Wednesday, 30 May 2007

I coulda been a contenda (at Chess)

When I was six years old, I was somewhat of a prodigy. I used to beat my brother within weeks of him teaching me the game. He wasn't a bad player, but for my age, I was magnificent...

I remember crushing the nurses with my cynical and effective strategies when I had my tonsils out at UCH, the towering presence of the Post Office Tower (as it was known then) casting a shadow over the board as my knights and bishops blasted holes through my medical opponents weak defences. It was a glorious time. If there was an under 7's world championship, I may have got past the first round I reckon, but probably then been knocked out by some Chinese 3 year old who was more talented than me. But as he was smaller than me, I would smash him in the face and break his glasses with my Rook and claim it was an accident, like an Argentine defender who shrugs and ruffles your hair after trying to cleave you in two.

Chess is a masterful invention, ancient and glorious. A game to suck your pipe to and stroke your proletariat beard whilst musing on the latest developments in the potato fields.

However, as with many things in my life, following a brief and brilliant flirtation, I got sidetracked. I would like to say it was by girls and booze, the George Best of the Chess world, an unfulfilled talent lost to the sport… However, I am ashamed to admit, it was my love for Dungeons and Dragons and ZX Spectrum games that took me away….

Through school and college on the occasions I would play (for I was not dedicated) I would still be in the upper tiers of my peer group.

I did have a brief renaissance, first at college, where I won the tournament we had in my class, secondly at Uni (or rather Hatfield Polytechnic….).

At Uni, I joined the "Harrier" pub chess team. The Harrier was a tough boozer on Hilltop in Hatfield. Somewhere students were not welcome and regularly got battered. For some reason, the locals left me alone, probably because I was such a snivelling wretch of a student it would have been no fun to beat me up. I played an "initiation" game against the club captain. He used to be 74th best player in England or something like that. He looked like a chess player, straggly hair, a beard, an eccentric English gent. I shocked him, I took his knight. A small crowd of nerdish folk gathered to watch this mysterious newcomer take on the old champ… could I defeat him? Of course, the answer was no. What I should have done once I'd gone a piece up, was to play a war of attrition, offer exchanges and sacrifices all across the board hoping that I could salvage a draw or by some miracle, snatch a victory in a messy end game….

What I did do, was knock back a couple of pints, give it large and then like Alex Higgins in his waning years proceed to play flamboyantly thinking I was about to put on a show… in the meantime my opponent ground me down, his superior knowledge of the game ultimately giving him the win.

It was somewhat of a pyrric victory for him though as that early blow showed he'd underestimated me. I was then welcome to join the team. He shook my hand vigorously thinking he'd uncovered a rough diamond, when in fact he'd uncovered a smooth turd. I was as shiny as I could get, because under the surface… my game stank!

I played two matches (because I was lazy and couldn't be bothered usually) drew one, lost one, and realised competitive chess can be quite aggressive in its own way. As we represented the Harrier pub, we had an air of violence about us. We were like playing Millwall away, I'm sure other teams were scared to visit. But we were nice really….

My problem was I couldn't play black, due to my lack of dedication I had no real understanding of opening gambits, so when white made the first move, I mostly lost when faced with someone of equal or greater talent. When playing white however, I used the English opening, a rarely used and antiquated opening move. I studied the theory behind this opening to give me an advantage, because I knew that the opposition wouldn't have much knowledge of facing this. Anyone with a decent knowledge of the game could of course take me apart, no chess player in his right mind would risk using the English opening, but it was its lack of use that was my strength. In a limited time game it pressurised my opposition into having to come off auto pilot very early in the match. It bought me thinking time……

I used to share a train home with one of the lads in the chess team. As he was more of a geek than me, I was his cool friend, which was a novelty. I don't remember his face or his voice. I only remember his anorak, and the fact he unleashed silent stinking farts on the journey home. The last time I saw him he was being harangued for fare evasion by a ticket inspector. He probably had to pay some sort of fine… I am sure I was witness to the most exciting moment of his life. Those are my memories of chess at Uni.

I gave up the game again… However, we had a chess tournament at work a couple of years later. We were a software company. There were two wings in the building, the pristine air conditioned section the programmers sat in, and the stinking warehouse which used to be an abattoir (it even had a disused blood gutter running along its length, stained with the entrails of long dead cattle). I was one of the hairy engineers, in the abattoir warehouse. A tournament was to be held at lunchtimes. I thought "why not". They (the programmers), the "haves" were surprised to hear that one of the grease monkeys wanted to enter their tournament. Oh how they chortled, it was a novelty, but like Victorian gentlemen, they of course would be delighted if a citizen from the British Commonwealth wanted to play cricket with them. Of course I had to get changed in the shed, and not be allowed a cucumber sandwich, but I would be allowed to play.

By far the best player involved was a chap called Chris, he was from Blackburn, an uncompromising hot headed northerner who supported Middlesboro. He was a programmer, but he hung around with the engineers like us, as he was a down to earth chap. Mild mannered mostly, unless someone took the piss or said something stupid. He was massive as well. We had a few practice games unbeknown to the others, he beat me every time, but I knew I would shock a few of them, and so did he. It was clear Chris would win the tournament, but I could be the surprise package. He was Mr Miyagi, I was the Karate Kid, together we would be supreme.

So the tournament started, a couple of my wins were put down to luck, I knew better….. I also lost to Chris, which was no surprise, so I was in comfortable mid-table. Then I played a blinder against this chap Mel (a different Mel), smashing him in about 15 moves. Somehow everything was coming together and I was then up against a programmer called Justin. He was second in the league, I was third. He was an intellectual, academic, bookish, a nice enough chap, looked like Shaggy from Scooby doo, slightly stooped, a bit posh, and he expected to beat me. And beat me convincingly.

How sweet it was to thrash him. To humiliate him. My best ever chess performance. It was a close battle in the opening exchanges, a small crowd gathered, I used the English opening, this threw him. We jostled for position, he lost time in the early exchanges, his unfamiliarity with my opening move giving me the advantage.

Then I saw a series of moves which would win me the game, an intricate exchange play, I ran the play though my head again and again, trying to avoid giving away my excitement. I confirmed to myself that it would almost certainly win me the game, I would sacrifice my queen for a knight and within three moves, check mate to me. Would he take my bait though…. Oh how my heart leapt when he greedily gobbled up my queen. Chris who was rooting for me, thought I'd blown it, he looked away, he hadn't seen the opportunity I had. Justin, in a sporting and somewhat arrogant way suggested I could take the move back as I would be losing my queen. I insisted he make his move, how dare he assume I'd made a stupid move, how dare he humour me, thinking he was toying with me. He took my queen.

I then made the devastating killer move… he realised he was doomed, immediately seeing the next two moves. The expression on his face, he realised he'd lost to an engineer, oh the shame for him! He toppled his King, I had won. He then asked me whether I made that move by accident… "If it makes you feel better about losing… then yes... young man" I said with a glare. I was Bobby Fucking Fisher, the maverick grandmaster for those few seconds!

Justin – no hard feelings, I did like you, and if we ever bump into each other again, I will buy you a lime cordial with cognac, or whatever posh shit you drink!

To summarise - this may seem like a bunch of shit to you, but at the time, it felt wonderful. We all need to be good at something, even for 5 minutes. And I was proud to represent the working classes that day. Take that Prince Charles you horse faced ****!

Friday, 25 May 2007

Airport Security

When I don't shave, airport security like to feel me up. They are very polite, but it seems unshavedness is somehow a sign of being "dodgy" and thus there is a requirement to touch me, take my shoes off and loosen my belt. Which is fine, don't have a problem with it.

But next time I'm going to bring some baby oil (it would need to be less than 100ml of course) and tell them to the pretend that I'm their rap video bitch and get 4 security guys to rub it into me whilst I take off my clothes.

However, I think someone should mention to them, that international criminals might be tricking them by shaving before they get on planes. How many shaved criminals are slipping through the net? It is worrying.

By their very nature, criminals are sneaky, I wouldn't put it past them to shave, shocking as it may sound.

As for me, I hate my hair at the moment, its a big frizzy mess. I am unshaven as I when I shave I look like a big glistening melon spam head with a fat smooth neck and look utterly foolish. I need a haircut that tells people I'm street savvy, yet harmless, entertaining, yet moody. What sort of haircut evokes all of these elements? It is now my mission to discover it. Otherwise I will be a big frizzy muff head for the rest of my life. A real life playdough barber shop person, press the button and oozing hair comes out of all my pores until it envelopes my persona like bloated black caterpillars, you know the hairy ones that we all used to play with in the garden as a child, but don't see anymore (like white dog poo).

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

The End of Peep Show

So Peep Show series 4 has come to an end. I love the socially dysfunctional characters. Over the 4 series's (serieses? series'?) I have bonded with them, I share some of their worst character traits so when their lives fell apart at the end of series 4, one smelling of piss, one smelling of vomit, asking the rolls royce chauffer to take them back to their flat after their wives did the hoof I felt a grief, yet a pang of empathy. They only had each other in the end. Mitchell and Webb - comedy genius...

Ps - Some "lady" just mailed me saying the following (scroll down). Apparantley she's 6 foot 11 inches tall. I might just mail her back asking "her" shoe size. It's obviously someone called Bubba who lives on a farm in Idaho and wants my bank details. Think I'll mail back and string Bubba along for the while. Until he flies over and murders me as I sleep. Then I wont be laughing...


Hello how 're you doing i saw ur proffile on here i must confess to You that You such a beautiful and gorgeuors actractive enought to call on my attention...would be nice if you can let us conrespond tell you brief about myself...i'm a white decent woman,alex is my name...6ft 11inch...30yr a sales agent....! just telling about fate here - when feelings are so powerful it's as if some force beyond your control is guiding you to someone who can make you happy beyond your wildest dreams...Love is about finding the right person and creating a good and sincear relationship...why can you e-mail me and asked more about me.

you write me i'ill surely reply you... You can add my up to ur buddy list and i will hint You back so that we can chat some other time you online do You belived that It's not about how much love you have in the beginning but how much love you build till the end..lets start from here getting to know eachother more better it would be nice if you can add me up on ur list so that we can chat wen next ur 're free looking forward to hear from You~ take good care of urself bye for now!

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Das ist illegal!

I've been in Germany a lot in the past few weeks, Munich to be precise. A beautiful city with friendly charming people.

Now I love the Germans, I think they get a raw deal around Europe, I like their slightly awkward yet endearing good manners, their beer (Tesco sell Erdinger Weissbier for anyone interested, try it), Kraftwerk, Max Ernst (some of his works made my heart sigh in the Modern art museum), the battlefield tactics of Field Marshall Erwin Rommell and not forgetting Jens Lehmann.

But one thing has shocked me, I can live with being given five years in prison for jaywalking or not stamping your train ticket on the U-bahn... but walking around naked in a gym? Please!

The hotel has a small gym, in fact, it isn't a gym, it is two excercise bikes and a walker. It is separated from the rest of the "fitness" area (lockers, sauna/sauna shower and two reclining chairs) by a glass wall. So as you work out, you can see out. I'm on one bike, thrashing away, and a more sedate middle aged lady doing sudoku is on the other, her spectacles perched on her nose.

Through the glass, a big man with a hairy back and a towel round his waist gets out of the sauna, he throws his towel away and flails his weisswurst and dumplings around before he jumps into the shower, which is thankfully partitioned off by misted glass. So I don't have to look at him soaping up his hairy moobs.

Before he got in the shower, he glanced over towards me definatley with an expression that said to me "This is accepted in Germany!" Which was of course a paranoid reaction, he probably didn't look over at all but my spirit was crushed under the thundering weight of his Alpha male nakedness.

Anyway, my peripheral vision told me that the sedate lady didn't flinch or react in any shape or form. I carried on cycling after my momentary lapse in concentration.....

When he got out of the shower, he stooped down to pick up his towel. His butt cheeks were covered in fur, the spot lamps gave me a view his rectal doctor would have been satisfied with before inserting the fibre optic camera. I screwed up my eyes, but the image of his murky chasm still burned on my retinas. "Keep cycling, keep cycling".

I opened my eyes when I heard voices, one of his equally hairy naked friends had arrived. One made a joke... the other threw his head back and laughed. His body leaned against the glass wall! Arrrrghhhhh! It was like watching a snail climb up a pane of glass from the inside! The flobby filaments of his mass rippled against the glass pane! Soap suds trickled between his bum cheeks and slid to the floor.

I thought a horrifc vision like this would perhaps have inspired H.P Lovecraft to create one of his Cthulu monstrosities. Perhaps not an elder god from the depths of the Earth, but one of their minions. Hairy, billowing, bloated, laughing, in a form that could be distinguished as vaguely human. He slid away from the glass, leaving an imprint on it, like a demonic shroud of Turin from behind, with a massive arse. He opened his locker and pulled out his clothes. His belly wibbled as he snapped his oh too small red briefs to his nether regions. He gave me another defiant glance.

I wanted to shake the unflinching Sudoku woman next to me and scream and point, gibbering "Das ist illegal!" but I was the stranger here.... I would have to get used to these customs. Like when Captain Kirk needed to become friends with the Klingons.... we were similar, yet not the same......

Thursday, 3 May 2007

The Noisettes, Kings College, 2/5/07 + Photos

Me and the Bossman went to see the Noisette's last night at Kings College. First time I've seen him this year... I guess he's been busy, becoming a dad to the cute Jacob of course :-)

The first band on were Mozzy Green, I think they had lyrics about robots and pressing some different coloured buttons. It should have been right up my street, but I didn't really get into them as me and the Bossman were chatting at the back, catching up over a beer. It seemed we were always talking about something innapropriate in the quiet moments between tracks. The two stand out shouted out snippets of conversation the band must have heard were :

"You f***ing retard!" when Bossman was recounting an anecdote and "SHIT IN THE BATH!" when he was trying to tell me about his 4 month old son. Both completely out of context. The band probably thought there was someone with Teurette's in the back of the audience or were getting heckled. Probably no-one will find it funny, but we had tears in our eyes and couldn't stop laughing for a few minutes. So Mozzy Green, I'm sorry, we weren't laughing at you.... and thankyou for not steaming into us after your set. I'd have let Bossman fight the two blokes in the band (the lead singer and the beefy drummer) I'd have probably tried to fight the girl, but she played the cello, so I reckon she has developed upper body muscles, despite her willowy look so would probably have taken me down with a swift one two combo to kidney and chin.

The next band were called Slow Club, really liked them, enthusiastic and infectious. Girl/Boy combo playing quirky acoustic pop-country. Great vocal harmonies and tight musically. I've added them as a friend.

Finally, the main event, Noisettes, I've been reading for ages about their live performances, and they didn't disappoint. Shame I have tinutis this morning as we were too near the speakers....

I was going to write something about the band... but their profile on myspace captures it marvellously....

"Noisettes are fronted by the supremely talented and beautiful Shingai Shoniwa, a vocalist and instrumentalist who sings like Billie Holiday on PCP while patrolling the stage like an Amazonian Warrior with an eye for fashion. Shingai howls and soothes, gives you goose bumps and shoots soul into your main arteries.

Dan Smith, the second line of defence, wields his six stringed axe around the stage like being a guitar god is going out of fashion. Driving rhythm becomes a soaring riff as this virtuoso sets the stage and the hi-fi alight. Bringing up the rear is Jamie Morrison, a drummer so heavy with his sticks and skin that you wont notice he is more hair than man."

So there you go! Photo's below.

Has she got algebra written on her leg?