Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday 6th June: Turkey Shoot Cut Short: Nobuhiro Flies Past His Second Milestone

There were just three players tonight, David, Jaime and Nobuhiro.

It was Nobuhiro's first completely unsupervised evening of play. Just a few hands into the first game and he had committed two Chombo, the first one by ending up with too many tiles, and the second by declaring Riichi and then noticing that one of the tiles he needed was nestling in his discard row. David and Jaime began to look forward to an evening of turkey shooting...

A little bit later in the same game David found himself in the exciting position of being Tempai on Sho Sangen, Honitsu, 3 x Dora, waiting to complete one two pairs for a possible Suuanko or Daisangen finish, and barely six turns into the hand! Actually, having such a fine hand can be nerve-wracking. Keep quiet. Don't declare Riichi. Pray that nobody else declares Riichi, and that Nobu doesn't commit a third Chombo... Oh, and try to look innocent!

It worked!

Jaime, engrossed with his hand, tossed out the Red Dragon to give David Daisangen and 32,000 points.

That put David top in the first game.

If David was thinking that he could rely on Nobuhiro to help him extend his lead, and if Jaime was thinking about getting back into the game via a similar route, both foreigners were badly mistaken.

Suddenly, from nowhere it seemed, Nobuhiro put together a string of winning hands which built up that precious "air of inevitability" that perplexes the other players. He declared Riichi and went out on Ippatsu three times in a row, and went out several other times too to finish top in the second game. It began to look as if he might climb off the bottom of the Grand Accumulated Results Table and dump Ray on the bottom.

Last time Nobuhiro played, he completed a hand, which marked the passing of the first milestone... Now he has finished top in a game, which marks the passing of the second milestone... Hopefully, next time he and Noda play at the same table, Nobuhiro will trip Noda up and come top for the evening at his expense!

The third game went David's way, so he compensated in part for last week's loss by finishing top this evening. Jaime also worked his way back to the lower negatives for the evening, which meant that despite his winning the second game, Nobuhiro still finished bottom on minus fifty something.


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Friday, June 06, 2008

Friday 30th May: The Four Humours Expatiated

It is often the case that my Friday afternoon client, the dynamic Mrs W, cancels her appointment, which leaves me free to loll in the library at A Certain Women's College and catch up on a bit of blogging, or read a few more papers on various arcane aspects of the Shakespeare plays with a view to one day starting my paper on The Purgation Of Melancholy In A Midsummer Night's Dream, or some such stuff, and have a snooze.

Such is the case today, and, as you can see, dear reader, I am hard at it, blogging away, surrounded by much beauty and the occasional beast.

Such, also was the case last Friday; I mean that Mrs W cancelled her afternoon English conversation class. The phrase "Mrs W is busy," is as common an occurrance in my weekly round as the phrase "Jeffrey Bernard is unwell," was to The Spectator in the 1990's.

Lounging with phlegmatic indolence in the library is my unrestricted perogative this week, but last week there was a bit of a fly in the ointment, in the form of an extra appointment that I had levered into the spot between bidding farewell to the dynamic Mrs W and strolling into my early evening TOEFL class back at the said Women's College.

Now that Mrs W had cancelled, there was a severe danger that my phlegmatic loll in the library would be unduly extended by a sound snooze and that the said sound snooze would impinge upon my ability to take up my bed and walk down to the bus stop in time for the fourth appointment. I can sleepwalk my way THROUGH a class, but sleepwalking my way TO a class is another matter, especially when comfortably ensconsced and surrounded by much beauty etc.

I was tempted to cancel the appointment with my own version of "Jeffrey Bernard is unwell", but mindful of the fact that it was a cash-in-hand job and that, with a mahjong session looming, it is more prudent to go cash-in-hand than to go thin-walleted and trusting to your luck.

In mahjong it is often the case that the fattest wallet wins the day. Just look at Mr Noda's performance!

Anyway, I girded my loins, expectorated my excess of phlegm, and headed down to Hiroshima station where I was to meet my student at a certain relatively salubrious cafe.

This student of mine works as a nurse in the terminal care ward for cancer patients. (She was Eri's last gift to me, incidentally, if I may put it like that.) Just recently, our classes have changed from general English conversation with a reading passage and homework exercises, to more serious matters. My student has started taking evening classes in terminal care and has to read complicated and frankly rather depressing papers on the subject in English. It has become my job to help her understand what on earth they are going on about.

This sometimes has unfortunate consequences.

A few weeks ago we were busy working through a paper when a gaijin couple came into the cafe and, of all the empty tables in the shop, they chose to park themselves at the one adjacent to ours. We were busy working through a paper that was comparing the effects on patients who received more, or less, knowledge about the extent and nature of the malignancies they had and whether or not more, or less, knowledge was a good or bad thing. Suddenly, the male half of the gaijin couple, turned his choleric countenence towards us and ejaculated vehemently,


He turned back to his coffee, but my hopes that he might choke on it were disappointed.

Then, when the couple got up to leave, our choleric friend addressed himself to us in calmer tones, such as the pot might use when addressing the kettle after the stove has been turned off. He said that he had not realized what it was we were doing - he seemed to have thought that I was talking about a paper that I had written - but that anyway, he huffed, the writer ought to base his conclusions on sufficient evidence.

I made a perfectly sanguine reply, the peroration of which went thus:

And so therefore, my good sir, it is beholden upon us at all times and in all places to keep in mind and never to forget that it is never advisable to ejaculate without performing due diligence.

That was several weeks ago, and we have made considerable progress reading through the paper since then. I arrived at the cafe in reasonable expectation of having to read through the rest of the ghastly paper, but it turned out not to be the case.

My student arrived and seemed in no hurry to pull out the dreaded academic paper. Instead she began to tell me that she was moving house, but it seemed to me that the move was to a less convenient location that where her current house was. It them transpired that the lady, who, as far as I was aware, had set herself up to be one of Japan's happy makeinu, was preparing to get married two months shy of the Big Four Oh!

So the rest of the lesson was spent in enjoyable conversation about what a good guy she had found, even though she hadn't been looking, and how I surmized - correctly - that he must be several years younger than her since such a good guy would be snapped up early... I mean, any woman who finds a bloke who cooks and does the laundry and stuff like that is not going to relinquish him without a fight, is she?

Is she?

After that I flopped into a taxi and breezed up the hill to the said Women's College for the evening class.

I was boasting, a few weeks ago, about how I sometimes walked from the station to the college or back three or four times a day, on a route that takes you up two hillsides and down one. But I note that now that we are well into the middle of term, I have tended to flop with phlegmatic resignation into a taxi and enjoy the ride up, over, down and up.

It was my second taxi ride up the hill in the course of a single day. I was armed with several rationalizations for such untoward indulgence... one being that I had just earned some extra cash-in-hand at great personal sacrifice, another being that I was saving myself for mahjong, and the third one was that I was not the Duke of York or, thank goodness, one of his ten thousand men, and so if I could not be arsed to march all the way up the hill then demmit I should not be arsed to march all the way up when a damned taxi wallah's on hand to bally well drive me up and be sharp about it...

A couple of hours later I was back in town for tonight's mahjong session, and all seemed to be going moderately for myself and my two competitors, Noda and Jaime. After two games there was still very little in it and none of us was up or down my more than 20 points.

Then came the third game, which was one of those where it is the second-fiddler in the game who feels he's been fiddled. I don't know what Jaime was up to in that third game, but David kept building promising looking hands that would go to Tempai and then come crashing down about his head.

The one that sticks in the memory is a beautiful Suannko Tempai hand with about 7 or 8 Dora tiles built in. David declares Riichi, then Noda declares Riichi and the very next tile that David picks is the one that Noda needs, for some ghastly high score.

Ah, then another one that sticks in the gullet is David's absolutely-safe safety play when Jaime declared Riichi. With two White Dragon tiles showing in Jaime and David's discard rows, David draws a third White Dragon and tosses it, only for Noda to declaire RON on - of course - Chitoi!

There was another case of daylight robbery too, when David had built a hand that Noda called "beautiful" - as he took another 24,000 points from David.

It will be understood from what has gone before that David began to suffer under an extreme distemper in which an excess of blood mingled with a superabundance of black bile.

So the results were that Noda was once again top, and breaking new ground, Jaime was up a little bit, and David was the makeinu of the evening...

But, the night, unlike the players, was yet young! Jaime and David headed off to join Tim in Kulcha to celebrate Jaime's birthday with a "quiet drink".

D-Dub was in the bar and proposed a game of poker. David accepted. Jaime said he had not played for years but was willing to give it a try. Tim was muttering about how some people prefer playing games to chatting, despite which, he joined us as we made ourselves comfortable at one of the tables.

It was very much a sociable game, at least for three of the participants. D-Dub taught us a neat "Spades in the Hole" game where you play a double game and have to win both to win the pot. Tim was about to fold on a hand that D-Dub had won on the top when David pointed out to Tim that he might win below and so stay in the game, so Tim "unfolded" and did indeed win down below. In that game it also allowed David back in to claim the pot.

Jaime wiped out his first stake with some fast high bluffing play, but paid in for a second stake and proceeded to do much better. Eventually D-Dub proposed a second game of Spades in the Hole, which was definitely the most interesting of the games played. But this time, when he took the pot, he immediately proposed that we "call it a night". Hmm.

I don't need to give him any grief about that here as Tim will be doing so every time he sees him...

The three of us were still in high spirits though, but two of us were adamant that we were "not going to MAC"!! So we were heading towards the cheap all night restaurant when Tim remembered that Suikouden was open until 5am, so thither we went, sloping down the Hondori at 2:30am, in search of refreshment, and spent the next two and a half hours feasting and quaffing and talking a load of old balderdash. It is amazing how often those three activities are found consorting together.

At 5am, Tim took the hapless waiter to task for having reminded us so often that it was nearly 5am and that we should go, when the place claims to be open until 5am. We had still not yet purged our spleens and so a trip to Kemby's AM was proposed and unanimously voted through.

Jaime eventually declared for home. By now there was no point in David's catching a taxi, which presented the final excuse for the earlier excess (I mean the taxi up to college, not the all night drinking), for now the taxi fare would be "reclaimed" by catching the 6am tram back home!

However, there was still a good time left for David and Tim to beat each other up over the philosophy of Dewey and his drab style of presenting it. If further proof were needed that Dewey is drab, it may be found residing in the figure of his chief apologist in Hiroshima, Tim, falling asleep at the bar midway through an attempt to explain why he is so fascinating. QED.

David got home in time for a 75minute snooze prior to jum- no, crawling back onto the tram and heading off to his Koi Ue Kominkan class, where he declined to sit down for fear of not getting up and somehow swayed and staggered his way through a class in which he gave a more or less coherent discourse on the four humours and how too much of a good thing can put you quite out of humour.

Noda -6, -5, +92 = +81
Jaime +24, -19, +20 = +25
David -18, +24, -112* = -106


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Thursday 29th May: Medicine Man Steals North Wind...

My first post-collywobbles social engagement was the monthly session of mahjong at the Doc's parents' place Thursday-week ago. It was the last engagement of a packed afternoon in the Hatchobori area of Hiroshima which saw the Poor Little Cypriot switching roles and locations four times in the course of a couple of hours in response to the demands of the schedule and the stomach.

First stop was the office of a Hiroshima-based NGO where your humble blogger serves as Consultant-in-Chief for Online Communication in English. The office is just down the road from the Doc's parents' place, but since I had to retrace my footsteps so as to pick up a mahjong set for an overseas customer, my route took me past a Chikara udon shop, but not before I had popped in for a ten-minute guzzle on a steaming bowl of tamago udon. Seriously, all it takes from slapping your cash down and guzzling your udon down is ten minutes; ten minutes and your tank is full again...

So, anyway, when I arrived at the Doc's parents' place, I was laden with a fine mahjong set, and full of warmth and vigour, which was augmented shortly thereafter by the first cleansing beer of what turned out to be a rather long but thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Naturally, the evening would not be complete without the table breaking down. This evening's breakdown occurred when some open-hand tiles from the previous game were noticed to be still on the table just after someone had pushed the button to close the flap. The senior doc attempted to push them into the hole just as it was shutting, but the result was that they got jamed in the closing flaps. He pushed them into the machine and the flaps shut, but the machine ceased up.

I then suggested that they resort to the turn-it-off-and-back-on-again trick which seldom fails, but does not necessarily succeed as you expect it to! I had forgotten that the machine would want to begin the cycle again, and so it did, with a great whirling-gurgling it began to shuffle both sets of tiles together in the middle of the machine. We were therefore faced with the operation of digging out both sets of tiles, sorting them and reloading them.

Mrs M then got her powder puff out and liberally decked the tiles with some Johnson's baby powder or the Japanese equivalent, which is said to prevent them from getting sticky and facilitate their smooth run through the machine. It certainly seems to work.

There were several lively hands through the course of the evening, but the one I remember most is the one that I declared "Riichi", waiting to complete one of two pairs. One of the pairs was the North Wind, which was both my wind and the dora tile. The younger Doc hesitated and I anticipated that he would throw the North tile, as indeed he did. Just as I claimed it with a loud "RON!", a voice suddenly piped up on my left, also declaring "Ron!"

It turned out that the senior Doc was on the ball. He had suspected that I was waiting for the North tile and changed his hand to Chitoi (7 pairs), holding onto the North that he had drawn... And since, in our version of the Four Player game there is no double Ron, the Doctor took the prize and robbed me of mega points!

I couldn't believe it! But I had to admire the guile of the senior Doc!

The session ended with the PLC as top dog for the evening, and the taxi fare home nicely sorted.

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