Return Of The Pool Shark


I wasted large chunks of my childhood playing pool and unlike learning how to make apple crumble, it’s a skill that’s come in handy throughout my adult life. I once started a new job and was invited into a pool tournament in the first week: I made it to the final, trouncing five men along the way. The women whooped and the men muttered, complimentary things I’m sure. I haven’t seriously played pool in around five years but this week I decided to return to action. Would my cue action flow once more or would I be bouncing out of pockets at every opportunity, the white ball making a break for freedom across the shiny wooden floor? It was time to step up to the baize…

We opted for a pool hall near King’s Cross (Hurricane Room since you ask) along with English pool which turned out to be a good option. The American pool section (think bigger, jauntier tables) was bursting with sweaty 20-somethings while English pool with its far weedier tables was empty. My partner and I chalked up and prepared to strike.

The first frame lasted a full 30 minutes – look, it’s not something I’m proud of. Crash went the balls! OMG cried the pockets! WTF said the angles! We chalked, cursed, stretched, endured, the one thing we were expert at potting was the white ball. Then, at last, the first frame was done, the black ball deigning to waddle into the middle pocket.

Five years of neglect had taken its toll but patience was indeed a virtue. The second frame went by a little faster, then the third. I drank a beer and felt the magic begin to flow back into my fingers, my eyeline, my stance. A shimmy here, a slam dunk there and by frame four we were flying. Or perhaps that was beer number two.

By the end of seven games our frame time was down to ten minutes and the comforting clunk of balls entering pockets echoed around the hall. Apparently form is temporary but class is permanent, so a few more sessions and I’ll be on tournament-winning form again. The final score? Look, it’s not about the winning right…