I need to sharpen up on my lying. Last week I found myself in a situation where I needed to lie and I panicked and told the truth. And in doing so I cheated myself out of four days of free, live snooker.
Ronnie O'Sullivan came to town this month. He was playing in The Masters at Alexandra Palace and I wanted to watch the frowning demigod in the flesh. It was sold out, I don't know any snooker players, so there was nothing else for it. I sent 'that' email to Will Dean.
Will Dean is the editor of this very magazine and 'that' email is the one where I ask if there might be a way of The Independent sending me to the snooker. He wrote back saying I might need to write about the snooker. I wrote back something along the lines of, "I'll definitely do that". And before you could say "living the dream", I was entering Ally Pally.
I have always loved snooker. I studied at Sheffield University. And while I was there I regularly used to watch the World Snooker Championships on telly. Some of my finest memories involve me devouring Jamaica Ginger Cake and glugging coffee in my flat while watching Mark Williams and Joe Swail slug it out on the baize.
I have never before abused my position as a columnist to try and sneek a freebie, but this time I had to. I would watch 'The Rocket' taking on the pride of Hong Kong, Marco Fu, in a winner-takes-all best-of-11-frames show-down. I was more or less limping with excitement as I arrived at the Media Accreditation bit.
"What's your name?"
"Day pass or duration?"
I was horrified at myself. I'd said "day". I said it because that was what we'd arranged. But it was perfectly clear that "duration" wouldn't have been a problem for this guy.
"Duration, I mean."
"You said day."
He was processing it already. It was going through his machine. One day instead of all five. "Can you make it be a duration one please?" He handed me the pass. He was smiling. 'TIM KEYS – MASTERS SNOOKER – DAY PASS'. I hung it round my neck, and headed to Access All Areas.
My pass got me into the auditorium to watch the snooker, and also the media bit where all the ex-pros fraternise and the sports journos write up the action. In other words, Heaven. But I was struggling slightly, because I'd cheated myself out of first prize. Everything I experienced, I experienced knowing I was experiencing approximately a fifth of what I could actually have experienced.
What I did see, I liked: I saw Terry Griffiths wander by in his warm-looking cream coat. I saw Ronnie O'Sullivan take a selfie with a violinist. I saw Stephen Maguire heading somewhere purposefully. It was amazing. I sat with my notepad, pretending to write. Purring.
But given the full five days a well-placed lie would have bought me, the mind boggles as to what I might have seen. Steve Davis making himself a coffee? Hazel Irvine asking if anyone had any change for the vending machine?
I nipped in and watched the match. Ronnie made his 776th century, beating Stephen Hendry's record, and I fought back tears. Then he beat Marco Fu. Then he went backstage and worked out where he was going to eat with Jimmy White. And I watched the lot.
I got a selfie with Ken Doherty and left the place absolutely elated. I was kissing my pass and working out what to write 700 words about. But in between kisses I was also glaring at my pass and thinking I could have had more. And thinking I need to sharpen up on my lying.