A Full House

It would be nice to say that this was a reference to the tavern, but sadly not. The tavern, as it has for too many evenings of late, remained as quiet as the grave. That is a rather odd phrase, now I come to think of it. I suppose that, traditionally, graves are not filled with people who make lots of noise. Of course, I suppose it is a matter of perspective. In the absence of other distractions, maybe the grave is filled with the sounds of worms and grubs working their way through the soil. I have heard that worm-charmers can bring worms to the surface by tapping the ground to imitate the sound of rain, so maybe you can hear that six feet down. I wouldn’t know. Despite the fact that there are those who would regard me as being dead, I never got a grave. And, for a dead person, I make quite a lot of noise.

Putting idle speculations aside, it was indeed a quiet evening. I do not suppose there is much that can be done about that at the moment. There are a limited number of festivals and other reasons to hold parties and special events, and even so, there is a limit to the pockets of the island’s populace. Perhaps, as the population grows, there will be more general business.

Today, we seem to be catering to the very young. I came in today to find that their majesties had omitted to take the child’s high-chair back with them when they left the previous evening. No doubt they will send for it when they notice it gone. Or maybe they will leave it here to be used on future visits. If it is not reclaimed soon, I will put a cloth over it and move it to the corner, out of the way of the drunken hordes of the tavern’s clientele. Well, you never know, it could happen.

I busied myself with the trading and share-sale agreements. So much so that I entirely failed to notice Aoibheann come in until I looked up and found her trying out the high-chair. She is not a large woman, but I was surprised how well she fit into it, as was she. She got up quickly when she saw me looking, probably afraid she might break it. I said it had been left the previous night and that no doubt, a servant would be sent to collect it. This seemed to relieve her mind as she had said that she was not sure she could carry it all that way without damaging it.

She asked me if I knew anything of video games, something that Wren had told her about. I had to admit that I did not know of these things, knowing only of the role-playing games that Gwyn had described to me. Video, if I recall my Latin, means, ‘I see’, though I could not relate this to anything relevant to games. Surely all games, aside from maybe Chinese Whispers, require sight. She told me that Wren explained something about being able to see a man through a screen and control him to collect coins. I was no wiser for that explanation. I thought of some of the games that would be played at Mother’s assorted parties and fund-raising events. I recalled one game where one person would be blind-folded and another person would try to direct them around an obstacle course of chairs and tables. Somehow, I do not think that was quite what was meant. Aoibheann appeared rather dubious of these ‘video games’, as though they were something evil. I told her about some of the other games I remembered, such as Hunt the Thimble. I got the impression that she still somehow disapproved of these as something only the leisured classes did. I can understand. From the first journal entry she showed me, I do not think she had much time for leisure. She also intimated that games for children should be aimed at improving their fitness or otherwise have benefit. There, I had to agree with her.

This, somewhat bizarrely, led to the game of poker. Alec had, apparently, suggested that the princess’ mathematics lessons should include the game of poker. I had to express serious doubt about this. When he had previously requested that the child be brought to the tavern for practical maths lessons, I had imagined such things as learning basic arithmetic by counting the stocks, calculating change, reckoning up the cash register and so on, not by teaching children to gamble. And besides the moral objections, I could not see that poker included a great deal of useful mathematics. Calculating the odds of certain hands might perhaps teach some maths, but that seemed a little abstruse for a child’s education. Aoibheann seemed to be of the same mind, only, unlike me, she did not see it fit to disagree with a king. I shall have to have words with him on this. She then admitted she did not really understand the rules of poker and asked if I could teach her something, so that she could at least play when their majesties commanded and not have to suffer the humiliation of the queen giving back the money she had lost at the end of the game out of pity.

I had to admit that I was not the best of players, having more experience managing the tables than actually playing them. However, I was sure I could explain the basics. I started by explaining that poker was partly about having the best hand, and partly about convincing the other players, through betting, that you had the best hand, even if that wasn’t true. When she asked what the letters on the cards meant, the A, the K, the Q etc, I realised I had started in the wrong place and that she did not really understand the structure of a pack of cards. I found a pack under the counter and began to explain. I started by explaining the numbers and the ranks, from ace through to king, what the suits were and how, depending on the game, certain cards were worth more than others. I also gave her some of the names for cards that she might hear, such as deuce and tray. Then I dealt a sample hand, face up, so she could see how it all worked – explaining how you could look at your initial two cards and decide if there was a chance of making a good hand. Hers started out with a three and a ten, so I explain that wasn’t a good starting point as they were too far apart to make a straight, were of different suits, and so couldn’t make a flush and so on. I explained the same for my hand. Then I went through the same process for the flop, the turn and the river, at each stage, explaining how that changed the betting, how it changed the likelihood of certain hands being possible. She protested that it was difficult, but the questions she asked showed that she understood more than she thought. There’s a good brain in there, just waiting to emerge. Finally, I showed her the different types of hand from a simple pair through to a royal flush. These she wrote down for future reference, wondering if she would be allowed to consult her notes at a game.

Aoibheann often complains that there is so much to learn, and how hard it is. I tried to reassure her that it gets easier, illustrating it with her vocabulary. How she knows lots of words now, but didn’t know them as a child. I’ll give her due credit though, she may complain, but it does go in. She thought maybe I had read books about the way children learned, but I told her it was just from my observations, particularly as by brother started to learn to speak. I guess that is something she did not experience, not having had a child of her own, or a younger sibling. It is funny, talking to her, and to others, how much easier it is for me now to talk about my family, about Alexandra, about Arthur. Maybe I am learning to let the pain go, much as Edmund is in my book. It is an interesting thought. I must address that more, and get on with the next chapter. But first, back to this damned sales and trading agreement.

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