Saturday, April 01, 2006

Sheffield Regional

I'm not sure why they still call the othello tournaments 'regionals'. They don't really represent any particular region, except in as much as they're all in different towns randomly scattered around the country. Anyway, I went to the Sheffield one today.

Missed the train I was intending to get because my bike had a flat tyre and I spent too long dithering over whether to go back upstairs, find my pump and fix it, or walk to the station. I walked in the end, but not quickly enough. I still got there before a couple of the other players, though, which was lucky because it gave us a moment to clear up a potentially awkward situation - Rob Stanton, the organiser, had been under the impression that I still live in Boston, and had told the owners of the building we were using to send an invoice to my old address.

The tournament took place in a strange little church-hall-style building called the Heeley Institute, somewhere in the middle of nowhere in the middle of Sheffield. There were nine of us in all, when Aidan had managed to find the place halfway through the first round. I won my first couple of games against Rob and Aidan, which gave me great aspirations of winning the whole tournament and becoming a worldwide celebrity, but then lost three in a row against Geoff, Phil and Steve Rowe (whose surname wasn't meant to be a pun there), which rather squished those dreams. Phil had meanwhile been kicking every available ass and was winning in a very impressive kind of way.

We went for lunch after the third round, finding on the third attempt a pub that was both open and serving food. The people of Heeley obviously aren't keen on pub lunches. But it was a lovely day - summer's on the way! Apart from the occasional torrential downpour, of course, but they only lasted a few seconds before the sunshine took over again.

Anyway, back at the Institute, my impressive losing streak was enough to get me a bye in round six. Rob beat Phil, which put Phil level with Geoff on five wins, and after the final round they ended up sharing first place. Joel Blackmur (who, in a longstanding othello tradition, I avoided being drawn against) came third, and I survived an extremely complicated endgame to beat Roy 33-31 and end up joint 4th with Steve. So it could have been a lot worse.

Friday, March 31, 2006

If you gave it half a chance, what potato would not DANCE?

Latest thing that I like: Edward Monkton. Actually, it turns out to be one of those things that I discover and then find out that Jenny knows about already (see earlier posts on George Papavgeris and Lady Godiva (who, she informs me, is an ancestor of Boy Howdy, but it's just never come up in our conversations)). She sent me a card ages ago with the hair that wants to be a dragon on it. But my actual 'discovery' comes from the cafe/bookshop in the Eagle Centre, which has a range of brilliant cards in the window.

I'm particularly impressed by the way someone can make money by selling crude sketches of potatoes. There's hope for my artistic career yet!

Thursday, March 30, 2006


I didn't notice my alarm clock going off at all this morning, and woke up at 8:25, which is the exact moment I need to leave the house in order to catch my train. So rather than get the next one and arrive half an hour late, I took the day off. I'm contractually entitled to five days' bereavement leave after all, although my mum is doing all the work involved with funeral arrangements and things, so I honestly don't need to be off work. And sitting moping around the house is really not a good idea either.

Nonetheless, that's what I've been doing all day. I'm all moped out.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

In the living years

My dad was one of those rare people who literally nobody had a bad word to say about. Except his immediate family, and that was only in an affectionate kind of way. But everyone really did like him, and with good reason. He never thought of himself, and spent his whole life helping other people out, just because that was the way he was.

He was a very recognisable kind of guy - short even by my standards (whenever he had to give his height, he always put 5'6", which he readily admitted was a rough guess, because he'd never measured himself. I'd say he was a good couple of inches less than that), always somewhat on the chubby side, bald on top from a very early age, with wild curly hair, big sideburns and a moustache. Which he'd had since he was twenty and never considered changing. His taste in clothing was similarly unchanging through the years - brown suede boots, brown trousers and a white long-sleeved shirt with the sleeves rolled up, open at the neck. Yes, even in the middle of winter, outside in a blizzard. He didn't feel the cold, but whenever the temperature got a few degrees above freezing he was horribly uncomfortable. And on those rare occasions when he had to wear a tie (he owned two or three of them, all square, knitted wool ones that might have looked more or less passable in the early 1970s) he always looked like he was on the point of collapse. During his teaching days, he had a photo taken every year (18 of them in all), and they're all exactly the same - the hair a little more sparse every time, turning from jet black to grey to pure white by the time he was fifty, but exactly the same pose, with toothy grin and twinkle in his eyes.

I think I've mentioned his chronic earliness on here before - he'd always arrive somewhere two hours before the time he'd agreed, he didn't like to stay up much past seven o'clock at night and was always up and about by three in the morning. He lived his life in fast-forward, so I suppose it's not all that surprising that he's died (heart disease) at the age of 59.

As a teacher, everyone agrees, he was something truly exceptional. He taught at Clinton Park primary school from 1971 till 1990, teaching and inspiring nine and ten-year-olds for generations. He would walk through town and have dozens of people of all ages say 'hello, Mr Pridmore!' One of his real passions in life was teaching people to spell and punctuate properly - NOBODY left his class without learning how to use an apostrophe. He always said he could teach anyone how to do it right in twenty minutes, and despaired of the way so few people made the effort to teach it. Once a week in the afternoon, he'd get his guitar out and sing to the class - he had a large and eclectic range of songs, from Ilkley Moor Baht 'at to Ellen Vannin to Football Crazy. He was always trying to learn the piano, but never got very far. He used to take me and my brother to the park in Horncastle and spin us around on the roundabout which (by accident or design, I'm not sure) also bounced up and down wildly, and sing "Sons of the sea, bobbing up and down like this"

He was a Sheffield Wednesday fan, having grown up just down the road from Hillsborough, but cricket was his sport of choice. Just a couple of years ago, he finally splashed out on Sky Sports, so he could watch all the Test Matches. It's nice to know that the last one he watched was an England win. He didn't play any sports actively, having the genetic Pridmore dodgy legs, although he was surprisingly agile in short bursts - he still played badminton well enough to teach it to his classes, and he'd occasionally play backstop in rounders games and amaze everyone with his ability to catch the wildest bowl and throw it with pinpoint accuracy. He played snooker in his youth, very well or so he always told me, but gave it up when his eyesight got too bad. He still played pool occasionally, but found it wasn't enough of a challenge.

Steam trains were a major passion of his life. I'll never quite understand what the appeal was, although his own father worked on the railways for his entire life, so it's obviously a lifelong thing. Every Father's Day we went to the steam railway museum at Butterley for a Sunday dinner on the train (booked eight months in advance at least, so we always got the best seats and were the first to be served). A meal and three rides up and down the little line pulled by a steam train - what more could anyone want, he asked without the slightest trace of irony. He was a keen birdwatcher too, used to run the Young Ornithologists Club at the school (I came along on one or two outings and found it horribly boring). He went to various night school classes over the years, learning sculpture, heraldry, calligraphy, all kinds of strange things, and became very gifted at all of them. When he put his mind to it (which wasn't very often, sadly), he could write little funny stories that had everyone in hysterics.

He was a really, really great cook. You hadn't lived until you'd had his rabbit stew and dumplings (seriously, nobody in the world could make suet dumplings like his), or steak and kidney pud, or Sunday roast, or spaghetti bolognese, or chocolate cake. He never ate sweets or desserts himself, but he made a great cake - everyone was always asking for the recipe, but nobody could get it to turn out quite like his. I think it was the ancient oven he cooked in. The secret's died with him, anyway. And everything in huge servings - he had an enormous appetite and assumed everyone else did too.

Above all, he was a decent man who got things done and never once in his life had a thought that was selfish or mean. He raised me and my brother practically singlehandedly without a complaint (and we were really horrible teenagers, I'll tell you), and I think we both turned out okay. I owe a huge amount to him, and it just won't be the same without him around. The world really is poorer for his loss.

Oh, and I can't post a blog entry tonight without recording that Jenny sent me a card and a milk chocolate Happy Duck Lolly to make me feel better. It did, a whole lot.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

RIP George Pridmore

My dad's died. I went round to my brother's last night and we spent the evening getting drunk and reminiscing about him. In four or five hours of talk, we barely scratched the surface of all the good memories. I'll write more later, when I'm more in the mood.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Philippe is standing on it

I've spent quite a lot of time today reading my way through the archives of Achewood, a rather strange and often extremely funny webcomic. I'm kind of annoyed that I haven't done this before, actually - I've seen references to and snippets from it for months and thought I should maybe check it out some day. And now I have, it turns out that while the snippets were okay, there are bits in there that I can't see anyone else recommending, but that my particular sense of humour finds absolutely hilarious.

James Kochalka even drew a strip for it back in 2003, for Pete's sake! If anybody had told me that, I would have read the thing straight away! What's the matter with you people, not telling me when there's something by James Kochalka out there on the internet that I don't know about?