Home life · Notes from West London

500 games of pool

Back in November, in this piece about the word “whitewash”, I wrote about the pool table that we bought for my son’s 16th birthday. I set it up that evening and we have played at least three games on it every day since then. Most days we play at least six games, and sometimes (at weekends, or in the Christmas holidays) we have played as many as 15 times in a day.

Today is the 90th consecutive day that we have been doing this, and I figure that our average is at least six games per day. That means that we have played well over 500 times. Sometimes the games are short, when one of us pots the black early on. On a handful of occasions this has happened before either of us has potted a red or a yellow. We rack them up and start all over again. If we were playing in a pub (where it’s at least £1 per game) we would probably practise potting the reds and yellows, to get our money’s worth. At home every game is free. If you divide the cost of the table by the number of games we have played, it has cost us less than 10p each time.

We have settled into a few habits. In any given session my son always breaks first. (That is, although I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this, he takes the first shot, aiming to break the pack.) He prefers to be on yellows, so I always aim to pot a red first. Assuming that things work out, and he ends up on yellows, one of us will say, “All is right with the world; things are as they should be”. If not, if I accidentally pot the first yellow, or he pots the first red, we will utter melodramatic single words like “Disaster” and “Catastrophe”. If he wins that first game in his preferred way, by potting all the yellows and then the black, the session comes to an end. Any other result (one of us potting the black early, or me winning, or him winning while on reds) and we play again. We carry on playing until he wins in, as we call it, “a pure and beautiful way”.

After the first game in any session I usually break one time in three. From time to time I do this the way my father used to, using the heavy end of the cue. It’s a good way of getting some real power into the shot. We still say, “the whitewash is still on” or “the whitewash is no longer on”, every time we play.  There has only been one occasion when one of us has managed to pot all seven of our colours before the other has potted a single ball. It was, my son tells me, on 16 January. I potted all the reds, had a tricky shot on the black and decided not to put too much into it. Under other circumstances I would have given it a whack and maybe fluked it, but there was also a strong chance of potting a yellow at the same time.

If we carry on at this rate, by the time we get to May we will have played over a thousand games on our home table. It’s quite possible. With London in its third phase of lockdown there’s not much alternative entertainment around here.

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