Mah Jongg


Today’s fine weather lived up to the promise of the dawn skies on Christchurch Road.

Yvonne’s recent post in Hello World, prompted me to an exchange about the Lincoln imp, about which the Lincoln Cathedral website has this to say:


Posted on December 16th, 2011 | 


Tales of how he came to be perched there have emerged over time. There are several versions of the story however all of them share the same basic plot: Satan sent the imp to Lincoln Cathedral to could cause trouble. The imp carried out his orders, and began destroying the Angel Choir. When an angel appeared to prevent him causing further mayhem, the imp jumped up onto the pillar and threw rocks at the angel. In order to put a stop to his mischievousness, the angel turned the little imp to stone.

Some versions of the imp story date to the 14th century and are contemporary with the construction of the Angel Choir. The presence of the imp in the Cathedral acts as a moral symbol and is a constant reminder that ultimately good will triumph over evil.

Lincoln’s imp is a well known emblem of the Cathedral and the city, to the extent it has been adopted as the symbol of Lincoln and by the 1930s was established as the nickname of the local football club. The imp began a commercial life in the late 19th century, when local jewellers James Usher and Son began advertising a range of ‘charming and very appropriate souvenirs of Lincoln’ featuring the imp. Lincoln imp merchandise is still available today in the Cathedral’s shop.

Recently Lincoln Cathedral received a surprise when a carved wooden replica of the famous imp was received through the post – all the way from Western Australia! To add to the mystery, the letter accompanying the imp was tantalisingly brief, stating that it was being returned as its custodian had died and that it was removed on behalf of the cathedral during one of the wars. Experts in the Cathedral’s Works Department believe the imp is a Victorian copy and is at least 100 years old. The Young Journalists from Monks Abbey Junior School are due to investigate the mystery of the wandering imp, and their report will be online soon as a Highlight of the Week.’

My regular readers will know that, for 20 years, I set cryptic crosswords under the pseudonym ‘Mordred’. One of the most complex appeared in the Crossword magazine Number 284 of December 2001.

Up to Mischief

The preambles and clues of this reproduction can be ignored by most of you. The final result spells out who has been ‘Up to Mischief’, and his current location.

Becky spoke this morning about a Mah Jongg game of mine that she remembered playing with in Soho with Jessica in the 1970s. She wondered what had happened to it. As she is now playing the game on line, and really appreciated the quality of this set I was pleased to give it to her.

Mah Jongg 1970s

The small photograph inset under the glass of the table in this picture is of a very young Flo, playing Mary at her infant school.


We all lunched at a packed Beachcomber cafe in Barton on Sea, where the pink sky was returning. Ian walked there, and Becky drove the rest of us.

Once more we dined on Jackie’s delicious Christmas curries and parathas; and Becky’s savoury rice. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank El Sotillo Spanish red wine. Becky’s choice was Toro Loco rose 2014, and Ian’s Grolsch.


  1. I used to love to do the cryptics back in the days when I had a brain! I bought magazines too, but no longer recall the name – I have wondered if I laboured over your creations! I’ve never played Mah Jong though. I love the story of the Imp and the modern mystery of the returned Australian immigrant. I hope you will keep us informed of the outcome of the Young Journalists investigation.

  2. I find myself cheering for the imp; we all love the anti-heroes –like Homer and Bart Simpson and our Kath and Kim – that’s why the souvenirs were of Imp and not the angels. Like St. George and the Dragon; Saint Who? The Dragon is the star of the show and I would be happier if he incinerated the idiot George with a fiery breath. Of course that is what actually happened but ‘history’ has a way of re writing itself especially through human hands.:)

  3. My brain is too lazy for cryptic crosswords but I started playing “mahjong” when I was a child too small to look over the top of the table. However, I can’t play with people who play to international rules. My family ran a number of mahjong ‘schools’ back in the 50s and made the rules; they were basically legal gambling dens for gamblers with brains (or those who thought they had it). A loop hole in the law. 🙂

      1. I remember reading that post – you know gamblers are most superstitious; tell them something’s lucky or something’s unlucky is the best way of manipulating them. 🙂

  4. Like the rest, I’m in awe of you being able to write cryptic crosswords. I doubt I’d even be able to answer them if I’d set the questions myself. They’re totally out of my league.
    I loved that little imp. He looks like the sort of creature that we could each having living hidden somewhere in our garden. Indeed, having one of them would be a far better thing than having to blame the dog when things go missing. xx Rowena

  5. Oh, how cool that you used to make crossword puzzles – that’s impressive! I like trying to solve them, but composing them would no doubt drive me nuts! We play Mah-Jong off and on in our family – it’s a lot of fun. Somewhat reminiscent of Gin Rummy. My father-in-law is a terrible opponent. He makes small talk the entire time, forging the illusion that he isn’t really paying attention, and then BAM – he wins. The rest of us have to focus, and think about our next moves and strategies. It drives him crazy – he says we play too slowly. Mind you, when he’s not around, and it’s just us, our lumbering speed is just fine. It’s a fun game indeed!

  6. Crosswords! It seems I learned about that long ago, but I had forgotten. Derrick, that is just wonderful. You have so many stories to tell in your life, and yet you’re out there every day making new ones. Way to go!
    Thanks for sharing the imp story. That’s so interesting, and particularly the part about receiving the wooden imp in the mail.

    1. Oh, and I forgot to comment about mah jongg. I love this game, once I followed instructions and learned to play it online. I have never seen it played in real life, but always wanted to learn that too. The only set I have seen in real life was an antique set in a museum in Nagasaki.

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