Sunday, 20 March 2016

hughie’s game

When I was a pupil at my local grammar school between 1957 and 1964, I did my best to dodge playing rugby, for reasons that I described in All Must Have Prizes. I was largely successful, and in four of those years I didn’t even set foot on a rugby pitch. However, I do recall one occasion, when I was in the sixth form, when my doctor’s note kept me off the rugby pitch, but it didn’t stop the games master, Brian McVey, sending me to walk around the senior cross-country course in the company of a friend, Hughie Taylor, who also had a doctor’s note.

The cross-country course was 7–8km long, but within 500 metres it passed under the main railway line, which was on an embankment, so even if Mr McVey had been keeping an eye on us with binoculars, he wouldn’t have been able to see what we were up to once we’d passed beyond this point. Naturally, we cut across the fields on the far side of the line to rejoin the course, thus cutting out 6–7km of needless walking.

We then had to pass some time idling about to avoid raising suspicions by returning to school too early, so we played a little game. After more than fifty years, I cannot recall the fine details of the game, but I do remember the general principles. One of us would start by saying “McVey is a …”. The other would respond by saying “McVey is a … and a …”. We probably used fairly offensive terms to describe our nemesis, but what precisely these were I no longer have any idea. However, we also used quite a few made-up words, and I can actually remember some of these, so I will use them to illustrate how the game was played:
Hughie: McVey is a peroot.
Me: McVey is a peroot and a prannock.
Hughie: McVey is a peroot and a prannock and a maroot.
Me: McVey is a peroot and a prannock and a maroot and a ….
And so on. The loser of the game was the first person to misremember the sequence as it grew longer, although who actually won this particular game I cannot now recall. In fact, we probably played the game several times anyway.

If you’ve read Memory Games and Memory Games #2, you will know that my previous suggested tests of memory are solo games, a kind of mental solitaire, so I thought that a competitive game was needed to provide some balance, and Hughie’s game could well provide some amusement in a social situation. It was originally a two-player game, and this is probably the optimum number, but there is no reason why more players couldn’t be involved, especially if the game is fuelled by alcohol. Smoking cannabis before a game probably isn’t a good idea.

Instead of using nouns to describe the object of derision, in this updated version of the game, I propose to use adjectives. Having watched from afar, with increasing dismay, the inexorable rise of an utter mountebank towards the US presidency, I have absolutely no hesitation in using this charlatan as an example of how the game might be played by four people:
1: Donald Trump is vain.
2: Donald Trump is vain and arrogant.
3: Donald Trump is vain and arrogant and bigoted.
4: Donald Trump is vain and arrogant and bigoted and rude.
1: Donald Trump is vain and arrogant and bigoted and rude and pompous.
2: Donald Trump is vain and arrogant and bigoted and rude and pompous and bombastic.
3: Donald Trump is vain and arrogant and bigoted and rude and pompous and bombastic and obnoxious.
4: Donald Trump is vain and arrogant and bigoted and rude and pompous and bombastic and obnoxious and crass.
1: Donald Trump is vain and arrogant and bigoted and rude and pompous and bombastic and obnoxious and crass and ignorant.
2: Donald Trump is vain and arrogant and bigoted and rude and pompous and bombastic and obnoxious and crass and ignorant and boorish.
I could add a lot more words to this sequence, but this should be sufficient to illustrate how a game might pan out. If you try this game, you could incorporate an additional rule that bans the use of inaccurate descriptors, so that someone who said “Donald Trump is compassionate” can be challenged by his opponents. If the challenge is ruled to be valid, then that player is eliminated. In a multi-player game, the last to be eliminated becomes the winner.

I still run into Hughie (not literally) when I’m in the UK, because he’s often out walking his dog when I cycle through the village where he lives. I always stop for a chat, but I don’t think we’ve ever reminisced about that day we were both able to skive off playing rugby but were ‘punished’ for doing so. I shall have to remind him the next time I see him.

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