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The Odd Rules of Uncle Alec
J.A. Maxtone Graham
October 10, 1966
No game was safe from his tinkering: he turned a billiard table into a cricket field and golfed from a car
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October 10, 1966

The Odd Rules Of Uncle Alec

No game was safe from his tinkering: he turned a billiard table into a cricket field and golfed from a car

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"Very good—although isn't KHediVe shorter?"

I got him over XUX, though; he couldn't think of anything to beat my "eXecUtriX."

Soured by defeat, he switched his versatile brain elsewhere. "I've often thought, you know, that one could do something with car numbers. Ah, yes, I've got it. How about a round of golf?"

"Golf?" I muttered weakly. "Golf next?"

"Yes, you see it's going to be rather a good game. You take the first car and I take the second. And the last figure of the number is the strokes you took for that hole. So here's yours: 625. You're down in 5. Mine's—can't read it properly, why can't people clean their number plates, might get it off the back, oh, yes, 4008." He turned his head for a backward view and brought the swerving car back again to the legal side of the road. "That puts you 1 up on the second tee. Want to play for half a crown a hole?"

We played four rounds, 72 holes, and it would have been cheaper to take a taxi.

Uncle Alec has the same spirit of enterprise and adventure in his game-playing that led some anonymous Etonians, carelessly tossing a ball around in the buttresses outside chapel, to devise Eton fives, or the Duke of Beaufort's house-guests on a rainy day to stick some feathers into a champagne cork and bat it around the room with tennis rackets.

Shortly before his death I rang Eva and asked if I could visit for the weekend. "Yes," she said excitedly. "Do come. Alec's just going to invent musical Scrabble." I hadn't the heart to withdraw my proposal, and by the time I got there he had bought some music manuscript paper, and Eva had cut out a hundred cardboard squares and had calculated an appropriate proportion of the different notes to be used. "You see," Uncle Alex explained, "you transpose every tune into the key of C, and instead of putting down a word, you put down the first notes of an accepted tune. Now this C sharp—there's only one in the set—is going to be as hard to get rid of as the Q. And there are three F sharps...."

"Uncle Alec, what is an accepted tune?"

"Anything in the hymnbook or in Barlow and Morgenstern's Dictionary of Musical Themes."

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