festive air lent itself to the proceedings at the mahjong table - until, that is, the mechanics or electronics appeared to give up the ghost right in the middle of the first game (which had been advancing without any player appearing to dominate). The initial attempts to get the table working having failed, it began to look as if the game would have to be abandoned. However, The Poor Little Cypriot called upon his long experience of observing the Mama-sans of Japanese mahjong parlours get their malfunctioning tables back into action and issued a few sage instructions such as "Try polishing the tiles," and "Let's unload all the tiles and feed the whole lot back in again." That cleared the table of the problem and the machine began to make hopeful whirring noises again after the first set of tiles was shoved back into the hopper. There was some consternation when those tiles reappeared in their walls but the second set was thrown into the hopper and the machine went back to work feeding them into place while we all happily agreed that we could play at least one more hand. Happily, though, the machine continued to work smoothly for the rest of the evening.

The Poor Little Cypriot, however, began to suffer a malfunction as serious as the machine's earlier breakdown... He had sunk into something of a mechanical style of play, while on the other hand Mrs M sr. began to string together some useful victories. She was gracious enough to suggest that the PLC had been distracted by the maintenance work on the machine, and he jumped on that excuse and added one of his own, namely, that when one receives so many gifts the table will favour the giver over the receiver in order to even up the good fortune - well, it seemed to make sense at the time, but perhaps that was due to the beer (after all, the PLC had been off the sauce for most of Advent - ah, another excuse!)...

We agreed to play a third game which sent the PLC further into the red, so tonight was a good evening for his hosts, but a jolly one for every party.

Mrs M called a taxi and we were all surprised when something almost as large as a mini-bus turned up - ideal for stashing all the booty, but the PLC wondered what sort of exhorbitant fee he'd be charged for the 5-mile drive home... The first part is the worst as the digital display that shows the current fare clicks up at a frightening pace even while the taxi is at a halt at any of the numerous sets of traffic lights, but once it gets onto the open road it seems to zoom along at a much less expensive rate and so the PLC was only a thousand yen out of pocket on the ride and as the driver helped him carry his booty to his door he comforted himself with the ancient Japanese proverb, a feature of the Karuta card deck,

Makeru ga kachi.

"To lose is to win."

Whether a loser be a winner or no I cannot tell; but it is a smooth and unctuous conceit which may be conveniently spread like butter upon the bread of feeble excuses and cast like oil upon the troubled waters of the loser's soul, where thou shalt doubtless find it as fresh and apt after many days as it was after the first.

David Hurley

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