As world goes to pot, we’re all snooker loopy

Alex Darcy is 47, lives in Suffolk with wife Jane, daughter Emma, 15, and son James, 10, and wonders how life got so. . . baffling

BLINK and you could have slipped back 31 years. Steve Davis has turned in a stunning performance at the world snooker championship, the perennially-disaffected Paul Weller is spitting out an edgy song about the state of the world – one new track, he says on his website, includes “a dig at the royal family in the lyrics; that whole invisible establishment is still in power” – and we’re on the eve of a general election. Plus �a change. Actually, some things do change. Messrs Davis and Weller are now in their 50s and the politicians are getting younger. It’s been enjoyable having an Ashes to Ashes-style echo of 1979. James, having seen the 2010 world snooker championship on TV, is hooked. On Tuesday we had to clear the rough and ready mini-snooker table we bought from a school jumble sale three years ago. It stands in the garage and had become a dumping ground for detritus: tennis balls, non-working bike lights, the spanner I needed urgently last December, a dead shrew. Lots of tidying and even a spot of vacuuming later and the table looked . . . well, like the warped piece of chipboard that it is, covered with green cloth thinner than Gordon Brown’s smile upon leaving Auntie Gillian’s house. The balls wobble around on unpredictable orbits, changing direction like cars with sat-navs short-circuited by condensation, and the tips of our cues are long lost, leaving exposed wood. But we have fun during our nightly single-frame challenges. It’s one frame because it takes all evening to pot the balls. I’m currently claiming the highest break – a giddy eight – but in our imaginations we pull off shots with the insouciance of Ronnie O’Sullivan. James keeps score, which hones his dodgy mental arithmetic. Thanks to our plethora of foul shots, which generally draw a four-point penalty, his four-times-table is improving no end. I’m enjoying the TV coverage, too. I got hooked while at college in 1981. My landlady was a TV addict – she was knitting and watching Sooty, on her own, when I first met her – and lapped up televised snooker. Friend Jonathan and I joined a pukka snooker club; playing at lunchtimes in that darkened den felt deliciously illicit. On the box, Jimmy White, Hurricane Higgins and Dennis Taylor were characters. As the 1980s wore on, players seemed to become more scientific than artistic, a lot of the colour went, and I lost interest. Emma looks at James and me, glued to the TV, and tuts. “Why do you like watching people hitting little balls with a stick?” she demands. We look at each other, at her, and chorus: “Because we’re men. It’s what we do.”

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