Games people play

Chess, tennis and washing up at bedtime, with
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Duncan Minshull, 36, Editor of Radio 4's `Book at Bedtime'

I have a theory about men and games. If you ask them about their favourite pastime, most will say "chess and tennis". I think it is because men like strategy. Chess is making strategic moves using your head, tennis is the same thing but physical: where you run; how you move your feet. This could be baloney, but it seems to make sense and a lot of writers talk about it - Julian Barnes and Salman Rushdie, for instance.

I don't think many men actually play games, but they borrow the terminology. If you crash your car, you might say: "God, I hit that one into the net"; if you win an argument, you shout: "Checkmate!" To go one step further, I think that games answer the competitive nature, or ego, of men. If they think they're good at something, they'll describe it in terms of sport: "I gave it my best shot". If a bunch of women get together, they don't use lacrosse expressions to describe their lives; for instance, you don't hear a woman say: "I really shot the washing-up into the back of the net" - not that all women wash up all of the time - but if a man was having fun doing the washing up, he might say: "I finished it in five moves". I do the washing up; it never seems to bloody stop.

What games do I play? I've played tennis and chess with the same friend for twelve years. Now that we're older, tennis is much more enjoyable - not so many tantrums when we hit the net or the ball goes into someone's garden. In the court on either side of us are usually men in their seventies. I look at them and think: "Great, I'll still be doing this when I'm old."

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