Make a contract with fun night out
Build bridges with the greatest card game
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.
Bridge babe: Jane Stearns wants to see more Matamata people learning how to play bridge.