Friday 26th October: Old & Middle Guard Advance Continues…

This evening at Kodama went on for longer than anticipated and was full of incident and variety.

The first thing that greeted us on entering the mahjong parlour was the site of Noda’s Mask. Noda had a cold and spent much of the evening coughing and spluttering like an old drain. However, like the upstanding Son of Nippon that he is, he kept his hooter firmly swaddled behind a surgical mask. Ask a Japanese fellow what his ears are for and he will invariably reply that they are there for the purpose of securing the elastic strings of a surgical mask.

Noda being Noda, he had brought along his own supply of medicine, in the form of a hip flask full of whisky. By the time the hip flask had been half emptied Noda had several times regaled us with the dubious story of how it came to be that a golf course had eighteen holes. The first Caledonian ancestors of that noble game set off with their clubs and their balls and a flask of scotch. After every player had got his ball in a hole the games reverend primogenitors would ceremoniously swig a slug of scotch from the cap of the said flask. After each had potted his ball in the eighteenth hole and had taken his swig the flask was discovered to be empty and so they called it a day and that is how it came to be that a golf course has eighteen holes.

That Noda was amply supplied with medicinal refreshment was no obstacle to his ordering several glasses of Japanese spirits from Mama san, and then switching to beer by way of light refreshment later on in the evening. Several beers. In fact, it was Noda’s extended drinking binge that caused us to squeeze an extra game into the end of the evening, and wrung the final change of fortune from the table.

Noda’s binge also carried David along in its slipstream, and after the third game left Jaime feeling in more expansive mood he too joined the merry crew.

We were pushed into the front corner of the parlour tonight as a couple of the other tables were out of order. When you come to think about how much punishment the tables suffer it is amazing that they last as long as they do.

David arrived shortly after Noda and was busy polishing off his yakimeshi setto when Jaime and Tim arrived. The main topic of conversation in the first game was the fall of Nova, the biggest private language school in Japan which declared bankruptcy earlier today…
Nova seeks court protection from creditors
Employees’ quest to recover wages, get jobs begins

Anyway, our first game saw David get clobbered with Double Ron and then witnessed a Jaime Chombo. Despite David’s setback he finished the only winner of the first game, with Tim on second place with zero participation (except to remove the spare Yakitori tessera from his side of the table) and therefore zero points.

In the second game Noda went on a whisky induced charge and Jaime got clobbered with Double Ron and sank as David managed to stay out of trouble and above the line.

On -77 after just two games, Jaime was eager to change the seating arrangement. He moved into Noda’s seat, Noda occuppied the seat vacated by Tim and David moved over to Jaime’s seat. Hide joined us and took the seat that David left.
The question was whether or not the luck would move with Noda. It certainly appeared to have moved as Jaime was hit for 24,000 points when David went out on the first hand of the third game. However, a few hands later, while David was still Oya, Noda threw the Haku (White Dragon) and Jaime declared on Kokushimusou. That single result marked a turnaround in fortunes as Jaime now proceeded to win hands off Noda and Hide while David took some flak but remained largely undamaged. Jaime halved his deficit and David moved ahead into the lead.

The luck had definitely shifted back to Jaime’s seat as he seemed to win hand after hand and went on a run that took him to just one point off the lead as David began to shed his gains while Noda weathered the storm and then forged ahead at half Jaime’s rate – which was just enough progress for Noda to steal back into first place again. Mind you, at some point Jaime managed a second Chombo for the evening, another false Riichi declaration…

The third game saw Noda once more back in command with Jaime busy on storm-weathering duties while David hit negative territory for the first time and Hide continued to sink.

At some stage during the sinking of the Hide (aka Grouchy’s retreat), his lady-wife entered the parlour with her comely companion who David regaled with an account of his recent trip to Huis Ten Bosch by way of an innocent chat-up line. It proved no more successful than his recent attempt to win the ladies’ favour by offering them an oration on Ruben’s portrayal of the female nude.

So it goes.

It was at this stage that we assumed the evening had come to a conclusion as Noda had declared it to be the last game, but Noda had been busy ordering beer, and David too, and they had become engaged in a discussion about whether or not the dropping of the atom bomb had favourably affected the odds of Noda being born.

I can’t quite remember what triggered that line of conversation, but I do remember Noda making a reference to being born with the bomb or out of the bomb or something. His father was somewhere near Nishi Hiroshima at the time of the bombing and headed back up the line to his relations’ house well outside of town. His mother was in the Mitsubishi factory down near the port and was hit in the back by flying glass. She had to swim one of the rivers to get out of town. I mentioned that some of my students who are A-bomb survivors are quite willing to talk about their experiences, but Noda said that was not the case with his mother. I remember Noda’s mother as a cheerful old soul who enjoyed playing mahjong and would chuckle to herself as she completed her hands at my expense at one of Noda’s parties.

Then Noda turned around and ordered another beer and David followed suit as Noda said he could fit in another game and nobody objected. Noda was comfortably in the cups and in the lead. Jaime was in cheerful mood as he had turned a major disaster into a minor victory. David was mellow and merry and on minus three not bothered either way. Hide was well down and eager to redeem his fortune.

Now, as Kenyon was not present tonight to stage one of his very common “last game revivals” there was no tellings what would happen. As it turned out, David found some last resources of energy and inspiration with which to cobble together a series of winning hands and conclude the last game as the only winner on +53, taking 35 of those points off Jaime, just enough to cause him to drop into negative territory for the evening!

One other eventuality worthy of note is that David was the starting Oya in every game this evening.

The result was that the Middle and Old Guard maintained their advance, the Middle Guard breaking new ground on the Grand Accumulated Points Chart, and the Old Guard quickening the pace of its advance as if to catch the Middle Guard if it can. Meanwhile, Grouchy’s retreat continues and places him a long way to the rear on the said Table. Napoleon recovered from his recent bout of indigestion and took over the running of the middle of the battle, but was waylaid again by the gripes in the last game. Marshall Ney was not seen all evening.

Noda -7, +53, -44, +26, +46, -2 = +72
David +26, +5, +18, -31, -21, +53 = +50
Jaime -19,* -58, +46,* +58, +5, -35 = -3
Hide –, –, -20, -53, -30, -16 = -119

* Chombo

David Hurley