Make a con­tract with fun night out

Build bridges with the great­est card game

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By JANE STEARNS Lessons be­gin on Tues­day, April 29 at 7pm at the Bridge Clu­b­rooms on Ngaio St, (next door to the RSA) Mata­mata. In­quiries to Jane Stearns (07) 827 6061 or email janelawrence50@hot­mail.com

If you had said to me a few years ago I would be hooked by a game of cards, I would have laughed in your face. Bridge? Vi­sions of Hy­acinth Bou­quet and a pink rinse bri­gade ap­peared be­fore my eyes.

But my friend was keen to go, and two of my clos­est friends near my age urged me to try, and ev­ery time my win­dow cleaner ar­rived, he ex­tolled the virtues of the game.

So I thought I would go along to the lessons at the lo­cal bridge club with a vague no­tion that I might ac­quire a so­cial skill.

As I signed on for my 10 weeks I was some­what be­mused.

For good­ness’ sake – how long can it take to learn a card game?

My dad had taught me crib­bage as a child in one af­ter­noon and I was fully pro­fi­cient by the fol­low­ing evening.

As the weeks pro­gressed, my eyes were opened.

This was a step up from Snap! This was a step up from 500.

This was a dif­fer­ent world where I had to force my­self to con­cen­trate for ev­ery minute of ev­ery les­son to grasp even the very ba­sics of the game.

First there would be the­ory, then prac­ti­cal, with hands of cards made up so that we could ap­ply the the­ory we had just learned.

This tran­si­tion from the­ory to prac­ti­cal was of­ten im­pos­si­ble, and even with the cards fixed and loaded so that I could achieve my con­tract, I would still have rou­tinely failed had not my teacher been ob­serv­ing and giv­ing me his reg­u­lar com­ment of: ‘‘ I wouldn’t play that one if I were you Jane!’’. And so it went on. At the end of our lessons, we were wel­comed into the bridge club, and to the Thurs­day night so­cial bridge ses­sions.

We were told we would com­plete each hand of bridge in seven min­utes.

My pre­vi­ous record prior to first night at bridge club – half an hour.

It is a long time since I have been so ner­vous of any­thing, but sit­ting down on that first club night, I found to my hor­ror that my hands were shak­ing as I picked up my first set of cards.

To my re­lief I found I had a weak hand so would not have to say any­thing for the first game, and I drew a very wob­bly, shaky lit­tle line to show I was pass­ing. And so my bridge life be­gan. I was as­signed a ‘‘buddy’’ to look af­ter me.

My good friend Clare Coles, who had urged me to come, stepped for­ward bravely.

A true test of our friend­ship then fol­lowed, as I reg­u­larly bid in­cor­rectly, played the wrong cards, dumped her in im­pos­si­ble con­tracts to try and make the best of, and made the same mis­take at least six times be­fore it sunk in what I was do­ing wrong.

But my ‘‘ buddy’’ and the ma­jor­ity of mem­bers were very kind, un­der­stand­ing and en­cour­ag­ing.

Enough so that I would keep go­ing back, and try again.

To my de­light, at the end of the Bridge year, my ef­forts were re­warded when I won, jointly with one of my class­mates at lessons, the Best New Player of the Year award. A small tro­phy of which I am im­mensely proud stands on my dresser.

Truth be told, my class­mate Mal­colm Hill was much bet­ter than me, but I am guess­ing the com­mit­tee must also award points for the ‘‘at­tempt­ing to tri­umph through ad­ver­sity when so ob­vi­ously hand­i­capped’’ cat­e­gory, as well as skill, and it is so nice to be recog­nised for ‘‘try­ing’’.

Mal­colm and I de­cided to brave it into the se­ri­ous league of Mon­day night bridge for a three week ses­sion to play with the ‘‘big guns’’.

Need­less to say, we sank with­out trace on our first week, fin­ish­ing bot­tom, and then some.

A whole new game emerged, and frankly we would have had more luck try­ing to bid for the clock on the wall of the club rooms than our failed at­tempts to bid for a con­tract that night with cards.

Ev­ery­one ap­peared to know who held which cards, ex­cept for me.

The only time I was con­fi­dent of what my part­ner had in his hand that night was when he nipped to the loo.

But we went back, and man­aged to come third the next Mon­day night, and the joy of this re­sult was prob­a­bly out of all pro­por­tion to the ac­tual achieve­ment – but boy it felt good.

The lessons at the bridge club are about to be­gin again.

As a now World Fa­mous in New Zealand Bridge Babe, I have stepped for­ward to teach them.

What I lack in skill I make up for with enthusiasm and I prom­ise to in­spire my stu­dents into learn­ing the best game of cards ever, bridge.

Don’t be like me and think it’s a game for old folks and Hy­acinth Bou­quet wannabees.

Yes, there are mem­bers dou­ble my age – and they are bet­ter bridge play­ers than me, sharper than me, with a bet­ter men­tal arith­metic ca­pa­bil­ity than me, and they reg­u­larly wipe the floor with me.

If your ego can with­stand be­ing pum­melled to a pulp by an oc­to­ge­nar­ian, you will find they are also en­cour­ag­ing, friendly, and you will learn a lot from them.

You cer­tainly do not have to be old to en­joy this game.

If you once played cards as a child and en­joyed it, and the last time I could re­mem­ber play­ing was in my teens, then you would prob­a­bly en­joy bridge. Give it a try. The lessons are free and en­ter­tain­ing – so you re­ally have noth­ing to lose, and you might, like me, end up hooked.

Photo: SUP­PLIED

Bridge babe: Jane Stearns wants to see more Mata­mata people learn­ing how to play bridge.

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