“My dear girl, there are better things in life than winning – it’s losing with friends”, he threw the saying and the dice at the same time. Mr. Scott learnt this lesson the hard way. He lost his taxi driver job and his chemist-wife for the ‘love of booze.’ Only friends stayed. The same friends he plays cribbage with each Monday, in the same pub, on Great Portland Street.
It was some autumn evening. When the week stepped in, he remembers. ‘It was a Monday; I know it, because it’s been my cribbage day for the last three decades. She knew I’ll be off for more than five hours and she left our marriage and me. No letters, no calls, no nothing.’ He only found the empty drawers and the warm cabbage soup. His favourite.
He gives me six cards. ‘We’re only two, so that’s all you get. If we had a third player, you’d have five cards. Five!’ Twirled look in my cards. A queen. A seven. “Six!” and suddenly he starts laughing. ‘You remind me of her so much. Do you like chemistry?’ No, not really, it’s only H2O that I remember. ‘My blondie was a chemist, a good one. If you only saw how she cooked. As if she were in a lab.’
31 points. He wins. I lose. He moves his blue peg in the wooden loop board and while counting says: ‘She left and good for her. She saved herself from a life of rock and roll. Oh, well! Just the booze, beer, wine, rum, whatever goes with a bottle. Yes, I used to be an alcoholic. I only stopped drinking when driving my taxi.’ This meant four days a week.
After his wife left him, Mr. Scott drank five days a week. Six days. Only on Mondays he kept sober – ‘cribbage is a sacred game, how would I count my points? I couldn’t disappoint my mates.’ Until one day. His friend playing at another table – a red peg player – reminded him: ‘Oh, I saved you ass!’
Mr. Scott laughs for himself looking at the wooden loop as if it was his tarot cards reading the past. ‘Yes; only on one Monday I skipped the game. He knew I was in trouble. I was drunk and driving. It was the day I lost my job. And the day I quit drinking.’
The same day I lost my first game of cribbage, Mr. Scott counted seven years, three months and nine days since he stopped drinking. A few more years since his wife left him. And over three decades since he’s been playing cribbage. ‘I love Mondays because it’s my one day in a week when I feel like I’m winning, not only losing in life.’
Reporting by Oana Marocico
Behind the Story : I’m from the Balkans so we only play backgammon. If we win we drink some Turkish tea and mix it with beer. If we lose we double the pint.
For Cribbage I needed a spelling. I knew nothing about the game and worse, I had to play it just to get tot know better Mr. Scott. You’d notice him in a room full of people because he’s the loudest. But he’s quiet when it comes to his booze-and-lose story. He still wears his wedding ring so I asked him ‘what does your wife think about you being each Monday in a pub, playing cribbage?’ That’s when I found out he’s ‘blondie’ is not there to be upset anymore. And now ‘roll the dice’ he said.