Tempers may flare as well on this account, particularly in late December when people are reluctant to open the windows, all of which will distract you from your shot and forfeit the game a measure of its charm, and goes some way to explain why the annual 15-hour Richler Cup was a nearly all-male celebration.
Dad loved the ritual of it all, with a Macallan 18-Year-Old and a special cigar to go with it. Actually, more than anything, I think he loved Emma’s send-up of the ritual, as in all that ruckus she’d don her white referee’s gloves, give the cue ball a rub and intone with ludicrous sobriety, exactly as they do on the World Snooker circuit, “Gentlemen. Quiet, please.”
Over the years the table became encrusted with little brass plaques we had engraved with the names of the winners, and Dad’s was there on almost half of them. As for the times he lost the Richler Cup, well, Jake remembers his pal Steve trailing 15 or 16 points, with only the pink and black on the table.
“He threw his cue down and said, ‘That’s it,’ and Dad said, ‘No, no, all you have to do is snooker me once and pot the rest and you’ve won.’ So Steve grudgingly picked up his cue again, snookered Dad as recommended, potted both remaining balls and won the tournament. Dad was very gentlemanly about it for a moment. But he was livid.”
Generously, our Mum calls those Boxing Days her day “off,” though she was the one who prepared the chili feast and all its accoutrements for 25 people, only escaping to her bedroom with a book by the late afternoon. Both my sisters tended to shy away too, especially as the party became boisterous and aggressive. Nonetheless, they also value memories of Dad at that table – but on a gentler note, from the days of the year when no one else was around.
“Among the sounds I miss the most,” says my younger sister Marf, “are the gunfire bursts of him typing in his studio upstairs, with long silences between. But then the soft, rhythmic knock-and-roll, the lazy click-clack, and the satisfying ker-thump that emanated from his cherished snooker room.”
Mum calls those sounds “our shared madeleine.”
The new Richler Cup
So it was that a year and a half ago, I received a call from Patrick Guigui, president of Snooker Canada.
“I want to set up a tournament in your father’s name,” he said. “ ‘The Richler Cup.’ It’ll be the biggest snooker prize in the country. And I’d like permission from the family.”
“And you want money from us, I take it?”
“No, no,” he said. “I read his book on snooker, and as soon as I was done I knew. He had the kind of passion that borders on obsession, the kind that can only be recognized by somebody who has the same vision. For me, it’s a labour of love, not some gold rush.”
It’ll also be a semi-formal event – a wise move in my opinion, for Canucks are known, even in England where we’re otherwise culturally invisible, to punch above their weight as boozing, brawling, coke-snorting stickmen; the Daily Mirror’s recent “Top Ten Bad Boys of the Baize” included three, count ’em, three Canucks: Kirk Stevens, Bill Werbeniuk and Cliff Thorburn.
“No jeans, no sneakers,” says Patrick, “and no noise for that matter. I know it’s boring if everything is perfect and proper, but you put a bad boy in a tux and he transforms into an elegant player. For those few hours, at least, it keeps him out of trouble.”
A big cash prize, then, with a bottle of The Macallan thrown in, and I’m thinking a Richler book or two wouldn’t be a bad idea. Oh, and it occurs to me that Dad would also want Emma there with her white gloves, trying to keep a straight face and saying, “Gentlemen. Quiet, please.”
The Richler Cup begins April 24 in Montreal.