When anyone sets up a blog on this site, they are asked to list their ‘interests’. Well, I don’t know how honest others are when they jot down their lists, but I most certainly had half an eye on listing ‘interests’ which might possibly do something to attract the attention of others and persuade them to visit this blog. So although I can honestly say that I do have an interest in each subject and topic listed in my profile, it would be dishonest to claim that it is an active interest. The list is: people, sex, gossip, politics, music, writing, painting, backgammon, philosophy, art, money, greed, altruism, the past, the present, the future, love, hate, hacks, fleet street, newspaper, hypocrisy and — which on reflection is surely the giveaway — anything else you can think of. Take the first on the list, ‘people’: the first thing you can say about anyone who sincerely believes they are interested in ‘people’ is that if they are being sincere, they are most certainly under 22. And if they are not under 22 — though being sincere — they suffer from a severe case of retarded adolescence. ‘Being
interested in people’ is one of those things we think we should be interested in when, in our salad days, we are rather prone to a kind of socialistic idealism, not to say a jejune tendency to kid ourselves. (NB I have just looked up the dictionary meaning of ‘jejune’ to make sure I was using it correctly, and according to the definition given by whatever dictionary Apple Macs use, the sentence ‘jejune tendency to kid ourselves’ is somewhere in the no man’s land of between being tautologous and almost meaningless. But fuck it: it sounds good, so it stands. Any complaints must be written out in longhand an an A4 sheet of paper, which you must then screw into a tight ball and shove up your arse.)
Also on the list are ‘the past’, ‘the present’ and ‘the future’. These again, if someone were to suggest that they are seriously his or her ‘interest’ would tell you more about that person, specifically that they are in danger of being pretty self-regarding and most definitely pretentious. Ditto ‘altruism’. As for ‘art’, ‘painting’, ‘music’, ‘politics’ etc, these, when they appear in my list, are pretty much in bullshit territory in that, although I do occasionally go to art galleries, listen to music, watch and listen to the news etc, to claim I take an active interest in them, as is implied by listing them in my profile, is bollocks. I am on firmer ground with ‘Fleet Street’, ‘hacks’, ‘newspapers’ and their eternal companion ‘hypocrisy’. In these I do take an active interest, although being a fully signed up and very active member of Her Majesty's Press, it isn't difficult.
This morning I added another keyword to my list of ‘interests’ and it is quite possibly the only honest ‘interest’ in the list: backgammon. I learnt to play backgammon about 25 years ago (and writing that last bit made me realise just how bloody old I’m getting: it seems like yesterday). Exactly when and by whom I really can’t remember. ‘Backgammon’ was for me, before I learnt to play, something of a pastime for rakes and generally the louche. I knew there were backgammon tournaments and I knew many people played and play it for, often quite high, stakes. I also assumed it was a rather difficult game to learn and play. Well, I was wrong. It is very easy indeed to learn, though like many good games it is not at all easy to be a good player. Because what move you can make depend on the roll of dice, it is a mixture of chance and luck (and I’ve both won and lost games dramatically merely on the throw of the dice). But it is fair to say that a good and experienced player will, over time, always beat a worse player. Each match consist of three, five or seven games, or, I suppose, however many you want it to consist of. Then you can, of course, go on to play as many matches as you like. And, as I say, in the long run, the better player will always come out top.
After I learnt to play, I have played against everyone and anyone with enthusiasm. When I bought a secondhand PC with Windows XP as the OS, I was pleased to discover that it allowed me to play backgammon at any time of the day or night for however long I wanted to. Most recently I have bought a laptop which has Windows 7 as its OS (which has the same facility as XP) and I have played at least an hour of backgammon every day ever since. In fact, being able to do so was one of the main reasons I bought that laptop. (I didn’t and don’t need another laptop as I had, at the time I bought it, two Mac iBooks and a Mac Powerbook. I have since sold one of the iBooks).
I am no good at chess and have hardly played it, and although I occasionally play card games, particularly Irish Snap with my two children, I can’t say I do so regularly. But there is something about backgammon I truly love. The essence of the game is simplicity, yet it is not simplistic and is most certainly no a simple game.
So there you have it: an interest listed on my list of interests which really is an ‘interest’ and not blog bullshit.