Back of the Pack Part 3
An Incomplete and Inaccurate User’s Guide to the Acol Club Staff
Club Manager, chef and resident guru, Noorul insists that we be nice to each other, on pain of something vaguely-defined but certainly very unpleasant. His broad grin and affability disguise a mind like a steel trap, so don’t even think of trying to avoid paying your annual subs. However, a recent tendency to fritter away the profit margins on inessentials such as club tee-shirts, tablecloths and sumptuously-engraved honours boards suggests that he may be losing his financial killer instinct.
The boy Alex, aka the Jolly Giant, is a wearily patient presence with a warped sense of fun. Alex is here to avoid having to do any real work at his day job as a Maths teacher. If playing with him and scoring badly, suspect a side-bet with one of the Bulgarians (see below) to see how low a score he can get without anyone becoming suspicious.
Lucy has spent a lifetime as a teacher honing an ability to spot miscreants at 100 paces and nail them to the nearest wall, so don’t misbehave when she’s around. She also organizes the weekend away with admirable efficiency and should probably be put in charge of running the railways.
Perpetually cold, Azad is the only member of staff to be found wearing long johns in the height of summer. His bespoke, tailored club tee-shirts are a notable fashion statement, and he looks forward to the award of a smart club waistcoat after 25 years of service.
Stefan has magnificently overcome the handicap of originally playing with a deck of only 24 or 32 cards, and can now play properly using all four suits. Perhaps this is why his mantra is “count, count, count”. Born only in 1987, and therefore regarded as a favourite grandson by most of the members, he combines bridge with Dessy, a passion for Bulgarian folk dancing and reading fiction about high finance.
The Other Bulgarians
The Acol Club is currently home to over 15% of the total bridge-playing population of the Balkans, and this percentage grows weekly. Interchangeably bright, quick and youthful, these young gentlemen all partake of a national ability to see through the backs of their opponents’ cards. Only so can they always know exactly what you hold after only two tricks of any hand. A powerful argument in favour of a Remain vote in the upcoming referendum.
Suffering fools, if not gladly then with noticeable patience, Aunty Frances is the tolerant face of the daytime Supervised sessions. When the wearing of dark glasses does not prevent her telling Hearts from Spades, she is also a formidable player. There are persistent rumours of her running bridge classes in nearby Kingsbury.
Shahzaad plays like a Bulgarian, but is in fact from Swiss Cottage. He has noticed that people do not always like being told where they went wrong, and is puzzled why this should be the case. Not a psychologist, then, but a talented mathematician with varied and complex cultural tastes (German poetry, Radiohead and Chopin).
The only member of staff to have a PhD in philosophical epistemology while still being able to remember what day of the week it is, Laura is bright, cheerful, enthusiastic and talented. Having now finished reorganizing the NHS, she has taken to running the Bridge in a Weekend beginners’ courses. Also contact Laura for any translating, flute-teaching or tour-guiding needs.