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The Hinde Quarters - 2014

A bi-monthly column by John Hinde with his reflections on the Calgary Bridge Community, past, present and future


December 27, 2014 - New Years Resolution

All for one and one for all. It would be kind of nice if Alexander Dumas’ famous quote could be applied to us bridge players but unfortunately that’s never going to be the case.

Whereas yesterday, full of admiration but still with my heart in my mouth; I watched you as my partner, not only bid, but safely bring home a doubled slam contract. It’s only today, this time playing against you, that I had to stifle a chuckle when you forgot to pull the last trump and your long running side suit came to naught.

It’s not a thought that I cherish but I can’t help sometimes feeling that bridge tends to bring out the worst in us all. Not a good thought, when so many of you, that I consider to be my friends, are really nice people. So, as of now, I’m determined to behave better at the table, promise, hope to die!

Wouldn’t it be something if we all, hand on heart, made the same promise? The ACBL, not to mention our own unit would be happy for us; they are both of the opinion that a big part of bridge is sitting down with friendly people and by definition this requires us all to be well mannered and courteous. No more snide comments, no more giving your opponent or even your very own partner “the look”.

The good news is that we are already well on the way. It’s much better than it was even a decade ago. I can recall one of our most experienced brethren snarling to a newcomer, “do you really think I’m stupid enough to discard the Ace of Clubs?” Bless the novice, he was on the ball enough to retort with “well you were stupid enough to double 2 spades!” Like I say, those days are long gone but....

We are all human and all too often let our emotions get the better of us, but as of now, whenever I sense that I’m about to be less than polite, bloody rude would be another way of putting it; I’m going to take a deep breath, maybe get a cup of coffee or hide myself in the bathroom for a minute or two.

It’s not very likely that another bestselling novel will come out of this but if we all make the effort to be courteous to each other; then the game, the play, the atmosphere will become that much more enjoyable for us all.

December 12, 2014 - Behind the Scenes

Is it two, three, five years or longer since Joy and Brian put on their Christmas party? Probably much longer but I‘m thinking of the big ones, the super, hard to believe, outstanding celebrations in Bowness.

I could go on but even this talented pair couldn’t put on such a show by themselves and it certainly doesn’t just happen by magic. No, it could easily have started coming to fruition last spring or early summer, when Joy started baking her cookies; how big is a batch of cookies? Ask someone who knows, Chris Galbraith or Ray Colliver would be a good choice.

Were there only cookies? Where were you hiding? Seemingly an endless supply of sandwiches, salads, cheeses, dips, dessserts, candies, whatever and where did all this come from? Listen up. Far too many to list but just for a start, Shirley and Bob Mcleod, breaking off from their goings on at the food bank, Evelyn and Art Iwasa, always there when you need a hand, Pauline Boyd, Ineke Boudewijn together with Pat and Ken Anderson, just some of the dab hands willing to help out when it comes to feeding a bunch of hungry bridge players.

Let’s see now; everything under control, right? Whoops, Brian momentarily forgot about the need for tables, and those computer thingies but bless Joy she already has the situation well in hand; having a whole raft of her friends ready to do what is needed. One problem though; if things have to be in place before midday on Monday, something had to start happening on Thursday afternoon and be in high gear by Sunday evening. Leave it to Joy.

Fast forwarding to would you believe 9.45pm on Sunday evening….. no, no, you’d better read that again, I don’t mean 9.45am Monday morning! That was the time when so many of the Saville’s friends gathered to help do the heavy lifting. Marilyn and Murray Haggins arrived towing the unit trailer full of tables and teamed up with the toughest looking crew you ever did see. Jack Sisko, Keith Moores, Steve Lawrence, Ron Pritchard, Jim Bergland, Gamil Tadros, Jim Murphy, Don Dumka, Paul Scott, Bob MacKinven, Lance Cooke and Larry Pangracs. I mention Larry last because we never even see him at the bridge table, as Pat put it, he was just happy to help out! Nothing good ever happens without the ladies, so along with Pat were Helen Dillen, Margaret Cooke and you guessed it, Marilyn. None of these people getting home until well after midnight.

Come dawn, we find that John Gilchrist has removed all the seats from his two minivans and together with Ruth are at the Saville’s house to load up with all the necessary supplies to the Sportsplex. Not content with that he joined with Jo Ann Horne in being the official photographer for the day.

Time to bring all this together. Adding to most of the afore mentioned we find Margaret Nielson, Devra Drysdale, Beth Massie and Karen Mitchell, all as busy as bees. Karen went on to spend the whole afternoon organizing and clearing up around the food tables. Lots of people all doing their thing, helping to create and succeed in helping Joy and Brian host yet another memorable Christmas bridge party.

One other little detail that none of us noticed which would surely have been a topic of conversation if it had not been done. Marjorie and John Grubb had laundered all the tablecloths. Attention to detail is what it’s all about!

I forgot to ask Brian what time everyone got to go home after the game but rest assured it was the same list of do-gooders winding it up as those bringing it to fruition. Isn’t that the way it always is?

Oh yes, as an aside, I’m forgetting to tell you who came out on top at the game. Well it was no surprise that rounding the final turn we had the usual crop of suspects battling for the lead but in the last half furlong, Greta Hinton and Don Dumka found a second breath and snuck up on the rail to win, not by a nose, I might add, more like a country mile! Congratulations to both of you.

November 29, 2014 - Chinook Ladies

It’s time for me to do a little backtracking. Way back when, I made the mistake of saying that there were only two non profit sanctioned games in the city, how wrong could I be? There’s also the Chinook Ladies Club which got started back in 1999 as an offshoot from the North Calgary Ladies and curiously retained the “NORTH” name until 2003 when, after much discussion,they switched to the Chinook label.

They started up at the Martinique on a Tuesday afternoon usually with Maureen Bailey as the director but from time to time Brenda Bertrand would take over the reins. The driving forces behind the club in those days were Tessa Bombenon and Florence Longpre but times do change and both would appear to have dropped out of the bridge scene by now.

Truth to tell the club has had a chequered life, moving from the Martinique to Lakeview United Church followed by a misstep or two along the way; but those days are long gone. They are now firmly ensconced at the Southwood United Church, which incidentally brings them into the purview off my magic wand! Any club within a ten minute walk from my house is automatically protected by the “wand”.

These days the group is jointly managed by Karen Chapple and Clare Strachan and this past year has seen things go from strength to strength. Since Maureen left the city the club was fortunate enough to persuade Crystal Mann to become their director and listen up, that was only the beginning of good things happening.

Not only do times change but inflation increases along with it and needs must when the devil drives. Last year with attendance hovering around the 10 table mark the club was having a hard time paying it’s bills and made a momentous decision! They decided to let in the menfolk! One interesting aside here is that we now get to catch up with some not commonly seen married couples, Gloria and Mike Guy along with Maxine Webb and her husband, to name but two.

Momentous yes, but wise even more so. Right away the table count jumped up into the high teens or even the low twenties. Far from being up the creek without a paddle, things are back on an even keel, and all this with not a single sailor to claim the credit!

We should not be surprised that the club does it’s share of charitable work. In fact this very month they are having their “Food Bank Drive”, donating the proceeds to the church to distribute in the parish as they see fit; great idea, especially when you remember that I live in Southwood!

Finally, I do believe that Paula Sisko summed everything up to perfection when I heard her comment that getting three things right in a short space of time says a lot for the management. Moving to Southwood United, bringing Crystal on board and opening the doors to the men. Three strokes of genius!

November 15, 2014 - Calgary Community Bridge League

I thought I was the only one who had pipe dreams, not true, it was some several years ago that Lamya Abagouche was holidaying in Palm Desert and took time out to play at the Duncan Bridge Center. To say that the club took her breath away would be putting it mildly; beautiful building, beautiful surroundings and that was only a part of it.

Full of bridge players clearly having a whale of a time, a restaurant, a fully stocked bar, library, recreation area, the list goes on. It was only after talking to some of the players that she found out that this “mecca” was actually owned and run by a non profit group. Okay, it did take her breath away for a moment but then she got to thinking what if? What if Calgary were to jump on the band wagon?

There was only one problem, band wagons tend to be expensive. You can’t beat a pipe dreamer, she got to thinking about ways of raising money; first thought was to issue shares in such a project and invite the Calgary bridge community to buy them. Maybe without some seed money that was not the best first step; her next brainwave was to invite a seriously respected bridge teacher to the city and sell tickets.

When she got back home she broached the idea to her good friends, Elaine Stewart and Ken Penton being but two, “like get real” may well have been the snap reaction but one doesn’t put Lamya off that easily. She persisted and in no time had a bunch of converts, the afore mentioned along with Cathy Bird, Gamil Tadros, Walter Brock, and both Marlenes. No doubt others too but when you get as old as me, your memory isn’t what it used to be.

It was time to go into a huddle and figure out the first step in raising some seed money, not surprisingly the group latched onto her idea of bringing a teacher to town and aiming for the best, they invited Barbara Seagram and lo and behold she accepted the invitation. The dream was coming alive!

Things have ballooned from there. Continuing to raise money, they brought in more teachers, inaugurated a volunteer run game every Wednesday evening; the current one being the Bow River at the Kerby Centre. At the same time they set about becoming a legal non profit entity, Garth Wiggins was the driving force in coming up with a set of by-laws which, once accepted, enabled the newly formed club , the Calgary Community Bridge League, to be incorporated in the summer of 2010. The next step was to seek a way of enabling their well wishers to receive a charitable tax receipt when making contributions to the cause; they formed a committee to research this, found out about the Calgary Parks Foundation and hey presto, there was a way! Lots of fences and hurdles to overcome but come the end of the year they were successful.

All this time the group’s apostles were out there convincing the rank and file bridge players like you and I that this was the way to go. More often than not successfully I might add; I particularly liked one lady’s thoughts that she still misses the way things used to be before the Martinique closed it’s doors. It was always much more than a bridge club she mused; it was that too but more, a social club. There would always be someone around just about every day from mid- morning until midnight; you could pop in to kibitz the best player in the room; have a gossip; watch TV; grab a bite; have a drink; read a book. It would be nice to think that a bridge centre would be very similar.

Continuing with the need to raise money, the club has a date in the second quarter of the coming year for a casino and are currently rounding up a flock of volunteers to run the show. In my experience a casino will add 60 or 70 grand to the coffers and bearing in mind that a group can usually stage one every 18 months or so, casinos will continue to play a big part in paying expenses once the project is up and running.

Up and running. There’s the rub. But rest assured they’re working on it. Jim Berglund has been one of the key members of the team since day one and bless him, just happens to be a professional realtor, a match made in heaven! Finding a somewhat central location with adequate parking space is no easy task. He knows that there are more than a few churches, schools and the like having problems staying afloat; for instance he pursued the Legion’s building in Ogden, only to come to the conclusion that everybody else would have the same problem, paying the bills; it was just too run down. A little later he was more than enthusiastic about an almost brand new, barely used building in Sheppard, south east of the city limits. If like me, you lived let’s say south of Glenmore Trail. It was a great choice but if on the other hand, you lived north of John Laurie Boulevard, maybe not.

Getting original, he cast his eye on a grassy hillside on Blackfoot Trail, this quickly came to naught. Maybe the owners had forgotten to mow the grass!

Having got this far, no one is even remotely thinking about throwing in the towel, it’s going to happen and we will learn more in the months to come, so stay tuned.

November 1, 2014 - A Silver Lining

I will be sorry but it’s bound to happen one of these days. Ken Scott warned me over a year ago that I was quickly going to run out of subjects to go babbling on about. He has come very close to being right on more than one occasion; there was the time when I was about to be rightfully censored because of my overly self opinionated thoughts and that would certainly have shut me up once and for all.

Whilst I truly believe that most of us like to see our names in print, there are bound to be exceptions and I could put a name to more than one such exception. As an aside I was recently watching an interview on “Hardtalk” with a scientist, Susan Greenfield; she made the point that with all of today’s emphasis being on a computer screen, we no longer get to see how our audience is reacting. Face to face, if I see you give me the look or even just raise an eyebrow, then it’s easy to see that I’ve overstepped the mark and I can behave accordingly.

Our preoccupation with the computer is having consequences that come out of nowhere. A friend of mine’s daughter had a successful heart transplant this summer, but in doing so, she was made aware of the increasing shortage of organ donors. A big part of the reason apparently being that we barely talk to each other anymore, we are losing our sense of community, we’re all too busy fooling around with our latest gadget.

Out of nowhere is right. I was having a hard time believing something on the news,telling me that golf is a dying sport! I asked Raj Agrawal could this possibly be true? I was amazed when he told me that it was very much so, the truth. All because of those gadget thingies! The same conversation turned to bridge; could it be a dying pastime as well? Yes, was one opinion but my input was that there is a whole flock of forty, fifty year olds out there wondering how they’re going to spend the next thirty or so years. Let’s hope I’m right!

OK John, enough of the doom and gloom, let’s get on with something a little more cheerful. I wish it was that easy……….it’s hard not to keep fretting about…… do I wish I was living in Iraq, Gaza, Liberia………..of course not, but being unable to do a damn thing about any of it, that’s the hard bit. You’re not listening John, enough already!

Okay, I am listening, no one could ever accuse us bridge people of not having lots to say for ourselves and as for the community bit, we are all buoyed up with vitamin F, remember? I rarely think about it; but I should; the fact that when we get to the bridge club we have the opportunity to leave all our troubles behind us.

Yes, it was maybe only this morning that Kathleen and I had a not insignificant disagreement, granddaughters report card left a lot to be desired and God only knows how much money I lost on the stock market today and there’s still two hours until the closing bell!

All neither here nor there. I’m at the club and now I can concentrate on this 3 NT contract that we cheerfully waltzed into when perhaps? No big deal; count my sure tricks, remember how long to hold up, using the rule of 7 and that reminds me, the rule of 11 also gets into the act. There, I made 9 tricks, don’t have a problem in the world! See what I mean about the silver lining?

October 25, 2014 - Hard to Believe

Hard to believe but it’s true; reacting to the well publicized plight of the homeless in our city it was gratifying what the South Ladies managed to achieve yesterday.

It wasn’t even a one off; every year they hold their “annual soup day’ but yesterday they outstripped every previous occasion. They raised $8000 to be donated to the Inn From the Cold. How did they do this? Well to start with there were 114 generous ladies there, having a fun afternoon in between opening their wallets. 28 ½ tables no less.

Needless to say, none of this happened by magic; Nancy Klym together with Karen Levy were the driving forces, again, I might add. But the ladies themselves made the whole thing happen. There to be enjoyed were 8 different kind of soups, crackers, goodness knows how many varieties of cheese and all topped off with a choice of dessert.

Nancy herself was the director and may I say to you both Nancy and Karen? That on behalf of our entire bridge community; especially us mere men, we offer you and the club our congratulations for all that you do!

October 17, 2014 - Do's and Don'ts

I was recently waffling on to our unit president about the fact that not all of us bridge players abide what is considered to be the right way to play. OK it’s not a secret, it was Delores, and she suggested that before I make too much of a fuss, I should check myself out first!

Come on now, I replied, I’ve been playing for years and know the ins and outs of the game better than most. Bless her, she smiled sweetly and suggested that instead of getting my knickers in a twist, I might try evaluating myself by logging on to the Common Bridge Infractions column on our website.

And where might that be pray, I asked? Look under Unit 390 publications, she replied and lo and behold she was right.

Oh, my goodness! I had no idea there are at least 19 different ways I can go wrong but what the hell, when you’ve been around as long as me, this is going to be a walk in the park!

So easy, let’s start at the end. A timed event? Get real, it’s always me waiting and waiting and waiting; Jacqui Chin keeps trying to slow me down but to no avail. At the end of the hand, wait until all agree before closing up the cards? Of course, how else? No facial expressions? Let’s get on. Hesitating before playing a singleton? Yeah, I could toss out a few names here but John Hinde would not be on the list.

Hold your cards so that they cannot be seen? I truly thought I done did, but I have to admit that I’ve frequently been warned about this! By people I respect too. Making a claim? I frequently do and yes, if the claim is disputed, it’s a no brainer to call the director. Similarly with a failure to alert, we all know about that and also about the asking and the explaining of the alert.

Hmm. Maybe I do have a problem there and truth to tell I’m not altogether sure whether I’m right or wrong. One club. Could be short. Why I ask? And more often than not, I just get the look. I must remember to ask Crystal about that; she’ll straighten me out.

Where have we got to on the list? Starting at 19 we’re down to 10 and so far I haven’t put a foot wrong. I hope you’re reading this Delores. Number 10. Psyches? No one does that anymore; cross it off the list.

Oh dear! Number 9. More than once; no, no more like every week at the Haggins bid and play game I will explain to the beginners that the penalties for a revoke are so severe that if their partner fails to follow suit, they must say ‘NO HEARTS or whatever, in a totally unbelieving tone of voice. Seemingly I was wrong about the pretended astonishment bit.

No. 8, another no brainer. Oh dear, I was hoping that we could bypass no. 7. The tried and trusted, never been known to fail, lead face down, giving partner the right to………….. Yes I know, the fact that more often than not, my opening lead is on the table face up, before I’ve even put my pass card away. Mia Culpa, what more can I say?

No. 6? Probably guilty there too. I frequently do pick up my bid cards before the auction is officially over. Seems like this walk in the park is turning into more of a stumble in the Stampede Grounds! No. 5? I lay claim to doing the right thing here. An insufficient bid does give the opponents certain rights; OK, seemingly I should be calling the director, but hey, she’s a busy lady.

Four and three? I stand as a model bridge player, the same paragon of virtue I truly thought I was, on the other seventeen! I would not blame you a bit if you were not still wondering what my complaint to Dolores was all about; way back when. It was about No.2

But here you don’t even have to go to the trouble of logging on to the web site; just look on your convention card and you will read ’partnerships are required to have two convention cards identically and legibly filled out on the table throughout the session” This is one aspect of the game I have never been known to breach unlike some others.

Can I name names. I asked Delores? NO, NO and I mean NO was the reply, but she was nice enough to add that she hoped that the guilty parties will read or at least be told about this blog and act accordingly.

To wind this up; our unit president reminded me of yet another of my faults she’d noticed. We are all supposed to count our cards before we even think about making a bid. She recalled the occasion when I gleefully opened a 20-21 HCP hand in all its glory, without noticing that I had 14 cards, which maybe, just maybe, had something to do with my point count!

Okay lady, enough of the criticism, how about us congratulating each other for not having missed a master/novice game these past thirty years! It’s only a few days away until we can all continue the good work; on October 28th and the November 8th. You’all be sure to join us!

October 3, 2014 - Winning the Lottery

If you must insist on my writing about the kind of lottery where you are feeling guilty about not paying enough in taxes, so guilty that you actually go out and buy a lottery ticket, I can do that too. To my knowledge, going back some thirty years, I can think of three sets of winners in our bridge world, but don’t even think of asking for names, you would be wasting your time.

No, the lottery every one of us has won, is actually two fold, (a) we live in Canada, even more specifically in Calgary and (b) someone taught us how to play bridge. Which one is the more important? Good question.

Supposedly, the most important things first. We won, because we don’t have to fill our days with politics, racism, religion or any of the other “problems” that so many people seemingly obsess themselves with. Why do they do that? It’s because they don’t play bridge.

I could easily be accused of having an obsession myself but I prefer to call it an addiction. When I come to think about it, winning isn’t necessarily such a big thing anyway, losing is just as important! Did you ever think about quitting bridge because you had a 35% game? No, like get real!

There are lots of things you can lose; your keys, your mind, and even your count of how many trumps are outstanding. Sometimes it can even turn out for the best; some years ago, in one of the many downturns in the economy, I got laid off from work but was comforted by my wife reminding me that there was a sectional coming up that very weekend.

This wasn’t even the end of the silver lining; Gordie Sharpe was starting his two over one lessons that week and when I told him I couldn’t afford it because I’d just lost my job; he insisted I go along anyway! To quote Gordie, “I needed the lessons more than most”. Somehow I’d acquired the notion that an opening hand opposite an opening hand called for a 2/1 response. No one had ever mentioned the concept of a source of tricks.

Going back to our winning the lottery, what kind of life would we all lead if we had not been lucky enough to have someone teach us the rudiments of bridge. Both Tom Webb and I got started in high school, way back in the days when if you had 2 and a half quick tricks you opened and if you had 1 and a half, you replied. We both shudder to think how many times we languished in a contract with our combined 18 HCP’s but no matter, we were learning to play bridge.

It took me 30 odd years after that to actually start playing the game. Tom was a whole lot smarter than me, he continued playing social bridge for the same 30 or more years before he and his wife ventured into the duplicate game but both of us are still here and that’s all that matters!

Believe it or not, you have yet to run out of your winning streak. There’s a new duplicate game recently got started on Friday evenings at the Confederation Park 55+ club. The door opens at 7pm and the game starts at 7.30pm. The address is 2212 13th St NW and to know more, telephone Engelina at 251 2753. It isn’t a sanctioned game but hey it’s bridge, just be sure to remember where you heard it first.

September 19, 2014 - Why Do We Keep Coming Back?

Can it be that we are all masochists and enjoy being shown up to be the fools we really are? Once, twice, three times a week? Another reason could be that conventional wisdom suggests that solving the day’s crossword, the morning sudoku, playing bridge, all will help delay the onset of dementia by, hold your breath, a whole two years! I’ve now been retired for nigh on twenty years, so presumably I still have my wits about me. Not so, say my partners. They are all convinced that I must have a mental disorder of some kind when they watch me fritter away yet another ice cold contract into the minus column.

Recently a bridge playing friend of my wife, Dianne Duncan, e mailed us her answer to the ‘why’ question and here it is.

Why do I have a variety of friends who are all so different in character? How is it possible that I can get along with them all? I think that each one helps to bring out a ‘different’ part of me. With this one I am polite, with another I joke, with yet another I can be a bit naughty! With some I can sit down and talk about serious matters, whilst with others we just laugh a lot. One minute I am listening to a friend’s worries; yet in the very next, I am grateful to be heeding the advice of another friend concerning my problems.

They are all like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle; when completed, they form a treasure chest – a chest full of friends! Some of them understand me better than I understand myself; and they will all support me through the good times and the bad. Real Age doctors tell us that friends are good for our health. Dr. Oz on TV calls them Vitamin F (for Friends) and counts the benefits of having them as being essential to our well being.

Research shows that people in strong social circles, bridge being typical, undergo less stress, have less risk of depression, cardiac arrest and terminal strokes. Similar research suggests that if you enjoy Vitamin F consistently, you can feel up to 30 years younger than your real age.

I am so lucky to have an ample stock of Vitamin F. We should all value our friends and keep in touch with them. We should all try to see the funny side of things, laugh together and pray for each other when the going gets tough. I regularly see many of my friends at the bridge club and I am blessed that I feel they care for me as much as I care for them.

My goodness, thank you Dianne, I finally get the message as to why we keep coming back!

A Footnote: When I first opened this e mail, I jumped to the conclusion that it was from Diane Campbell. An easy mistake to make, for we would all agree that she is the kind of person who would have such thoughts.

I thought it an appropriate moment to share it with you, every one of us having a big friendship day coming up this Thursday.

September 12, 2014 - Twist and Turns

Two dates to remember and more than remember, it’s time to get on the phone and get organised with your partner.

The first is September 25th when Joy and Brian are hosting a celebration of Win Dolsen’s 98th birthday! All of us, her friends, are going to be there and we’re looking forward to seeing you as well. I’ve faithfully promised Joy that if she starts to run out of birthday cake, I’m already on my way to the store for another!

The second date? Tuesday, October 28th, 7PM at Southwood United. Marilyn and Murray are already on the phone setting up the Erin Berry Master/Novice game. We all have no problem remembering the game’s huge success last fall and this one is going to be no different.

It’s an amazing game. Bridge! On the one hand we are celebrating a lady of a certain age’s birthday and only a month later paying tribute to a young girl’s untimely death, who was fast becoming a superstar!

As a last word on all the upcoming excitement, I heard a rumor the other day that there might be another Master/Novice game in the offing, sometime before Christmas, I think they said, and if I caught the drift, bear in mind I was eavesdropping, it sounded like it was going to be a team game yet. That would be a first for Calgary.

September 5, 2014 - Ready, Set, Go

In only a few weeks the Glencoe Club will be starting it’s fall series of bridge lessons. Once again it will be Nancy Klym and Bev Mason doing the teaching and they already have this year’s approach all figured out.

For the more advanced students, this year they plan on paying more attention to defense, For instance, on lead at trick one, the student will be encouraged to take time out to review the bidding, count how many high card points they expect their partner to have, and when dummy comes down figure out which card or cards she might have that could be crucial, to defeating the contract. My goodness, I wonder if there’s any way I can sneak my way into these lessons!

My personal experience of the club started some three or four years ago when April, my next door neighbour, asked me did I know anyone who could teach a foursome, including her, how to play bridge. Needless to say that my answer was a swift yes - like when do we start? Not surprisingly for a quartet of forty somethings they had arrived at that point in their lives when they were giving a passing thought to the onset of whatever.

April and her family were on the waiting list to be members of the Glencoe Club and the other three ladies were already members, so that is where the lessons had to take place. The Glencoe looks upon itself as a family oriented sports and social club and is very proud of it’s private members and guests only status. Having said that, I was able to do my thing there as my students’ guest.

What a truly amazing club. They accommodate every activity. The beginning of an alphabetic list would be Aerobics, Badminton, Bridge, Child Care, Curling, Dancing and the list goes on all the way down to Yoga. However, let’s get down to our addiction.

They host two duplicate games every week, Tuesday evening and Wednesday afternoon, both looked after by Crystal Mann. The evening game not surprisingly attracts it’s share of couples but the afternoon session will usually have a majority of ladies. There was a time when 8 tables was the norm but these days it’s more likely to be 12 plus.

Of more interest to us, is going back to their very active teaching component; Nancy and Bev are currently responsible for it’s success. The next time you sit at either one’s table, ask how many students they have this year? Without giving it too much thought, you will be expecting an answer of around 20 or so; be prepared for a shock when they reply something over 70! Having such a great number of aspirants they divide them up into four groups ranging from rank beginners to the more than competent.

These two ladies not only excel at what they do but put in many a long hour doing it. It is not uncommon for a Tuesday to start at 9am and finish at 10pm. Not unnaturally, both Nancy and Bev are just a wee bit proud of their efforts but at the same time are quick to let a person know that it was Mary Phibbs together with the now deceased Helen Roche who initially got the teaching programme started many years ago.

Finally, from our selfish point of view, the Glencoe Club is directly responsible for some number of bridge players, a number approaching 100, joining us in Unit 390. That is something for them to be proud of and something for us to be grateful for.

August 23, 2014 - We Are All So Proud

We are all so proud and indeed lucky to know Win Dolsen; a truly remarkable lady about to celebrate her 98th birthday and in a week or sos time, don’t you even dare think about missing her get together at the club, with all of us, her friends!

Most of us only know Win as a much respected bridge player together with her favourite partner, Iris Eggen, but her story goes back a lot further than that. She was born TODAY 98 years ago on a small farm near Strasbourg, Saskatchewan, the second of four daughters. Her mother had immigrated from England together with her brother, and her dad was a recent arrival from the States.

The four kids initially went to school in the nearest village but came the time for high school they all had to be taken by their dad in a horse and buggy early every Monday morning to Strasbourg. Here they would stay with relatives for the week; in return for their board and lodging, the girls used to help out with the chores around the house. Win’s mom was determined that all her children would get a good education, which even back in those days didn’t come cheap. To this end, she raised chickens and sold them and their eggs around the community; bless her, it all paid off and I’m left with the feeling that she probably taught the Hutterites all they know about the business!

Eighteen and off to university in Regina, Win graduated and went into the teaching profession but quickly got tired of that. Back to school, this time in Edmonton, to study accounting. Study accounting he says, get real, not only did she pass her exams but in doing so, became the very first qualified lady chartered accountant in the province.

Win tells me that she never married but doubtless she broke more than a few hearts along the way, unlike many of us who were on the receiving end of all the heartache!

If you can get Win to talk about her life which is not easy, she tends to err on the shrinking violet side, God knows why, she has so much to be proud of! In her younger days she travelled extensively to many parts of the world; Diana Burn, who was nice enough to do the research for me on this blog, together with her husband, accompanied Win some years back, to Sunderland in the north of England, where she was able to check out her mother’s home town.

No tale about our birthday girl would be complete without a mention of one of her bestest friends…….Annabelle Gurevitch, another bridge player of course, but this lady told me one of my all time favourite stories. Way back when, one of her relatives was researching the family tree, he tracked down the birth certificate of an ancestor born in Russia, born, would you believe, the day before yesterday!

August 16, 2014 - Silly Me

Silly indeed, it must have been last May or so that I first heard Dianna Wreford and Brian Turner talking about their upcoming trip to Africa. This particularly caught my attention because I have spent considerable time on the continent but more particularly, the first time I left home, three days before my twenty first birthday, I landed in Accra, in the then Gold Coast, now Ghana, as a very green, very inexperienced surveyor.

Why silly? That bit’s easy. I joined the conversation by asking Dianna if this was going to be her first time abroad? Not quite, she replied, when we get back, that will make the ninety ninth country I have visited and more than just visited, have spent considerable time in!

Anybody else but me would have changed the subject there and then, but I’ve gotten used to being silly. I persisted and learned that the plan was to fly to Cape Town in South Africa and board a cruise ship taking them to Antwerp finishing at the white cliffs of Dover.

Still being the smarty pants, I asked her if they were going to sail up the east coast of Africa and run the serious risk of being captured by Somali pirates? Not this time was the reply, we’ve already been there, done that, a few years ago on the Ocean Princess. She wasn’t kidding either and went on to tell me that the liner was fitted with barbed wire on the stern and also equipped with a “sound gun” designed to scare the pants off any pirate!

No, they were planning to sail up the west coast but before that there were things to do and places to go. Firstly a trip to Kruger National Park, where to quote Dianna, they saw the 5 biggies, lions, elephants, leopards, buffalo and rhinos. Quite the experience, something I have never done. What next? You may well ask. Not fooling around the two of them flew up to Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River at the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. What a sight indeed, the river at this point is close to two kilometres wide and the water falls more than 100 metres, twice as much as our own Niagara Falls!

Back to Cape Town and as if they hadn’t seen enough already, they rented a car and drove down to the Cape of Good Hope, enjoying all the wine growing country en route. Partaking of some? I forgot to ask.

Finally, their cruise ship arrived, having left Australia some many days ago. The first port of call was Luderitz in Namibia but that was quickly out shone by Walvis Bay, the next stop, giving them the easy option of enjoying one of the top tourist attractions in the country, the waterfront, together with a gazillion pink flamingoes.

Continuing up the coast, they stopped briefly in Benin and Togo but landing at Tema , the biggest sea port in Ghana, they were able to visit Accra the capital of a country which together with South Africa would arguably be two of the most stable and successful countries on a continent still recovering from decades of colonialism.

They “did” the Canary Isles, Morocco and somehow found the time to stop at Rouen and go cruising up the River Seine, but it was around this time that Brian plopped three boards on the table and my memory of our conversation starts to blur. However feel free to ask either Dianna or Brian about their trip.

Since they got back and notwithstanding the free wheeling pair they are, I am left with the impression that they had much to remember and talk about on their recent hiking holiday in Montana.

August 3, 2014 - Lawn Bowling

You don’t have to know me very long before you find that I do tend to go prattling on and on about lawn bowling. There is a similarity to bridge, in the sense that it’s a pastime of which you don’t HAVE TO BE THERE! You either go or you don’t go; on second thoughts, bowling has an edge; with bridge you’re kind of expected to turn up with a partner, not so with bowling, you get to play no matter what.

Why the sudden interest in the game on what is supposed to be a blog about bridge? Both Penny Young and Caroline Colliver have approached me in the last little while saying that their husbands have given thought to trying out lawn bowling. Great idea! Go for it!

It is very similar to curling but better in more ways than one. You don’t have to sweep, no way can you break your neck slipping on the ice and in my opinion a more challenging sport. In curling, the button is the button is the button whereas the white thingie, we bowlers, try to get close to, the jack, is at a different spot every end and if it gets moved around during the end, so be it.

Yet another plus to the game and come to think of it, another similarity to bridge is that men have absolutely no advantage over women, brute strength is neither here nor there. Yet another is that it appeals to all ages; my club, Stanley Park, used to have an eighteen year old member who became the junior single champion of Canada; why used to have? He went and fell in love,that happens when you’re 18! At the other end of the spectrum, we have a lady who rightly claims to be the oldest living native Calgarian and she’s still bowling. Maybe I should mention that to Win Dolsen.

That reminds me; what are we, you, I, us, going to do about celebrating Win’s 98th birthday this month?

Back to lawn bowling. How expensive is it? You may well ask. Would you believe $80 a season? A season typically lasting from mid May to mid October. You had better read that last bit again. No, I don’t mean $80 a game, similar to a round of golf, I mean $80 a season, what’s more, the coffee is free.

OK, you’ve made your point. How about the cost of equipment, something like hockey I suppose? Not quite, any footwear with no heels is all that is required, your runners will do just fine. And that’s it! Until such time as you get addicted to the game, we all know that feeling, and decide to buy your own set of bowls, you get to choose from the wide collection of bowls on hand at the club, free, I might add.

Some other things I forgot to mention in the similarity to bridge, again maybe even better, is that you can play every day, frequently twice a day. There’s the opportunity to meet new friends and being as how hung up I am, on the gossip aspect of our game, you can do that whilst you are lawn bowling as well.

So, now that I’ve finally grabbed your attention after all these years, what next? A good start would be to log on to www.calgarybowls.com and then email Angela Lussier, the president, at nlussier@telusplanet.net, expressing your interest. I guarantee she and her husband will welcome you with open arms.

July 27, 2014 - If Nothing Else

If nothing else, make sure you drive along 33rd Avenue SW, not far from the Marda Loop and check out the St Mark and St Philip church from the outside; better yet, take time to go inside but best of all, be there on a Sunday and enjoy listening to Mary Ross playing the organ. Why pick on this church? It’s where Mary is currently the music director and organist.

Her tale goes back many a long year. Just like you and me with our children, her parents arranged for her to have piano lessons, but unlike our two daughters, Mary not only excelled but eventually made music her career. Not at first though, after graduating from Queen’s University she went into the Social Work arena; worked hard, did very well and became the Director at a hospital

Going back to her first year at Queens, she made pocket money as a paid piano accompanist for soloists and the university choir. Mary seems to make a habit of doing things well, so beginning her second year, she was appointed the university organist and this time was not paid peanuts but what was, in those days, considered to be big bucks!

Paraphrasing Mary now. In my early years I used to love to dance and by coincidence, the very evening of my being appointed to the new job I was dancing with a very shy young man, Don Ross. So shy, that it was up to me to keep the conversation going, so I prattled on; probably bragging too, about my being the new organist. Without knowing it, I had struck a chord, it transpired that Don really was an organist; so not surprisingly, he was all ears and started asking me all sorts of questions.

Questions to which I had no ready made answers. I even found myself admitting that I had never actually sat down at an organ, but no matter, I rambled on, I’m a good pianist and there can’t be that much of a difference. Like a keyboard is a keyboard is a keyboard. Not so replied Don, in fact you’re having me on! By now, I was starting to get not a little annoyed with him and pulled the keys to the organ out of my purse and shoved them under his nose. Now do you believe me?

I guess he didn’t, for he insisted we leave the dance there and then, off for my very first lesson. Truth to tell, I was in awe when I saw the three keyboards, not to mention the pedals on the floor and watched him play using his feet. Still, I was young and full of you know what, so I suggested he teach me how to pedal and I would figure out the rest! Don was appalled at my nerve but bless him, he did as I asked; he taught me to manage two of the pedals and I was able to transpose the hymns I was scheduled to play in just two days time using only the D and G. Believe it or not, it worked, no one in the congregation noticed anything amiss, which only goes to prove what my grandmother used to say, ‘fake it until you make it’!

Leaving Queens, Mary went into social work but after not many years she sought out a church where she could pursue her true passion; she was fortunate enough to find one that averaged 5 weddings every weekend, these plus the odd funeral and a base salary, meant that she was earning more money than she had ever made as a hospital director and even more importantly, doing it was fun.

As for Don, he doesn’t belong in this chit chat, but I’ll be happy to talk to you face to face.

July 13, 2014 - Got to the Game Early

But not that early, it was only a few minutes before Walter Brock turned up and we got chatting and quickly started feeling sorry for ourselves, after all, we are both well into our eighties!

Still thirty minutes to game time so the two of us started remembering, wrong word again, rather all the things that we couldn’t remember, because heavens to Betsy, they had never happened.

We were both born before TV, polio shots frozen food, contact lenses and the pill. Credit cards were not on our radar mainly because radar didn’t exist; believe it or not we paid our bills by writing out a cheque with a fountain pen, ball points were a long time still in the coming.

Back in those days we got married first and then started living together, like how quaint could we be? We were silly enough to believe that ‘fast food” was what you ate during Lent, that a Big Mac was an especially large raincoat and crumpet was something enjoyed with your afternoon tea! We lived in a time when there were no such things as a house husband, computer dating and as for sheltered accommodation, that was where you waited for the bus.

Even the language was different, time sharing was spending time with your friends, a chip was a piece of wood to Walter but a french fry to me; hardware meant nuts and bolts and there was no such word as software. A long time ago, when we were both young, ‘MADE IN JAPAN” was a synonym for junk. ”Making out” referred to how you did in your exams and “going all the way” was staying on the No. 3 bus all the way to it’s turn around at Fish Creek Park.

Habits have very much changed. In those days, everyone smoked cigarettes and there was an ash tray in front of every seat in the movie theatre and if that sounds disgusting, think on. Grass was what you mowed on a Saturday morning, coke was kept in the coal cellar, out in the back yard and a joint was reserved for a special Sunday dinner. Pot was not one word, it was a pot, the pot, whichever way, it was what you used to cook your meals in, the rest of the week.

Believe it or not, there was such a thing as slang, and weed would be what they called me, still do for that matter. Rock music was your wife crooning your newest baby to sleep and as for being gay, that would apply to the life and soul of the party, someone like Lamya Abougoush for instance, or Pauline Huculak would be another good choice. Aids were the various treatments kept in beauty parlors and if you shortened it without the s, it was what you gave to someone in need.

It was about here that the two of us stopped feeling sorry for ourselves; we came to realize that we both make a “hardy pair”. As to the way the world has changed and the adjustments we have had to make in our lives; it’s not surprising we have a generation gap.

Be that as it may, truth to tell, the real reason we stopped crying in our coffee was the director placing three boards in front of us!

June 29, 2014 - The Joy of Bridge

No, no, you’ve got it all wrong. This is not going to be a dissertation about Joy Saville. That’s already been done by Ken Scott over in the “FINE DINING”room of the Bridge Café. Where you are now, is much more the meat and potatoes variety, nothing special but at least it’s cheaper, if not so well written.

No, the joy of bridge I’m going on about is the chit chat at the table. You just came back from seeing the grandchildren? How old are they now? My goodness, how time does fly.

We have a whole slew of young grandmothers in our midst. To name but a few, there’s Jean Ward having Thomas here in the city but frequently popping off to Pittsburgh to catch up with the other two; Lamya Abougoush only too happy to show off photographs of both Alex and Max; Diane Campbell and Nancy Klym, we’ve talked of their grandkids before, the noise loving pair, remember?

Karen Mitchell and Cathie Bird both have several grandchildren to cluck over; the only downside being that they can interfere with their bridge game when it’s time to do some babysitting! Similarly Janet Sharpe has Noah to look after but will always place him first, well ahead of a bridge game.

Karen Levy is lucky enough to have several but is doubly, wrong word, triply overjoyed with the arrival of her newest little girl within the last few weeks. The same can be said of Janice Gordon, it’s odd that they’re all adorable but the latest one always maybe a little bit more so! Marilyn Haggins has her three year old Ariel who is just as pretty as her grandma and if you missed seeing Shelagh Nadir on a Wednesday afternoon at the Glencoe Club it’s probably because she was off to Vancouver to see her beloveds.

You’re starting to get the picture of what bridge does for us all. It’s a never ending story. Gladys Grant’s first grandchild is close to putting in an appearance so be prepared to see one happy lady before too long. However there’s more; if we run out of boasting about our grandchildren we can always turn our gossip towards our pets.

Carole Anne Snow takes her Jesse and Daisy to the off leash Shouldice Park every day and if you want to hear a cute story, ask her about the time a Jackrabbit caught up with the two dogs wondering why they had given up the chase? Barb Beagle has to break her winter trip to Arizona every year; officially it’s to be home for Christmas but really it’s to catch up with the family dog. Dawn and Hal Jones, at the drop of a hat are only too willing to talk about their Macilroy.

As for the cats; well you know the the Hindes adopted Ginny a few weeks ago and every Wednesday evening Barbara Wallat and I will pretend to be amazed at how differently they can behave. Our cat meows her way into the bathroom, this being her instruction to turn the tap on to a drip, she then leaps on to the vanity and good things happen. Barbara’s cat on the other hand puts her paw into any bowl of water and proceeds to lick it. Fascinating stuff, I must remember to ask Hazel Skelton how her cat quenches it’s thirst.

Like I said, the chit chat is what it’s all about. What would we do without bridge?

June 17, 2014 - Besieged

Deliberately misquoting Yogi Berra, ‘some people think that bridge is a matter of life and death; they’re wrong, it’s far more important than that’.

He was absolutely right, so right, that those of us that play 2, 3, 4, 5 times a week are far too busy to know that we are being besieged, and even if we did; no matter, just as long as they don’t interfere with our bridge game!

Besieged as in totally surrounded, with no chance of escape. You may remember that Kathleen and I only got as far as Balzac on our recent day trip. It was there that the Airdrie contingent intercepted us and turned us back; in the nicest possible way I might add. Laura Farrer was on duty that day together with Byron Lund and he was friendly enough to pass along his best wishes to his favourite partner, Camille Colliver.

Airdrie just happens to be the closest detachment. Overlooking the whole operation from a safe distance is Doug Collister, he lives out in the Water Valley area, far enough away, to be able to appreciate the big picture; at least that’s his version of events. The truth is that it gives him ample time to indulge his real passion, bird watching. Doug is one of the better known experts around and is a leader in the activity, both in and near the city.

Keeping an eye on us all from a Cochrane perspective we find Ed Faichuk, he carries his responsibilities a stage further. Yes he can frequently be seen at the bridge table with one of his mentees but to get even deeper into the ‘loop”, he will from time to time, actually move his home into the city, usually Tuscany. This way he can report back to management if he sees any sign that we bridge players have the slightest idea of what is truly going on

Moving around the city we find Judy McKeague manning the Bragg Creek outpost, I keep trying to find out whether the post is across Elbow River or inside the hamlet; no luck; it’s strictly on a need to know basis! Part of her remit is to frequently check up on what you’all are getting up to, so she’s often to be seen at the table, aided and abetted by Paulette McWilliam, both of them I might add, usually collaring master points that really belong to you and me.

Next in the stranglehold is Mel Mills based close to Priddis. He’s another one combining military duty with a passion, this time for golf. Not at all hard when his biggest problem in life is to collect the mishit balls on his property. This winter I was silly enough to ask him how was his game coming along? He gave me the look but added that the good news was that there was no problem getting a tee time.

Continuing, we arrive at Millarville and find Elizabeth Feuerhelm on duty. Management knows that it’s impossible to stop us lot from venturing out there on race days and the same goes for the farmers market but that’s it. When all the fun is over you will find Elizabeth together with her daughter, Simone, out on the highway, making doubly sure that none of us get to stray any further south.

The last link in the chain is Maxine Webb living in High River. She and her husband spent many years in Calgary but moved to B.C. for the longest time, owning and running one of the best resorts in the province. However, duty called and back she came, together with her husband Norm, to lock up our last means of escape.

So, having opened a can of worms, spilled the beans, let the cat out of the bag when perhaps I should have let sleeping dogs lie; what are we going to do about all this? Remembering Yogi’s words, about what’s really important, probably doing nothing would be a good idea. Let’s face it, bless them, they are nice enough to leave us alone and are very careful not to interfere with our bridge game!

June 1, 2014 - Twists of Fate

Heading to the AGM, a gentle stroll over to the church made for a pleasant start to the evening. Arriving at precisely 5 pm, it was not surprising to find the hall bursting at the seams with bridge addicts. Lucky enough to find a seat though, no sooner sat down than Keith Falkenberg was shaking my hand. Oh my goodness, it must be 20 years since we last met and much has happened in the interim. A lot of it laying at the feet of Keith.

He has no idea of how much the lawn bowling community owes to him. That many years ago he persuaded me to join him on the board of the Pumphouse Theatre and it was there that I first became aware of the existence of casinos being held in aid of various charities. I helped out in a couple, so then having a little experience, I broached the idea to my lawn bowling club. I had a handful of supporters with me but we were laughed at for having such a silly idea; widespread opinion was that we were not a worthy cause. It took a year or so and a change in management but we eventually brought most people on board and made the necessary application.

That was all back in 1996 or so and since then I have been involved in likely a dozen casinos each raising 60 or 70 thousand dollars; you do the math. Two other clubs jumped on the band wagon joined by Lawn Bowls Alberta doing the same thing, so now you get some idea of how much we all owe Keith Falkenberg! As for the worthy cause bit, I have to confess that every time I looked at the list of our fellow organisations I had to comfort myself with the thought that 95% of our members were of a certain age, retired and living on a fixed income.

Back to the AGM! Yours truly wasted a full twenty minutes of everyone’s time prattling on about the unit’s bridge library being out of circulation these past few years. My thought was to resurface the collection in some way. Once again, the assembled throng was against my idea, selling it for peanuts, let alone giving it away.

The thing that I found interesting was that the most vociferous in their opposition were two people that most of us would consider to be among the best bridge players in the city, Judy Gartaganis and Gordon Campbell! On reflection I can only admire them, since it must be that both owe so much in the past to the likes of Watson, Goren and Terrence Reese, that they can`t bear to give away their upbringing.

Meeting over and on my way home I bump into Steve Lawrence at the front door. Another game changer in my life. With me knowing nothing about anything it was Steve that advised and helped me buy my first ever computer way back when. 300 maybe 400 dollars, I can`t remember how much but in those days it was the entire Hinde fortune. Steve and I chatted for a while about the future of our game, it quickly came to light that we are on different sides of the fence but we each respected the other`s opinion whilst still making our point. We would have talked longer but were interrupted by Ann Slattery bustling in with her usual late appearance. No matter, she`s so easy to forgive and who could resist that cheery smile.

On the way home, I had yet another of my frequent pipe dreams. This time, a vision of four people of the caliber of Steve, having a debate on the future of bridge; ideally with Delores Hedley as the moderator. It could be on TV, channel 13 maybe. It`ll never happen. OK then, at a venue organised by the unit. That will never happen either!

Tell me something new. None of my pipe dreams ever do.

May 18, 2014 - Caught You Looking

Pat’s Invitational, 6.45pm Monday.

Yes, I know someone told you, that whatever his name is, goes babbling on about a whole bunch of I don’t know what. How come they let him get away with it anyway? Gossiping about other people? Oh, who cares, I’ve got better things to do with my time than catching up with a whole bunch of chit chat.

What’s that again? He said what? Really? I didn’t know that about her. Maybe!! No, no, like who cares? Just in case though, how do you log on to all this stuff?

So there, it wasn’t so bad after all, was it? Or was it? Not so bad until I scrolled back a month or so and there was my name in print! Just wait until I get a hold of him. When does he play? Mondays and Thursdays, thank you, I’ll be there and I’ll teach him a thing or two!

Careful now. Remember they have all these rules these days about zero tolerance. You’re right but I’ll get him, never you mind.

Bow River, 6.45 pm. Wednesday.

Sorry about that 0.5 game on Monday, I’m going to have to stop fretting about nothing and concentrate more on bridge. I have to admit though, that I did take time out to log onto that hindequarters stuff and there were a couple of interesting things I didn’t know about.

The bit talking about Maurice Tadros on his eco-tourist trip to Costa Rica for instance. I vaguely knew about the trouble that newly born turtles have in getting to the ocean; there always being a million seagulls just waiting to gobble them up. What I didn’t know about, was all the fish ready to finish off the ones that actually make it to the water!

Worst of all there’s the poachers digging up the eggs to eat them. Doesn’t bear thinking about! Interestingly, that’s exactly what the eco-tourists do; dig up the eggs, collect them in a bag and deliver them to the local villagers. Only this time, the latter rebury the eggs, protect them from any excess of heat or cold and finally when they hatch, “shepherd” them to the ocean, creating enough of a tumult to scare the birds away!

I kind of enjoyed the bit about the food bank too. I frequently get to play against Jo Ann Horne and know that she helps out there once a week. What I had no idea about is how much time and effort Susan and Gordon McLure put into this worthy cause. Just recently they carried it a step further, Susan has just written a book ‘Emma and the Food Bank’, primarily intended for schoolchildren but equally a delight to parents and grandparents. The cover itself is a joy to behold.

If any of you are like me that feel you would like to help but never quite get around to it, pick up a copy, it’s only $10, worth every penny, not to mention going for a good cause.

There was one other item that tickled my fancy. I’m well aware that we are not supposed to talk politics at the bridge table. Yet on the other hand, it’s been such a long time since I made an intelligent decision at the ballot box; that I thought I would take his advice and wander over to the café in the down town co-op on the third Sunday afternoon of the month. Lois Faris hosts one of those Conversation Café get togethers and she knows far more about politics than I ever will.

10.05 pm. Not too bad of a game tonight. 3.5 wins. How about we celebrate? Stroll over to the pub, have a beer and, dare I say it, have a gossip!

May 5, 2014 - Fit as a Fiddle

Not everyone will remember Stan Matheson, he left us a number of years ago but it was one of his frequent throw away lines that got me on a train of thought about the way many of us keep fit. If you want to get your exercise, sit east west!

Not enough you say and you’re right, lots of you do much more. The really serious work out people springing to mind are Simon Farrer who has been going to a spa for all the years I have known him and probably many more before that. Ron Pritchard and Warren Allen have recently started to regularly attend the Killarney Rec Centre on a daily basis and the results are plain to see. Both have deliberately lost weight these last few months and one can’t help but notice the spring in their step.

On a more casual note, I frequently see Connie Wignall emerging from Edworthy Park just in time to make the bridge game and the last time I stopped the car on Spruce Drive to offer Maged Wafa a ride, he just waved me on by. A similar approach is taken by both Grant Karatnyk and Kelly Flock who will both park their bikes without a sign of being out of breath.

Getting more serious about exercising are Shelagh and Faiz Nadir who battle it out on the tennis court almost every day. Yet another tennis aficionado is Osama Elshafey, so much so, that the highlight of his holiday this year is having tickets to the Wimbledon tournament. Bob Wright still spends a morning or so every week during the winter, playing some pretty strenuous hockey and that’s not even beginning to count the number of you that just can’t wait for the golf courses to reopen. Skiing? Both varieties, downhill and cross country are so popular, I’m not about to list names; the scores of people I would miss out would only get mad at me.

Okay, not exactly an exhausting sport, is my own, lawn bowling. Together with my wife, we enjoy the sunshine at Stanley Park several times a week during the summer. Al Simon has been known to play the game as well but so far I have been unable to persuade anyone else to give it a whirl. Maybe it’s because the most popular afternoons are Monday, Wednesday and Friday, all conflicting with a bridge game!

Much, much more popular is Yoga, especially amongst our womenfolk. The large contingent of bridge ladies belonging to the Glencoe Club are very much into it; must be the reason they all look so young! Talking of Yoga, it came to the rescue of Ann Slattery’s recent holiday in Hawaii, it rained every day, all day but no matter, it gave her the chance to catch up with her yoga.

Listening to the gossip on a Wednesday evening I find that Keith Debert and his wife Margo are both keen scuba divers and I’m not sure how much of a work out, rafting down the Grand Canyon might be but that’s the way that Kevin Trickett likes to spend a vacation and tiring or not, it does sound exciting to hear him talk of it, not to mention dangerous.

I can’t help wondering if anyone forgot to tell me that they just got back from running in the Boston Marathon. Many of you are deliberately coy about your goings on. Just like both Jo Ann Horne and Jenna Dumka never getting around to telling me that they were up there with the pros in the “It’s Your Call” competition in the Bridge Bulletin.

As a last word, I did hear it mentioned that why bother going to all the trouble staying fit and well, when all the time, if you just wait an hour or so, you can simply shovel some more snow!

April 21, 2014 - Taxing Times

April is a busy month in Calgary. The robins are back along with a whole host of water fowl, geese, ducks and even a few swans, not to mention the snow birds who have to return to submit their tax returns.

Maybe that last bit is not quite true; for the first time in my life, I have hired a professional accountant. I didn’t know where to start but Pauline Mathezer recommended one and so far everything is cool, not submitted yet but any day now. You know me, the accountant had to be a lady and as an aside, she was most interested when I told her that I played bridge with the first lady to become a qualified accountant in Alberta: Winnifred Dolsen no less!

Pauline herself is an interesting lady, she is one of the many do gooders we have in our bridge world. She does the tax returns for a whole host of folk referred to her by social services, dozens if not scores every spring and she does it all out of the goodness of her heart.

Going back to the snow birds, some are already here, Lucielle Smith, Barb Beagle, Len Himelfarb and a whole host of others scurrying back. On the other hand, I’m told there is another way of solving the tax problem without returning from nirvana just yet. Some lawn bowling friends of mine refrain from submitting their return until whenever but meanwhile deliberately over pay what they are likely to owe, knowing full well they will eventually get the money back. Just a thought but they assure me it works every year.

It goes without saying that we are happy to see our friends back but as always, there is another side to the coin. Delores Hedley, together with Elaine Stewart, recently returned from Maui and told us of the bridge clubs there, bemoaning the fact that April has arrived. Meaning that their dozen or more table game is now down to three or four, all because the Canadians went back home.

It’s time for me to go waffling on about my favourite bit of useless information which also happens about now. I would venture to suggest that not many of you know why Easter is celebrated at a different time every year. Easter Sunday occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon after Ladyday. Ladyday, you may well ask? It’s the official calendar name for the first day of spring which contrasts with Michaelmas which is the first day of fall. There, now you can’t say I never told you anything interesting!

As my very last word, with all this coming and going in mind. Yes, Kathleen and I did enjoy our day trip to Balzac but thank you for asking!

April 7, 2014 - The Sound of Music

Maybe not exactly what you want to hear when you’re trying to bring home a seven no trump contract using the backwash squeeze technique!

On the other hand, at another more appropriate moment our community is awash with a whole slew of talented people, singing or playing instruments, ranging all the way from the lowly harmonica to the majestic pipe organ.

Where to start? Mary Ross would be a good spot. She was already an accomplished pianist in her teens, so much so, that she decided to take it a step further and learn to play the organ. It’s a long story that I plan on dwelling on another day, but with the help of her then husband to be, she did just that, mastered the organ. So much so that it became a full time career, weddings, funerals, concerts, you name it.

Another virtuoso is Anne Primeau, the clarinet being her choice of instrument. To listen to her play is a joy in itself and if you want to do just that, then make tracks for any performance of the Westwinds Orchestra of which there are many. If you pick the right one, you will even get to enjoy an additional bonus by hearing Wilda Pashak singing in the choir. We have a whole host of singers amongst us; Doug Mann is a leading tenor, Martin McDonald sings in two church choirs, Ian Gibson prefers the barber shop style and Chris Wuerscher is an all star attraction where ever he sings.

We have at least two guitar players in our midst, one classical and another, more of the folksy variety. Emelie Quenelle is of the first and constantly improves her technique by taking lessons; so if you want to have a game with her on a Wednesday afternoon, be careful to pick the right one, every other week she’s doing her thing. Alex Knox is more of the laid back guitarist . Not all of you remember Alex, just like you and I, he used to play bridge several times a week until he got married. Having said that, he still plays his guitar every week or so at some cool club in Inglewood.

Moving on to my phrase of the month. A triple threat person; we come to Rosalyn Martin, she plays the piano, sings beautifully and teaches music as well. Everyone remembers her from the passing of Carol Lee Bellam. Still talking of teachers, Charles Liegerot was the music teacher at St Francis High School for many years, similarly Marian Pennell at a Southwood elementaty school and on the same vein, Hazel Skelton recently attended a bridge playing event raising money to enable Bishop Grandin’s band to show off Calgary’s talents all over the world.

Ron Neill plays the ukulele with the Peter and Pals group that tours the city just about every weekday morning, entertaining the residents of senior citizen’s homes, hospitals and the like. He also likes to play his harmonica and if push comes to shove he’s always happy to fill in on the double bass. Yet another bridge player who likes to entertain his friends is Rick Boyd, his speciality being the accordion.

We are fortunate enough to have a crop of up and coming musicians ready to take the place of all the above. Nancy Klym and Diane Campbell every week take their puddle jumping grand children to the Mount Royal Music Conservatory to bang on the drums, the piano, the xylophone or anything else guaranteed to make a noise and keep the ladies happy. I have a suspicion that the pair of them may be lining something up but with Tyler being only 2 1/2 and Ayla barely 3 it might take time to come to fruition.

Not everybody has to actually play an instrument, sing or teach, to be counted amongst the music lovers in the city. Mae Jardine has season tickets to both Calgary Opera and the Calgary Philharmonic, never missing a performance and Ineke Boudewijn, just back from cruising the Caribbean, fell in love with the sound of a steel drum trio whilst she was there.

Lastly, going back to the Backwash Squeeze thingie. I am assured there is such a thing at the bridge table but more importantly it’s the name of a book about bridge; not one trying to teach you something, it’s just about bridge. You must read it. You don’t even have to buy it; you can put it on hold from the library or if you want to be real sneaky! I recommended the book to Gamil Tadros a while back; he bought it, enjoyed it and lent it to his son, Maurice. Now, if you keep your ear to the ground and pick the right moment, Gamil and Helen will soon be off honeymooning in Italy, the perfect time to put the “squeeze” on Maurice.

March 25, 2014 - Oranges and Lemons

Talking funny as I do, it’s likely that I get the “where are you from” question asked more often than many of you. Do you know what a cockney is, I reply. No, is the most common answer. Did you see the movie ‘My Fair Lady” I continue? This time, frequently a yes but that was many years ago. Yes, you’re right and to refresh your memory, Eliza Dolittle was the star of the show and she was a cockney, born and bred in London, England and more specifically within the sound of Bow Bells. Bow Bells meaning?

       Oranges and lemons rang the bells of Saint Clements

       You owe me five farthings rang the bells of Saint Martins

       When will you pay me rang the bell of Old Bailey

       When I get rich said the bells of Shoreditch

       When will that be rang the bells of Stepney

       I’m sure I don’t know said the bells of Old Bow

Bow Bells being the key; the church being in the very heart of the now financial district similar to Wall Street; in other words nobody actually lives there any more, let alone gets born there, unless it’s in a taxi on the way to a hospital. As it happened I was born there. In a hospital that was bombed during the war and thus I can make some claim to being the last of a dying breed.

What has all this got to do with Eliza Dolittle you may well ask? She and my brother together murdered the English language; both of them had a problem with the letter “h”. My brother’s name was Harry Hinde and if you asked him his name, ‘Arry ‘Inde was the response; he could not pronounce an “h” to save his life.

I would have had the same problem if the war had not intervened again. I was only six and it follows that most of my life had so far been spent with my parents; they originated from a town in the north of England; so, I still talked funny but I could manage the “h” letter. On the other hand, Harry had spent 13 years picking up the Cockney way of making himself understood and had mastered the art. All of us kids were evacuated out of the city clutching our one permitted suitcase and a neatly boxed gas mask, heading for someplace, even our parents knew not where, until they received a letter from the government. Me for four years, Harry for only one. In those days you could leave school at 14 if you so wished and away he went to join the merchant navy as a cabin boy. Anyway, those four years away from London meant that okay, I still talk funny but I and the letter “h“ are close friends.

There are lots of us Brits in the Calgary bridge world but as far as I know I’m the only bona fide cockney. Tom Webb’s father was from London and used to say he was from Berwick on Bow and sure enough, if you google it, there is indeed a Berwick Street in the parish of Bow. As a last word, think carefully before you next ask someone where they are from. You might ‘ave to ‘ear this all over again!

March 11, 2014 - Triple Threats

In the entertainment business they will talk about a triple threat performer. As often as not a beautiful blonde, but principally known as a triple threat because she can sing, dance and act. Rare indeed. Okay, no one is going to accuse John Gilchrist of being a beautiful blonde but he together with Ruth are both triple threats. They are leading lights in our regular bridge games, they are frequently off doing their thing as bridge gurus on a cruise ship and they are key organisers in the Calgary 55 plus organisation.

Which threat to talk about first? Or better yet, maybe I should start at the beginning by writing about where Ruth was born. Bear River, a small town tucked away in the south west corner of Nova Scotia. She told me it’s known as the Switzerland of the province; this so piqued my curiosity that I googled it and what a delightful spot it is. Pretty as a picture, a popular tourist destination and because the river is a tidal inlet of the Bay of Fundy, one unique attraction is that you can witness the river rising and falling as much as 25 feet every day, awesome. John is Manitoban born and bred, so what could be more natural than as night follows day he would move to Alberta and end up wedding a maritimer?

They met at the Martinique in 1988; played as partners almost from the first evening and to this day are more often than not seen playing together, using their slightly weird system. They are both silver life masters and took the next step by passing the Teaching Accreditation course in 2008.The pair of them organised and were responsible for the Calgary regional in 2005. Since then, you might jump to the conclusion that with Ruth having undergone two knee replacement operations, they would have slowed down a tad; not on your life.

When they both retired, Ruth from Talisman Energy and John from his sheet metal business, they indulged in a five month trip exploring the length and breadth of the continent. Did that include Bear River, I asked? Of course, they chorused together! I’m not altogether sure that the word retired is included in their vocabulary. The next move was to get in touch with a cruise line agent and since then they have sailed much of the world, running the bridge games and teaching all levels; ten different cruises no less, with the eleventh one already on the horizon. Far and wide, San Diego and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean, Hawaii and Tahiti on the way to Sydney, and going in the other direction, Malaga, Spain amongst other cities in the Mediterranean.

Their third threat. Possibly their biggest love. The Calgary 55 + group is a club being a part of Alberta 55 +; the club sponsors interests ranging from Alpine skiing and Badminton all the way to Darts and Scrabble with Duplicate Bridge and numerous other activities in between. Ruth and John joined the group in 2003 and John was elected to the board of directors in 2008. Not surprisingly, bridge is their biggest interest, very successfully I might add; together they have twice been the Calgary champions entitling them to participate in the Provincial tournament and proudest moment of all, they qualified to go to Dieppe, New Brunswick in 2008 to play in the Canada Wide Games.

Last year the pair of them ran the Duplicate Bridge event being part of the Alberta Winter Games held at Canada Olympic Park, doing such a good job that John is now the Duplicate Bridge Coordinator for Zone 3 in the club, the zone that encompasses Calgary. Having said all that and probably because of them singing the praises of the 55+ club, Marilyn and Murray have joined together with Marilyn and Garth Wiggins as well as Paula and Jack Sisko.. How do I know all this? Because that’s the way they finished up, 1, 2, 3 in this year’s bridge tournament. I don’t know everything though, there are almost certainly others in the room today that have joined the club. Ruth and John are very good at spreading the gospel.

Finally, I wouldn’t call it a threat, enjoyable might be a better word. With Ruth doing all the heavy lifting, John celebrates his birthday every September in their home; many relations, a whole host of friends and lots and lots to eat and drink. Try and wangle an invitation, the party rivals a Penticton barbecue as THE place for bridge people to gather.

March 4, 2014, 2014 - Big Day for the Hindes

We got to adopt a cat. A beautiful 7 year old girl called Ginger. No, she’s not the least bit ginger, instead the prettiest tortoiseshell you ever did see. We recently went through the heartbreaking experience of putting down our 11 year old Sally and still miss her.

However our own will and testaments state that when that day comes, neither of us want to be “kept’ alive, but allowed to go in peace and we both felt that we owed Sally that much.

Last Tuesday we went along to the Humane Society and got off to a bad start. Paying no attention to the time, we got here at 11.10 only to find the facility does not open until noon. No matter, we have learnt to be patient. Because we are both in our eighties we felt it appropriate to look for a cat of a certain age and we were fortunate enough to be interviewed by Mischief.

A very attractive 10 year old missy just loaded with charm. We do believe we passed the interview but when Mischief admitted to having severe arthritis in her back legs coupled with the fact that we live in a four level split with lots of stairs, we all three, reluctantly decided it would not be fair to her.

That was all last week. In the interim, we did our homework on their web site and returned today asking for an interview with Ginger. Now we all know that dogs have owners and cats have staff, so she could easily have told her secretary to set us up with an appointment; but no, she was gracious enough to see us there and then. We chatted, we exchanged references and heavens to Betsy she agreed to come on home with us; a big day for the Hindes!

As a last word, the three of us very much appreciate all of you wishing us well.

February 25, 2014 - South Ladies Club

It took a lot longer than I expected to brave Crowchild Trail on a Friday afternoon but considering all the snow we’re having this winter, maybe not too surprising.

The birth of the club way back in 1970 has to be unique. The north club had got off to a good start, sometimes as many as 18 tables. Then came the day when the 19th. foursome turned up and they had to sit out in the hall playing on a board held on their knees!

If there was ever an indication that it was time to create another bridge club; that moment had arrived. It was time to form the south ladies equivalent of all the good things that were happening up in the north. Their first home was at Lakeview United Church with Lois Solinger as the director, and with Lois in charge, it goes without saying, there was a child care facility on hand.

Within a short space of time, Helen Walker took over the reins and stayed with the club for many years. The YMCA on Heritage Drive was their next home, since closed down but fondly remembered by the likes of Delores Hedley, Maureen Bailey and Bev Miles, all of whom were getting their feet wet at that time. Times change and they had to move to Southwood United for a while but eventually wound up at the Haysboro Community Centre in 1979.

All this is a long time ago and memories are starting to fade but around this time Maureen took over the reins and stayed in the job for nigh on 40 years, retiring only this past summer. Replacing Maureen, the club was both pleased and lucky enough to persuade Crystal Mann to take over the job and a fine job she is doing. Their game is every Friday afternoon 52 weeks a year and I mean every Friday except maybe Christmas and New Year. They are so anxious to accommodate their members that they will keep their game going even when there is a regional or a sectional in town.

The club specifically serves as a haven for both the newer players and those who are not really into competitive bridge. Yes they attract some good players as well and putting it all together will typically get in excess of a dozen tables. One more thing, unlike their counterpart in the north, they are resolutely determined to keep the club limited to ladies only. So it should be, who needs men around the place, getting in the way? Every lady takes a turn in running the kitchen, cleaning up and I can’t find a single person who will disagree with it being the friendliest game in town. So much so, that some of the Haggins flock from down the road in Southwood have ventured over and more importantly, are coming back. All this for the price of $5 would you believe.

There is more than one charity in the city that benefits from the club, the Inn from the Cold and the Food Bank being two of the more fortunate. Typically, in October they will hold a home made soup and sandwich day and everyone is asked to donate; $6000 was the unbelievable amount they raised last year under the supervision of Nancy Klym. One other delightful little twist is that they will have a special party when one of their members passes their 90th birthday. Not surprisingly, they go the extra mile in honour of Winn Dolsen.

The current manager is Cora Steemers, ably assisted by Dorothy Brayford, Diana Burn and Hilary Bean, all four of them doing sterling work whilst still anxious to hide their light under a bushel.

February 11, 2014 - Join the Club

It’s not easy. No, I don’t mean you have to be rich or famous. The not easy bit is that the club has so many different components that it’s hard to know where you fit in. However there’s room for everyone and you do get to meet a lot of interesting people and make new friends.

The first room to the left is the home of the short club contingent and far from quickly making new friends, I must confess to my being annoying when they announce that their one club opening bid could be short. I will typically ask why and quite often will get the reply it’s “our system” It’s time to move on.

The room on the right is where the “better minor” folk hang out. Their response to my niggly why is that it could be short because we bid our ‘better minor’; whatever that means. Is A K 10 clubs better than 9 8 6 5 3 diamonds? Who knows, you would have to belong to that particular section of the club to know the answer.

The rest of the rooms in the clubhouse are reserved for the disciples of the many exotic one club opening bids. The good news is that I will now, more often than not, start getting some specific answers to my “why” question. Which came first? Precision or Blue Club? Alex Knox would know. No matter, they both use the one club bid to describe hands with most typically, 16 HCPs or more and when they get a positive response, are committed to game.

Lots of our brethren use this first step approach; Pat and Barry Purvis, Marilyn and Murray Haggins, the afore mentioned Alex partnering Dan Bertrand, not forgetting to include the Gartaganis duo, as if we could ever forget Judy and Nick. What they all do after the initial bid, boggles my mind but remembering to count my blessings, I did get an answer to my question.

Yet another ‘could be short family’, is the Montreal Relay addicts, probably played at it’s best, in Calgary anyway, by Jean Ward and Jim Berglund. Their raison d’etre being that a one diamond bid must have a minimum of 5 diamonds. Nothing wrong with that you might say, true, but then again, the auction goes off on a whole bunch of different directions thereafter.

Changing the subject somewhat. Yes I know I have gone on and on in a previous blurb, about the good old days, when Gordie Sharp had us all playing Calgary Casual but I’m probably not alone in finding it somewhat irksome, that these days it seems to be quite a common practice to have a convention card buried somewhere out of sight, or even not to have one at all. Seems there used to be an ACBL ruling on that!

Not everyone is at fault, not by a long shot. Michael Farebrother playing with Ellen Kuiper will clearly have their variation on a theme, clearly laid out on a sheet of paper; Barry Purvis will so painstakingly pre-explain their twists and turns, that I can’t help but ask, does it make any difference if there is an R in the month? John Gilchrist will make very sure that you are aware that their 1NT opening bid varies with vulnerability and the weak no trump brigade will clearly announce their range, as opposed to my own nonsense when I announce something silly like, the usual stuff!

So there, take your pick and if you don’t find any of the choices appealing there’s always the 2/1 club across the street.

January 29, 2014 - We Are All Immigrants

Some more recent than others but we all have a tale to tell. My yarn started some three years before we decided to make our home in Canada .At that time I was working in Libya for the same seismic company as Anahid Reid’s husband. Many of us spent our time off days in Egypt and it was there that he was lucky enough to meet, woo and end up marrying Anahid. Lucky, not only because she was the sweet natured lady we all know today but because she was a very beautiful, very talented dancer, well known all over the middle east. So well known indeed that if the then king of Egypt was hosting a very special occasion, Anahid was sure to be a star attraction.

Fast forward three years, we have our first child and decide that our constantly moving from country to country was not the way to bring Sandra up. Born in England, the first eighteen months of her life were spent in Ethiopia, Italy and Spain. In retrospect I suspect that our application to Canada House in London was quickly accepted because of Sandra and because we had sponsors living in Innisfail, these sponsors being the parents of yet another colleague.

We headed for Calgary because this same company had an office there but if I joined them, it would mean going back three years, leaving my wife and daughter to fend for themselves whilst I was fooling around in northern Alberta. Looking for a new job, I hired on with an engineering company as a surveyor; It’s me telling the story but I was good; good but not in the legal survey business, truth to tell I was useless. I was young and could have swiftly learned but the problem was compounded by the fact that I was English and my boss was German. It was 1968 and in those days, such things still mattered . He fired me.

As luck would have it, Yvette Tapuska’s husband, Bill, was a senior partner of the company and he kept me on, not because he knew me but because they needed a surveyor in a different department. Talking of Yvette, she is not alone in one respect; when I met many of you bridge ladies some 30 years ago, you all looked oh, let’s say 32 and today you all still look, oh thirty something! I suspect that I might hear more on this subject. One undisputed fact is that playing with her favourite partner, Olga Furlan, it’s rare for them to finish with less than a 50% game, despite, or maybe because they use an uncluttered convention card.

Three years later I moved on to one of the biggest construction companies in the city and became a colleague of Hazel Skelton’s brother in law. Stayed with them for 12 years and enjoyed every one of them; inevitably there came a downturn in the economy and I moved on to yet another construction company of which Ann Slattery’s husband is a senior executive. There has to be a mysterious force at work here somewhere. Going back to Hazel, she is fortunate enough to live exactly half way between the Woodcliff United Church and the Lakeview United Church and so it’s easy for her to indulge her passion for bridge together with her favourite partners; Flo Golddale and Carole Anne Snow being but two of them. The address also served her well when she was working at the Martinique a few years back. Moving on to Ann, I tried very hard to get her to come up with an ounce of gossip about herself, so far with no success, she pleads the fifth amendment.

Lastly, two more brief examples of there being a force at work here. My last full time job was with a company that was fortunate enough to have Gamil Tadros designing bridges for their clients. We never did meet during that time, the force was losing it’s power. Not altogether though, it came back to life enough, to enable me to moonlight for the best part of seven years, working with Alex Knox both in the CrowsNest Pass and in Kananaskis country. Alex did his best in that time to convert me into playing Blue Club but with no great success.

When I originally hawked my idea of a bridge blog to David Swadron, I described myself as being curious to the point of being nosey! Nobody would now disagree with me on that but enough already. Now that you know all about me, I hope you won’t be shy about my asking about you; then I can spin your tale.

January 15, 2014 - A Mere Coincidence

By and large we bridge players are a fairly down to earth bunch. We believe in solid things like the rule of eleven, restricted choice and safety plays. From time to time we get momentarily disconcerted when we get a 5-0 trump break; something that is supposed to happen every month or so but happened twice this afternoon!

No matter, we put it down to coincidence. By definition, coincidences are rare, uncommon, occasional, even unusual but there’s another one out there; we might even describe as being supernatural. It’s the “mere coincidence”. Once in a lifetime, once in a blue moon. If the word, never, does not exist in the bridge world, then the same can be said in the land of the mere coincidence.

Having said all that, Ineke Boudewijn experienced the phenomenon right here in the city just this past weekend. Needing 1.76 silver masterpoints to become a life master, that is precisely the number she earned on Friday playing with Emilie Quenell. It could have not happened to a nicer lady and we are all so happy for her.

As for the coincidence bit, I’m not so sure. I can’t help but revert to the supernatural and wonder whether my magic wand together with visiting Ineke on my three hour trip around the world may have had something to do with it.

January 11, 2014 - Ahead of the Curve

I suspect that not many of us realise that Joy and Brian set a new club record in December. The occasion was when so many of you ladies gallivanted off to Phoenix for a week or so, having the effect that their Thursday afternoon had more men than women!.

See how important you have all become. Having a wife, two daughters and a female cat, it will come as no surprise that I am something of a feminist myself. Because of this, I recently enjoyed a “Hardtalk” programme on channel 28; Gloria Steinem was being interviewed and for all of you like me, that don’t know; this lady has been a leading activist in the cause of women for the last fifty or so years. She reminded us that the suffragette movement which got started in the early nineteen hundreds, has yet to achieve it’s goal of equality.

All very true but I do believe that the bridge world in Calgary is far ahead of the curve. The three ladies clubs speak for themselves but the same goes for the others. They all have a lady senior partner (a strictly personal opinion I hasten to add); an alphabetical list would read Marilyn Haggins, Debbie Hanson, Delores Hedley, Patti Howell, Pat Purvis, Joy Saville and Engelina Wehnes; only Martin McDonald steers his ship alone but he quickly realised that he had to bring Clair Strachan on board to keep on course.

It comes to mind, looking at my diary that the overwhelming number of my partners are ladies, all of them nice enough to play with me from time to time. I’m not alone. Not only is it rare for Maged Wafa to be not playing with a lady, but there’s more, I like to tease him about how come he has a lock on all the pretty young girls! There, now I’m starting to see what Ms. Steinem was trying to get across; what kind of patriarchal remark was that?

Let’s look at more serious things, starting with who’s teaching our newcomers? A couple of men spring to mind, Perry Chan and Ken Scott (together with Karen Mitchell) for instance, but the territory overwhelmingly belongs to the ladies. At one time I truly believed that every bridge player in the city had been taught by Paula Sisko; well maybe not quite everyone, even I knew that Judy Gartaganis was in a class by herself. Paula finally quit but was gracious enough to make all her material available to anyone prepared to keep up the good work.

Dorothy Brayford has been teaching at the Trico Centre, probably since the place was built and along with Rae Haaland, also does her thing at the Confederation Park 55 + Centre. Rae looks after the likes of me at the Kerby Centre and when I get a little more experience, I plan on taking 2/1 lessons from Gail Bews. Linda Walker continues to teach in her home. Back to Gail, is she still being partnered by Helen Dillen?

Yet two other ladies way ahead of the curve would be Elaine Stewart and Tanja Hurlbert. A few years ago when Elaine was with the Martinique she became a past master, sorry, mistress, at organising and running a team game; so much so that the Monday game was always the most well attended. These days she, together with Tanja and Delores Hedley look after the Wednesday evening game at the Kirby Centre and they, all three, are doggedly determined to build it up until it includes a Flt B and even a Flt C section.

I’m still fretting about Helen!

So there. Maybe I should find out if Gloria Steinem plays bridge and if so, invite her up to Calgary to see how our ladies get things done. One last word. A cute little story she told, was that Mahatma Gandhi, famous for his skill at changing the world for the better, was taught all he knew by the female activists in India.

Maybe not so there! As a self confessed feminist and the self proclaimed best gossip monger in the city, how come I’m the last to know that Helen is looking for bridesmaids, come on now you guys; help me out!

January 1, 2014 - Transport

The last time I tailgated Claire Strachan from Southland Drive on 14th ST. SW all the way to Wood Cliff United, I got to thinking about how we all get to our favourite pastime. Silly question. We drive. Like, is there another way? I suspect that having just passed my 81st milestone, there might be. It’s even likely that others amongst us might be giving the subject a passing thought. Yes, I passed an eye test last year as a requirement for renewing my driver’s license but as it’s only valid for two years, the next test is already on the horizon.

There are those among us who do it the simple way. Until quite recently, Penny Young used to stroll over to both the Canoe Club game and the Martinique. Susan Julius commonly walks to Bridgehaven and I believe that if they gave their mind to it, both Walter Brock and Syd Holberton could easily amble over to Woodcliff. Another approach is that taken by both Kelly Flock and Grant Karatnyk, they will frequently cycle over to indulge their addiction.

One of the things that make bridge people special is that many of us are only too willing to give a ride to our fellow players. Husbands and wives, yes, easy to understand but there’s more. I have personally been driven by Anne Primeau, Jean Ward, Rae Cram and Lynne Dutton in the last few months. Marlene Fuller is famous for her car full of friends; not only friends I might add, she often volunteers to transport out of town folks from their hotel to the tournament site.

Not a week goes by without Carl Lawless delivering his flock to the game; he is adamant that with Ian Gibson, Grant Wharry and Anne Primeau, all living within a mile or so of each other, it would be crazy for them to drive separately. Bob Phibbs frequently brings his harem to join us and Warren Allen almost always has his day’s partner in the car.

Some of us try to get original. Earlier this year when my car was being serviced, I persuaded Gamil Tadros to pick me up at Brentwood station and whisk me off to the North Ladies game. Similarly, Mae Jardine will use Calgary Transit to get to Glenmore Landing where she meets Marian Pennell en route; I’m not sure whether Starbucks gets into the equation or not.

Yet another form of transport, is making use of Access Calgary. It’s the way that Merle Hickey often and Hazel Skelton from time to time, will get to the game. Earlier this summer, when I was expecting to be unable to drive for some weeks, I phoned their office enquiring could I make use of them for a limited time. They quickly but politely straightened me out. Whether I could or could not drive was neither here nor there; the only thing that matters is can you, or can you not access Calgary Transit. Hazel tells me that the system is very efficient, call ahead three days in advance and good things happen. Even when the Handi bus fleet is flat out busy, a taxi will turn up at your door, all for the same price as riding the bus or the C Train.

All the regular taxi companies give a 10% discount to senior citizens and Driving Miss Daisy, getting mixed reviews, is yet another way we people of a certain age can get around. Mixed reviews, probably because it’s actually a collection of franchises as opposed to being under one management. Yet another solution I am aware of; at least one of our members has an arrangement with a professional taxi driver whereby she phones his private number as opposed to the company he works for.

Having arrived on this train of thought, I got to wondering what effect the proposed central bridge club would have on us doing our thing. It could be that one location would go a long way to making it easier. If nothing else, by making us focus on how we’re going to get there. On the other hand, clearly depending on where the centre is located, it could put the game beyond reach. Should make for an interesting debate.

Lastly, let me hasten to add that my opening sentence is in no way a subtle hint to Clare Strachan. If the need were ever to arrive, bluntness not subtlety would be my line of approach.

Click HERE to view John's columns from 2013