If you had told me in my twenties that by the time I was forty I would be spending my Friday nights sitting by a cosy fire sipping water playing the card game bridge with dear, dear friends, I think I may have spluttered my dry Martini all over you. But, as we all know, nothing is permanent, and the late nights/early morning fun that one has in their twenties soon wears off, take it from me. These days, I genuinely cannot think of a nicer way to spend an afternoon or an evening than surrounded by a small circle of loved ones playing possibly the best card game ever invented. I simply adore it.
I shall not bore you with the finer details of the game; the rules etc, that is for you to explore should you be so interested. But I will give you a brief history of how it came to be. Bridge arrived in the nineteenth century as a more complex form a simpler game that you might already know, whist, or trumps as it is often called. It continued to evolve through the nineteenth and twentieth century until we arrived at the version that is played worldwide today.
And by Jove, I can see how it jolly well caught on! The simplest explanation is that two pairs of people play against each other in a bid to win as many trumps as possible. Easy enough, but there is a language you have to learn in order to let your partner know what cards you have when you all start bidding to estimate how many ‘tricks’ or trumps you might win. That, I am afraid is the difficult part. If you are English, like me, and find all new languages inexplicably difficult to learn, then I am afraid the language of bidding will be no different. In fact, I stormed out of my third lesson never vowing to return, (drama queen, Moi?). But return I did, and I rejoice in my persistence.
In my opinion, what makes bridge so wonderful is that no matter how skilled you are, the element of luck is always there to either help you or hinder you. It is what makes it so exciting. And please do not think I am being overdramatic, the tension at the bridge table is nail-biting at times. Tempers flare, masks are torn off and true personalities are revealed. There was once an Ambassador in Malta who upon seeing his losing hand threw the table in the air and walked away. Needless to say, he found no more invites landing on his doormat.
Sadly due to current circumstances, The Union Club in Sliema appears to have suspended teaching for now. However, there are many wonderful online sights that are easy to navigate; such as Bridgebase.com and they will get you on your way in no time at all. And if you do not have a partner, or you do, but they are not interested in playing with you, these online sights mean you can play with others all over the world. I find the Americans particularly charming.
In the UK bridge is often played by a younger crowd, who learnt it from chums at school, or sitting around kitchen tables listening to their parents’ dish out the local gossip. In Malta, I find it is often associated with an elderly age group, (of which I, of course, include myself), which I find rather sad. If there is one fact I may give any younger people out there interested in learning, it is that it has been clinically proven to reduce the chance of Alzheimer’s developing in old age. Reason enough if you ask me.
One piece of advice for anyone wishing to learn, young or old. It is very easy to get carried away and allow yourself to get caught up in the drama unfolding on the small square table. One famous bridge club had a rather large sign on the wall asking players to “Please remember, it is only a game”. Sage advice indeed. If you are looking for something new to take up in twenty twenty-one, and do not feel like surfing, deep-sea diving or bungee jumping, bridge may well be for you. It certainly floats my boat, a fact to which this day still astounds me. Give it a whirl, you have nothing to lose, and I promise you that you will meet fascinating people throughout your journey, I certainly have, and my life feels all the richer for it.