Thursday, March 13, 2014

Where Do The Children Play?

Well, not here, anyway. This is where I've spent most of my lunchtimes this week, enjoying the beautiful sun in an anything-but-beautiful square, which, for the record, is in fact a triangle:

So I find my bench... close my eyes... and start thinking... about life and death... lunches and dinners... love and disdain... leftovers and dustbins... And then I ask myself... But where do the children play?


            Amanda’s Essential Life And Death Skills Seminars were the highlight of Colin’s day. Of everybody’s day. They were everything a good class should be: practical, professional and popular; in brief, everything Colin’s classes were not. Colin had a quick glance at this term’s programme:

            1. How to Turn Lights On and Off
            Aimed at people who have problems remembering to turn lights off (or on)

            2. How to Wax Your Legs Effortlessly
            Aimed at people who don’t like shaving, and leg lovers in general

            3. How to Peel an Apple in One
            Aimed at people who enjoy challenges involving knives (and apples)

            4. How to Park Without Getting Blocked In
            Aimed at people who drive but don’t like getting blocked in

            5. How to Take the Rubbish Out
            Aimed at people with kitchens, and people who’d like to help out occasionally

            6. How to Shave Without Bleeding to Death
            Aimed at people who treat their face as if it were a loaf of bread

            7. How, When and Why to Flush a Toilet
            Aimed at people who use toilets on a regular basis

            8. How to Bite Your Toenails Discreetly
            Aimed at people who enjoy challenges involving feet (and teeth)

            9. How to Use a DVD Recorder to Record the Channel You Want
            Aimed at people who have problems distinguishing one button from another

            And, last but not least, today’s session:

            10. How to Open and Close Doors Quietly
            Aimed at people who are noisy inconsiderate bastards at the best of times

            dayrealing, Chapter 2, “Golden Touch”

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Mind Games

I haven’t played a serious game of chess for years – ever, would say those who played against me. That said, I still enjoy solving the chess puzzle in the newspaper if it’s still in a readable condition by the time I get home from work. The incredible thing is nine times out of ten I can see the solution immediately. No, hang on a minute, that’s not the incredible thing... No, the truly incredible thing is, if I had had the exact same position in an actual match, nine times out of ten I would almost certainly have missed the winning move. Being told, ‘Look, stupid! Can’t you see it?’ makes all the difference; and not just when it comes to the trivial matter of solving chess puzzles, I suspect.

Occasionally, the solution seems so obvious, the mind boggles as to how the puzzle ever made it to print in the first place…

Black to play and win! Well, Queen takes rook, checkmate looks like a pretty strong move, don’t you agree? Even my wife would have found that one, and she can’t even play chess! Precisely. And this is the moment when your mind really goes into overdrive… Perhaps there’s a piece missing? Maybe one of White’s pieces should be on a different square? Which lucky moron actually gets paid for producing crap puzzles like these, anyway? And, oh my goodness, what’s that smell?

So, anyway, an angry grandmaster, hungry home and charred chicken later, this particular puzzle ended up in my CSI folder on the top bookshelf in my bedroom, where it lay, dead as a parrot, for many years… until the other evening when I stumbled upon it while trying to find a spare lightbulb for the bathroom. I never did find that lightbulb – such is life – but I did have a truly brilliant idea: ‘Let’s google the blighter!’

And here’s what I found...

White to play and win! Corrected by hand and lovingly scanned. Further investigation revealed that the original puzzle had appeared in Ocho x Ocho (Year IV, Issue 39), a popular Spanish chess magazine in the 80s, and doubtless still the source for my newspaper’s lazy chess correspondent.

[Just in case you’re remotely interested or still puzzled, the winning move is Queen to d2! followed by Queen takes bishop, check! and Rook to e7, mate.]

Detective Chief Superintendent Raphead stood in the foyer, pondering his next move.

              Knight takes queen, checkmate. Piece of piss.

            Failing to see that Knight takes queen, “checkmate” lost immediately to Rook takes said knight, and this time it really is checkmate, mate, Raphead put the paper down to focus on the matter in hand. His men were out there, combing the land; and he was in here, combing his hair. A young man’s life, the future of mankind, his promotion to Assistant Chief Constable... everything hinged on his cracking this case. It was a terrifying thought. Who would want to have “Ass. Chief. Con. C.Raphead” on their calling card?

                dayrealing, Chapter 40, “Fountain Of Sorrow”