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Monday 6th June 2005

Have I suddenly got great at poker, or have I just had a good run of luck? I have played 4 tournaments in the last two days and won three of them. I have won about £300. Three first places out of four is exceptional. One tournament only had 9 people in it, but one had 27. Admittedly, the one I played in drunk on Sunday night, I did have incredible luck, continually getting pocket pairs and winning with an A 8 against QQ and 99 (or similar), but I milked my good hands very effectively, and even the tourney I lost in was down to a momentary lack of concentration. Hopefully I can keep up this good form. It feels good to be at the point where I can take money out of the account, rather than worrying about having to put another £50 in. Doubtless it will be a flash in the pan, or maybe it is nearly time to leave the world of comedy behind (it's what a proportion of the Lincoln audience seem to be suggesting on my guest book) and move into the world of full time gambling. My mum will be turning in her grave. I really should dig her up and let her out of there, but she has to learn.
I am definitely brilliant in gambling and not deluded and in no way worried about this.

So today I was wondering about the provenance of the term "baker's dozen". As you probably know a baker's dozen is thirteen, one more than a normal person's dozen. You have probably heard some spurious explanation about this being due to bakers giving an extra pie or cake out for every 12 sold, but I think the truth may be different. In the olden days being a baker was an important job. You made bread, which is pretty much all people had to eat, so you might feel you should be accorded special respect and status. So if you were a baker and you went to buy something from another shop you'd say, "Could I have a dozen of those please?" and then when the shopkeeper gave you 12 of them, you would point at your baker's hat and say, "Excuse me, I am a baker. A baker's dozen is 13. Give me another one." And be sure that they'd have to give you the extra one, because of the power you had over them due to your part in bread production.
Bakers were the mafia thugs of the middle ages.
And I don't believe it ended there. Bakers had a special rate for all measurements. If a baker was buying some curtains and asked for a yard of material, and the shopkeeper cut him off a yard exactly, the baker would again pull a surprised face, point at his hat and say, "I don't think you've realised. I am a baker. That is a baker's yard I'll be wanting."
"A baker's yard?"
"Yes, a baker's yard is four feet long, not three feet like your normal person's yard. Throw that bit away and cut me off a baker's yard please, if you want your kids to get any bread tonight."
And in the pub, the baker might request a pint of ale and again appear bamboozled when the landlord gave him just an ordinary pint glass brimming with beer. He'd point at his baker's hat (which he would definitely still be wearing in the pub. He is aware of its powers) and say "Maybe you didn't notice the hat. I don't wear this out of affectation. I am a baker. I want a baker's pint."
"How much is a baker's pint?"
"It is a pint and a bit. I am a baker. I always get a bit more."
"But all our glasses are made to the same size. You can only get a pint of any liquid into them."
"Then you will have to have some more glasses made, for me, the baker. Glasses that hold a pint and a bit. Or maybe you have a wheat allergy or something and don't need to eat bread. To be honest, even if you do have a wheat allergy, you will still have to eat bread. There is nothing else."
"Can't I just give you two pint glasses, one that is full and one that has a bit of beer in it?"
"Can't you sip a bit out of that glass and then I'll fill it up again."
"No! Don't you understand. I am a baker and I want and deserve a baker's pint. I will wait here whilst you commission someone to make the baker's pint glasses. I'll have a bag of nuts while I am waiting. A baker's bag of nuts. Which has 7 more nuts in it than a normal bag."
I suspect that even when people bought stuff from the baker, that the baker's monetary system was different. Say you bought a loaf of bread for one old pence, old money and you gave the baker a one pence piece, the baker would doubtless respond, "No, that's a baker's one old pence, old money. Not a normal one old pence, old money."
"Jesus, how much is that in normal money?"
"A baker's one old pence old money is two old pence old money."
"That's a one hundred per cent increase."
"I know."
"That's not fair. A baker's dozen is just an extra little bit on top. How come when it comes to baker's money you are charging double."
"I am a baker. I can do as I please. People will always need bakers"
"Why don't you just say that your bread costs 2 old pence, old money and be done with this stupid and confusing system."
"I am a baker. We do things differently. If you don't like it, you can always eat soil."
"Or nuts"
"Well clearly, from earlier in the story, we have learned that people in the middle ages also had nuts. So if I wanted I could just eat some nuts instead of bread."
"No. You know the proverb. A man cannot live by nuts alone."
"Isn't it "bread alone"?"
"No, nuts. That's the baker's proverb."
It is my belief that the whole system of metrification and decilmalisation only came in to put an end to the bakers' shenanighans. At this point their power was waning anyway, due to the introduction to the country of other food stuffs like curry and bananas and there was nothing they could do to stop it. Faced with a system based on ten rather than twelve, they found it was much harder to just add a bit on willy-nilly and anyway everything was standardised now. People soon forgot about the baker's yard and the baker's pint and the baker's one pence, old money and even the fact that baker's were once figures of menace. But down through the ages since 1970 the legend of the baker's dozen has remained. And that is the true provenance of that saying.
Don't say I don't ever teach you anything.

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