Friday, December 18, 2009

Bruce Lee and the round table

"To become immortal, one must first live a life worth remembering."

I think Bruce Lee said that, or at least stole it from someone more ‘wordy’ and brought it to the mainstream (and by mainstream I mean ‘anyone who saw the film DRAGON’). Anyway, it made me look to a more contemporary version, which is: “To blog, one must first have a life worth remarking upon”. And that’s my problem right now – I’m dull as dog dirt, bland as bat bilge, rank as rat’s rectum (you get the general idea). To blog at the moment would just be inflicting my own misery on a wider audience, and Phil Hellmuth appears to already have that market cornered with his own blog.

In the glory days of poker journalism I got to travel the world, interview people I’d never interviewed before, witness things I’d never witnessed before, play in games I’d never played in before, and so on… Now, sadly, I do best part of fek-all on a daily basis.

Trying to make an interesting and witty blog out of “woke up, read my three emails, wallowed in my friends’ successes via Facebook, refreshed my email inbox just in case, played SNGs until 5pm then played Call of Duty until it was time to make dinner”… well, you can see what I mean. It’s not quite at the dullard “woke up, brushed my teeth” level I attained in my acclaimed personal diary of 1981, but it’s pretty damn close.

In an attempt to do something with my life before my legs rot and they put me in a wheelchair, I decided to investigate the local Round Table. Having seen an advert in the local paper that described it as ‘A drinking club for blokes who occasionally have to do something for charity’ I thought I might fit in quite well.

I went along to the first meeting that, though not that Masonic, certainly had a few ‘funny handshake’ moments (without, I’m sad to report, any actual funny handshakes - although I like to think that once I left they shook the crap out of each other’s hands in a ‘funny’ way). There were people who were Chairmen of this and that, one chap who had to stand up and recite the ‘Aims and Objectives’ (a kind of boy scout pledge for children over the age of 25) and a Master at Arms (I shit you not) who reviews the meeting at the end and ‘fines’ people for lapses in behaviour and protocol. It’s only fair to say it was all done very much tongue-in-cheek and with a sense of fun, but it was certainly interesting to see grown men being told off and financially penalized for shouting “fuck!” at each other.

My next encounter with The Table (for ‘tis how it’s referred to once one is ‘in the know’) was the Santa sleigh, which grinds up and down the local streets behind a Range Rover playing loud Xmas music while Santa shouts “ho ho ho!” and waves at kids fizzing with excitement in the windows. Meanwhile a gang from The Table knocks on doors and collects money for the local charities and causes they support throughout the year. I wasn’t sure how I felt about joining in with this as I’m usually the one sitting watching telly in only my socks shouting “bah humbug” when charity collectors visit. However, upon seeing the sleigh I remembered how excited I used to get as a kid when the Upminster version came down our road, and once a few old folk had merrily bunged me a couple of quid with smiles on their faces and I’d witnessed the reaction of the kids down the first street I was well into it.

The activity was, however, not without its own perils. As well as smiling elderly folk and excited young-uns, my town is not without (how shall I put this)… mentals. I’d briefly enjoyed the fantasy of having the door answered by some MILF in a see-through gown who invited me in for more than a mince pie, but the closest I got was one old women who wanted me to feel how warm her hands were (seriously). I told her “I have two pairs of gloves on – I can’t feel anything” but she simply lurched out of her doorway with surprising speed and rubbed her moist, elderly hands up and down my semi-frozen cheeks (my face, MY FACE!) until I agreed that they were indeed very nice warm hands, and could I please go now.

Another door was opened by an enormous and entirely hairless man who stood in nothing but his boxer shorts, holding and eating a plate of baked beans. “Hello!” I merrily blarted despite immediately fearing for my life. “Round Table doing the Christmas collection”. He stared at me silently and scooped another two (yes, two) huge mouthfuls of beans into his bald hole while I stood like a tit in the doorway wondering how long I had to live. “No.” he finally grumbled, “You’re alright”. I screamed off up the road as if my shins were on fire, shouting “Merry Christmas!” over my shoulder in case he was chasing me.

Behind door number three was an old lady who I’d seen sitting (presumably dead) in her chair through the front window as I tried to get up the snow-covered ramp that lead to the door without sliding down it like some extra out of Indiana Jones. I now know access ramps are the 2-7 of charity collecting. Houses covered entirely in flashing Xmas decorations are three-of-a-kind, and any house with kids’ bikes and toys outside is the jackpot. I got to the top of the treacherous slope feeling like I’d just completed an ice level in Zelda, and reluctantly pressed the bell. The Tablers had told me to give ample time for old folks or people who lived in the back of their houses (why DO people do that?) to answer. However, after about three minutes I was starting to worry about the police finding her dead broken body clutching a 10p piece in the hallway ALL BECAUSE OF ME!

I could see her chair was empty, knew she must be on her way, and had to wait. After five more minutes she opened the door. “Round Table!” I beamed trying to make it worth the epic two-room trek she’d been on. “Oh,” she said, “I thought you were my carer. Have you got my dinner?” Oh. Fuck. “No, sorry – I’m collecting for the Round Table”. “Oh,” She said, “I thought you were my carer. Have you got my dinner?” Oh. Fuck. Again. What to do? I did have a Snickers bar in my pocket, but to be honest that was already earmarked as my 9pm treat. I opted for the only decent thing a modern chap could do; I ran away. Obviously I didn’t LOOK like I was running away (just in case someone saw me sliding back down the ramp and later shopped me to the body-collecting cops) but I certainly ‘left’ without collecting any money or resolving her problem. One can only hope her ‘carer’ was mere minutes behind and had more than one Snickers bar.

Staying on the ‘ruining old people’s evenings’ front, I also witnessed an old man break the world record for most time taken between opening a front door and opening a porch door. Having stared at me long enough to ascertain I wasn’t a mass murderer, I told him we were doing the Christmas collection, to which he said “you’re a bit late aren’t you?” He looked quite surprised when I told him it was only December 16th, but he handed over £2 anyway. Exactly what month he thought it was (or indeed what year) I can only imagine, but I certainly didn’t wait to watch him clamber slowly back into his house; I was due down the Indian restaurant in two hours.

The avoiders were good. Some would simply stare at you from the comfort of their sofas as if deaf and blind (even thought they were watching telly) while others would dive out of the front room and lie prone on the carpet in the hallway with the lights out. I took to opening the letter box, making eye contact with their frozen bodies and whispering “have a nice Christmas”.

Others would say things like “No, you’re alright” or “don’t worry” before closing the door, while the more creative would say “I don’t have any change” and then pat their trouser pockets. I told one person that if he patted his pockets before saying he had no change it would be much more convincing. I thought he might be insulted, but he looked genuinely grateful for the tip. I’m sure next year will be even less expensive for him thanks to that nugget.

One of the last excuses of the night was particularly involved, with a women turning on all the lights in the house, pulling up her trouser leg, and showing me an ENORMOUS scar (that sadly was not visible to the human eye) that accompanied a story about being off work, hospital bills, £200 a month, etc etc. It was only when she patted her pockets and said she had no change I believed her.

Anyway, that’s my poker blog. Sorry there was no actual poker, but it’s the thought that counts eh! For the record we made just under £400 for 2.5 hours walking, and I had the Chicken Shashlik with pilau rice and sag aloo. The Snickers bar remains uneaten in my coat pocket, and I check the local papers every day to see if my carer-less old friend has been found dead yet. Nothing yet... nothing yet...

Merry Christmas!


adam said...


Christian "Bainn" Briggs said...

Matt, that is one of the most refreshing posts i've read.

You may only be a competent pokerplayer but you really have a future in comedy writing.

Merry Chrimbletide.

Steve Fair said...

As a member of the Round Table involved, I'm deeply offende..... no, I'm laughing in recognition! Great observations! We need you writing for the Table web site - - as we've kind of run out of stuff to say....