Four long and eventful years have passed since our friend Allan had his fatal motorbike accident. As the anniversary fell on a Friday the obvious thing to do was to meet in the ramen shop Bizenya for dinner and then head over to the mahjong parlour for the rest of the evening – just as we used to do when Allan was around. He used to come crashing into Bizenya every Friday evening with his motorcycle helmet over his arm, pushing back his (dyed) hair and saying
But the funny thing was that although four out of the five of us who gathered there remember him well, the conversation did not touch upon his memory until much later in the evening. It was pretty much all football: the sacking of Souness (Newcastle should never have sacked Bobby Robson… Blackburn were looking to give Souness the boot when Newcastle made enquiries…); Sol Campbell’s woes; Wenger’s origins in the downtown suburbs of Paris; Arsenal v Milan should yield several goals; Man Utd… Chelsea… Bates… Leeds… Reading… How various fellows did or did not get sent off… How Morinio got expelled from the dug out when Chelsea equalized against Liverpool in Cardiff… How DEH look more secure in the Hiroshima City League “B” Division because the teams below us lost… How The Poor Little Cypriot done good in goal last season but how the ball done better.
Tim rushed off to have dinner with a lot of college girls while Jaime, Kenyon and I went along to Kodama to play mahjong and Don came along for the beer and chat. We were pleased to see the site of a rather dapper looking Ray sat at the table when we arrived. Noda also put in an appearance, straight from a business trip to Tokyo, but he was knackered so he went home shortly thereafter.
Earlier in the week Noda sent me this reply to my e-mail about Allan:
Yes if Allan was alive he must have been playing MJ with us.
We lost a good friend, indeed.
I also received an e-mail from Allan’s friend in Canada, David Scanlon who wrote:
I was surfing the net and for some unknown reason I Googled my own name and happened upon this link. http://www.hirohurl.net/ajeulogy.html [the eulogy is now here – ed.] It is quite nice to see. I still miss that guy.
And when I told him that 10 months later I had a daughter he replied:
It is an easy comparison between a three year old and Al. 🙂
I’ll raise a glass to Allan tonight.
While at Kodama I also received a message from Mrs H with a photo of our Little Devil enjoying the Setsubun (bean throwing) ceremony.
With four of us in the game and with Don and Noda looking on and chatting away and another group of regulars playing on the next table over in the corner, it made for a very lively atmosphere, especially once the beers were flowing.
We had caught Ray just tucking into his dinner (the trusty yakimeshi/soup set that has received fulsome praises on several occasions in the annals of the Cockseye Mahjong Club). This put Ray at a bit of an initial disadvantage and his first attempts at building a hand while dispatching his dinner led to a series of losses, not of his dinner but of his loot. There was also a potential Chombo when Ray went Riichi. Jaime also went Riichi and completed his hand. We had just been asking Don what would persuade him to start playing again and he was ruminating on how he seemed to have forgotten how to play and was frowning away at Ray’s hand and said he couldn’t see what Ray was waiting for. Ray confidently began to tell him that he was waiting for this and that of Coins when Don asked him about the missing 3-Bamboo. It turned out that Ray, in going Riichi, had inadvertently discarded the wrong tile and undone himself. However, as the faux pas was only noticed after Jaime had gone out there was no Chombo fine to be paid and so officially Ray has not yet commited a Chombo this year…
Meanwhile, opposite Ray, Kenyon, who came into the game as the current bottom player of the year, was looking for a win to move him up the table, or at least to lift him above Eri as it were. And the first game appeared to be taking him in that direction and appeared also to be sending Jaime into the red… David finished second on +8 and was quite pleased with himself considering how much he had been engaged in conversation and how little he had been paying attention… at one stage David found himself with what would have been an easy hand to complete, had it not had too few tiles in it…
It was quite an evening for Chombo. About 9 or 10 years ago Old Ardle and The Poor Little Cypriot had gone on a Christmas holiday to Hong Kong and Macau. Speaking to Jaime, old Ardle had alluded to a certain episode that occurred on that holiday, but had not revealed the nature of that “certain episode” beyond a few dark allusions (illusions, I should say) as to its doubtful nature. It must have been a cunning ploy on Jaime’s part to slip a reference to Hong Kong into the conversation because David found himself in mid anecdote while attempting to play a hand with his head screwed round talking to Don.
“What actually happened was… blah blah…” (takes a tile) “and then we were walking down a back street after having looked around an old fort… blah blah…” (takes another tile) “and we came to this old back street tea shop and I says lets have a cup of tea… – who’s turn is it?”
Kenyon: “It’s your turn…”
Why is Kenyon laughing and holding his head in his hands? Why have I got 15 tiles?
“So anyway, he takes one look at the joint and gives it one of his knobby old askanceways looks and says ‘I’m not going in there.’ I head in anyway, expecting him to follow, but he legs it down the hill and nor hide nor hair of him is to be seen. What he was running from we shall never know. There were a few locals in the joint but nothing remotely threatening. I sat at a table by the window, had a cup of Chinese tea, looked through my guide book and then strolled down the hill into town.
“I came across a very pleasant bar. Ah, time for a cleansing beer, I said to myself and in I went. Nice barmaid. Nice enough for a second beer. Then this large English bloke who was probably in his late forties came in and the first thing you noticed about him was the groin – er, goitre – on the side of his neck… He joined me at the bar bought a beer and told me that he had just got divorced. I said:
‘Congratulations, Old Chap, let us celebrate your return to the pleasures of the bachelor life with a cleansing glass of nappy ale!’
“He took that rather well, cursed his ex-wife with some most impressive imprecations, and off we went on a fine carousal through several rounds of drinks and mutual congratulations…”
By now I had become the Oya. Meanwhile, Don, who had heard the tale from Old Ardle’s side of the fence, was revelling in the contrast between his account, and this True And Certain Account of Events as they were now laid before him by An Eyewitness.
“It was now evening and so we decided to go out for dinner but I said that we ought to go and link up with my friend back at our hotel… blah blah…” (takes a tile) “but when I opened the door of our room we were greeted by darkness…” (takes another tile) “and Old Ardle had… – hang on a minute… 15 tiles again!”
I had paid 6,000 points out for the first Chombo, and now had to pay another 8,000 points out for this one.
“Old Ardle was in bed. In the space of a few hours from the time when he legged it like a frightened rabbit down the hill behind the old fort until I arrived back at our hotel room with my new found chum, Old Ardle had contracted one of his infamous travel sicknesses. Now, we had booked a double room with two single beds at the Lisboa Hotel in Macau, but the beds had been pushed together prior to our arrival. So the first thing Old Ardle had done was to push his bed into the middle of the room, where I nearly tripped arse over head over it as I entered. I turned on the light and there was a pathetic figure of misery curled up under the blankets with a thick head all lurgyfied. His rheumy eyes peered over the counterpain and the first thing they fell upon was ……THE GOITRE.
“At which point Old Ardle shrank beneath the covers, whimpered a little, and was not seen again for the rest of that evening.
“So off The Goitre and I went to mingle with the nightlife of Macau. We had dinner in a little Indian restaurant and The Goitre managed to insult the wife of some middle class sort of fellow sitting at the adjacent table. I can’t remember how it came about but once again I was quite impressed by the forthrightness of my companion.
“We then decided that the best thing would be to go and cap the evening with a beer or two and happened to be passing a brothel. Brothels serve beer among other stuff don’t they? In we went and a sprucely dressed native graciously guided us towards a floor-to ceiling window behind which sat about four rows of gaudily clad and clearly numbered beauties of whom he seemed inordinately proud.
“‘Er, very nice old chap but would it not be possible to simply have a beer?’
“No, unfortunately it would not be possible; a drink must be served with a sidedish and a sidedish must be served with a drink.
“And that was pretty much the end of a beautiful relationship. I think I spent the rest of the evening in the casino seeing how long it would take me to lose my cash.”
I am not really very keen on casinos and have not been to one since. I much prefer the sociability of a game like mahjong…
Meanwhile, Old Ardle has never forgotten the goitre and the mere mention of it elicits one of his finest of askance-looking looks of horror.
But I digress.
As I got up to head to the bog I asked Don to look after my tiles for me. It looked as if I was going for a “Toi toi” hand, but as I had got a set of Dragons by going Pon there was scope to change the hand around. I strolled back into the parlour to find that Don had taken a tile but had thought better of throwing it or any other. I glanced at Ray’s discard pile, saw a 2-Coins and so chucked out my red 5-Coins
“Ron!” goes Ray. Ray is Oya. Chinitsu, several Dora… I have to pay 26,000 points after a second bogstop lapse of concentration in a week…
All things considered, The Poor Little Cypriot could have ended up poorer but he finished bottom on -37 while Jaime recovered to finish the game top and Kenyon and Ray also changed directions but only within single figures.
Don headed off to watch the Aston Villa v Chelsea game which was being repeated on satellite tv tonight. (Nobody spilled the beans in front of Don but it was a 1-1 draw, with Aston Villa nicking the draw in the closing minutes of the game – not that that will affect Chelsea’s progress.)
Now, Ray had been predicting that once he had put away his yakimeshi his game would turn around, in short, the famous Ray Revival would kick in. And it must be admitted that that is what happened so that by the end of the third game, after which Ray went home, the scores stood thus:
The three of us who remained then played four fairly quick games. We were now the only players left in the parlour. David continued to drink and sink, until he decided that it would be better to order a coffee, after which he staged an end game revival!
Kenyon had the misfortune in the first of these four games to go Riichi and then give away Daisangen to David, which brought David up to +1 on that game and sank Kenyon. Kenyon also lost the final game and his losses in the latter part of the evening wiped out his winnings in the earlier part.
Jaime was the chief beneficiary of the latter part of the night. He came top in three games in a row, and only lost a tiddly amount to David, the only winner (at last) in the final game. That performance was enough to put Jaime top again, and to sink David.
The results for the evening were:
Jaime -35, +32, -29, +37, +22, +31, -5 = +53
Ray -19, +9, +43 = +33
Kenyon +46, -4, +14, -38, +2, +5, -30 = -5
David +8, -37, -28, +1, -24, -36, +35 = -81
It was only in the last part of the evening that the Old Guard began to reminisce about the mahjong sessions that used to take place at Allan’s flat, of Don’s famous mid-game walk-out, of Tim’s encounter with a yellow bath duck at the same time as the PLC’s arm disappeared up Cat Girl’s trouser leg, of the extrusion of Jaime’s portable properties from the balcony of his flat (formerly Allan’s) and of how his alarm clock landed in the park outside the flat and rang at the appointed time every morning thereafter at until the batteries died.
We left the jansou at about 2:30am of possibly the coldest night so far this year. I had arranged to meet Tim but thought better of it – after all, staying out drinking until 10am would cost more than catching a taxi home (3,000 yen) and getting a relatively early night by getting to bed at 4am…