Sunday, 1 June 2014
When I was just out of school, I occasionally went to the Newton Hotel to play dominos with the auld heids there. I think being in their company then is the best modern equivalent I can imagine to meeting the Delphic Oracle or the priestesses of Vesta because these old men came accompanied not only by their own personal cloud of cigarette smoke but their own brand of magic. I could swear, I will swear, that when you laid the first domino down they knew with perfect accuracy the rest of your hand, who was going to win the game, and the next, and what age your father was when you were conceived. How this was possible I have no idea beyond that they were possessed of genuinely supernatural powers. As befits magi, they also had their own ritual language and song. A double six was "toffee teeth" a double blank a "dooble baker". The winner, placing the victorious double, would recite "too late, too late, will be the cry when the man with the double passes you by." They would taunt each other by chanting "the mair you lose, the mair I booze". Dominos remains an arcane science to me, I just lay down whatever tile comes to hand. I think, having mixed with Olympians, anything more presumptuous would be disrespect.