by Pab Roberts
Holy Cross is a game invented for long journeys. It is particularly suited to train rides as one or other of the combatants invariably flies into a fugue, a pique or a fit and requires the gangway provided by the side of the chair to go for a walk. Perhaps even, on some occasion and I wasn’t there and it wasn’t me, to go and sit in an empty seat in a different compartment and pretend to my… oneself that one’s sister is only with us until the borstal has a spare bed and that really one should be content that one snuck a second pie when she went to the lavatory earlier on. One satisfying belch later, one can return to one’s seat and gaming may recommence.
In times gone by trains seem to have whistled an awful lot more and so the whistling rule has been relaxed to include human whistles or, as time progresses even though we as a species may not, those smartphone ringtones that are reminiscent of a particularly imaginative scaffolder trying to impress the ladies. Thankfully, whistling only garners secondary tier points, which are so rarely needed as to prove inconsequential.
Bumping. An intriguing one as trains are less clickety-click than they were until but very recently. Yet when they do jump, it can be quite the occasion. Bumping is thus, I find, all the more satisfactory for both its rarity and for its total devastation.
Sighing. At some point in the game, someone is bound to either physically exhale in frustration or to air their boredom in whingeing, whining or wailing (cf. Scarborough, ’92). The sigh, if spotted before the sandwich trolley, allows the watchful Holy Crosser three moves in succession, culminating in a penalty-free yawn.
Crisps, with the inclusion of corn snacks, root vegetable chips (why did they invite the New Age Uncle?), and popped corn, are allowable between arriving and departing each station. Someone, mother probably, insisted that each bag be shared on such occasions to allow for all out consumption without gorging.
Setting the scene: each combatant has to hold all their pieces in their heads. Up to seven different pieces are allowed. Any pieces that are forgotten before play commences should not be mentioned or Johnny will repeatedly try to have you disqualified each time he appears to be on the verge of losing.
Any scratching must not linger.
Any shoes meant to be worn MUST be worn.
Dad doesn’t have to play but may well lend you a piece if yours go soggy or Johnny’s acting-up again.
Finally, please remember that at no point do scores from previous games constitute a handicap in the present one, speaking in French only leads to heartache and no-one is allowed to move or to utter a sound in sight of the conductor.
Happy Holy Crossing.
Pab Roberts is a writer based in Scotland. He also performs his work out loud.