The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Rabbit Too Far

With the rain we have been having in the last couple of weeks the verges have become very muddy. Poncho's legs had become so dirty last week that on one of the warmer days he was given a wash down in the garden...
He is very good and just stands there as he is soaped down, rinsed off and then the part he loves, rubbed down with a towel. Jen is never anywhere near as muddy as Poncho. I think this is because Poncho is a 'power-walker', and Jen is a 'glider'.

Yesterday we decided to let them have a run in the morning. We are now using another of Margaret's fields that is close by - a large grass field that was used for sheep last year. It is more secure than the stubble field as the banks down to the burn at the end are much steeper, and the fence on the other side looks more intact. We have taken to going in one gate, letting the dogs off and then we walk to the gate on the other side of the field while Jen and Poncho run around.

All started well. I let Poncho off and he meandered off at his own pace. Paul let Jen off and she just ran, as is her wont, and then Poncho's competitive nature kicked in and he chased her. They had done a circuit around the natural bowl shape there is in the field and Jen was heading back towards us. She overshot and had wheeled back round when a rabbit appeared out of nowhere just a few yards from us. It bolted off to the right. Jen immediately set off in pursuit. Poncho had also noticed and was charging after them. They disappeared out of sight as they went over the top of the rim of the bowl. Paul started jogging after them calling but that was a futile exercise. I started walking to the top of the bowl when suddenly the rabbit came running back from right to left with Jen and Poncho just behind. By the time Paul and I had made it to the top of the slope the dogs were both just standing at the corner of the field panting wildly. I guess the rabbit had made it to safety through the hedge.

When we got to them Jen had just flopped to the ground in a boggy puddle. Poncho was panting so hard he was slathering and had also decided to lie down. He had a cut at the back of his left front paw but it didn't look to bad. We got their leads back on, took their muzzles off and very slowly set off for home. You could hear Jen's front claws dragging on the road as she could hardly lift her legs as she walked home and she kept stopping to drink out of the puddles. Poncho's legs were extremely wobbly, but the adrenalin kicked in when Mr Gore and Florence came walking towards us. Luckily they turned round and headed off in the opposite direction so I managed to get him to calm down.

Paul said he had never had so little enthusiasm from the dogs for going out as yesterday lunchtime, and after they had peed they just wanted to come home again. They do appear to have recovered now...

Monday, February 26, 2007

Scottish Masters

It was the Scottish Masters scrabble tourney at the weekend - an invitational event for the top 12 Scottish players - held at St. Margaret's School in Edinburgh.

Allan and I decided we would drive each day, as it was only about an hour away, rather than stay over in Edinburgh on the Saturday night. Allan was due to pick me up at 8.45 on the Saturday, but phoned at that time to let me know he was on his way but running late. He arrived just gone 9.00 but we still had plenty of time. We had completed our first best-of-25 match on Thursday, which I won 13-6 with a lot of good tile picking, and he had my prize of a bottle of red wine with him. He is 2-1 up in the next...

Game 1: Caroline Atkins
I don't think I had ever played Caroline before. I had two low scoring bonuses (BETITLE and ???) on moves 2 and 4, with Caroline getting a high scoring bonus on move 3, so I was still only about 20 points up. I then went through a series of low scoring plays as I was suffering from a lack of vowels, and Caroline had overhauled me by move 9. I was even forced to dump LS onto the end of BE when I had no vowels, but the last 2 S's. I picked a vowel and made an opening for a bonus starting with an S but Caroline blocked it. She was suffering from too many vowels, and on her next move played off ANEE from an R for 6, blocking my dump of RC from an O for 5! By this point I had picked the last blank, and with 7 left in a vowel heavy bag decided a change must be made. I picked two Os from the bag, but this did not give me a bonus. I played off one of the Os to make a very hard to block opening, given what was unseen, and picked a life saving E, allowing me to play out with ORiENTS to scrape home.
W: 379-357 (1)

Game 2: Lorraine Gordon
I started with a balancing move for 6 points, leaving RATE on my rack and was rewarded with INERTIA on the next play. Another balancing play on move 3 for 11 was rewarded with CATERAN on move 4. Another bonus play for 75 on move 7 (???) and I was well in control. Lorraine bonused back near the end, but it was too late.
W: 438-354 (0)

Game 3: Ross Mackenzie
Again I started with a balancing move of TOE from AEEORTT and this time drew UNS from the bag. Ross bonused with ITERANT, giving me the easy 4x URANITES. Ross, however, followed up with consecutive scores of 42, 33 and 44 to take the lead. Back to back bonuses from him a couple of moves later saw me in real trouble. I pegged some of it back with lEAFAGE but ran out of ammunition and tiles.
L: 438-472 (1)

Game 4: Simon Gillam
I have played Simon before so I know that he is an out and out blocker. He started with MEATY and my rack was ADLRSTU. I spent an age trying to find the non-existent bonus and eventually dumped LUD. Simon played DOFF onto the ED I had created. My pickup was the less than helpful GNN, so I played off GNAT. Simon then completed the blocking ploy with VLY. The war of attrition had started, and I managed to outscore him to take a small lead. Simon was forced to play Q?S for 37 to get back ahead, and I played off QUEER off the Q to keep level and make an opening - Simon's plays had shown a lack of vowels and luckily for me he could not take advantage of the triple I had opened. I then played PEAG down the side for 41 and a 30 point lead. 3 goes later I got TEASERS for 80, and Simon immediately replied with CELERIES around one of the Es. A late ZONA/TO/EN by Simon put him slightly ahead, and with 6 vowels and an S I was forced to play OES underneath to score. With EHIIUX as my last rack there was nowhere for a 2-move play out, and I lost on countback by 2.
L: 371-373 (0)

Game 5: Kate Surtees
Kate had got off to a great start in the tourney so was obviously playing well. I started well with SETUALE on move 2, but Kate hit back with a bonus on move 4 to retake the lead. Heavy scoring by me on the next 3 moves saw me take a bonus+ size lead, and this was maintained for the next few moves. I was sitting with SNIFTER on my rack and nowhere to play it when Kate made an opening play of LEG, letting me hook the F in front of it. Kate got a bonus off of it onto the triple, but the tiles were running low by now and I held on to win.
W: 458-405 (1)

Game 6: Amy Byrne
I always seem to have nice balanced racks against Amy, and this game was no exception. DIAZOLE on move 1, oVATELY on move 4 and a play out of AREFIED with solid scoring in between. To add insult to injury Amy picked the Q as the last tile from the bag...
W: 524-306 (1)

End of day 1 and 4-2 up. This, theoretically, should have been the easier of the two days. I had all the big guns to play on Sunday. On the other hand I had seen only 4 blanks from the 12 available, so it could have been worse.

I set off to pick up Allan at 8.45 and we arrived at the venue by 10.00, enough time to get a cup of coffee before play started at 10.30.

Game 7: Ray Tate
He got off to a flier, bonusing with WOOLlIES on his first move but opening a 9x with an S in fourth. Unfortunately holding ADHIMSS there was no playable bonus response so I took the triple with HAMS, keeping DISS, and picked IIL from the bag :( I dumped DI(L)LI the next move and Ray moved further ahead. ZO for 64 by Ray and I could see how it was going. I dumped one of the Ss on move 5 and got STENDED down on move 6 to get back to just under a bonus down, and some hope but Ray was still scoring well with the J and X and I was back to 90 behind. I tried a desperate UNCLONED when there was nowhere to play NUCLEON but it came off, and Ray blocked the D. I made an opening with LON(E), and got CE(I)NTURE the next go. Hope sprung eternal as I picked BELMRU? from the bag, only to be dashed by Ray playing AERIEST. None of the easy bonuses such as TUMBLER fitted, but after a couple of minutes of going through the alphabet I played REpLUMB/PAR/LEE/UR/MI/BE across the top of AERIEST for 91 to be only 24 behind. Another moment of hope was dashed as Ray played QUIT for 39. If only he hadn't had the last U...
L: 462-398 (1)

Game 8: Allan Simmons
Allan was leading the event and I really needed this game. Allan started by changing all 7, and I played ZED. Allan changed 6 and I played MOANERS/ZEDS for 81. This was going well, 0-107 after two goes. Allan eventually got going on move 5 with TENDRIL, but was still a bonus down. I had an S for TENDRILS and the triple, but held off with a score of 31 elsewhere and a good leave of LIES. RELINES the next go for 83. I picked up dross but was 160 ahead so could afford a change of tiles. Allan was scoring steadily around the 30 mark and was pegging me back. Allan played a face value bonus for 60, which let me play BICKER onto the triple for 61, keeping an S (bickers didn't go on anyway).
W: 472-364 (1)

Game 9: Paul Allan
This was another crucial game. My starting rack set the scene for the way the game went for me - DORRSTV - short on vowels but with a glint of hope. Paul started with JO, and I played VOR underneath, picking RUY. Paul made a balancing play, as did I with DRY, this time picking AEE to give me AUSTERE/DRYS on the next move and a 60 point lead. Again a single vowel, but I played WOMB down the side of austere for 34. Paul then bonused, but I had picked the X and with my single vowel A could play AX for 46 to keep a good lead. Paul bonused again... I now had no vowels but could dump F(LI)NCH for 28 to go slightly ahead. Paul balanced and I had VIMEN/TAM/WEXE and a 45 point lead. And Paul bonused again... I made an opening BAR(B) onto the bottom middle triple, but Paul played DOZE onto another triple for 42. A balancing play by me, I picked the Q and was waiting to play QU(IN)T for 48 when Paul blocked it. I was forced to play QAT for 38 above BARB, leaving two Us on my rack. Paul killed the last bonus spot but I never had the tiles anyway.
L: 376-424 (0)

Any hope I had for winning the event had realistically gone now, but there was still pride and ratings points to play for.

Game 10: Anne Steward
Anne was having a really tough time - she was the lowest rated player there and no-one was showing mercy. I started slowly and Anne was ahead after 3 moves. I responded with a score of 48 and a bonus for 90, balance, bonus for 86. Heavy scoring from then on as I charged for the line.
W: 470-346 (2)

Game 11: Neil Scott
Neil was still in with a chance to win. There were 3 players on 7 wins (Neil, Paul and Allan), with Ross on 6.5. As Allan was playing Ross I could not possibly win...
Neil opened with HOI, and I had BCEKPS?. This looked hopeful, but after a while nothing came to mind so I played off BECK for 31 keeping the very nice looking PS?. Upon checking there was nothing to find. I then picked up four more consonants and it wasn't going to plan. Neil played OWRIE to the triple I had opened, and I dumped YMP(E). Neil played under the CH, making CHA and again I did a consonant dump making CHAW. My next rack was EEELSZ?, and I was about 20 down. I decided against (W)hEEZLES as I wasn't 100% sure of it, it opened the 9x and I could play off ZEES for 46 keeping EL?. I picked up DIIU and was beginning to regret my decision when I dredged up bLUIDIE(R) for 68, opening the upper 9x, but putting me 60 ahead. Neil left the 9x open, playing across the first I, and I killed it with QUAT for 39 onto the T he had just played. Neil bonused on move 7 to take a slight lead. The lead was then changing hands every move, until I got the X for a trivial 54 point play. Neil tried BLUIDIES from the B of BLUIDIER - it looked beautiful but was not staying on the board. I then took the spot with the ultra-difficult spot of BOOSTERs. Neil played off DUI, making DAD one short of the right central triple. I had started laying ANNOY down the side when Neil commented that he didn't know DADA. It put a moment of doubt in my mind and I took it back up to ponder. I convinced myself it was fine and put it back down, knowing Neil would challenge. It came back with a tick and 60 points...
W: 491-335 (2)

My luck had turned in the last 2 games of the day when I got both blanks, but I was still slightly under par for the tourney as a whole, 10/22, but getting better :)

Congratulations to Paul, who had won his last game to win the event 8-3. Ross had beaten Allan to come second 7.5-3.5, an excellent result for him. I jumped into 3rd with 7-4 and the best spread of +620.

Tournament rating 181. New ABSP rating 190.
I think it is the nature of this event that Paul, Allan, Neil and I all dropped in the ratings...

Friday, February 23, 2007

Garden Report 2007 - 5

We have had a great variety of weather since my last garden report. Along with the rest of the country we had snow. It only lasted a couple of days, and was more or less gone when I got home from my weekend away at the Wirral Open.

It has been nice enough since then for me to have had several sessions out in the garden. I don't think it was warm/dry enough last year until March.

Tuesday was very mild despite the weather forecast so I got back out after lunch. I finished clearing out the nettle debris at the bottom of the drive, despite it being very muddy after the steady drizzle of the day before. We now get a much better view of the snowdrops as we set out/get home from our dog walks. They should give me a good supply of clumps to split up and replant into the long bank once they have finished flowering.

I then carried on to weeding the rockery patch on the other side of the drive. Paul took the dogs for their afternoon walk as I wanted to get as much done as I could - the weather forecast for the next few days was rain.

However, it wasn't too bad on Wednesday and I decided to start pruning my inherited fruit bushes, starting with the black currants. This is probably a bit late as my fruit pruning course last year was in January, but better late than never. I had forgotten all that I had been told but according to my R.H.S. encyclopedia I should cut down to the base between one quarter and one third all two year old wood or older. According to the book new shoots are a pale tea colour, 2 year old wood is grey and older wood is black.

The next problem was to decide which bushes were which - the red and black currants seem to have become rather entangled. I eventually made my decisions and set about cutting back what I hope are the correct branches. Time will tell. To get around the back of the bushes I also ended up lopping off the lower branches of the conifers that were planted behind them. This should also allow more air and light into the bushes.

The weather forecast came true yesterday, and I think it rained non-stop for all of the day. Luckily I had already arranged to go over to Allan's to continue/complete our long running scrabble match.

This morning it was rather dull and misty, but by lunch time it had brightened up. I decided to have a go at the gooseberry bushes. There are about a dozen plants, but three of them are still very twiggy - they may be younger or just not doing very well. The others look more like established bushes, although they produced very little fruit last year. I attempted to spur prune these...

On the flowering front not much has changed. A few more of my crocuses are flowering, but not the great splash of colour I was hoping for yet in the garden. However, the ones in the tub are putting on a much better display. Adding new compost last autumn has paid dividends. I have spotted the first few unseasonal flowers on one of my aubretias!

Monday, February 19, 2007

I am Famous!!!

I had been asked to be the 'well-known player' in a future The Last Word (ABSP magazine), and on Tuesday I duly completed and sent back the questionnaire that David had emailed me. It is mainly about study techniques, and it prompted me to search out the spreadsheets I had made for studying the 6+1 and 7+1 stems. These will need updating in the near future - the switch from Chambers to Collins is going to happen in mid May. Unfortunately I had created them in my lunch hours when I was working at WDF, so I am going to have to start again from scratch.

Talking of being a 'well-known player' I was shocked and stunned to discover that I have an entry in wikipedia -
I made a couple of factual corrections to it... Paul then looked to see if he had an entry - but he doesn't :)

I have had a good solid spell of studying in the last week, continuing down the 6+1 stems without using my spreadsheets, just writing the words out from memory. It is definitely needed - I am quite rusty on them. I have been colour coding the stems - red if I make up any words, pink if I miss a letter combination, blue if I miss a word but it has anagram(s) that I do get and green if I am perfect. This allows me on follow up testing/revision to concentrate on the red/pink.

Paul was away again at the weekend playing bridge. He stayed with Colin and Maureen on Saturday night - and phoned me from the Chinese restaurant. He had noted that he always seems to be away the weekend that we run out of food in the house. I was surviving on cereal and toast.

Jen and Poncho get very clingy when Paul is away. I cannot move without them leaping up and trying to follow me wherever I go. They are generally quite good at not coming upstairs now. We removed the barrier from the bottom of the stairs over a month ago, and apart from the odd morning when they decide that it is time to get up they have waited at the bottom of the stairs. Not so when I am on my own - they wait until they hear the bedroom door shut and then up they run. I come back out, tell them off and back down they run. Bedroom door shuts, ...

It was a very nice day on Saturday here, warm for the time of year and the sun was shining, and in the afternoon I got out in the garden. I weeded the patch down the side of the drive - there are lots of primroses coming through now.

I stopped to take Jen and Poncho for their afternoon walk. When I went back into the house to get them I was greeted as if I had been gone for a week, not an hour. On the way home from the walk Janet was waiting for me at her gate. She asked if I was still needing jars as she had another friend who was wanting them for their home-made chutney. I said I had enough jars for the time being. She also inquired if I would like any more winter aconites and double snowdrops. Is the pope a catholic?

After the afternoon dog walk I got back out in the garden. I had noticed that most of my labels were fading badly and needed re-writing whilst they could still be deciphered. My garden marker pen had been on its last legs (or last ink), and at the end I had actually resorted to using a biro. On rootling around in the study for my spreadsheets earlier I had found that Paul had a pack of CD writer pens that should do the job. It took me an hour clambering up and down to re-write them all, and my legs are paying for it today.

I got back out today after lunch - I had noticed a large patch of snowdrops at the bottom of the drive spreading up to the back of our sheds, but almost hidden by more sticks of autumn debris. Surprise, surprise - this turned out to be more nettle debris. I have managed to clear most of it, although I was side-tracked by trying to pull out as much of the nettle roots as possible and then again when Mr Gore and Florence (golden labrador) came walking by. He said that he was surprised at how few snowdrops I had - until I showed him the high bank! My long term plans are to divide up the large clumps and gradually populate the long bank over the next few years.
He has kindly told me that I am welcome to go round to his and dig up some winter aconites as he has several large patches.

It started to drizzle as we were chatting so he went on his way and I went back to work. Shortly afterwards it became too heavy to ignore and I was forced back indoors. I was on to my fourth sack of rubbish, and hopefully it won't take much more time to finish clearing the area.

I had been going to go to Aldi yesterday as they had cheap mini-greenhouses as one of their Sunday specials. However, when I went to start my car the battery was dead. We do have a charger/jump start thingummy but I have never used it and I wimped out. I was very pleased to find they still had a few left today along with seed/potting compost and seed trays.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Wirral Open

We set off for Berwick railway station just before midday on Friday. My train was at 12.40, but with the snow we were not sure how clear the roads would be. As it was once we got to the main road it was clear, so we got into Berwick with enough time to stop off at Morrisons for me to get some cash out and buy a sandwich pack for the journey.

I had to change trains at York to get the Trans-Pennine express to Liverpool. Luckily it was only a 15 minute wait and the trains were on time. At Liverpool I got a local train to Leasowe. I had looked on a map before I set off and it was just over half a mile to the hotel so I decided to walk. It started to sleet after I had set off, but I was well wrapped up - leggings under trousers, T-shirt, rugby shirt, sweatshirt and jacket. By the time I arrived at the hotel at 17.50 I had overheated so much I thought I might collapse...

I was met at reception by John, who was helping to run the tourney, who told me there were a few other players staying on the Friday night and many were meeting up around 7 p.m. to eat. Once I had my room sorted out and had stripped down to a single layer of clothing I wandered back downstairs, ordered a pot of coffee from the bar and settled down in one of the lounges to chill out with John, Viv (also helping to run the event) et al. Just after 7 p.m. John, Viv, Amy, Sheila, Jackie and I went to the restaurant in the hotel to eat.

I got an early night but did not sleep very well. I never do in hotels - my room was too hot and too light - I am used to pitch black at home. I wandered down for breakfast just before 9 a.m., and then decided to go for a walk. I met up with Amy after I set off and we walked along the beach and up to Moreton before setting back to the hotel. I then went back to my room and did an hour revision of 6+1 stems. When I wandered down to the playing room most of the other players had arrived.

Game 1: Paul Thompson
I had never played Paul before - an unknown quantity. He had apparently had a very good result at the Nottingham Nomads event the week before and his rating improvement had jumped him into the A division here. I think he was very nervous playing me as he played very slowly. I got RADULAE as a 4-x on move 4 followed immediately by BROMELIN - consecutive scores of 90 to put me well in control despite Paul scoring 98 immediately after. I was watching his clock going overtime and started playing off one or two tiles to rack balance and not empty the bag quickly. I gained 100 points on the clock.
W +187 : SJZ

Game 2: Mike Whiteoak
I started with NOTATES followed by gUMPTION as a 4-x. Mike was scoring well, but UNTRADED by me on move 4 and REaLTOR on move 6 meant I was never under pressure.
W +103 : ??SX

Game 3: Ben Tarlow
Another new player for me. He started well with ZONED for 50 and he was always slightly ahead until I bonused with AEROSAT on move 5 to take a small lead. I pulled away on move 8 with BODHRANs for 92 and strangled the game on move 10 with RESIDENT.
W +121: ?SSQ

Game 4: Wayne Kelly
I don't think I have a very good record against Wayne. I am sure he can tell me as he keeps stats on all his games. I was 33 down after 2 moves, but having balanced my rack was rewarded with AGNISED on move 3. TROAKED on move 5 followed by a score of 50 put me well ahead, so when Wayne bonused back on move 6 he was still 70 adrift. He scored steadily but REOBTAIN by me on 11 sealed the game for me.
W: +57: SSSX

Game 5: Terry Kirk
Terry was not having a good time having lost all his games, but I know he is a very good player. Terry balanced on move 1 and bonused on move 2. I replied with ANTIDOTE on move 3. Terry had a series of good scores (36,66,41 and 53) to take control. Despite having the majority of the power tiles I was powerless on a tight board.
L: - 32: ?SSSJXQ

I sat out the last game of the day, so finished the day 4/1 with a good spread and in 2nd place.

Again I did not stay up late, and again did not sleep particularly well. I had a wake-up call at 7.45. I felt a little nauseous when I got up, and put it down to nerves and lack of sleep. However, Kat was also feeling unwell the next day - we put it down to alcohol at first but it persisted through the day with her. We wondered whether it was something we ate - we both had had the salmon for dinner the night before.

Game 6: Martin Harrison
Martin is rapidly becoming my bogey player. I had played him twice before and lost both games. This one was no different. Despite replying on move 1 with ARISTAE for 91 it was all downhill from there. Martin bonused back on move 3 to get the scores level again. A 53 point X play by me was immediately negated by another bonus by Martin. Consecutive scores of 46, 41 and 31 by Martin meant that when I eventually got TONSILS on a blocked board I was still 24 behind.
L: -22: SSSSQX

Game 7: Jackie McLeod
This game started slowly for me, changing 6 tiles on move 3 and luckily bonused with LARIATS on move 4 to take a small lead. My replacement rack was not good other than a blank - CILVVY? with nowhere to dump CIVVY. I played CLY for 26, not happy with my leave of the 2 Vs. Luckily for me Jackie was also struggling. I contemplated changing the 2 Vs on the next rack - EILTVV? - but eventually played off VI to make an opening and my luck changed. I picked 2 Es to play VELVETEd on the next move to take a good lead. A couple of 30+ scores followed by ROSEHIP for 78, drawing the last S and blank. I played off the S for 35 - I had likely tiles for a bonus without the S. Jackie had played off the X one place before the middle bottom triple - with no I or U, I blocked the easy vowel dump and balanced. I then decided to block the spot for ZO to score 48 - Jackie then dumped ZO elsewhere for just 24, but blocking the bonus I had eventually got. However, Jackie had picked the Q with nowhere to play it.
W: +244: ??SSSSJ

Game 8: Phil Robertshaw
I bonused on move 2 with RESONANT, but Phil steadily pull back my lead. On move 7 I was contemplating WARRISON off a W - wasn't sure of it with 2 Rs but it is fine - when Phil saved me the worry by playing TWiRLInG there, with me obviously replying with GARRISON. It did not score as much and opened the triple for Phil. I had noted that not many Es had been played, and I picked 4 from the bag. Phil had also picked a few, as he played BEEN on the triple for 32 to take the lead. The best I could manage was EPEE for 15. The scores were very close now and my rack was deteriorating. AAEGIUU - I dumped GU for score and prayed for a double consonant pickup. I managed MT, and could then play AMATE for 32 to hang in there - IU was actually quite a good leave on our board with the Q needing UI to slot across, or a 6 starting with a vowel to the triple. I picked IOOMN, and then played IONIUM to take a 10 point lead, leaving 1 in the bag. I thought I had a good chance now - EEKOOLR would allow options for 2 move playouts. AANSTTVY were unseen, and Phil played NAY for 23 setting up VATS or VAST for enough points to win. I blocked it with EORL for 12, leaving an outplay of OKE/CORK/AWEE for 24 to win.
W: +10: SSSXZ

Game 9: Stewart Holden
I was never in this game. Stewart replied to my opening with a bonus followed by two 30+ scores. I bonused on move 4 with MASTOID, but was still slightly behind. Stewart continued scoring well,and I was forced to change on move 6. It was looking good when I held ?EINRT but then turned over the 7th tile to reveal the Q. I dumped it the next go for 11, and got TRIENEs the next go but again had lost the momentum and was still a bonus behind. My tiles improved and near the end I made an opening - could still win if I could playout with a bonus. Unfortunately Stewart immediately plonked down INSURED to inflict a heavy defeat when my ACORNED/DRACONE had nowhere to go.
L: -148: ?SJXQ

Game 10: Ed Martin
Whoever won this game would win the tournament. I was guaranteed 3rd at worst, and Ed was gurarnteed 2nd. I think this was a game full of nerves and mistakes on both sides. Ed opened with WHOM and I played AMOK below it. Ed played KERF, and I balanced playing AP off the F. Ed spent a long time - I was praying he didn't block the R. Eventually he played MOR/REV around the E of KERF. I inwardly sighed with relief as ENDANGER still went on, making MORE. Ed bonused straight back but gave me a 42 point reply. I picked the Z and could see 2 places to score heavily with it, until Ed played DoLTIsH killing both spots. I had AAEGRTZ, and was contemplating AGAZE but this opened a 9-x with E in 7th. I then saw a good set up play - RAG leaving ZETA to play down the side onto the triple for 80+. I went for it but Ed then just dumped QI there. I was forced on the next move to play AVIZE where I was going to play AGAZE, and Ed negated the score with WEEP on the triple. A war of attrition then ensued - there was only one opening on the board for a bonus ending with an S. We went through a series of one/two tile plays (we obviously both had an S) or changes. Ed won the war (I had had a bonus but dismissed it as misremembered/muddled). I made an opening for a 7, but Ed blocked it. With 4 in the bag I made a last-ditch attempt to win, playing BUS/SCOG onto the triple allowing a bonus from the B or hooking underneath BUS. I picked up 3 vowels and it was all over. Ed told me afterwards that he had REFUSER on his second rack but nowhere for it to go - until I pointed out that AMOK takes an S - for a score of 101...
L: -108: SJXZ

So, Ed won. Wayne had won his last game to overtake me into 2nd place and I had my guaranteed 3rd. I got a tourney rating of 185 - I needed another win to maintain my rating, and have dropped a point to 192.

The weekend was very enjoyable and extremely well run. Many thanks to John, Viv and Len. I got home around 11 p.m. last night - luckily the trains all ran to time so I was not stranded in York.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Car Crash at Todheugh

I interrupt normal service to bring you news of the car crash at Todheugh...

I had only just come into the house from photographing the garden when the phone went. My cousin Colin was trying to get hold of Paul as his computer wouldn't boot up. Paul is away playing bridge this weekend so the help desk is closed. After a quick chat I wandered into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee, and then got back to revising my 4s. I heard a loud bang, the dogs jumped up but I couldn't see anything out of the window. I went back to my studying. And then the phone went again. This time is was my neighbour Margaret asking whether I had seen the crash. There was apparently a car on its side just around the corner, and luckily no-one was hurt. I said I would wander out to investigate.

There was a Range Rover, undamaged, parked on the verge on the river-side of the road, and at the corner of our cow shed there was the blue Suzuki of Leslie, who lives on the other side of the river, on its side...

Leslie was on the phone to his insurers trying to describe where the accident had occured - it is a C road with no actual name. The owners of the Range Rover, who live in Edrom, had already phoned the police.

I decided to go back inside until the police/recovery vehicle arrived as it was cold. Shortly afterwards Margaret phoned again to say she had seen the police arrive, so I wandered back ouside.

They took statements from all concerned, and I pointed out that I think Leslie must have hit our wall as it now has a couple of large cracks in it...

The recovery vehicle turned up shortly afterwards. Its first job was to drag the Suzuki along the road to get it past our wall - there was a horrible sound of screeching metal as it did this. The truck then backed into the area in front of our barn soon-to-be back garden in order to pull the car upright again.

We were all surprised that it did not look anywhere near as bad as we had imagined. However, the man from the garage does not believe it will ever be seen back on the road again...

The last job was to winch in on to the recovery truck and take it away

Garden Report 2007 - 4

We have had a few very warm days for the time of year with temperatures getting into double figures, but the last two nights the temperature has dropped to give overnight frosts. I am still amazed by the number of stars we can see here, and the fact that on clear nights the moonlight is so bright that we don't need a torch and actually cast shadows.

On one of the mild days I had my first session of the year weeding the long bank, starting at the house end for a change. I got about two thirds along the bottom of it before I called it a day.

Not much has changed on the 'what's flowering' front. The only newcomer to the list are the crocuses - mainly the ones in one of the tubs, and a couple in the long bank. I noticed the first one at the end of January!

There are a few plants making a comeback - namely the winter aconites appear to have rallied and one of the cyclamen has decided to flower again.

The hellebores are still going strong, and I think are looking even better than before.

The lupin seedlings that I planted at intervals alongside the drive in the long bank appear to have survived, as strong growth is already coming through.

More snowdrops are appearing daily, and I now have several clumps in the long bank, mainly in the rockery area as well as the high bank being covered with them. They grow wild all around here, and the hedgerows are now looking very pretty with the underplanting carpets of white.

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