Spoof and nargile

JUNE 24 03 – Round Hogan's at the weekend. We were taking cash bets on whether we could guess his blood pressure with his latest toy, a Braun blood-pressure monitor.

'You realise you're betting on how close to death I am?'

'I'll make a nice speech at your funeral,' I offered.

'I'm having the locked trunk,' said Skill. The contents of the locked wooden trunk in Hogan's living room has been the source of some speculation for a good ten years or more.

'You don't want to know what's in there,' says Hogan. (I think it's stuff to do with ritual magic, but Hogan claims it's just body parts.)

So then we took the blood pressure of a cold can of Fosters. It knew, it was having none of it.

Can of lager in my hand and puffing on a 'babular' while the electronic wizardry ticked away I was incredulous I appeared to be even more healthy than when I first tried it on arrival sitting mock-calmly-apprehensive in doctor's surgery mode.

'Alcohol thins the blood,' said Hogan confidently, which was the comment that led to us taking bets on what his blood pressure might be after two hours of 'thinning'. It was a fair bet.

Certainly we were fairly well tanked before we even left Hogan's. I'm starting to think it's something to do with the shisha.

As usual, we played 'Spoof' for where to go. Sean won, opted for a 'magical mystery tour', in other words he wouldn't tell us until we got there.

'Will I like it?'

'I think you might just like it.'

'Have I been there before?'

He hesitated.


'Well if it's so good how come we haven't been there?'

'You'll find that out.'

'Has Skill been there?'

'I've been there,' said Skill, 'if it's where I'm thinking of.' Glances were exchanged.

For those who don't know, Spoof is a game where you each take three coins in your hand, put your hands behind your back, deposit one, two, three, or none in your closed fist and then hold it out in front of you. Person who guesses the total of all the hands correctly is the winner. It's considered 'etiquette' to show the three coins in your hand at the start, even though this is perfectly pointless.

Spoof has in our history of its usage been put to some pretty nefarious purposes. You can tell it's going to happen, a look comes over Hogan's face, that says something like 'not only am I braver than you, I ain't gonna lose'. So we're drunk in a bar full of pretty girls, like the recently closed-down 'C' bar, and he'll say something like:

'Play you Spoof for who buys a pretty girl a drink.'

On a game like that people would be eliminated, and freed of the task, one by one, by guessing correctly the number of coins. There's a certain magical skill to this game, and if it's something you really don't want to do you simply have to hope that Hogan is overstretching his confidence on a pride thing, because then he'll lose, because frequently he has an uncanny ability to win. If you get your mind in the correct state, it is possible to simply 'know' how many coins there are. It's called being drunk. No, but seriously… Skill hasn't learnt this yet, hasn't figured out why it's often me or Hogan that wins. I don't make use of the ability as much as I should though, and simply leave it to chance, unless I really don't want to lose or I want Hogan to lose big-time just to teach him not to come up with any more Spoof ideas like that one. Essentially that was why he was wandering around the 'C' bar for half an hour that time trying to find a pretty girl not talking to her big boyfriend with me saying: 'Just do it man. Or not, I'll think nothing less of ya. D'you want me to do it for ya?'

So anyway, the new 'C' bar is where Hogan takes us, he walks in front of me to obscure the sign in the street as we arrive. It's bigger than the old one and you can get nargile on the tables now (nargile, pictured right, is the Turkish for shisha, which is Arabic). Started off slow, not many people there, we played backgammon for who would buy extraneous Raki while smoking a smooth nargile standing tall on the table. 'Place fills up about 11,' said Hogan, 'pretty girls mostly. Open till 5.' (This is where he will usually contort his face into a gurning posture and blow smoke out both sides of his mouth simultaneously like a bull snorting, but he was losing at backgammon so his mind was on other things.)

Sure enough.

'It's starting,' said Hogan. In they came, like they had no place else to go.

How to describe it? Think harem, think Leslie Philips wearing a smoking jacket and bow-tie placing his glass of red wine down on a table full of pretty Turkish girls and purring 'Hell-ow'.