Friday, 15 August 2014

When you come to the end of a ...

And so we come to the end of another chess tournament. As I type, our boys are playing in a simultaneous exhibition in the sunshine in front of the cathedral here in Pontevedra. A couple of chess bigwigs, one Grand Master and one Spanish junior star, play all comers, all at the same time, moving from board to board. It's a special kind of chess showing-off. 

The tournament, though, is over. Phil won the veteran's prize once again. He now has two trophies. We have decided that he can use them as book-ends. 

(Sitting here in a wifi cafe, Phil has just asked me if I am logged on. Not at all. I wondered if he was having a slow connection and thought that I was interfering with his logged-on-ness. From now on, that is his title: His Logged-on-ness Philip Adams. To be addressed formally as "Your Logged-on-ness".) 

The chess boys were in a state of nervousness last night, having heard stories of tricks played on sleepers (or even non-sleepers) in the bunkhouse. I hesitate to call it a dormitory as it really is rather barracks-like. There was talk of people being smeared with toothpaste in previous years apparently. They have not reported anything involving toothpaste but one of the boys did wake up to find sunflower seeds around his suitcase. On opening it, he found his suitcase "full" - probably an exaggeration - of sunflower seeds. This could be just what is needed to tip his suitcase over beyond the 10 kilo limit imposed by Ryanair. One of his young compatriots smiled innocently at the suggestion that he might be responsible. Boys will be boys, and all that sort of thing. 

There was a procession of giants making its way past our hotel as we checked out this morning. Quite delightful! I have yet to hear of such a thing going on in the UK. No doubt someone will tell me I am wrong about this. Liverpool had to resort to importing giant puppeteers from France, I think, when they wanted to organise a fantastic parade through the city recently. We do have Morris dancers, I suppose. Does that make up for the lack? I remain unconvinced, although they try to put to on a good show. The dance they do where they end up with woven swords is rather impressive, after all. 

In our hotel there was a collection of books, presumably left behind by other guests, which you could borrow if you wanted a change from watching processions and mad marching bands. I have been perusing one of Stephen Fry's autobiographies. I understand he has written several. This one was about his childhood. At one point he talked about "hello", which before the 1890s was only used as an expression of surprise, à la Bertie Wooster. This is what I learned from Mr Fry: 

"The very word 'Hello' only earned its sense of a greeting after the American phone companies hunted about for a new word with which telephone conversations could politely, unsuggestively and neutrally be initiated, much as the BBC in the 1930s threw open the debate as to what someone who watched television might be called. The wireless had listeners; should television have watchers?" 

 I have some doubts about "unsuggestively". We have a friend who can make "hello" sound extremely suggestive. 

Another odd Fry fact: Alexander Graham Bell is reported to have said he believed that there would be a time when every major town in America would have a telephone. Not very town, just every major town! I wonder what he would think about today's situation, with mobiles everywhere. 

The Apeles charanga band has just marched enthusiastically, rhythmically and loudly (but still rather out of tune) past the cafe. I wonder what they do for the rest of the year!

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