Snooker Loopy and a final thought on Tricky

This one, today, comes under the heading “other stuff”. Before I get into it, though, a final thought on Maxinquaye week. It seems to me that most people who went to these shows went in the full expectation of getting a straight performance of Maxinquaye. Not an unreasonable expectation, bearing in mind how the concerts were sold. However, I think that had most of the people attending these shows been paying attention to Tricky’s live shows for most of the last decade, they would have known a straight performance was the last thing they were going to get. For example, had I not been subjected to the tedious stage invasion in Camden two years back, I would have been livid on Thursday; but I expected it this time. In Bristol at least, the performances of Martina Topley-Bird and the, regretfully, anonymous guitarist, drummer and bass player were more than enough to cover for the relative absence of the main man.

In my opinion.

Yes! He's actually on stage!

My weekend was far from over on Thursday night, however as Jo and I headed up to Sheffield for a couple of days of the World Snooker Championship. Friday didn’t start well. We had to get up at 6.30, having had a nostalgic stroll around Queen’s Square after the gig and leave the Premier Inn in time for our 8am train back to London. This train would get us into London at around 10am, with an hour to get from Paddington to St Pancras. Easy, right? Not quite. We arrived at the station just before 7:30; just in time to see the 7:30 train leave and just in time to see that not only was the 8am train cancelled, but the one after it too. Shit.

Happily, a conversation with a lady named Alison at the ticket desk, clued us into an alternative; we could get the train to Bristol Parkway for a Paddington bound train. Crucially, we’d only lose about 15 minutes. And so it proved. The train up to Sheffield was a much more relaxing experience and we arrived in the knowledge that we’d be watching either the final session of Neil Robertson’s match against David Gilbert, or a genuine clash of the titans; with 11 world titles between the defending champion John Higgins (4) and Stephen Hendry (7) . We watched a bit of the snooker on the telly, Hendry taking a 5-3 lead from the morning session, had a bit of sleep and then headed off in search of food before the night’s snooker.

A very tasty Wagamama’s (beef teriyaki soba for me) later and we headed off to collect our tickets. And discovered that we would be watching the Hendry Higgins match. Although, when we took our seats, we were also able to keep our eyes on Neil Robertson. Which, in some ways, may not have been a bad thing. Hendry and Higgins, having shared a high quality session in the morning, were barely able to pot a ball between them. As someone who considers John Higgins very lucky to still be playing snooker, I was delighted. Particularly when Stephen Hendry managed to gather himself together and win 7 of the 8 frames played that evening. In fact, had John Higgins not made a double on a last black, Hendry would have won the match with a session to spare. Ironically, despite the presence of three men who have won the world title, it was the one without a title who made the only century of the night, David Gilbert. I saw him at breakfast the following morning.

On Saturday afternoon, with Hendry only one frame away from victory, it was a given that, whichever table we were watching, we’d be watching most of Ronnie O’Sullivan v Mark Williams. We were, it turned out, watching the most decorated session of snooker in Crucible history, with 5 world titles between Ronnie (3) and Mark Williams (2) added to the eleven for the Scots. It also turned out that we’d be in the company of Ronnie and Mark for the entirety of the session. And, although I was initially distracted by what was going on on the other side of the sponsored divider- Hendry making very short work of Higgins, we settled into a riveting session of snooker. Williams took the first frame before Ronnie hit back to lead 2-1, his second frame coming after a high quality 95 break. Williams nicked the last frame before the mid session interval and then took the first after the resumption, 3-2.

“Ronnie’s gonna go on a rampage!” I whispered to Jo. Ronnie O’Sullivan is well known, not only for being a snooker genius but for being a bit temperamental too. Not a bit of it on this afternoon and some of the snooker Ronnie played was bordering on the genius. The highest compliment you could give him was that he makes the game look easy. Anyone that’s ever been intimidated by 12 foot ocean of green baize knows that it’s anything but. Ronnie reeled off three frames in row and, before we knew it, we were heading out of the Crucible marvelling at the quality of his play. Mark Williams is a tough opponent, but there aren’t many who can touch The Rocket when he’s in the mood. Clearly, Ronnie was in the the mood. A mood he continued into Sunday afternoon, winning 6 of the 8 frames to leave himself only needing 2 from tonight’s session.

The Crucible- Saturday Night

After a very enjoyable visit to Zizzi’s, we were back. This time to watch the conclusion of Ryan Day’s match against Cao Yupeng. It was delicately poised at 9-7, but Ryan Day was in no mood to hang around. In the first frame of the evening, he supplied the one thing that had been missing from our four world champions, a century, and didn’t look back from there. He potted everything he looked at and never looked like missing, 10-7 became 13-7 and the match was over with half a session to spare. Which left us with Ali Carter v snooker’s bright young thing, Judd Trump on the other table. At their own mid session interval, it was 2-2 but the young Bristolian took the fifth frame to lead 3-2. Having not potted a ball in the previous three frames, the man known as “The Captain” showed tremendous resilience to take the remaining three frames of the night and take an overnight 5-3 lead. Judd Trump knows a bit more about Carter’s resilience now as Ali took the final three frames of the match to win 13-12 from 12-10 down. And that despite a positively horrendous run of the balls in the final frame.

That was our snooker done for the weekend though. On Sunday, one of my best mates Mike made the short journey down from Leeds with his partner, Serena. In pelting, freezing, rain we found the only Chinese restuarant I’ve ever come across who don’t let whiteys in, before heading for Zizzi’s again. Yes, we loved it in there. In fact, you could say that about the Crucible and Sheffield itself, surely the friendliest city in Yorkshire- and I’ve been to a few! We can’t wait to go back.


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