I believe that people who have a better quality of life assiduously work towards it. Of course ‘quality of life’ could mean different things to different people. Some people want to party every weekend with friends and so in a new place they need to reach out and make new friends they can party with. Others are happier to just settle into their weekends with a nice book and so they need to go out and buy or borrow some.
Bristol has a well organized chess league with a number of clubs around the place. This was something I had checked out before I came here. On the 28th of Dec, according to the local website there was a tournament called ‘On the Buzzer’, organized at the Downing Chess club.
I was almost half an hour late, what with the small difficulty of finding the place, but luckily for me, it was still the first round in progress. My soon-to-be opponent who was enjoying a beer as a consequence of what he thought was a first round bye was suddenly introduced to an opponent who ‘had come all the way from India to play him and called himself Anand!’
‘On the Buzzer’ turned out to be another name for what is more popularly known as ‘Lightning Chess’ where players have less than 10 seconds to make every move. I am notoriously bad at speed chess (not that I am much better at the longer versions) but after three rounds and six games with three opponents, I found myself on the second board as a consequence of a score of 4.5/6. Of course it was all downhill from there.
It was pretty late when I left the club clutching my reward for my effort which happened to be a nice-looking table clock. It was past eleven and I thought I had missed the last bus home. I asked about the nearest taxi stand at an Indian restaurant called ‘Tamarind’ who were winding up for the night and was heading in the direction indicated when I saw the bus I wanted come into view. My lucky day, I thought.
“Last stop.” It was only when the driver said that that I realised that I had taken the bus in the opposite direction and was now further away from home. I was now stranded by myself at a deserted mall next to what seemed like a highway. It was windy, cold and quite dark. Everything at the mall seemed to be closed and I was beginning to kick myself at my own stupidity.
Thankfully, there was a lone pub with a few final customers on their last dregs of beer which was still open. The bartender who happened to a bright looking girl with black framed spectacles and a high forehead was quite helpful and dug out a call taxi phone number.
“Thanks, but could you tell me where I am?”
She didn’t understand my question and said, “Oh you don’t have to worry. They are very reliable, our customers use them all the time and we have them all checked out.”
“No, no. Where am I? Where should I ask them to come and pick me up?”
“Oh, you are at Millson’s pub on Emersons Green.” To her credit, if she was surprised, she didn’t show it.
The taxi was booked but couldn’t pick me up for another half hour, which was at a quarter past twelve. Millson’s pub closed at twelve and their last drunk customer and staff weeded out. I waited in the cold outside the pub and when it was quarter past twelve with not a soul in sight, I started looking around for a corner where I could possibly shrivel for the night as my phone was dangerously low on battery.
I don’t think I ever felt happier on seeing a cab when it turned up a couple of minutes later and never gladder of my own name when the cabbie called out, “Anand?”
I cooked dinner after I reached home. I hadn’t partaken of the buffet dinner at the club since I couldn’t recognize any of the items on offer.