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Don Black finds poetry and elegance in the green baize of the snooker table
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Don Black, 58, lyricist and songwriter

Snooker is often maligned by people who tend to think of it in terms of a misspent youth, but I've always found a kind of poetry and elegance about the game. There's something very peaceful about green baize, through which you enter a wonderful universe of cushions and clicks of balls; skill and treachery.

It's the only game that makes me forget about everything else for a couple of hours. All I care about is getting the white ball black. I play with friends at the RAC and we're very childish about it. Even serious players take on another persona and use the phrases that come up in television commentaries; such as "Oh, he's still got a bit of work to do" or "He may not win a lot of trophies but he's the most exciting player". We copy all of these, and if anyone gets a break of 10 or 11, we ask if they mind taking a urine test, as drugs must be involved. Completely idiotic. I think it takes out the tension.

Mozart was an avid billiards player; so was Ira Gershwin. In fact I've been reading a book by the man who wrote The Bridges of Madison County and he's written a whole chapter on the poetry of snooker.

There's a kind of elevated, almost meditative thing about it. To win a game is victory; it's elation and you can't put a price on it. To give you some idea, a man called Donald Alcorn won the competition a couple of years ago. He's 76, and winning was the equivalent of a knighthood.

Sometimes I look at my watch and I can't believe I've been playing for two hours. A game of snooker and a sandwich. That's not much for a man to ask, is it?

`The Bridges of Madison County' by Robert James Waller is available from Mandarin Books in paperback for $4.99. A full wedding service with champagne and flowers may be booked at Roseman Bridge, Madison, for around pounds 250.

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