Do right woman
I played chess at the City Ground over the weekend, an amusing circumstance in itself. It was the first weekend of the play-offs, and had Forest qualified, the tournament would have had to have been cancelled. Not only could we hardly have played chess to the accompaniment of a football crowd more than twenty thousand strong, but the playing area - a bar and dining suite overlooking the football pitch on one side and the Trent on the other - would presumably have been required by the football club in any event. Therefore in order to book the venue, the organisers had to have been confident that Forest would fail to make the play-offs. And for that matter, the football club had to have been confident that the suite would not be required by supporters.
This seems a reasonable assumption given that they were relegated before the final weekend, but seeing as I received my entry form in, I believe, January, four months before the end of the season, it was a pretty confident statement of pessimism. (Or optimism, depending on how you look at it.) Crystal Palace had come from near the relegation zone to win the play-offs the season before. Presumably nobody in Nottingham, even at the football club itself, had thought Forest likely to do the same.
Anyway, my season ended much like Forest's, as I shed pawns, pieces, games and rating points like nobody’s business, eventually giving up, withdrawing from the final round and shelling out another fifteen quid for an early coach back to London. The journey lasted more than three hours, long enough, one would have thought, for the contemplation one's own stupidity.
Or maybe not. It wasn't just my chess, that weekend, that led me to worry about the apparent decline in my mental faculties. In the break between the second and third rounds, on the Saturday lunchtime, I left the ground and started off down the riverside path to make my way to the VAT and Fiddle near the station, when I thought I saw two men by the side of a Mini parked just behind a barrier. One was standing up looking at the other, who seemed to be on his hands and knees by the rear nearside wheel of the car. I assumed he was trying to fix something underneath the car.
As I got closer, though, I could see that the man on the ground had blood all over his very tangled hair and was half-conscious. I guessed that he was drunk and had fallen off the barrier in a lunchtime stupor. I was about to ask if anybody had called an ambulance, when the other man asked "have you got a mobile?". I had, and phoned 999 myself, which involved the difficult task of giving directions to a pathway with no name in a city which I don’t really know. (The ambulance subsequently zoomed over the bridge and towards the opposite riverbank, making it necessary for me to run up to the bridge, waving my arms to attract the attention of the paramedics after they realised their error and turned around.) They were about to give me instructions as to how to look after the victim when a chap rode up on his bicycle who seemed to know what he was doing, and I handed the mobile over to him. Much to my relief, as it was his jacket which ended up draped over the bleeding body to keep them warm before the ambulance arrived.
I'd been on the phone for a minute or so, saying "a man's fallen and cut his head open, no, I don't know how old he is, I think he might be in his forties, not sure" and so on in that vein, when the man who'd asked me to call attracted my attention again and told me that it was, in fact, not "a man" at all, but a woman. More than that, it was a woman who’d I'd already seen that day at the chess congress, as I discovered when the organisers came looking for her. (She was not only old, far older than I'd estimated on the phone, but diabetic, prone to collapses, and apparently in the habit of wandering off. "Lunchtime stupor", indeed.) On being informed of my error I reflected that it was just as well she'd fallen off the barrier and cracked her head open. At least that way she couldn't hear me when I embarrassed myself at her expense.