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