September 25, 2004

Parks and gardens

I am on the Isle of Man, playing in their international chess tournament. I played here last year, and did so well (two wins out of nine, but the strength of the opposition!) that I came back this year. It's hard, incredibly hard, if you find yourself playing against people who are good enough to play professionally. Like a park footballer playing against league players. I'm about as good at chess as a park footballer is at football. A good park footballer, true, top division of the Sunday league and good enough to play non-league to a decent standard, but I know the difference between me and somebody who really knows how to play the game. Perhaps that's what being good at something is - being good enough to know how bad you are. Just as one of the consequences of being educated, of being well-read is that you know how little you have really read and how much there is to know that you will never know.

I'll come back to the subject, perhaps. It is fascinating playing against people who understand something that you understand, but understand it a hundred times better than you do. Unfortunately (particularly having lost my first game today) I probably won't get to play any of the grandmasters. Viktor Korchnoi is here. I probably won't get any closer to him than taking his photograph.

I bought a disposable camera at Stansted in case I see a Manx cat. I didn't see any last year. I've never seen one, though last year I went looking for them more than once. I didn't expect them to wander out into the street for my benefit so I went walking round the residential areas of Port Erin (which is a strange phrase, I admit, as if there were a financial district and an industrial area) to see if I could see any cats slipping over fences or sleeping under cars. To no avail, as all the cats I saw were accompanied by tails, to the number of one apiece.

Nothing daunted, I intend to go out looking for them again, round Port Erin and even Port St Mary if I have to. Creeping round peeking into people's back gardens late in the evening. Last year people probably thought I was a burglar. This year they'll probably think I'm a pervert.


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