Friday 11th August: Podcast and Rain Delay Play. Ray Sinks, Jaime Drowns…

Two of the usual gaijin suspects turned up at Kemby’s at 6pm for the summer holiday season pre-mahjong beer and nosh and awaited the non-arrival of the third (the fourth having already sent in apologies for his absence).

The Poor Little Cypriot had been detained in the shady suburb of Yano recording episodes #20 and #21 of the A-Bomb City Podcast with his associate Ardle Lightfart.

Actually, it must be noted that today’s effort was a pretty efficient operation and although we have not billed it as such it represents something of a relaunch of the venture. Ardle has pre-recorded a seven-part diary of his trip to the Kansai area while the PLC has lined up a series of readings from the annals of literature relating to Japan commencing with Edmund Blunden, one of the British poets and prose writers of the Great War. Blunden came out to Japan in 1924 to take up the position of Professor of English at Tokyo University until 1927. He returned to Japan for a couple of years after the Second World War and wrote a book of sketches and reflections called A Wanderer in Japan.

In Episode #20 I read an extract in which Blunden takes a train to Nagasaki and describes the devastation the atom-bomb had wreaked upon the northern district of the city. He then relates how, during the Napoleonic Wars, Admiral Pellew brought his Royal Navy ship Phaeton into Nagasaki bay hoping to capture some Dutch ships. There were no Dutch ships there at that time but the incident rather put the Mayor of Nagasaki’s nose out of joint and caused him to commit harakiri.

What caused me to be late for mahjong was our determination to produce enough episodes of ABC during the holiday season so that we won’t have to flog ourselves during the autumn term. In episode #21 Ardle continued with his account of his travels and I read another extract from A Wanderer in Japan, this time about the Jacobean adventurer John Saris, who in 1613 was the captain of the Clove, the first English ship to reach Japan. I then read the first of two parts of Saris’ own account of his time in Japan, which is written with much more vigour of expression than Blunden’s account three and a half centuries later.

Actually, I would have made it to mahjong at about seven-fifteen had the 18:45 train not been delayed by 15 minutes as a result of the afternoon thunderstorm – “late due to rain” sounds a bit like the excuse you would hear at a British railway station, but that was exactly the excuse that came over the JR tannoy.

By arriving late, however, I had managed to disrupt Ray’s latest winning formula: two beers and one of Kemby’s huge chicken sarnies with chips half an hour before the first game… Ray had expended all his inspiration talking to Jaime about the sex life of the bearded carp; as a result he sank beneath Tim on the Grand Accumulated Results Table. Mind you, he did not sink so fast as Jaime, whose plunge to the bottom – if there is a bottom – continues apace and tonight saw him sink below Kenyon’s longstanding record for the worst accumulated score so far this year…

David was starving when he arrived and so Mama was set to work cooking up her prize meal of yakimeshi with miso soup. The combination must have worked wonders because David was the only winner of the first game despite spending most of it digging a spoon into a steaming mound of flied lice. Jaime was left with his Yakitori tessera on the table to add to his woes.

Old Noda turned up for the second game but was twelve points adrift when David finished as the only winner.

Jaime requested a change of seats and the result was that Jaime and David exchanged seats and Noda and Ray. The order changed from David-Noda-Ray-Jaime to Jaime-Ray-Noda-David if you see what I mean. We joked at the time that the luck was not with seat but moving with the player and it seemed to be the case as both David and Noda came out of the third game ahead in seats that had been wholly negative hitherto, while Ray and Jaime’s poor fortune continued.

The third game produced the most amusing scenario of the evening. With Noda as Oya, Ray and Jaime both went on a Pon spree that reduced their hidden hands to just four tiles each before Noda had had a chance to play more than a couple of tiles. At that point Jaime predicted that Noda would complete the hand regardless. Another couple of Pon declarations saw first Ray and then Jaime reduced to just one hidden tile each – i.e. they were both waiting to complete the head to go out. Noda, meanwhile, had built a hidden Tempai Honitsu hand consisting of the Coin suit and two Hatsu (Green Dragon) tiles. In order to go Riichi he had to discard the 8-Coins, but since that had been Ray’s discard of the hand it did not pose too much of a problem so Noda declared Riichi waiting for Hatsu or 9-Coins. Both Ray and Jaime survived one round of discarding and then Noda picked up the third Hatsu and went out on “Riichi-Tsumo-Ippatsu-Honitsu-Hatsu” to retain the Oya. Ray turned over his one remaining hidden tile to reveal a 4-Bamboo – exactly the same tile that Jaime had been waiting for and had been wisely not keen on discarding!! Noda had discarded a 4-Bamboo early on so there was just one more in the wall somewhere – but all four of the tiles that Noda needed were also there which I think stacked the odds 8-1 in Noda’s favour (although I have not considered how the dead part of the wall might affect that probability calculation…).

That game saw Noda climb back into the black which means that he once again pushes up the highest score on the Grand Accumulated Results Table. However, one glimmer of hope for the rest of us – illusory I am sure – is that his rate of advance seems to be slowing down!

Noda beetled off home after the third game and the three foreigners stayed on for one last game in which, finally, Jaime got a result which saw David give a bit back to the market and Ray shed a few more points, but just few enough to keep him off the bottom for the evening…

We were the only customers all evening so we were well supplied with side dishes of grub each time we ordered a drink. Towards the end of the evening Mama treated us to a glass of umeshu (Japanese plum wine) and joined us at the table although, unlike the Mama-san who used to run the now defunct Aka Denwa, Kodama-mama does not play mahjong. She chuckled away when David went Riichi and then Ray announced that he was going to do “something really stupid” – i.e. go Riichi on a dangerous looking tile. The tile turned out to be safe and David immediately gave Ray the tile he needed. It was a win that put Ray just above Jaime for the evening…

David +68, +22, +59, -16 = +133
Noda –, -12, +20, — = +8
Ray -3, -8, -54, -5 = -70
Jaime -65,** -2, -25, +21 = -71


David Hurley