Folding at the Bridge Club

Isobel’s mother had played bridge every afternoon of the week except Tuesdays, which she devoted to her husband when he retired. He did not play, despite having heard a hundred times her mantra: “no-one should go into Old Age without being able to play bridge”. He played golf or pottered in his shed.

So, when Isobel and her husband Mark retired and downsized to a new town in the Cotswolds, history seemed to be repeating itself. Mark joined the large local bridge club to do the only thing that he and his mother-in-law had ever agreed on.

Isobel had been a bridge orphan and now she had become a bridge widow. She didn’t play golf like her father or do gardening. The downsizing had been traumatic. However, she knew that she must make a life for herself, so she did her best to settle into the small house which was to be home until senility, arthritis or incontinence dispatched her to the Sunset Eventide Care Home.

Deep down she had always realized that Mark would have liked her to partner him at the bridge table, so she asked him to find a competent and sympathetic teacher, someone who taught even virgin players. To her surprise she learnt quickly, more to the credit of the teacher than any innate ability.

Armed with some knowledge and a pile of crib sheets she arrived at the large elegant Georgian house that was “the Club”. Top of the house was the “advanced group”, mainly made up of GCHQ employees who played rapidly and in total silence. The new players were downstairs in what the others called The Nursery.

Isobel looked around the crowded room and was shocked at the company. It was beige - they all wore beige and looked so old. She was embarassed by her purple smock. Suddenly all her enthusiasm for the game evaporated. Waiting for everything to begin she was already bored and began looking at her crib sheets. Words like conventions and ACOL seemed to make no sense and she knew this was a big mistake.

There was one man who fascinated her though, because he wasn’t beige and the end of his little finger was missing and tattoos peeped out from under his sleeves. He looked Japanese. He joined her at the coffee break and they struck up conversation. He asked her if she had been to Japan. She said she hadn’t but had always been fascinated by the word “origami”, which frequently came up in the crosswords to which she and Mark were addicted. 

At the next bridge night, Mr Japanese handed her a beautiful purple box. Inside was a perfect paper crane and a formal invitation to his house where he and his wife would explain about origami. She accepted with indecent haste and the following Tuesday found herself eating sushi and having her first practical origami lesson. And once the missing finger joint and tattoos were explained, it was goodbye bridge club. 

by Annie Murchie


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