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The best thing June 4, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

…about being skint when you’re a chain-smoking alcoholic is not being able to afford a swimming-pool because, let’s face it, you’d only be found dead in it.

Anyway, fuck that shit… Hands up who’s got a new laptop… What? No-one at all? We have. Or, rather, the Russian has. Naturally, I’m not allowed anywhere near it, both because I’d get my dirty fingerprints on it and he guards it like a national treasure, and secondly because I’d have a good old rummage around to do as much spying on him as my technological skills would allow. Indeed, so treasured is the new toy that often the last thing I see as I wave my beloved off to a hard day’s surfing the internet in the university library from my semi-slumber is him giving the bastard one final polish so that he’ll be the envy of all the other erudite surfers. But the troublesome thing – for him – is that I do now need quite regular access to his pride and joy. Not actually because I can be bothered to spy on him that much and, in any case, there’s always a preparatory ten minutes or so while he, presumably, deletes every transaction that’s ever happened on the computer before I am allowed to get my filthy, staining mits on it, but because it’s got… erm, 麻將 – no, wait there, or is it 麻将? Or, fuck, 麻将? Sorry, my Chinese is awfully rusty… mahjong on it.

Darlings, we’re hooked.

It can’t be the proper version, as my travels through wikipedia – any resemblance between the wikipedia page on mahjong and the Chinese characters above is purely coincidental – assures me that mahjong is played by multiple players. But, and providing further evidence that computers do, in fact, improve everything, the version that’s built into the Russian’s new laptop is for solo mahjong. None of this having-to-commune-with-other-humans nonsense. Just you, the computer and hours and hours of swearing and frustration.

Do folk play? If so, can they let me know if there are any rules to speak of? The Russian is, as his name suggests, Russian, so he can do all sorts of clever things like play chess and build his own tank. Whereas I can’t do anything. At all. He automatically saw a system in the whole thing and has instructed me, when trying to pair off my matching tiles, to work my way from the outside in, rather like with cutlery on posh occasions. I have pooh-poohed his advice and stab away wildly and then holler at the injustice and cruelty of it all when, just as I think I’m about to get the computerised fireworks display having cleared the whole bally lot of the bastards away, I am left with two – er, what are they called, actually? Is it tiles? – thingies SITTING ON TOP OF EACH OTHER, meaning they are unzappable. What sort of cunning bastardry is that? Plus it’s colour-blindist. More than once I’ve snorted at the computer’s stupidity in refusing to let me ping two clearly identical dragons to kingdom come only to realise that they are, in fact, different colours. I plan to sue China for what the Russians call ‘moral damages’.

So that’s our news, which, I agree, is nothing to write home about. Or to write on a blog about, really, but it’s that or nothing. Take it or leave it.

Have any of you got some lovely news?



1. Appy Linguist - June 4, 2007

Lovely news? I’m gradually making a comeback. And I’m now living in Stuttgart! Yes, I can piss sideways at last! :-)

2. pleite - June 4, 2007

Comeback happily noted. And glad you’ve moved to civilisation, even if it will mean a bit of a commute. The main thing is that you’re now established and can get on with life. Once you’ve found your feet and feel more settled, usher yourself up to Berlin for beer and silliness.

3. Blonde at Heart - June 5, 2007

I missed you!
On my end, the Canadian is definitely leaving and does not know if he comes back. I am not as depressed as it sounds, and it makes my wannabe psychologist friend think I am in denial. Oh well. Maybe it would produce better blog posts, once realisation will come.

4. bowleserised - June 5, 2007

Your computer mahjong technique is exactly the same as mine. What’s wrong with us?

5. leon - June 5, 2007

Mahjong reminds me of long afternoons visiting my grandparents in the Midlands. I’m afraid I can’t remember the rules now, though I do remember it took so long to set up you generally had to plan a game several weeks in advance.

6. Geoff - June 5, 2007

All of the computerised versions of Mah Jong I’ve seen bear no relation rules-wise to the offline version that I, like leon, used to play whenever I visited my grandparents. They had a lovely (if slightly ethically dodgy these days) set made of hand-carved & painted ivory which they bought back from India after they were kicked out in ’47. The version you seem to be describing, just pairing off the tiles, is not like the real thing at all. I really should get a proper set, because it is a great game to play.

7. pleite - June 5, 2007

Geoff, I thought – and wikipedia confirmed – that this Mahjong Titans computerised version couldn’t be the real thing. And I’d met an old lady in New Zealand who used to go out to play mahjong, and it made me sad to think that she might be going out to sit in a room in a club with comfy armchairs, horrible carpets and abusive catering staff only to play on her own. But… India? ’47? You’re not related to Joanna Lumley, are you?

Leon, the computery version has five or six different ‘designs’ and I have already wondered out loud to the Russian how you’d set the tiles up in a real game. I was hoping it came with some sort of mould, like for cakes, but if it’s just by hand, I can see it would take for ever.

B., fantastic, you’ve got it too. Good, so we’ve got mahjong and computerised scrabble in common. I can happily think of us leading identical lives. When I’m having a nice cup of coffee and a little ciggy, I can think of you doing likewise. Anyway, I can only finish the spider. The Russian’s always trying to get me to do the dragon or the turtle, but there’s not a hope in hell of fireworks there, let me tell you.

BaH, shalom, chaverah. Shalom chaverah. Shalo-o-om, shalo-o-om. Lehitr… oh no, fuck, it’s too early for that bit. Darling, I have read your news (and need to e-mail you too. Apologies. I’m vaguely loathsomely busy, which is why I never blog these days) and that is very tough. Long-distance relationships are nightmarishly difficult. (Sorry not to say something encouraging.) Unless you know the long-distance bit is for a certain time. I was once away for four months in my last relationship. The Russian regularly sods off for two in the summer. But you know that’s finite. Well, I am a hopeless romantic and I think you should try to find a solution somehow, but it’s tricky. No denying it.

8. Lulla - June 5, 2007

Go! Have started playing Go and am obsessed with looking for Go-like situations in the real world. Nuclear weapon defence plans, “OO that’s like Go”, office politics, “OO that’s like Go”, blogging, “OO etc”.

Was invited to play Mah Jong once at a customer’s house. There were 4 walls, or maybe winds, ate a lot of cake and a three-legged cat kept jumping up and trying to lick my face – that’s all I remember.

9. Geoff - June 5, 2007

There are both 4 walls AND 4 winds – you pile up the tiles in the shape of 4 walls (the ‘garden wall’ i seem to remember), and then take it in turns to collect and discard tiles to make sets, of winds, dragons, flowers and suits.

It is all a bit Joanna Lumley – my grandparents met in Quetta (now in Pakistan) where my grandad was a doctor in the Indian Army and my grandmother a nurse. My dad was born out there too. The raj lifestyle rather suited them and they weren’t happy about having to come back. Especially as they ended up in Croydon. My grandmother never managed to lose the habit of treating all people of Indian origin as servants, which didn’t exactly endear her to her neighbours in Croydon later on in life.

10. Arabella - June 5, 2007

I tried playing mahjong with a group of friends in Galway. I was awful and everybody got annoyed which made me more awful. So disappointed because the pieces are so pretty and the board and box it all came in so attractive. But no, I’m crap at games unless it charades.
Have you seen those vintage bracelets made out of very old mahjong pieces. Ones from the 40s are best but there are a lot of fakes out there in trinket land.

11. pleite - June 5, 2007

Arabella, I haven’t, though they sound lovely. In fact, even the computer version is pretty. And the graphics make it look as if you’re playing on some wicker mat, which is very pleasing… I’m useless at charades. Too shy to act. (Eek, flashbacks to having to perform in two embarrassingly poor things during my time in Russia. The shame. Once I was a giant. The other time an immigrant mickey mouse.)

Geoff, oh dear. She didn’t ask them to bring her tea and pink gin, did she? Or call them chaiwala? I still vaguely have a plan to go and work in India as the person who sits on the street with a typewriter who writes letters for the (English-speaking) illiterate, presumably most of whom would be tourists from the UK.

Lulla, hello! I’m too scared to get addicted to a new game already, but I’ll try to get addicted to it soon. Anyway, the Russian and I are already fighting over mahjong, so I think that’s a good sign. No cake in our version, though. More’s the pity. I’d kill for some cake.

12. Marsha Klein - June 5, 2007

If you’re going to play Mahjong, you definitely need cake. Seed cake, probably and tea in proper china cups with saucers, with your wind-up gramophone playing all the while in the background. The ladies of the company should be attired in tea dresses made of floral cotton lawn and you should be sporting an open-necked shirt, cricket sweater, topped off with a linen jacket.

Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?

13. Neal - June 6, 2007

Mahjong makes me talk like a sailor.

14. leon - June 6, 2007

I can’t believe people have actually started faking vintage Mahjong pieces. What’s the world coming to?

Dunno about sailors; in my experience Mahjong usually provided a good excuse for assuming the kind of comedy ‘Chinese’ accent it’s no longer really acceptable to do. Anyway, I’m off to think about ladies in tea dresses for a while.

15. pleite - June 6, 2007

Leon, but what is a tea dress, exactly? I wonder if it’s what I imagine every woman in anything by Turgenev to wear. You know, girls called Kitty (in the English translations) who sing, play piano and faint all the time. Prim, white, lacy dresses. Speaking of Chinese accents, we had a Taiwanese guest a week or so ago and she taught me some elementary Chinese. My attempts at saying such clever sentences as, “I am not a large dragon,” (summat like ‘Wo bu she da da long’) probably had recourse to a comedy Chinese accent. I think I got the wrong tone for every word.

Neal, hello and welcome. Please, tell me, did you type that comment from Antarctica? Look, people, Neal is in fucking Antarctica! I was so thrilled by reading about your adventures yesterday that I dreamt of Mt. Everest. (Boringly, the dream made Everest be visible from Stuttgart, but anyway.) Blogging from Antarctica. I’m still too thrilled to say anything else, really. I’m in a suburb. You’re no doubt battling penguins and Knuts on an almost constant basis. (Or are Knuts only up north?) Do you think a talentless, workshy homo could be of any use on Antarctica? I can make tea.

Marsha, and net curtains. We mustn’t forget the net curtains. And silence, but for the chinking of the cups on the saucers. And the tea-spoons. I quite fancy the man you describe, although it makes me think of bad drama/documentaries about the Kennedy family and the boys being at those posh American schools/universities. I watched an episode of Ab Fab recently with that Crispin Bonham-Carter in it. Quite fancied him as the gardener. But then he took drugs and there was no mahjong in it at all.

Sorry, I’m being delirious, as our French cousins put it. Too panicked by work and too thrown by visions of me being flown into Antarctica on my first day as tea-maker to the South Pole community.

16. Arabella - June 6, 2007

Tea dresses are/were frocks worn for social teas. They tend to be short sleeved and over-the-knee 30s style, demure prints, collars sometimes. They’re actually quite good for dancing in, ‘cos of the length and the fact that a lot of 30s patterns were generously cut. And you get room for tea and cake. Which reminds me……

17. Arabella - June 6, 2007

Blimey – Neal IS in Antarctica. That’s my reading for the day sorted.

18. pleite - June 6, 2007

Arabella, isn’t it dashing? (Neal being in Antarctica, not the dresses, although I’m sure they dash too.) I thought it must be a ruse, but there are photos of him shirtless at the South Pole and everything. I’d probably offer to marry him if he was a single homosexual and the Russian didn’t mind being replaced. (I’ve been telling the Russian about Scott and Amundsen today especially.)

Anyway, I’m officially in my BiB-of-the-Antarctic phase. I wonder what the fashions in Antarctica are this season…

19. sil - June 6, 2007

Reading the above leaves me with a pleasant vision: I am sipping homemade iced-tea (sugar free for me) perched on some hoplessly melting iceberg that is inching its way on a collision course with an undetermined northern-European target…how intense! I guess I’d be naked too.

(Sigh, it’s been a trying day at the office…save me Edina!)

20. pleite - June 7, 2007

Sil, sorry to hear it. Although sitting on a melting iceberg sounds quite nice, in a way, especially if it was to reach ultimate melting/disappearance point just as it dropped you off nicely on the beach of some Caribbean island. Trinidad’s nice, I hear. (Tobago’s more paradisey, but Trinidad’s got life on it.) The northern European thing to be bumped into could be some of us bloggers waiting for you on the beach with a well-deserved glass of Bolly. That iceberg-surfing’s pretty exhausting, after all.

OK, fantasy over. It is hot and sunny here but I have more work than the combined population of China and India to do at the moment so no sun and champers for me. Schade, schade.

21. Lulla - June 7, 2007

Oo, save a chunk or two of the iceberg for chilling drinks on the beach!

22. pleite - June 7, 2007

Lulla, too true. Ever since the Russian bought a posh new fridge, we’ve had the luxury of ice. It came with one of those ice-mould things. Awfully good. It’s been clinky gin and tonics all round ever since.

23. Sil - June 7, 2007

I remember a time when during the summer months big blocks of ice were delivered to houses in horse-drawn carriages and nestled within a thick blanket of straw. How antediluvian…

24. liukchik - June 10, 2007

I actually have a spare real mah jongg set here somewhere, inherited, no doubt from a family member either of Chinese extraction, or resident in China for an extended period. I must have played it and enjoyed it sufficiently for two separate people to buy me sets – no idea about the rules though…

25. pleite - June 11, 2007

Liukchik, do you play mahjong like a child I played chess with in Russia played chess? He won every (OK, one) time, because he made up his own rules as he went along. Shockingly, he told me these were the rules his father had taught him. I refuse to believe it. Surely no respectable Russian father could misteach chess.

Sil, come on, you must be pulling my leg. Even the dinosaurs had fridges. Didn’t they?

26. sil - June 11, 2007

No kidding, really, they had the ice-in-the-hay arrangement in rural Hungary well into the 80s as I was growing up. Mind you, I lived in Budapest, and this was definitely a rural thing to be seen when on summer vacation. (I wonder if they had “30 minutes delivery or it’s free” back then?)

27. ex-Bachelor Uncle - June 11, 2007

Computer mahjong? It was harder to quit than crystal meth, and just as bad on the joints.

On for Wednesday support group?

28. pleite - June 12, 2007

Bachelor, officially ex? But your blog sits there teasingly, ready to tempt you back when you have a weak moment. And praise be for that. Perhaps blogging is more addictive than mahjong or crystal meth. Although I’m finding it very unaddictive at the moment, I must say. It can be a bit relentless, can’t it? Dunno about support group tomorrow yet. Have had a guest so my liver has taken a bit of a pounding. But, if I manage to go to an Italian evening class tomorrow and can feel all virtuous afterwards, I’ll probably troll along.

Sil, how lovely and bucolic-sounding. And plastic ice-things for the fridge remind me of drinking horrible cordials during childhood. I’ve never been to Hungary, although, of course, as a language sicko, I’ve occasionally wondered if the language isn’t one I should one day tackle. But I think I’m through with new languages now (he says three seconds after writing about Italian lessons, but Italian could never be as strange and mysterious as Hungarian. Not after years of Latin and French at school. I’ve actually vaguely studied Finnish, but I’m not sure that would help demystify Hungarian much). But köszönöm for rerousing my interest, and for giving me the opportunity to use a word with three ös.

29. Didier - June 14, 2007

Sorry to be off topic, but somebody stole my bike today. It’s green and the back tyre is a bit flat. Could you tell me if you see it somewhere in Berlin. Thanks

30. sil - June 14, 2007

Nagyon szivesen! And please learn our language…there are less and less Hungarian speakers left :-)

31. pleite - June 14, 2007

Sil, I might have to leave it for the next life, along with learning to drive and getting a real job. I like saying fake, invented-by-me, Hungarian-sounding noises though. The sounds in Hungarian are as pretty as in Portuguese.

Didier, sorry to hear it, and I will keep a beady eye out. Though I have visions of the quest taking over my life. In thirty years’ time, I will be seen in rags, wandering round the city, saying, “I’m looking for his bike. I’m looking for his bike”.

32. Beaman - June 17, 2007

I had to uninstall my mahong, I got hooked. My breathing became erratic and I woke the neighbours up in the middle of the night. It was scary.

33. Beaman - June 18, 2007

Ah by the way, I’ve just gone and tagged you for a meme. :p

34. pleite - June 18, 2007

Beaman, I’m weaning myself off it, more down to lack of access to the Russian’s laptop than by willpower, really. And I’ll get round to meming eventually. Some scarily personal questions in there. I’ll see if I’m brave enough.

35. redneckarts - June 24, 2007

I love being the tedious old bachelor playing mahjong alone with the cat, Drugs help.

36. pleite - June 24, 2007

Redneck, I keep not getting round to becoming a druggie. I always aim to, but never quite pull it off. I’m brilliant at drinking though. Yesterday, there was a Gay Pride thing here and I drank cheap East German ‘champagne’, followed by absinthe, which was deliciously endrunkening, and then ruined the whole thing with a couple of beers. Beer really is the devil.

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