Sunday, 24 January 2010


Three of a kind, a full house, flush run: all familiar names to fans and players of poker alike. Those not involved, on the outside, so to speak, these names will be unknown to them. As unknown as people in another country, or even next door in some cases.

There all sorts of belonging of course, and of being on the outside. And I have experienced both. In fact I would say I still do, almost on a daily basis.
I think we all do, but maybe I just think about it too much. It affects me more when I see reports on the news about events such as the recent Haiti earthquake, seeing the faces of those who have lost everything, even hope. We feel helpless at times like this, and guilty to an extent, as we watch on TV, insulated from what is happening, no real sense of the smells, the heat and the chaos. And it feels bizarre, somehow wrong, that ten minutes later, having switched off this other world, you're making a nutritious dinner for yourself, knowing those people are still struggling, suffering, right now, in that other world. As someone once said of the 911 attack: "It was like watching a movie. It didn't seem real".

The other day I was relating the story of my early childhood to a friend, specifically my relationship with my father. Memories of 40 years ago, and yet of yesterday, still with the power to evoke emotion. Within this story I remembered a scrapbook that my mother had made, all about me.
I can see it now.
It had yellow and red vertical stripes, and was roughly eighteen inches tall by twelve inches wide. I can see some of the pages: one was a newspaper cutting of me holding a Spaniel puppy in my arms. It told of how the families two pet dogs had been stolen, and of the youngest boy, eight years old, me, being distraught at the loss. A kind stranger had appeared and gifted the puppy to me, and the local paper had picked up on it.

There were other items too, photographs, postcards, right up to and including my first business venture in 1991. But it stops around then, as did my mums life, and there were no more entries. I'd love to tell you more, but I cannot, as the scrapbook no longer exists. It was "disposed of", along with hundreds of photographs and other memorabilia, by my father, presumably his way of dealing with the loss at the time.

You can probably imagine my anger at this. Not a single photograph of me as a child exists. Not one. No early family photos either. Of course, I have the real memories, deep in my head, some locked away, but to have that scrapbook again, for some reason, is so important to me. It is impossible, of course. And why would I put so much importance on it? Well, I suppose it is a tangible item that shows I belonged, a physical thing that people can look at, irrefutable proof that I existed.

I get together once a month with my friends for an evening of poker. Usually around twelve of us gather.
Sometimes I play well, sometimes not. Like life, although there is skill involved in figuring out the right thing to do, often within a very short space of time, luck plays a big part. Position is everything in terms of where you sit in relation to the dealer.
This is one time when being last is a good thing!

But it's about so much more than that. The game for me is secondary, though at times I take it a bit too seriously, as my friends will no doubt know. For me it's about that need for human interaction, to tell our stories, and to seek approval. It's about being with them, being a part of the group. A safe environment.

Not being on the outside.

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