There was something of an holiday atmosphere at the doctors’ tonight. Elder brother had returned home for the Japanese summer “Obon” holiday, so five of us trooped upstairs to the upper room. Elder son declined the initial offer to take a seat at the table, protesting (in accordance with self-abasing Japanese protocol) that he had not played for twenty years and so forth. So Mrs M took the fourth seat after having made sure that the Poor Little Cypriot was furnished with TWO beers and an array of snacks…
Being served two beers at a time is another of the delightful features of mahjong at the docs. I don’t mean that I drink two beers at a time, but two cans are placed on the table. However, because the second can has lost some of its chill by the time I have finished the first, the junior Doctor M usually pops out to fetch a cooler one straight from the fridge!
The doc seemed almost perturbed tonight, at the moderate slurping rate that my drinking progressed at. I began to wonder if the elder son had been briefed that he would spend the evening in the company of a beer-swilling Englishman and if perhaps tonight’s moderate pace was not a disappointment; or perhaps one of the patients had delivered an especially large quantity of beers to the surgery as a summer gift in gratitude for the latest miraculous recovery he had undergone under their hands and it was hoped that I would do everybody a favour by drinking my way through it.
Summer is one of the gift-giving seasons in Japan, and at least one patient had presented the surgery with a bottle of fine Yatsushika prize winning saké, which was duly handed over to the PLC as soon as he reached the upper room.
So, Mrs M took her seat and play commenced with the elder son observing Mrs M and Dr M jr’s hands. However, it turned out that this arrangement too was only a temporary courtesy. After the first hand had been played out Mrs M gave up her seat to the elder son and retired from the scene.
A couple of hands later the wall broke in front of the elder son. Dr M sr oversaw initial distribution of tiles and commenced play. When it was my turn I reached automatically for the usual end of the wall, only to come up against the upturned Dora Mekuri Pai!! The senior doc had taken the tiles from the wrong end of the wall and everything had followed on from there. We agreed to continue to play backwards but it took me several turns before I could bring the automatic lunge for the orthodox end of the wall under control. The junior doc was crying with laughter at our incompetence!
This evening I indulged in rather more open hands than I usually do. Another unusual eventuality was my chasing Kokushimusou to one off Tempai when Dr M sr declared Riichi and completed his hand. He also went out after I had gone Riichi on my best hand of the evening, bolstered by six bonus tiles.
For the most part, however, tonight’s play was rather a cagey and tactical affair as I remember, at least, from my perspective. The elder son got caught out quite a lot during the course of the evening, and the younger son also suffered at times. I caught the elder son with a Noda-style Chiitoi hand with a crafty 6-Coins wait when Dr M jr had discarded the 3&9-Coins. Sure enough, the Elder Son did me the honour of discarding a 6-Coins!
On another occasion, with Dr M jr hungrily seeking an evening when he could finish in the black, he declared a hidden Kan, which left him with four tiles on the end of his hand. Next time round he melded two of them with a tile discarded by his Elder Brother to claim a “chi” consisting of some middle coins. There now remained two tiles at the end of his hand, stranded by the ChiKan. I kept my beady eyes on his hand. It seemed to me that the younger doc was waiting to complete a Coin run and that it was a two tile wait. I was nearly ready to go out too, but to stay Tempai I would have had to throw the 8-Coins. No thank you. I threw a safe tile and the hand finished with no result, and the doc Tempai waiting for the 5&8-Coins!
Most of my hands were piddling affairs, but they were plentiful. The Haneman points I won from the elder son I lost in the next hand to the senior doc.
We usually stop after the third game, but tonight the festive spirit carried us on through to the end of the fourth game, well after trams and trains stop running. The junior doc was happy to play an extra game as he was slightly ahead at the end of the third, but he got hammered by Dr M Sr, who emerged strongly to take the top spot. I had done well enough to claim that happy place known as “second and in the black”. Dr M jr ended another night in the red, but not so far below the bar as the elder son who, after all, had not played for twenty years!