Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Draughts, huffing and Happy Birthday to Us

According to my calculations, this blog is now a year old. To celebrate, I'm going to contribute something that appears to have some details missing from the sum total of the interweb. I'm going to talk about draughts.

Draughts (checkers, in some places) is, you might say, an old ladies' game. You'd be quite right, and if you've never played draughts against an old lady you've probably never been so comprehensively beaten at something in your entire life. One of the basic principles of draughts is than when an opposing piece has a space behind it, you can jump your piece over it, thereby removing if from the board. Old ladies can join five or six of these jumps together to deprive you of half your pieces in one foul swoop. You really do have to jump and remove pieces to get somewhere a game of draughts, but there's a variant on this that appears to be unique to Irish grandmothers, or at least my Irish grandmother (or possibly the Irish in general, it's that kind of a thing), and that I can't find any mention of anywhere else. It's called huffing. Huffing changes draughts from the mindless and inevitable plonking of pieces to a winner-takes-all game of bluff and daring.

It works like this: if you have a chance to jump any one of your opponent's pieces and you don't take that chance, the piece you would have jumped with is taken off the board -- provided your opponent notices and huffs you. You can't huff someone for not jumping if they've jumped somewhere else at the same time, but otherwise it's open slather. "But you would have...(done blah blah etc etc)" is not a valid excuse.

See? Daring, treachery, bluff and double-bluff. Try it with your grandmother sometime. Just don't be surprised if she beats you.

Now just in case Google doesn't notice this the first time around: Draughts rules huffing jumping checkers Irish grandmothers.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Spring has sprung

St Mary's and the Majestic Centre ...the grass has risen, it's rained again, and I've been in Wellington, where spring is definitely still on its way, next week at the earliest, guvnor. I took my new toy to Wellington with me, although I should admit that my new toy is actually older than I am. It's a Spotmatic F, last of the screw-mount Pentax SLRs, and a very nice toy it is too.

I found myself enjoying being back in Wellington. It's really nice to be able to waltz into a cafe and get better service (and better coffee) from a girl with seven facial piercings than you do at many a pretentious establishment in Sydney. Wellington has a groovy little vibe that I hadn't realised I missed. With the benefit of some time between me and my final cash-strapped days as a Wellington resident, I found meeting that vibe again very agreeable.

To commemorate the putative arrival of spring and attendant torrential downpours (did I mention it rained? 'cos it did) I've dusted off something I wrote smack dab in the middle of winter and never got around to posting:

Sydney has been turning on some lovely days of late. They're not what you might call a typical Sydney day, which involve heat rolling out of the West like it was an open oven door, a lingering cloud of pollution over the city and emerald-clear waves breaking onto overcrowded beaches. These days are crisp and cool and start without a cloud in the sky.

It's not like that any more. Spring here arrives all at once, as if all the plants and animals had a calendar. When I got home on Sunday night our street was warm and still and smelt like jasmine flowers. Big dragonflies with iridescent wings were darting and fighting aournd the courtyard at work on Tuesday. This morning there was just a little bit of water on the ground. And pouring down the hill. And overflowing the causeway over the extremely swollen local watercourse. Oh, and on the floor inside underneath the ventilators. With a bit left in the sky for good measure.

Macro shot of orchid flower My new toy came with some extension rings, so I'll probably be taking more photos like that one there. Cop you later.

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