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Saturday, 14 February 2009

Weekend Snapshot: A horse with a name

Meet Chester. He lives in Beamish. I don't know how I knew his name. There are three probabilities: someone told me his name was Chester; his name was listed in that guidebook on my left hand or I just named him myself.

One thing defies my progressing senility - Chester is a heart stealer. Even without a capture, this heart-warming moment will breathe eternally fresh in my stock of beautiful emotions. I held out my palm. He came closer and checked what's in it for him. Mint candies. Chester didn't hesitate. He licked them off as if thinking, "what took you so long to give me my treat?" I forgot the shrinking complaint of my south-east asian blood against the cold of North England.

I told Chester to leave some for me. He kept on eating til my palm was empty. I giggled and he understood I had more. It only took a second for him to realize where are the rest. He licked my purse too! The force of his tongue gave me a gentle push. His intelligence sealed my admiration for him. That's when I patted his head. We exchanged the same unspoken message of thanks. His grateful eyes melted my dancing heart.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Chessy Fairytale

Chess is part of my family history. Papa was particularly immersed in it during his free time. I grew up wondering what does the game have to do with Rapunzel's plight. I thought it was a bit insensitive of him to enjoy his game when there were damsels in distress in dire need of rescuing. He was happy playing with neighbors, friends or visiting relatives. I stuck with Snow White and gasped when she ate the poisoned apple. He tried to explain the rules of the game to me but I walked with Little Red Riding Hood through the forest and was busy worrying what would she look like when the wolf was through gobbling her up. Although I was aware of the significance of chess as a mind game, my curiosity froze at the squares.

When Papa retired he spent more and more time on the board, the same one he played on since I was a kid. The decades have captured the king, yellowed the queen, fatigued the bishops, rusted the rooks and flaked the pawns; but he enjoyed them like he always did when they were brand new. When I closed my storybooks to face the real world, I rediscovered chess at Hogwartz. As Harry and Hermione listened to Ron holler, "knight to H-3!" I wholeheartedly forgave my father for leaving me alone to deal with Cinderella's evil step-sisters.

I suddenly wanted to buy him a new set as a present. But the perfectionist in me never found the kind I thought he would like. No phone procrastinated in ringing me the news of his passing. Chess was the last thing he did right before a massive coronary felled him. Reeling from the blow, I decided to have an affair with the game my old man loved so much.

Free photos for websites - FreeDigitalPhotos.net

On the day of his funeral I solemnly shifted my affinity for fairytales to chess. It is something I have yet to do and Papa, no matter how quiet he lies down under is involved! I think of this posthumous present now and then. Sometimes the idea is pushed to the back of my mind in the thick of work but it is there, and it permeates my engagements indefinitely. I was delighted when chess appeared on the news recently. The very game in Philippine school curriculum soon! I'm sure Mama would grudgingly grin at how her chess-loving, better half would have proudly told her, "See... my game is just as utilitarian as your scrabble." More importantly, if Cj attends school in the Philippines, he will be closer to the game his late grandfather almost treated like a mistress.

Existing among a thousand others on the net is
Patrick S. McDonald's compilation of studies and papers on chess and education. It makes me want to curl up in a hammock on a tropical beach and wonderfully lose myself among the contents. Some of the titles are Chess is cool for kids, Scientific Proof: Chess improves reading scores, Benefits of chess for children, and Chess improves academic performance.

Now if my knight would just spirit me away and let me have a good read....