Friday, 18 March 2016

The Laws of Sudoku

I was seduced into these puzzles a few months ago, and now I divide my meagre residual leisure time between them and crosswords, which makes me an expert.  I’m sure that no-one who reads this blog is unfamiliar with Sudoku, so I won’t patronise you by spelling out the basic concept or the fundamental techniques.  I can, however, share with you a few tips I’ve registered during my (ahem) several hours’ in-depth experience:

  1. When all the obvious and less obvious connections have been detected, stare at it for at least twenty-five minutes.  Then do the quick crossword.  Then stare some more.  Then go and get a drink.
  2. The drink will have the immediate effect of revealing the bleedingly obvious link your eyes had meticulously swerved around throughout the pre-drink epoch.  Also the fact that you had written ‘4’ twice in the same nine-by-nine box.
  3. I always print it out from the Garduain website, for two reasons: a) there’s just about room on an A4 for the demented aides memoires I need as a memory surrogate; and b) erasers don’t work more than twice on newsprint.  (Actually, my confidence levels have risen to the point where I can start with ink rather than pencil, safe in the knowledge that I can always screw it up, screw it up, and print it again.  It’s surprising how differently take 2 can turn out.) 
  4. When the impossible has been eliminated, whatever remains must be, er, equally impossible.  Guesswork should not be resorted to – but occasionally pays off.  Only today, I had to downgrade a ‘hard’ Guranaid Sudoku from ‘impossible’ back to merely ‘hard’ as a result of an inspired guess, which turned out to be wrong but unveiled the (rather subtle) right approach.
  5. As an alternative to breaking down into uncontrollable metaphorical sobs, if it’s at all feasible, ask Z.  This never fails.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Five* Have Fun At The Dentist

*That being approximately the number of nearly intact molars I seem to have left in my mouth, not counting caps.

Ray, my dentist of thirty-odd years, retired at the end of last year, shortly after I’d made my appointment for yesterday’s check-up.  (I’d like to think this was a coincidence.)  So I was a bit nervous when I turned up ten minutes early.  Usually I grit my teeth and let them do the necessary, but a new, unknown dentist is bound to be a challenge.  The fact that the surgery didn’t open for another ten minutes didn’t help either.

I needn’t have worried.  He was charmingly camp, in an eastern European way.  The first thing he said was ‘I won’t ask you how you are, you’re well enough to get here and I’m not a doctor.  So, how are the teeth?’

I told him.  Unlike doctors, dentists can’t be lied to.  The next thing he did, after counting them and explaining very objectively the condition of the five worthy of mention, was ask me if I had time for him to repair the two most urgent.  The other three, he explained, could wait.  I asked how much time.

‘Depends whether you want anaesthetic,’ he replied.  ‘That takes a bit longer, obviously.’

By now I’d got the hang of this guy’s drill-side manner, so I swiftly decided to be equally honest with him.  ‘I’ll take the chance, but if I can’t bear it I’ll let you know.’  He smiled behind his mask.  ‘Shouldn’t be too bad.’

It wasn’t.  A few minutes in, he asked if I was okay: ‘don’t lie to me, now.’  And towards the end, ‘are you still with me?’  When he’d finished practically rebuilding the tooth that, it seemed, had been about to fall to pieces without my noticing, he filed a bit off a back one which had been nagging at my tongue.  The entire process took about half an hour, and was miraculously painless.  I cannot praise this man’s skill highly enough.  Or his entertainment value.    

And the whole performance (for that was what it was) cost me just £51.30.  I couldn’t help wondering what the one pound thirty covered, but thought it best not to ask.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Fantasy Brexit Cabinet

Prime Minister: Boris Johnson

Home Secretary: Nigel Farage

Foreign Secretary: George Galloway

Chancellor of the Exchequer: Nigel Lawson

Work and Pensions: Alan Sugar

Health: Jeremy Hunt

Transport: Ranulph Fiennes

Energy: Joan Collins

Education: Michael Gove

Culture: Tim Rice

Justice: Ian Duncan Smith

Minister Without Portfolio: Jeremy Corbyn