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Guest blog: A Load of Balls

To be clear at the outset, I am not Susan!  Regular readers will know me as one of the two sons, father of GDs 1 and 2. I’ve packed her off with her violin case, her Schubert scores and her sister for some much-needed respite, and I’ve moved in to look after Nick for a week.

As a family we’ve always had eclectic interests, none shared by all of us. For example, we are two tea drinkers and two coffee drinkers; one classic car enthusiast, one motorcyclist and two who couldn’t care less; three are happy at a classical concert, the other prefers Johnny Cash.

One thing that unites the Elkin men (often described in exasperated terms by the temporarily abandoned Elkin woman as “a load of balls”) is the game of snooker. As well as being avid watchers, we visited Sheffield every year for the World Championship semi-finals until Nick was no longer well enough to make the trip.

Watching this year’s UK Open on the television with him (having first insisted that they replace their ancient, tiny portable with a decent HD set, so we can actually see it) I’m struck by how closely the game imitates life.

Every frame starts with the balls laid out in an identical pattern: a blank canvas, from which any permutation or direction is possible – and which nobody knows at the outset. There then often follows a period of tactical play – the hard work of the frame, where players seek to make the very best of the opportunities they’re presented with. Then there’s usually a chance to score well in a run to winning the frame, an achievement marked, a moment of both personal and shared satisfaction.

Life, of course, is a one-frame shoot-out, and when it doesn’t work as anticipated you find yourself on the way to a rapid loss. This, I reflect, is the position Nick is in now, as I help him with his socks or his shower whilst nudging his ailing brain towards solid safety play when I sense it’s about to attempt some sort of wild trick-shot.

Coming up to 1:00pm, time for the start of the quarter-finals. I wonder how things are going to play out?….

Lucas Elkin



Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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