Back of the Pack Part 6
A moment’s reflection will confirm that only half of the players at any Club duplicate session can achieve above-average results.* Of course, the mathematically literate will mutter into their beards about the distinction between “mean” and “median”, but the fact remains that many pairs will always be languishing in the lower reaches of the leader board. And given that the same £8 in table money is extracted from these poor unfortunates as is demanded of the winners, there is significant scope here for a major happiness deficit on every bridge occasion.
*This is contrary to government education policy, of course, that all schools should be “outstanding”. However, bridge players, unlike governments, are handicapped by the rules of logic.
One possible answer, of course, would be the introduction of non-competitive, co-operative, mutually-affirming bridge sessions (possibly run by the Woodcraft Folk). But however much this might appeal to the politically correct, I imagine it would be about as gripping as non-competitive sports days and community paint-drying vigils. No, the real solution came to me in a flash of enlightenment the other day while I was staring over Partner’s shoulder at the results screen and our usual dismal position thereon. I, and possibly all duplicate bridge players, should take up the practice of Buddhism.
Now, I do not have in mind here dressing the Club Manager in maroon robes, and getting him to beam beatifically whilst intoning “My religion is kindness”, like a West Hampstead Dalai Lama. Although that is certainly an intriguing image. Nor was I thinking of arranging for Nag Champa incense to be burned behind the bar, or compulsory meditation sessions before the start of play. Rather, I have in mind one of that profound religion’s core principles.
“Life is a matter of suffering*,” says the first of Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths. “It will always be unsatisfactory; something will always be wrong. Even when you have moments of elation you are aware that they cannot last and suffering will return in due course.” How very true. Especially for those saddled with Partner. Moments of elation still do occur, I reluctantly admit, but they are rare, oh so very rare. Suffering is without doubt the default mode with him across the table.
*A translation of the Pali term “dukkha”, which roughly means “unsatisfactoriness” rather than the pain of raging toothache, although it also includes the latter.
True, but perhaps not terribly helpful. However, “it is wanting things to be different that causes this suffering; stop such wanting and suffering disappears*,” the Noble Truths continue. That’s it! Equanimity! Being happy because you are content with things as they are; not because they are outstandingly good (just as well) but because you are content anyway. Or, as Kipling so pithily puts it in If**, possibly with bridge players in mind, treating triumph and (overwhelmingly, in our case) disaster, those two imposters, just the same.
*A very free translation of the second and third Noble Truths, as the previous paragraph is a very free translation and expansion of the first.
**If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you…
So, let’s get this straight. The route to happiness is to regard Partner benignly, not as the cause of my despair, but rather as a potential aid to my own self-improvement. Every occasion on which he causes me grief (about once every 5 minutes on average) I need to thank him for an opportunity to engage in profound spiritual practice. Well, that’s certainly different. I cannot wait to rush off and try it out.
Next time, no doubt, I will reporting upon the dismal failure of this enterprise. Meanwhile, dear me, this column has almost become serious. I do most humbly apologise. It certainly won’t ever happen again.
Having learnt to play at the club 10 years ago, Michael and his partner Nicholas play regularly on Mondays, Thursdays and occasionally Sunday lunch / Monday afternoons.
Where did you first hear about bridge?
My parents were very good players - my mother was an International player for Ireland - but myself and my siblings were put off by what seemed like arguments over breakfast -” how could you have doubled when….” !!
Why did you start?
One evening a young lad rang my doorbell at home and handed in a card advertising lessons at the Club. So, at the ripe old age of 55 my business partner Nicholas and I made our way to the Acol to begin to learn. In fact we played Rubber Bridge with Norman for a year or so before we came up with enough courage to move next door to Duplicate.
What do you enjoy most about the game?
Everything. Opening my hand is always a delight plus the people at the Club are almost without exception lovely, interesting and kind. I feel that I have made a lot of friends there which is not something I expected later in life.
How did you get so good?
The main reason why I have improved is due entirely to playing again and again. The teaching at the club is also a great help
Are there any conventions you don’t yet know? Or any you know but prefer not to use?
Multi Landy – it's too complicated!
Any tips for members wanting to improve their play?
Play again and again - and read your Notes.
What do you / did you do in your career?
I was a Partner with one of the City’s Legal Firms but had always wanted to do my own thing. So I bought a small Property Business in Paddington and also set up my own legal practise. Nick Bodington, my bridge Partner, joined me in 1988 and we worked together for over 20 years
What did you find most interesting about your work?
The documents and the numbers involved and putting together the various missing property pieces.
Do you have any other activities / interests aside from bridge?
I have been with my Partner Paulo for over 30 years and when we first met we decided to build a home in Brazil. We have 5 dogs there and my joy is to spend as much time as possible with them.
I love the Cinema, Books and Food!
What book / film / play would you recommend to members?
“The Master” by Colm Toibin
The movie “Brooklyn”
The play “Charles the Third”
Do you have any recommendations for the club?
I would love to go away with the club for another long weekend - the last one in Thatcham was wonderful and enjoyed by everyone.
And I would also love to go away with the club for a week - on land, not a cruise and play bridge every other afternoon and every night!