In his honk Gamesmanship or, The Art of II inning Games II ithout Actually Cheating, STEPHEN POTTER scored one of the most laughable triumphs in dead-pan writing, ihe Editor of the Ytlantie teas one of the many who urged the author on to further research, and as a result Mr. Potter wrote Lifemanship or, Hoic To Get Atcav If ith It Without Being An Absolute Plonk.which Holt will publish next month. In his conversational way,he rererds those methods by which the awkward amateur can take the field successfully against the highly jdaced expert.
by STEPHEN POTTER
AN appearance of geniality is most important on the week-end party. Let me, to start with, transcribe here a few notes oil the typical Week-end man.
I remember Cogg-Willoughby’s first action, coming down to supper — a late cold meal, on the first night—the Friday night. The F. Meynells, his hosts, of Suffolk live in a charmingly appointed cottage but suffer, with one exception, rom an almost complete absence of staff. Immediately the meal was over, Cogg-Willoughby would take off his. coat, roll up his sleeves, clear the table in a trice, and do all the washing-up, if not part of the drying-up as well, expertly and thoroughly, with a quick swish round even of one or two saucepans, and clean a cup used at some previous meal with which he had no connection. No need to add that, having planted this good impression in the mind of his hostess, “Cogg" for the rest of the week-end would lift not one finger in the kitchen or the garden, nor bring in so much as a single log of firewood from the shed.
Cogg-Willoughby and Anti-Game Play
Cogg was in his element, as we all remember, at week-end parties where there were plenty of games to be played and plenty of people to play them. Incapable of any kind of sport, it was here that Cogg established his mastery.
While the rest of the guests were feebly organizing bowls, ping-pong, or cricket, Cogg would look on encouragingly. Soon he would produce an enormous pair of field glasses. “Well, I’m going off for my game. See you all later.”Sometimes it was birdwatching, sometimes butterflies, occasionally wild flowers. Cogg, of course, was almost entirely ignorant of all these pursuits, but it was 99 to 1 the rest of the guests would know still less. Cogg would suddenly stand stock-still. “Listen,” he would say. Some feeble quack would be heard from the willow beyond the pond. “That’s an easy one to tell. The frog-pippit.” Then he would add, for a safety measure, “as I believe they call it in these parts.”
By the Sunday most of the women guests would be following him round, standing stock-still, in a trance, listening or looking at some bit of rubbish, while Cogg explained.
What I liked about Cogg was the cleanness and openness of his play. Only in one gambit did he seem to me to show a trace of unpleasantness, but I must say I was glad to see him employ it against lhat confirmed hostess-nobbler, P. deSinl.
De Sint’s first action at a summer week-end was always to strip to the waist and sun-bathe. Unlike Cogg (who remains white and sluglike) and myself (who quickly turn beetroot), de Sint will develop a rich honey bronze st raightaway.
Cogg was at his best in this situation. I have never more admired the easy coolness with which he dealt with a crisis. Late on the Sunday afternoon, it might be, he would look de Sint up and down, He would speak thoughtfully.
COGG-W ILLOUGHBY: By Jove, you brown easily.
DE SINT: DO I ?
COGG-W ILLOUGHBY: Yes. You’re one of the lucky ones.
DE SINT: Oh, I don’t know.
COGG-WILLOUGHBY: They always say that the Southern types brown more easily.
DE SINT: Well, I don’t know, I’m not particularly . . .
COGG-W ILLOUGHBY: Oh, I don’t know . . . Mediterranean . . .
Cogg-Willoughby yens able to speak this phrase with an intonation which suggested that de Sint was of Italian blood at least, with, quite probably, a touch of the tarbrush in his ancestry as well. On three or four occasions, after this attack, I have noticed that de Sint spent the rest of the week-end trying to cover up every exposed inch of his body.
The Odoreida Diagnosis
For basic week-end I should perhaps acknowledge, for once, the work of Odoreida. Odoreida is usually incapable of pioneer work, but one must admire his occasional flashes, such as this (Odoreida in play against Redruth s Decline Gambit).
G. F. C. Redruth was basically a poor week-endman. With his tweedy skin, podgy legs, and boringly healthy cheeks, he looked like a fine Game Birdsman. But the fact is, he was an appallingly bad shot, and it was necessary for him to keep this fact concealed. In the old days, at the Blessinghams’ when the Saturday morning shoot was being planned, “Count me out of this,”he would say.
“Why?” Lady Blessingham asked.
“Not my cup of tea. Stupid old conscience at work. Don’t like birds, but feel 1 wasn’t created to take pot shots at them. Besides, 1 think the creatures are rather beautiful.”
Odoreida, who always loathed Redruth, couldn’t make much headway by murmuring, “I suppose you miss them on purpose,” and when, in the evening, he said, “1 see you don’t mind eating the beautiful creatures,” he was again put out by Redruth’s technique of vaguely quoting the Bible.
“Let he who casts the first stone . . .”said Redruth, and all this went down more than well with the Blessinghams.
But later, with Generaland Constance Ould, Redruth realized that Conscieneeship was out of the question. Here, in order to conceal his feebleness with guns, Redruth used to suggest that, healthy though he looked superficially, il was dangerous for him to stand about even for a minute. The slightest hint of moving air on the skin, he was able to convey, might cause the old T.B. centers to become active again. It was good byplay on his part to be always wearing a hat, even indoors, if there was the faintest draft,
Odoreida, unable to stand this, countered by a method which none of us could have used, though we can admire it. He was able to suggest, and indeed actually say, out of Redruth’s hearing, of course, that the complaint Redruth actually suffered from was ringworm.
Important Person Play
There is no doubt that basic week-endmanship should contain some reference to Important Person Play. It must appear that it is you who in midweek life are the most important man. I always like to quote here the plucky ploying of poor Geoffrey Field. On the Friday evening he always seemed pretty done in. No question of having 1O entertain Field, or, indeed, of Field entertaining. He was there for a rest —had to be, got to be, if he was going to get through next week’s work. He would lie back, legs out, eyes relaxed, arms hanging straight down on the sides of the chair content. “Sh — they won’t ring me up because (not a word) nobody knows where I am. Except Bales.”
No one knew who Bales was, and only 1 knew that he didn’t exist, and that in fact Field had been out of a job for nine months. Yet there was a general tendency among the guests actually to wait on Field — tend him. At Liverpool Street on Monday morning Field used to say, “Taxi? No thanks. The Ministry is sending or is alleged to be sending a car for me.”
When everybody had gone. Field would take a fourpenny tube to Ealing Broadway, and play squash on the public courts, or knock up by himself.
It is extremely important to know if and when — and why a Lifeman may put his feet up at the week-end party. It suggests that you are important, it suggests that you are relaxed and at home in the house—a favored guest. It suggests that you are tired. And it suggests another thing, too — that you are young.
Older men who wish to appear younger and have not been trained by us sometimes make the mistake of assuming a smart, energetic step, and generally bustling about. How wrong this is. To appear young, be slow and loose-limbed in your movements and put your feel up if possible over the back of the couch on which you are sitting. J. C. Jagger used to continue to do this even when well over fiftyeight and in agonies from neuritis.
It has been often asked: Did dagger overdo this evolution? We believe, No: but overgambiting, at week-ends, can be a real danger.
Child Play. for instance (Beinggoodw it hehildrenship), is, of course, of the utmost importance at many week-end parties, where your position as Top Man may depend on how you go down with your hostess’s offspring.
We were never quile satisfied with the work of E. J. Workman, the author, in this field. The Workman gambit is well known enough. ”I talk to the child absolutely ordinarily,” he was constantly repeating, “absolutely’ ordinarily, as if he was one of us. Absolutely ordinarily in the morning. Absolutely ordinarily at mealtimes,”said E.J.
It was before mealtimes, unfortunately, that Workman occasionally took one or two too many appetizers. I remember his turning to little Albert Groundhill, then aged five, and saying: “Don’t, you agree? This endless physical exercise is a fetish?” Of course, Albert made no reply. Nor did small Judy Homer, aged six and a half, when after four rum and oranges E.J. asked her whether she didn’t think, in some parts of England, people in villages were a good deal more immoral than people in lowns whoopee! This last was an unsuitable question for a child of six. Gambits are for use, not for overuse.