And what a great Friendly Memory Championship it was, too! I had the usual mix of nationalities staying at my place on Friday night - Dai and John up from the Welsh valleys, and newcomer Jérôme all the way from Rennes, plus other newcomer Nick all the way originally from Greece, although he lives in England nowadays.
Dai, in typical Dai fashion, had invited Nick to sleep in my flat on the strength of a couple of messages exchanged on Facebook - "I'm not sure if it's a man or a woman," he cheerfully confessed. But in typical Me fashion, I said that was fine, and in typical memory-competitor fashion Nick turned out to be a perfectly nice person and not some kind of brutally-murder-you-all-while-you-sleep type, so everything was okay. He's a man, by the way.
Team Sweden, meanwhile (Idriz and two relative newcomers Jonas and Marwin who'd been really impressive at the Swedish championship last month, plus two embedded journalists) had got to their hotel at four in the morning, five hours before the competition was due to start. It seems to have affected Idriz, who was driving, more than the other two, so I assume they had more chance for forty winks here and there. And finally, Matteo was staying in the Rockaway hotel just over the road from my place, which he says is quite extraordinarily nice and friendly, so I'll be recommending that as a place to stay for any future competitions!
Dai and John had brought collapsible sunbeds to sleep on, although one of them turned out to be more permanently collapsible under the weight of three people sitting on it on Friday night. But still, it was perfectly serviceable, and with my little settee and my nice spare bed, nobody even had to sleep on the floor!
Phil drove down on Saturday morning to complete the set, and we all gathered at the always-wonderful Attenborough Nature Centre for the competition! Nobody at the centre knew there was a competition happening, but soon enough the always-awesome guy in charge (whose name I'm fairly sure is Tim, but I think I've met him too many times now to ask him to confirm his name, so I'll just have to hope somebody else says "Hi, Tim," within my earshot, so I know for sure) arrived and sorted everything out. As always, great hospitality, great lunch, great everything!
The whole competition went perfectly smoothly, and even finished well before six o'clock - I'd been confidently expecting to run late, because the recall times have been extended here and there since last year, as has the number of digits in spoken numbers. But it was all quick and flawless, we finished the fifth discipline exactly five minutes before the time we'd ordered lunch, and we finished the speed cards with plenty of time for congratulations and Swedish TV interviews afterwards!
The star of the show was the seriously awesome Jonas von Essen, who won by a country mile. He particularly excelled in abstract images, attempting the whole 475 of them and ending up with a nearly-record-breaking score of 354, and also a 204 in the spoken numbers. He ended up with 5930 points, which could have been even better had he managed to record a time in speed cards at the end - like I often do in this kind of situation, he made tiny but annoying mistakes in both attempts. Still, that moves him up to 13th in the world rankings, with a definite threat of breaking into the top ten at the WMC in December.
Between him and Marwin, who broke a Swedish record or two, even Idriz was nearly getting tired of enthusing that it was the first time a Swede had achieved such-and-such. Nearly, but not quite. Everyone should also congratulate Jérôme, who memorised a pack of cards in just over two minutes in his first ever competition!
After the championship, we followed the time-honoured tradition of going to the pub and talking about memory, before going to bed. Team Sweden, for whom sleep is clearly an optional kind of thing, had to leave at about one o'clock in the morning to catch their plane home from Stansted, while the journalists were last seen heading to a hotel in Oxford somewhere - I'm sure they all got back fine in the end.
Next year's competition will probably move back to its May spot in the schedule, if that doesn't clash with anything else. Book your plane tickets now!