Monday, January 3, 2011

2011 / 1 - Brain food

He never had been one for sitting still, not for sitting in any way shape or form. But this is what stretches out before him, now that the doctors have spoken; now that the tablets have been thrown down from on high.

‘Listen, all yea infidels storming the castle. The sins of your youth will catch up with you.’

If not this, then your genes will not allow you to inherit the earth.

Phil has always been a competitive person. Still is. Maybe this came from being the youngest in the family. It was the type of competitive streak that spurred a person on, rather that tossing him willy-nilly into a slough of despondency; branding him with an inability to achieve.

Not that Phil really achieved. But he thought he did, and who are others to argue. Not to his face, at any rate. Phil did not so much achieve, as talk about achieving. Using figures, and numbers and spread-sheets to give the outward appearance of knowing what he was doing - of being in charge.

It then became a race to find an alternative to digging a veggie garden, of building yet another rock retaining wall, and, replacing the decaying planks in the wooden deck that stretched along the back of the house that he and Marcia had lived in the entirety of their married life. Well, save the three months when they lived in that pokey little one bedroom flat beside the railway line.

Phil had always loved the game of Scrabble. He played it with his siblings, where he generally lost. By the time he could be in a winning position, the others had left the nest. Now, he plays it with his own off-spring; who thrash him, mercilessly. And gloat. The problem with Scrabble is that one needs an opponent. It is a bit sad to play both hands oneself. The race had been on to find a replacement, an alternative.

Each morning, in the local broadsheet, Phil turned to the games and puzzles page. He skimmed the contentious issues on the front page; ignored the commentariat in the sport section; and, turned quickly to the most important section of the paper. Otherwise, Marcia will have purloined the pages already: torn them out, plonking them down on the kitchen bench, to be stained with a coffee ring, and crumbs of pumpkin-seed toast.

Phil’s least favourite puzzle is the matching sketch with ten crucial differences to be circled. Not engaging enough, but good for a morning warm-up. The standard cross-word Phil uses to increase his brain’s agility. His early training with that 1900 illustrated Webster’s Dictionary was invaluable here. What Phil is now branching into is Sudokus and Cryptic Crosswords, especially the cryptic set by ‘DA’ each Friday. These are a definite brain-exercise, with Phil frequently having to wait for the next day for the solution to 7-down, or 12-across.

Phil sits back, contented. Reflecting, that he has found a set of activities to accompany him into that good night.

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