The games of life.

Probably through the Pot Black TV series and the exploits of the so-called Ginger Magician (young Steve Davis), in the late seventies, I'd become interested in playing and watching the game of snooker. With a couple of work colleagues I joined the 147 snooker club in downtown Gosport. Then Stuart told me he'd like to learn how to play the game so I enrolled him into the club's Saturday morning instruction course. Hearing about this, our twenty years old daughter Julie, home again after a lengthy stay with Joan's people in York, decided to make a personal stand against sexism. She wanted to learn to play snooker as well! In vain I told her that snooker clubs were not necessarily a suitable world for attractive young ladies, so one Saturday morning in 1979 there she was, alongside Stu, under instruction in front of a crowd of more than interested club members. She loved the attention and furthermore displayed a degree of natural ability to actually play the game - play it better than Stuart, I might add.

From there on Julie got herself into snooker big time. She became ultra focussed on it, constantly playing matches against good male amateurs and other top ladies in social clubs, political clubs and working men's clubs all around the country. Having said that, I remember that many of the working men's clubs and Conservative clubs in those days (maybe still today) had rules prohibiting a woman from playing on their snooker tables - and in some cases even from entering theclub's door! Notwithstanding that, in common with a handful of other young women our Julie 'turned pro' and acquired a manager. I think it would have been in 1980 or 81 when her big opportunity arrived. She was to partner Tony Meo, one of the top male players in a doubles match against world champion Steve Davis and the then world ladies champion, whose name I cannot right now bring to mind. The match was televised live on ITV from a large sports hall in Clacton just prior to that year's football Cup Final. Joan and I went to watch. Julie looked so beautiful in her black and white man's type evening suit and frilly shirt and how proud we were to see her pot the first ever televised snooker ball by a female. (But then of course Steve took over and cleared the table, as was his wont in those days.) After the match Joan and I were introduced to Barry Hearn, well known sports promoter and Steve Davis's manager and friend. The first woman able to play and win against these top men, he pronounced, will be an overnight millionaire.
I could understand that, especially as snooker's massive TV audiences were at least fifty percent female. There seemed no physical reason why a female exponent of the game should not emerge but the fact is that it didn't happen then and hasn't happened to this very day. My own theory is that the ladies just do not have the necessary focus - that mysterious winning drive / mind-set - to apply themselves either on the table or for the necessarily boring hours and hours and hours of daily practice. Perhaps it is that Mother Nature equips we males to hunt and compete and fight and equips the female of our species to attract, procreate and defend. If that's sexist (whatever sexist is) I'm sorry, but if you have a better explanation please do let me know. Please - no guff about 'opportunity'. We all - of both genders - have the opportunity to do with our lives what we will, then to try again and again even when our ultimate failure becomes depressingly obvious or our goal gets to seem ridiculously irrelevant.

Julie went on to marry an ex-Royal Navy guy, a highly rated snooker amateur; a bright enough guy but one always on the lookout for money making schemes requiring little actual work input! They managed to buy a snooker club in Nottingham but sold that in favour of buying another one in the East Anglian town of  Swaffham, providing us in the meantime with two more grandsons to add, by then, to Kairen and Roger's three girls and a boy. Fortunately Kairen's marriage was as happy and solid as Julie's was the exact opposite.

Back at home, Stu and his lovely vizsla Seth continued to provide Joan and I with a much needed antidote to her slowly degrading MS. Although she was permanently wheelchair bound we managed to take boy and dog to major dog shows all over the country: Leeds, Peterborough, Builth Wells, Bath, Birmingham and even as far north as Edinburgh spring to mind. Oh, and Crufts of course, at Earls Court in London and then the NEC in Birmingham. But perhaps my own favourite memory is of Stu/Seth coming reserve best in show at Southampton. I still have the clipping from Dog World ... This combination of Russetmantle Seth and his young handler has to be seen to be believed, it reads. When Stu eventually left home to go commercial fishing down in Cornwall I had to show the dog myself at what turned out to be his final Crufts. What a let down! Seth moped around the ring, unresponsive and disinterested. End of that chapter.

I want to end this particular blog with a record, as near verbatim as I can manage, of a telephone conversation that took place one Saturday afternoon in our house at 45 Raynes Road, Lee-on-Solent.  I picked up the ringing telephone ... before I could say anything came the voice of a female; Hello Bryan. Hello, mother, I responded. I hadn't had to think, for I had somehow at once recognised the voice of my mother, Marie, last seen and heard from when I was eleven years old.

Yes, this is the unadorned truth, like all else in these memoirs of mine There are some truths in my life that I shall never write about, but the ones I do write about are indeed the truth as best I recall them! More about mother (and father) later.

p.s. Apropos the latter, someone asked me why  I do these blogs, after all the life of a non-celebrity is of truly minimal interest. I referred them to Ernest Hemingway's response when a budding young author asked him for his advice. Hemingway said, simply; So you are a writer? So write!

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