I used to play a terrible game with my young cousin. We called it "setting fire to the attic". It was very modest - just little games of lighting fires in the attic. It was symbolic of wanting to set fire to everything. That's a good analysis, that is. Or perhaps not. We wanted to drop flaming water-bombs on the people passing along the streets of Chelsea. We'd heat up little paper kettles of boiling water over a little pile of twigs, then we'd throw them over the parapets. A combination of water, fire and air. A very complex and sophisticated spiritual exercise, and the passers- by complained. What it says is that we weren't wanted downstairs. On Sundays we children were sent away to Elsewhere, out of the way of the grown-ups. So we went upstairs and Were Noticed.
I don't recall any games at school. I went to Repton, and I think the purpose of its educational system was to take away any wish to play. Playing has a pejorative element to it for some people, and for others it's frivolous. "he's only playing," has two meanings.
The point about games is that you win by working within a set of rules. Chess is very beautiful because the rules are so inflexibly laid down that there is no possibility of cheating. It is about the potential of various sequences of moves, most of which would be mindless. It's a game without chance.
When you get on to the Parochial Church Council, you also have a set of rules, but they're open to interpretation. The present game is that I am not playing games any more. I would like to go back to cleaning the silver.
*Snootergrease is the pseudonym of a world famous interior designer.
Fire extinguishers are available from pounds 35, delivered free by Triangle Fire Protection (0800 581205). `How to Cheat at Chess', by William Hartston (Cadogan Books) costs pounds 4.99.Reuse content