Made it at half past 11 this morning. I am not terribly fond of long bus trips. It just kills my ass. Besides, the trip down isn't exactly like driving around the European countryside. It's just flat and boring. Almost a straight line all the way.
A couple sitting in the seats in front of me did serve as occassional distraction. They went on about their business as if they were alone. We could all hear their tongues slurping each other. Had it not been for her braces on those yellowing teeth, I'd have been right into it. But somehow I thought, ugh - there's just something wrong with that.
Canberra was exactly how I'd left it some 12 months ago. Quiet and near empty. There are few people around. It takes me about 15 minutes to find a taxi. I think I said a couple of years ago that I just love Canberra taxi drivers. They are efficient, talkative and, unlike Sydney drivers, never take you around for a spin just to get a few bucks extra on the fare. Last year, my driver knew something about wines. This year, my guy knew something about chess. Or so he thought.
Finally, I'm at the now familiar venue. And the usual faces hit me. On my right are Paul Dunn and Ikeda-san busily finalising the entries. And, of course, Shaun Press is going about his business with clocks, boards, and so on. Lee Forace will, this year, look after the premiere section. His looking good in a tie, white shirt and shiny shoes - all topped off with some scary looking bling-blings. I don't know what came over Lee, but he's got a ring for each finger. Big ones too!
FM Igor Goldenberg introduces himself. It seems he forgot that we'd earlier met in Brisbane. I'm hurt.
I see Ian Rogers chatting to Charles Zworestine. It looks to be a serious talk. I wonder if they're talking about this. This is a great shot, I thought. But as I was about to raise my camera, I thought better of it and chickened out.
Some moments later, I check out Brian Jones' little stall. He hasn't read ChessChat recently and asks if Peter Parr had another shot at him on the bulletin board. I said, "nah, actually - his last post was that he was agreeing with you."
I feel a tap on the back. It's Bill Egan. He wants to talk jazz. In Queenstown, I introduced Bill to Arianne Caoili, who is a budding jazz singer. Bill says he's got a recording of Ellington's arrangement for vocals. Would Arianne be interested? I said, "I'd say so Bill". Later, I ring Arianne to share the news. She answers in that sexy early morning voice. Momentarily, my mind wanders. We chat a while then bid each other bye. She's off to Mexico next week.
Aha, there's Matt Sweeney talking to some Sydneysiders. I join them. A Victorian follows. It's an interesting gossip session. Politics. All about one thing: his banning. Too bad Matt can't play. But he's serving his purpose, at least. He stacks the chairs, helps with setting up the boards, and does signwriting. Well done Matthew.
Minutes after the start of play, Lloyd Fell walks in. His frothing at the mouth. I hear him say, "some wog name". And again, "a real, real wog". I won't reveal the context.
I'm walking around with nothing to do. I paid my money and entered on time. But my name wasnt't in the draw. The world famous Closet Grandmaster was forgotten.