Don Black finds poetry and elegance in the green baize of the snooker table
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.