Sūji wa dokushin ni kagiru

Note to Meghan and Harry –


Naming that Baby after me will not change my way of life.” Archie



Meanwhile, a gold star to you if you know what the title of this post means. It may help if I tell you that it is a Japanese phrase transferred into English orthography.

Take the first two letters. Then take the seventh through to the tenth letter (still with me?) and you will realise that we are more familiar with its shortened form, sudoku.  

Sudoku did not originate in Japan, however. It derives from a very ancient fascination with magic number squares. In 16th century Europe, there is a clear representation of a magic square in Albrecht Dürer’s 1514 engraving Melancholia (right), which depicts the effects of obsessive study, and coincidentally illustrates my own relationship with sudoku. Difficult to make out on the page, but there is a “magic number square” below the bell in the top right-hand side of the engraving. Look it up for yourself.

Anyway, back to the twenty-first century. If you do an internet search for sudoku you discover there are literally thousands of on-line opportunities to try to solve these puzzles. It is amazing to learn that there are so many different ways of rearranging those 3×3 squares of 9 individual numbers. Just writing that sentence takes me painfully back to the time many years ago when I scraped my way through Higher Maths. A few years later, the Principal of the African college where I was working corralled some of his staff into a room and asked us to declare our academic qualifications in Maths. We had just lost our sole Maths lecturer and there was no money to hire another. With quiet pride, I offered up my C pass at Higher Maths, and was promptly given part of his teaching timetable. Most of the students were content to try for a pass in the local exams, but one of them was a star of the Maths universe. My Maths teacher would have been amazed to learn that only a few years after leaving his tender care I succeeded in coaching this student through A-Level Maths by keeping ahead of him one lesson at a time. It was he who did all the hard work, but my pride was at stake and I suppose it shows that when that is the case you can manage to do almost anything – a fact well-known to stroke survivors.

Which brings me back to my relationship with sudoku. I am married to a woman who is pretty good at sudoku, and, thanks to her gentle coaching, I am a recent convert. In my pre-sudoku days, I would watch in awe, marvelling at her ability to tackle the problems offered by our daily paper. I suppose sudoku is a bit like life – there are easy problems, there are difficult ones, there are fiendish ones – and if you want a real challenge there are super fiendish ones. Johanna apparently has the ability to tackle all of these and succeed, much of the time. She is very patient and methodical in life as in sudoku, which is where we differ – significantly.

Now that I have mastered the basics, I feel I should always be able to coast through every sudoku challenge – easy or fiendish. When I succeed, I bang down my pencil with a flourish and shout “Finished!” loudly enough to make the dog jump. When I fail – which is frequently – I bang down my pencil with a flourish, vowing never to waste time on this activity any more, and shouting other words which cannot be repeated in a blog as genteel as this one.

As I said, sudoku is a bit like life, really.

About Eric Sinclair

Writer, stroke survivor, whippet owner, music lover, charity volunteer
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Sūji wa dokushin ni kagiru

  1. Kevin N Power says:

    I look with total lack of comprhension at those little sudoku squares and numbers. My elder daughter looks at me pityingly and I agree that must seem a pitiful sight. It puts me in mind of a trick question by a friend who shall remain nameless. The question, which has been slightly altered to protect the easily offended, was as follows. What’s the difference between an egg and a method practised in private of achieving self-satisfaction in the absence of a partner? The answer was that the egg could be beaten. The other part of this fiendishly difficult conundrum i shall leave to the other readers of this blog.As to the Royal Baby Archie: Archie Andrews was the ventriloquist Peter Brough’s non-human prop. It had a smirking expression that reminds me of a certain member of the Brexiteer class who, for obvious reasons, shall remain nameless. Have a nice day

  2. Eric Sinclair says:

    Thank you, Kevin. Most of my days are “nice”, then I stumble across your comments (joking, of course).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s