I have come to the realisation that I am creeping toward middle age and it's about time I had a pastime that I can associate myself with. I need this so that when I die and folk are milling about at the post funeral "do", they will say things like "He did like a game of snooker didn't he?" and "Not too bad with a cue our Wayne." I have chosen snooker so that people won't say things like "Hell of a taxidermist that Wayne." or, "He loved his pigeons didn't he?". I'm convinced that I will end up doing something weird if I don't choose some kind of reasonable pastime. I don't want to to end up collecting bus tickets, toenail clippings or something equally bizzare as I am dragged inorexably into my dotage.
In my younger days my grandfather, now sadly passed away, used to play snooker every Tuesday morning with his friend Tommy. They were both retired and both served in the second world war. My grandfather was an able seaman on the Queen Elizabeth and as far as I understand and remember Tommy served with the army in the Far East. During the half terms and school holidays Grampy used to take me and let me play with him and Tommy a little. I took to it quite well and because I was a boy in the company of men, it made me feel accepted and important in a way. Grampy and Tommy were of a decent standard and often you would see them chalk up breaks in the double figures. I remember Grampy saying "Wayne, it's obvious you can pot a ball or two, but you have no idea about position." Tommy was I think the better player of the two, which was surprising as Tommy shook constantly. At eleven o'clock every Tuesday they would meet and Grampy would have a pint of bitter and Tommy a cup of tea. I asked Grampy once on the way home from the snooker club, why Tommy shook so much. Did he have Parkinsons Disease? Grampy said no. Tommy was a prisoner of war in Japan for a long time and had never got over his ordeal. Put a snooker cue in his hand though, steady as a rock. Tommy died before Grampy did and I don't think he ever played snooker again.
As the years rolled on I became more interested in video games, music and girls. Snooker and all things baize related took a back seat. Then though, I became old enough to drink in public houses. My mates and I would meet up and drink generally anywhere that had a pool table. I started to take it a bit seriously again. British pool is a bit silly really. It's very much a game for pubs. It doesn't last very long, isn't particularly challenging at all, but for young men in pubs that are interested in girls in the same pub at the same time, it earns bragging rights. I had seen the Colour of Money with Tom Cruise. All of a sudden, cue sport was sexy. It's also a good way of flirting. "Oh, you don't play pool? Come on, I'll show you." (leans over girl, hoping that Farenheit aftershave drowns out the smell of desparation and Silk Cut) "Now hold like this, pull back and push forward..." It was so remarkably transparent, but it got me a few girlfriends, so I can't complain.
Then came American 9 Ball Pool. That was what Tom was playing in that movie. The tables weren't tiny with silly sized balls. The table was 8 feet long, the baize wasn't green, it came in many hues. The balls were big, the pockets were huge. It was easy to pot things and look impressive. Because it was american I started to dress differently at the newly opened pool hall in town. Motorbike boots, tight 501's, tshirt, waistcoat and a single breasted black leather jacket. Hair be-quiffed and a swagger to match. Packet of Lucky Strikes, a Zippo and only Bud to drink. I considered getting a pinkie ring, but decided that was overkill. Most importantly though, I had my own cue. It was a lifestyle choice, and I loved it. I was good at it too, I won some money in a couple of competitions. I was a bit of a hustler. 9 Ball Pool is the crack cocaine of cue sports. It's just sexy.
The reason I liked 9 Ball was if you were having a good night playing well, you looked inordinately cool. Best of all though, is the noise. the high ping of the cue against the cue ball, the crack of the cue ball against the object ball and the thunk of the ball against the back of the pocket. Those noises are some of my favorite noises.
Further years went by, I became to old and too thin of hair at the front of my head to pull off a quiff and the pool cue saw less and less use. I got married, had kids and decided that part of my life was over. It wasn't until a friend of my wife's husband invited me out for a social game of snooker that I slowly caught the bug again. I have a snooker cue now. I play for a local team who are a great bunch and sometimes I win. Paul (that's my mate) and I are doubles partners and we are doing ok in the county doubles competition. Paul loves snooker. He has been playing for thirty years and is bloody good. But he is generous with his experience and technique and has made me a reasonable league player. My highest break is 27 and I think he was more excited than me when I got it. It's my hobby now. Good thing too, it means I don't have to take up taxidermy.
I look forward to snooker once a week now, it's a night out with mates and a chance for some friendly competition. I like to think my grandfather watches me and is still saying "Great pot Wayne, but where's your position?"