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The Hinde Quarters - 2015

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


December 31, 2015 - Still With It

So. Another year passed on by; when you get as old as me that’s something to be thankful for! Maybe not one of our better years but lots to be thankful for. Looking out of the window we can start by appreciating the weather, blue sky, scarcely a chill in the air and you can rest assured you’re not going to hear me complain.

The Christmas season started for many of us with Joy and Brian’s bridge party. Personally I enjoyed the food and the camaraderie more than the bridge; it was one of those nation wide STaC events and I suppose by definition that means the pre-dealt hands have to be the kind that leaves someone like me out in the cold. If it’s a clear cut slam to be bid and made, the five nothing trump break put an end to that idea. On the other side of the coin, when passing your partners single raise was a no brainer, everyone else bid and made four.

Fortunately there were lots of people who actually know how to play the game at the party too. Marlene Lenstra and Steve Lawrence had no problem racking up close to a 70% game which was good enough to place them second in District 18, their only problem was keeping their nose ahead of Emelie Quennell and Avril Karr who incidentally, cleaned house in section B. Equally to be admired were Diane and Roger Gordon theoretically C players but this time were hot on the heels of the super stars with a 62+% game.

What did I get for Christmas? Glad you asked. A trip put on by our Bonavista Village people, a tour of the Christmas lights in south Calgary culminating in the display at Spruce Meadows; spectacular doesn’t even come close to describing it. If you haven’t been already, forget about what you were thinking of doing this evening, get out there and be prepared to be overawed!

But more than that, I think my best present was being told by my 15 year old granddaughter that she got a 104% mark in her last math test before the holiday. Okay, okay don’t all jump in at once! Apparently if you get more than 98% they toss in a few bonus points as well. You didn’t know that? Neither did I but then like I said at the beginning, I’m not the complaining kind.

How did we celebrate New Year? Us lot in the Village have it all figured out, a special supper followed by entertainment and then come 9 pm. Somewhere in the world it’s already New Year which was more than a good enough excuse for us old fogeys to call it a night. See you next year.

December 17, 2015 - He Knew it All Along

Not only that, but typical me, I wouldn’t be told! Ken Scott was the guru who warned me I would be out of stuff to waffle on about in no time flat but here we are trying to squeeze just one more in.

Today I had the pleasure of playing with a lady who lives in the same complex as Kathleen and I. When I say complex, that’s a roundabout way of saying a retirement home. Many of you will remember her, Adele Johanson, she used to play at both the Martinique and the South Ladies Y not so many years ago. A life master no less and one bought up the proper way I might add, if you have 13+ HCPs you open. Less than that, you pass, those were the days!

We had a respectable game too, it would have been even better if I had only been smart enough to take notice and keep my mouth shut! Enough of the game, much more important was the welcome she received from many of us but nothing could beat the big hug from Joy.

I think she enjoyed the gossip too. Jo Ann Horne was kind enough to give us both a ride to the game and when we got to talking about the goings on around town these days, Jo Ann, who does more than her share of volunteering at the Food Bank told us that the Bank is busier than ever. Why? I asked? You name it she replied; the economy, the price of oil, the onset of winter.

Easy to believe . Only this afternoon at a local suburban strip mall was a man, not old, sitting by his sign telling us he was homeless and hungry. One would not be surprised to run into this unfortunate on St. Stephens Mall but these days there’s likely not enough room for him to be there.

We touched on the subject of the the arriving refugees, mixed opinions but I anyway remembered that the the Hinde family were immigrants too. We didn’t even have the excuse of fleeing persecution, no excuse at all in actual fact, just seeking a better life or, telling the truth for a change, wanting to make more money! Staying on the same subject, I find it quite a coincidence reading a list of donors to the Calgary Herald Christmas Fund that I find the names of Priscilla Popilchek who persuaded her parents some 47 years ago to sponsor our coming to Canada; followed up by our new next door neighbors, Dorothy and Grayden Morrison. Sandwiched in between, would be Margaret and Lance Cooke. All of these people generously donated to the fund but prefer to hide their light under a bushel when it comes to not divulging how much.

Talked to Carole Anne Snow a moment or so ago, she’s way ahead of me in the modern world, she now has a cell phone! (403) 554-4093, she’s still in hospital and would welcome both calls and a visit.

November 26, 2015 - Coming and Going

Fortunately for the majority of us they not only come and go but pretty well balance each other out. No it’s not the politicians I’m mumbling about, it’s the golfers and the snow birds. A week or so ago we were at a peak moment, it was a touch too early to head south and the golf courses were shutting down, hence bigger and better bridge games.

As far as I know none of our golfing community shot a par but one statistic sticks in my mind, if I heard him right, Sam Hukulak told me that he’d played 81 rounds this summer, could that possibly be true? Let’s say five months of summer, 150 days, every other day, I guess it could be!

I think I must have a twisted mind. Many years ago when I was involved with the Martinique, I was trying to give away presents at the Christmas party and dreamed up one reason as who had the most vowels in their Christian name, Jacky Ross won hands down, her full name being Jacqueline, like she said, her folks squeezed every last breath into the name. Why do I recall this? Lucielle Smith recently left us heading for the sun, I thought she was a likely successor but no she loses 5-4.

Talking of vowels, I just love Linda Vowel’s Email address aeiou@shaw.ca! Equally cute is that of Janet Galbraith, rebelangel@shaw.ca, Chris must have picked that one out for her.

Heavens to Betsy, there was I thinking that Janet Sharpe and Diane Campbell had gone off snowbirding for the winter so I was more than relieved to find out that they had merely popped off to Denver for the week. Took Crystal and Doug with them too, making things different around town this week! Glad to see Tina Gokturk still around, usually she’s gone back home by this time; if we’re lucky, she’s maybe changed her mind this year.

Lastly, we should all join together in congratulating Abdul Fakih on becoming a Diamond Life Master, 5000 master points is nothing to be sneezed at but equally and probably more important is that we have such a delightful person to beat up on all of us!

November 13, 2015 - New Kids on the Block

After seventy pushing eighty years it’s a delight to be the new kids on the block again. That’s the way Kathleen and I feel having just moved into Bonavista Village. Yes we got moved in with the help of our two daughters and their husbands; we don’t know where anything is yet but we’re working on it!

Not the only change in my life; with great disappointment I gave up being around the Haggins bid and play game last week. As a general rule, I gave up driving at night a year or so back but living a hop, skip and a jump away from their game I’ve made the exception until now. Battling McCloud Trail and Anderson Road at night time would hardly be fair to the rest of the drivers on the road!

So, enough of me. On to the important stuff. Diana Burn tells me that two Fridays ago the South Ladies Club held their annual Soup Day in support of the Inn from the Cold and unbelievably raised over $6000 on the day, that wasn’t even the end of it; those that were unable to make the game still came through with their donation after the fact.

Who was responsible for all this generosity? Silly question, each and every lady of course but the two primary movers and shakers were as always Nancy Klym and Karen Levy, they’ve been doing it for years but somehow or other succeed in getting better at it as time goes on. Our hats off to you all!

What else has been going on? The sectional of course, well organized and attended as usual, nothing surprising about that. The second edition of the newly reborn Kibitzer was welcome, can’t help thinking that this might be a good time to give up on a mere blog when confronted with such a class magazine. Not just yet though, me and my regular two, occasionally three readers, enjoy it too much!

October 17, 2015 - All Of Us Have One

All of us have one, two, possibly more, people who have helped, encouraged, maybe even inspired us to get involved with the game, our game, the only game! Carol Lee Bellam springs to mind, the number of us people that she taught boggles my mind.

Unfortunately Carol Lee is no longer with us but the process continues. As we speak Marilyn Haggins and Helen Dillen are doing their thing and will be shortly be joined by Nancy Klym and Bev Mason teaching us all to be better bridge players. Who was my guru? Brenda Bertrand was the first. Way back when, the Martinique, then situated on 19th St NW, was jointly owned by Pat Todd and Dave Whitmore, and they were fortunate enough to have Brenda looking after the novices game on a Monday night.

It was January 1982 and we had just finished constructing a section of the Deerfoot Trail. All the summer of 81 the engineers on the job played bridge every lunchtime, me, being with the contractor was far too busy to join them but come the fall, things eased up and I joined in. Come January, four of us made the big decision, to try our hand at duplicate. Brenda eased us into the game as only she could do and taught us the finer points such as Stayman and transfers!

Got us into the game so well that we got really brave and ventured into the regular Thursday evening goings on at the Sacred Heart church under the auspices of Monsignor Le Fort. My partner had the habit of going home after work and sinking into a coma for a while and thereby hangs a tale. One such evening he didn’t make it to the game by 7.30 and it was time for me to go home. Steve Bates was the director and like all good directors hated having a half table; no, no, no, he said, you stay and you can play with me.

Great for a while but! Pretty soon some kibitzers arrived on the scene and naturally sat down to watch the best player in the room, Steve. Now this is when I almost got driven out of the game, they would chat and laugh and somehow I got it into my mind that when I made a bid, they would laugh and every time I played a card they would chuckle! Believe me, I was ready to quit there and then; Steve won’t begin to remember this occasion, it was a gazillion years ago but it took a lot of reassuring talk on his part to keep me in the game.

My other guru would without doubt be Gord Sharp, his introduction to bridge series of lessons were a god send to me and not only me; as I recall, he singlehandedly persuaded everyone in the city to play 2/1. So there, pushing 40 years of pleasure, playing the game, and not even thinking about the countless number of friends I’ve got to meet along the way.

October 2, 2015 - How Long to Stay

No, no, no, you’ve got it all wrong again, today’s chit chat is nothing to do with when you plan to return to your piece of heaven down south. No. it’s much more serious than that. It’s about when you choose to leave the house you’ve happily lived in for the last, twenty, thirty, forty years!

There can be lots of reasons, different ones for different folks but often it’s to do with getting old. Not always, by a long chalk, Joy and Brian recently moved, why I asked? Well, Brian replied, when you spend most of your days in south Calgary and your home is getting on for three quarters of the way to Cochrane, it’s time to move on, a decision we should have made a while back.

Barry Smolkin has quite a different reason. He and his wife are looking for a new place because right now they live in a condo, hence no yard but they have three dogs! They have to move, it’s all very well running the dogs to the park every day but. More typically we have people like Dawn and Hal Jones, making the decision to downsize and believe me it’s not something to look forward to; getting rid of all the junk one acquires over those same twenty, thirty, forty years, it’s no easy task. A word that will always stick in my mind is Dawn telling me that you have to be “ruthless”.

Of a similar frame of mind would be Karen Mitchell and her husband, just a couple of kids by Kathleen’s and my standards, but they too came to the same conclusion, time to move on, Karen echoed the same thought as Dawn about acquired junk; was it five trips to the dump or more, I forget.

Be that as it may, in only a few weeks, Karen and I are going to be neighbors both living on Lake Fraser Drive on the western edge of Lake Bonavista. The Hindes have made the big decision to move into a retirement home, don’t look so surprised for goodness sake, we’re both in our early to mid eighties!

Our two daughters insisted that we should not act in haste making up our minds, we should check out all that’s available. Needless to say we ignored their advice and within a week Kathleen had fallen in love with a particular two bedroom unit in the Canyon Meadows retirement home. Game over, decision made! Except! A day or so later it transpired that this dream spot had been taken up already.

Disaster city. No matter that there are twenty, thirty or more such homes in the city and Canyon Meadows itself has 110 units , if this one was no longer available then that was it, forget it, we stay put! It took a week or so and much persuasion but eventually we got to stick our toes in the water again.

Checking out the Internet, Evergreen, Garrison Woods, McKensie Town, the Renoir, a few e mails back and forth and we pick on the McKensie one. Didn’t like it, hard to say why, bad vibes, too far from Kathleen’s Wednesday afternoon bridge group, the Deerfoot Trail, whatever, it got the thumbs down.

On the way home we recalled that some years ago more than one of our friends had retired to some place or other in Lake Bonavista, What the hell, It’s on the way, lets give it the once over; if only we knew the address! Eventually, eventually we found it and this time quite a different kettle of fish, a charming lady showing us around, closer to the area we consider home but then the clincher. They have a number of what are officially known as villas but affectionately referred to as the cottages and at the risk of repeating myself, game over!

If all goes well we plan on moving in the early days of November so meanwhile we are busy taking junk to the dump! Two very important things about Lake Bonavista Village, firstly they are happy to accept pets, there are a couple of dogs living there but Ginny is happy about there being a majority of cats. Secondly, the Village has a sense of humor; their current newsletter tells me we’ve reached the age when…….You’ve bought a loaf of bread, a box of cereal and a bag of marshmallows and the bagger asks if you need help putting it in the car! Not only that, in the very next store you ask to speak to the manager and you find yourself complaining to someone no older than your last grandchild.

Wish us luck!

September 17, 2015 - The Throne Speech

That’s got you wondering I bet! Who does he think he is, writing a throne speech? Especially as we haven’t even had the election yet, let alone know who got to win! You’re right of course. It would be too bold of me to predict the winner but this speech is what whoever does win, should be saying, no matter whether it’s the conservatives or the NDP. You forgot the Liberals not to mention the Greens.

Too right but let’s remember that if I have the right to compose this speech at all, it’s because I live in Alberta and even more importantly reside in Stephen Harper’s constituency; not too many Libs around in this neighborhood and the Greens seem to have turned color blind!

Okay, let’s get on with it! Number one, bearing in mind the skyrocketing costs of medicare, looking after those suffering from dementia and similar diseases associated with an aging population; we are henceforth going to make all bridge club entry fees tax deductible. This will have the immediate effect of increasing attendance at all bridge clubs but thinking way ahead, it will also reduce the cost of long term care; the numbers of “still with it” seniors will dramatically soar. We are also currently exploring the possibility of somehow doing something similar, related to Sudoku and crossword puzzles but that’s proving more difficult.

Number two. Effective immediately, we are going to add twelve more statuary holidays to the calendar year enabling us all to see more of the folks still working. And who might they be pray? Where have you been hiding of late? Were you not there on Labor Day? I guess not, so you missed Terri Bedard, Dan Bertrand, Caroleigh Houghton, Doug Mann, Pam Peard and Frank Solomon. There, now you remember why you missed out, you knew the competition was going to be too tough!

To digress for a moment. Did you read Barbara Seagram’s letter in this month’s Bridge Bulletin? She made the valid point that becoming a millionaire, owning and running a bridge club is easy; just start with two million! See, we’re about to solve yet another problem, the number of players will grow bigger, her club’s revenues will increase; it’s a win, win situation. Even further, Barbara will truly become a millionaire and thus will pay more in taxes, enabling your government to balance the budget!

Lastly, if you’ve already made up your mind who you are going to vote for, then be sure to make your candidate aware of this blog, he or she will automatically become a red hot favorite to win the seat, and might even be persuaded to take up the game!

September 4, 2015 - Told You So

The Calgary Community Bridge League is not noted for it’s wide open, no secrets, tell all attitude but things are about to change. At their upcoming annual general meeting on September 15th all will be revealed; they kind of forgot to mention that this will be the inaugural AGM but hey, none of us are perfect!

Many of us lot in Unit 390 are signed up members of the CCBL but you don’t have to be, their AGM is open to anyone interested in their progress to date. Take advantage of the pot luck supper followed by a team game and plan on being there.

Until very recently their web site has been of the moribund variety but now we know the composition of their board; pretty impressive I might add. Ken Penton as the leader and if you don’t already know my thoughts about Lamya, then you haven’t been paying close attention! Cathy Bird, Elaine Stewart and a whole host of other sympathisers; Marlene Fuller who did all the necessary paper work to bring about the recent casino. Rae Cram, she and Lamya make a great team, Marlene Lenstra with all her experience as a past president of unit 390 and lastly, Jim Berglund using his contacts as a real estate agent.

Let me add that these folks are only the front runners, I wouldn’t pretend to know all the names of us lot who are 100% in favour of a Calgary Community Bridge League but Steve Lawrence, Martin McDonald, Hazel Skelton and Al Simon spring to mind. Are there people out there who disagree, sure, there must be, it’s the world we live in, who ever heard about everyone agreeing about everything?

Come to think of it I got to wondering about the ‘league’ word, a bunch of teams, a number of clubs? Wondering enough to look it up in the dictionary; a collection of people or groups that combine for a particular purpose; people for sure, no doubt about that, groups, maybe not.

Stop nit-picking John, let’s get back to the AGM. OK I will. I looked up the agenda on their newly updated web site and was pleased to see they are going to receive the audited financial statement for the year ended June 30. I sincerely hope they will extend it a little further and reveal the results of their recent casino; you will recall that this took place in June and they would not have got the results until sometime in July or maybe even August.

I expect any progress being made in finding a site for the proposed bridge centre will come up under the new business heading. They are constantly in touch with the mayor and aldermen with a view to gaining support from the city. Sometimes they feel they are getting a warm reception but I can’t help feeling that the current furore about CalgaryNext can’t be doing their cause any good. Maybe it is. It could be that they can sneak the space they need under the Flame’s dressing room; we can always solemnly promise to avoid holding a bridge game on the days there’s a scheduled home game!

ACBL Unit 390 Liason - Marlene Lenstra

August 28, 2015 - UNIQUE

A word unto itself. Likely no other word in the English language cannot be described by an adjective. You can’t be very, kind of, somewhat, a little bit, unique, you either are or you’re not.

So…… here we are, me for sure and the same goes for you lot, with a once in a lifetime opportunity to share in a one off experience. That’s a roundabout way of describing a unique event, to play bridge with a 99 year old lady this coming Monday afternoon. Don’t pass up the chance to play with Win Dolsen and share a slice of birthday cake in her honour.

August 20, 2015 - Celebration Time

Me for sure and I suspect for all of us, we’ve never had the chance to celebrate a friend’s 99th birthday before. Well the day is just about here, this coming Sunday in fact, the 23rd and our chance to help her celebrate the occasion is almost on us as well, a couple of Mondays time on the 31st.

Who are we talking about? Like, let’s get real. Win Dolsen of course. Joy and Brian at Bidwell are putting on a party for her and we need you all to come, don’t worry about there being too many people there and they’ll run out of cake, if the cake is big enough to hold 99 candles, they ain’t gonna run out! I would be kind of sure they didn’t run out either at today’s birthday party at the South Calgary Ladies game.

We talked a little about Win’s life last year but to continue the saga. I believe I first met her at the Calgary Jewish Center some 25 years ago, she was a good friend of Dovie Elman who ran the game and coincidentally, Dovie and I both became directors at the same time, being tutored by Richard Beaulieu.

Prior to those days, Win had done her share of travelling the world, China, Hongkong, Japan and Europe on more than several occasions. One trip that particularly sticks in her mind is going to Bermuda to attend Diana Burn’s daughter’s wedding. Along with Iris Eggan, Diana would be one of Win’s closest friends; to this day the pair of them will go out together every Sunday morning for breakfast. Where is it going to be this coming Sunday, Breakfast at Tiffanys, the Palliser, who knows? However you can be sure it won’t be Mcdonalds!

These days she no longer travels - she contents herself with her memories but don’t sell her short, she’s still a respected opponent at the bridge table, a mean crib player and continues to read, one of her favorite pastimes. Some things you do have to give up with the passing of time, driving for instance but even doing that was a mere seven or eight years go. Her days of knitting and sewing are past as well, speaking of knitting; it might just happen that Hilary Bean will be wearing one of the sweaters that Win knitted for her both this afternoon and on the 31st! On the subject of clothes, we all know that she is still a snappy dresser to this day and it will come as no surprise that just a month or so ago Diana took her shopping for her “summer wardrobe”

Above all, our heroine still values her friends and relatives above all else, her niece and her family will be visiting this weekend from Saskatchewan, Joan, the daughter of one of her oldest friends, makes frequent trips to Calgary and will never fail to drop by to see her. Then let us never forget her bridge friends, all of us.

Being a do-gooder by habit, when that day comes in five or ten years time, she has bequeathed her body to the university and if we’re lucky they will be able to figure out why Win is still fit, active and very much with it today and for some time to come. She takes no pills, she can both see and hear better than many of us and she gets around like a spring chicken! God bless you Win.

August 5, 2015 - Yet Again

Yet again would be kind of true but better than ever, would be a more accurate description of this year’s White Hat regional. It might be a touch of exaggeration to say that Calgary has a world wide reputation for it’s hospitality but only those who have never been here would disagree.

Starting with the daily supply of cookies, scones and pastries, Hazel Skelton had set her mind on organizing 400 or so every day only to find on day one that this was not enough. No problem, the call went out and thereafter there was closer to 600 being eagerly eaten up by the throng.

As for the world wide bit, we had visitors from Australia, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and more from the other provinces and the States than you could shake a stick at. In the same vein, it’s interesting that the overall masterpoint winners for the week were a father and daughter pair from Mexico, the lady, Patricia, starting the tournament with only a 1000 or so such points!

Back to hospitality, the barbecue had to be something else. It will come as no surprise when I tell you that it was put on by Chris Galbraith; however even he couldn’t manage such a spread all by himself, hamburgers, lamb, ribs and salmon with a whole multitude of to go withs. So, he brought with him two helpers from Jack Astors but when push came to shove, the far and away best helper was Crystal and Doug Mann’s 9 year old granddaughter, Victoria, all dressed up in her executive chef outfit, she stole everyone’s heart away!

Believe it or not, it wasn’t always about food, there was entertainment too in the shape of daily presentations by some of our idols, Gordon Campbell, Nancy Klym together with Bev Mason, Steve Lawrence, both the Gartaganis’, not to mention Victoria’s grandparents! One other thing that stuck out in every one’s mind was the names of all the do gooders displayed on the walls, volunteers and sponsors, both private and companies too, one such company being Solar Summit due to the good thoughts of Hash Mohamed. A notable private sponsor was Brian Johns, it was hard to miss his ”Welcome To The White Hat Regional” sign.

How did all these good things happen? Everyone I talked to started by praising Delores Hedley; she without doubt was the driving force but typical Delores, all she can talk about is the committee of 15 volunteers that she insists did all the work. We know better but it is very true that they do all deserve our thanks for a job well done! In strictly alphabetical order, Diane Campbell, John Gilchrist, Edna Gosbee, Brian Johns, Dave Johnson, Nancy Klym, Steve Lawrence, Carol McManus, Dorothy Mersereau, Chris and Jim Murphy, Janet Sharpe, Hazel Skelton, Barbara Webster and Olga Wright. Oh yes, Delores insists that Dave Swadron also deserves a special mention here for his work on our web site.

One way or another a grand total of 110 volunteers , 46 sponsors all added up to 1026 tables no less! And if you didn’t get your fair share of masterpoints then maybe you were lucky enough to win one of the baskets of goodies in the daily raffle. Goodies indeed, a couple of bottles of expensive wine, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cheese, plus a special mixture of chocolate treats, see what a high class tournament this was?

What next? Believe it or not, the 2018 regional is already on the agenda. Do you want to be part of a winning team?

July 24, 2015 - Thought I'd Seen It All

I thought I’d seen it all when I was having a new windshield installed and the lady asked me was the existing one the kind that automatically switched on the wipers when it started to rain! But no, only a few days later I’m in my doctor’s office and notice that he has a keyboard and a monitor but no computer! Where is it I ask? In Vancouver he replies! I gave up, apparently I haven‘t seen it all.

Coming back to the real world however, he’s almost as bad a typist as I am, strictly of the hunt and peck variety. Still in the believe anything frame of mind, I only was half listening when Kathleen and our younger daughter were discussing the phenomenon of sharks being sucked up from the ocean by a tornado and splashed down some place else. I had no idea they were talking about the movie, Sharknado.

With what’s been happening this week though, it was an appropriate moment to stay in my dreamworld. We only had pea sized hail at our house but Karen Mitchell had the golf ball variety and maybe because of that, did what you’re supposed to do, huddle together with the family in the basement. Unlike me, blithely fooling around on the computer as close to an upstairs window as I could get!

Going back to the shark nonsense, I brought the subject up at the bridge table playing with Carole Anne Snow against Ken Scott and Peter Segers. Carol reminisced back to her days in Western Australia and told us of the day when she was happily swimming in the ocean until she felt threatened by a shark; hastily heading back to the boat she was both surprised and pleased to be escorted by two dolphins, one on either side!

This always follows that and it transpired that I was the only one at the table who had never been to Australia, scarcely crossed the equator in fact. Ken had spent some years there but Peter trumped us all by revealing that he was born in the middle of the state and indeed lived there until he was ten years old! Being my usual tactful self, I hazarded an opinion that being born in the middle of Western Australia must be akin to being born in the middle of nowhere! Surprisingly, Peter is still talking to me.

July 11, 2015 - Hope We Deserve Them

Responding to our need, our absolute requirement that we have 16 bridge games a week means that we have to have more than one busy bee in our midst. One recent case in point was when Crystal Mann suffered an eye problem. Week in, week out, she directs four games, so heaven alone knows what a shindig we’d all get up to if suddenly we all had to stay home on any one of these, doesn’t bear thinking about!

We are fortunate enough to have at least six ladies making sure that we don’t have to burst into tears. Whilst Crystal was away, it was primarily Janet Galbraith doing the heavy lifting; beside her weekly game at the Nose Hill club on a Friday evening, she filled in on Tuesday at the Chinook, Wednesday afternoon at the Glencoe and again on Friday for the South Ladies. What happened on Tuesday evenings at the Glencoe, you may well ask, that was when Nancy Klym stepped up to the plate.

From time to time Marilyn Haggins (with a little assistance from Murray) will not be available for a Bridge Nutz game, heaven forbid but not to worry, either Joy Saville or Pat Purvis will be there picking up the slack. The same goes for a Tuesday afternoon at the North Ladies, Pat will always stand in if the Haggins are off cutting down a Christmas tree, touring Alaska, or whatever! The amount of time these ladies put in just to keep us lot happy is hard to believe; picking on Joy, this will mean directing five times in one week and going back to Janet, when necessary she will do her thing four times.

It goes without saying that all the coming and going is by no means a one way street; these ladies have only to pick up the phone to be taking each other’s place. And all to keep us lot happy! Of course it’s only fair to add that the overwhelming majority of us lot are ladies but people like me get to reap the benefit as well.

It would be hard to leave this subject without commenting on the fact that not only do these directors put in a lot of work but that they also do it in such an upbeat, cheerful way. There’s always a smile on their face when they get called to your table and when they just have to rule against you, they will even apologize as if somehow or other it was their fault!

Of course the week’s big news is the passing of Omar Sharif, a legend in our time. It’s appropriate that only a few days ago, Delores Hedley was commenting that one of the high moments in her life was sitting at a table with him having a one on one conversation. None of us would agree with an assessment of his own life reported on the BBC world news; he was quoted as saying he was a useless person who played cards all the time! Quite the opposite, an actor to be remembered and one of the finest bridge players in the world.

June 26, 2015 - What's In A Name?

At least two things, firstly it depends on where you are from and increasingly as the days go by, on how old you are. May as well start with myself, being a Brit and no longer a young whippersnapper, John being the name of a disciple fits both categories. I started by thinking that John is one of the commonest given names around but no; a quick flip through our phone list and there’s only six! Read that again, 0.6%, hard to believe, not only that, I have only met three of them, John Grubb, John D’Aguiar and John Gilchrist, it gets worse, none of them is a Brit and not even close to being as old as me!

It’s a very different story with the ladies, Jean, Joan, Joanne, Joy, Jan, Jane, Judy, oh my goodness the list goes on and what’s more, I know just about all of them! Such a common list of names that you’d expect to find the mirror image looking at the list of names on the wall of Woodcliffe Church, nary a one! These days children have to get labelled with something different, the more obscure the better.

Turning to where you are from, it’s what got me going on this topic in the first place. I got to wondering what was the connection between Obama and Osama as in Osama Elshafey; none it turns out, the president’s name originates in Kenya with no known meaning, just a name. On the other hand, our good friend tells me that his name means a lion in Arabic and surprisingly went on to add that in Japanese it means a musician. For a moment I was about to ask him what it means in Swahili but thought better of it, pushing one’s luck is not a wise thing to do.

Staying with the Arabic tongue, Gamil means handsome, would you believe, Helen certainly does. Moving on, all of us playing against Fi Nadir will find easy to believe that his full name, Faiz, means successful. More surprising is the name Abdul, according to Wikipedia it means “servant’, but I suspect there’s more to that story than meets the eye.

Moving on to a different culture, we find that Raj Agrawal is named because he is the lord of the kings pretty impressive stuff; just as apt is Nashua Dada’s given name, it simply means happy! As for the ladies, they still keep it simple but descriptive, Pushpa is a word to describe a flower, a blossom, pretty apt don’t you think? The same goes for Antara, simply means beautiful! There, I shouldn’t have used the word goes, she tells me her bridge days are going to slow down, she’s gone and got herself a job!

Turning to last names, one of the big moments in my life was being paged at Zurich airport. HERR HINNDA came across the speakers and for a moment I felt like a Prussian baron on my way to my castle in the Bavarian Alps!

June 12, 2015 - Ten Weeks Ago

It was then that my current period of bad judgement started. Patiently sitting at a solid green light on Elbow Drive waiting to turn left onto Glenmore Trail, I somehow got it into my head that the lone car heading south was in a turn lane ready to go west on Glenmore. So, I turn, turn right into her path and wham! 100% my fault! Fortunately, the lady had done a great job of braking otherwise one or other of us, maybe both; would have been deaded right there but because of her skill we were both unhurt.

My car, the best buy I ever made in my life, was a write off, being 18 years old, worth maybe a thousand if I had tried to sell it but good enough to see me through the rest of my days. Her car suffered only minimal damage.

That week my decisions at the bridge table also left a lot to be desired but then there’s nothing unusual about that.

By the end of the week I did it again, another mistake. Bought a 2011 Jetta and again for some reason best known to myself, bought a manual; maybe I was trying to hark back to my younger days, full of you know what. Dream on, John.

Anyway, within a month the gear box went haywire and AMA towed it off to my regular shop which I have been using for years. Now probably because it’s an import the spare parts required were not readily available so now the serious problem arose. How would I get to the bridge game?

Bless you all, Bev Miles stepped in more than once, Jean Ward carted me back and forth and Murray was nice enough to collect me at my home and transport me to Bridge Nutz. Hopefully the last time I need a ride in the forseeable was interesting; I met Carol Anne Snow at the place she takes her dog to be groomed;

I didn’t even know that such a place exists. If you so choose you can wash your dog yourself for a minimal fee, the cost includes the soap, the shower head even the apron. I watched a lady doing her thing and I have to confess that if our cat had had to put up with what the dog patiently endured the tub would have been a blood bath!

Good things did happen even in this ten week period, we were early for the game so ventured up the hill in Edworthy Park to check out the off leash park. Fascinating stuff, how one dog walker can control and look after up to 10 dogs boggles my mind.

So, let’s hope that my ten weeks of misery has come to an end and hey, maybe it could be that even my bridge game will take a turn for the better!

June 4, 2015 - Money to Burn

Do you belong to the Co-op? Do you have a Coop number? If the answer is yes. Don’t stop now. Read on.

Run of the mill, idle chatter, running Hazel Skelton back home. Where do you do your shopping? Oh, wherever people take me. How about you? Kathleen is a dyed in the wool Co-op shopper, has been for the last thirty or forty years! I used to shop there too but ever since I bought out my share holding it’s now mainly my son who buys his gas there and uses my number.

Say that again, you bought out your share holding? Yes, when you get to be 65 you can cash in your part ownership, in my case it amounted to more than a thousand dollars but that’s a long time ago now.

Let’s see if I’ve got this right. You’re telling me that we can cash out our share holding right now if we so choose? I guess that was exactly what she was telling me and what I’m telling you all right now is that we done did! Done did to more than $1100 would you believe?

Okay, listen up. If you are a senior citizen all you have to do is to go to the customer’s help desk, tell them you want to cash out, she will give you the form and in our case we took it back the following week and hey presto, the cheque was in the mail inside a month!

Curiously, you don’t even lose your right to your normal dividend every year by doing this. I’ve always thought that talking about a win-win situation was just a cute but meaningless expression, now I know better.

For reasons best known to themselves the Co-op doesn’t go out of it’s way to broadcast that turning 65 or simply moving out of town are both reasons to cash out, but bless them they don’t argue or try to dissuade you, they just pay up.

So there, you thought I just scribbled a bunch of nonsense every week or so, Now you know different! As a last word, some time after you get your cheque it would be a nice thought to treat Hazel to a bridge game the next time you see her!

May 29, 2015 - Remember to Breathe

There’s so much happening in the next couple of weeks that it will be very easy to forget to do so.

First of all we have our annual general meeting on the 13th. June, it’s the first time it’s ever been held on a Saturday afternoon and yet another first, it’s happening at the Kerby Centre. If you want to keep up to date as to what’s happening in our bridge world, be sure to be there; let’s face it, you can’t always depend on me to let you know what’s going on. An added benefit this year is that I promise to keep my mouth shut.

Secondly we will just have time to grab a fast supper and get to bed early making ready for the next day’s drive to Penticton. Always the most popular regional in western Canada, this year will be no different. One thing though, did you remember to buy your tickets for the barbecue, put on by the bridge folks? Chris Galbraith is the driving force so it goes without saying that this will be an event you will not want to miss.

As an aside, put aside one afternoon to go lawn bowling; don’t believe them at the tourist information center when they tell you the nearest green is in Osoyoos, the truth is that it’s three blocks away from where you’re standing.

What next you ask? Believe me you don’t have to wait very long. In fact you had better plan on not playing in the Swiss Teams on Sunday because you need to be on your way back home to be ready for the first day of the casino. The volunteers have to be there by 10.30 am on Monday and for many of them it’s going to be a new experience, so there’ll be some educating to do as well.

Al Simon is the General Manager for the event and will surround himself with more than a score of helpers ranging from the banker and cashiers together with a flock of chip runners and that’s only in the day time. Come 10pm there arrives a whole new crew of people ready to count the money, hopefully the winnings! There are actually two counts, one before midnight and one after the casino shuts it’s doors for the night. These people won’t be going to bed until the fours and fives in the morning so you’all be ready to thank them for their efforts, it isn’t the easiest job in the world but somebody has to do it.

The casino is a two day event so be prepared for the bridge games in the city to be less well attended than normal. Incidentally, you don’t have to patronize the casino as a customer, thinking you’re contributing to the cause, there’s no shortage of people in that regard.

A question? I’m listening. This remembering to breathe stuff can become quite the chore after a week, so put me at ease if you would. Who gets all the winnings you were talking about?

Good question. As best I know, there has never been a formal announcement but judging from some of the participants, Al, Marlene Fuller and Elaine Stewart for instance, I would jump to the conclusion that it will be the Calgary Community Bridge League. We’ll know better in mid- July when the final figures become available; maybe they’ll have an AGM, publish the number on their web site or better yet, it will make great topic for the next Kibitzer. Whichever way, stay tuned.

May 15, 2015 - Walking the Plank

Well maybe not literally as in the days of the pirates but many of us still do, walk I mean. It’s only a few years ago that I had a Calgary Transit annual pass and would ride a bus to someplace, walk for 3,4,5 kilometres and then catch a bus back home. Even the days of the pirates might be coming to an end; John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, recently visited Somalia and when he declined to leave the airport for fear of something going wrong, the president reassured him, times had changed, commenting that Mogadishu is even back to having traffic jams!

Sunday was Mothers Day and the occasion each year for maybe the biggest walkathon in the city, this was the 38th anniversary of the event and as an aside maybe the tenth time it has coincided with opening day of the Stanley Park Lawn Bowling Club, no matter, a little confusion around the parking lot but it all gets managed. Nigh on 15000 participants this year, walkers I mean, not lawn bowlers!.

We bridge folk can’t compete with those numbers but walking does play a significant part in the lives of many of us. Penny Young has been walking to the game from way back in the days of the Martinique and today is no different. It was just a week or so back that I was running Hazel Skelton to the game and she made me feel guilty by commenting that we had just passed by Penny on Spruce Drive. From then on I stayed more alert and sure enough, there she was again; this time I offered her a lift but all I got was a sweet smile along with a thank you but both accompanied with a polite refusal.

Maged Wafa has been known to turn down my offer of a lift on the same street but it’s only fair to add that he’s no competition to Penny when it comes to the sweet smile. Dick Yuen is yet another who catches a C Train as far as 45 St on 17th Avenue and then walks the rest of the way to Woodcliffe Church. Quite the hike and not surprisingly, I gather he’s not averse to accepting a ride back the other way when it’s time to go home.

Bev Miles usually walks for a couple of hours every day, mostly in South Glenmore Park, there’s always something to see, but not that often, as happened the other day, she sees a duck sitting way up in a tree, she gave the duck a questioning look with one eyebrow raised but the duck pretended to be too busy to notice.

Chatting with Joan Shedden living in Lakeview on the other side of the lake, she still misses the days when there was a game at the Canoe Club but will frequently hike her way to the Weaselhead to check up on whether the talk of digging a tunnel or building a bridge to finish the Calgary Ring road is coming to no good!

The odd time I get the chance to play at the Chinook game in Southwood, I’ll walk; no big deal seeing as I live only ten minutes away but times do change. Now it’s getting to be something of a chore whereas only a matter of a few years ago .a typical afternoon saunter would be two buses to Rockyview Hospital, walk the so called bike path 4 k to Stanley Park and then board the No. 3 on Elbow Drive to take me back home.

Lastly, we have the dog walkers such as Delores Hedley and Barb Beagle and it’s time to spill the beans on Carole Anne Snow; she will insist she walks her dog every day, truth to tell, all she really does is throw a tennis ball around. No matter her dog thinks she’s the queen of the May!

May 1, 2015 - South of Southland

Listening to all the moans and groans about our provincial government right now, I have to remind you that sometimes they do get it right. Such a time, was a few years back when the Deerfoot Trail was being designed and built; the obvious route was to cut a swathe straight through the heart of Fish Creek Park, but the environmental department said no, not on your life.

What happened as a result of this smart decision? Two things; first us lot in the south got one of the prettiest parks in the city and secondly Linda Walker got a fantastic view from her kitchen window! Now I remember, it’s that lady, Linda, who I wanted to talk about for a moment. She was a school teacher for nigh on 40 years before retiring only to continue with her teaching but this time it was bridge.

Over the last few years she has taught over 200 wannabees, most of them from a standing start, knowing little or nothing about the game. She does this in her home backing on to the park and it’s not unusual for a student to look up from her cards to see a deer wondering whether she’s going to finesse or not!

Typically her course will last for ten weeks, after which she will recommend the class to turn up the following Wednesday evening at the Haggins supervised bid and play game and she herself will always be there to ease them into their comfort zone. A fair percentage of them will continue for a few weeks before venturing into the other goings on at Bridge Nutz.

Marilyn and Murray are largely responsible for all the newcomers we are seeing at the bridge club these days, the likes of Susan McMahon, Diane Quinlan, Morris Streich and Denis Ooms. The two of them host two evenings a week deliberately catering to those of us not pretending to be super stars.

There’s much more going on down here in the deep south. Seems like every day there’s a bridge game, Monday, Pat’s invitational, Tuesday, the Chinook, Wednesday, the 199ers, Thursday, Bridge Nutz and oh my goodness, we don’t have to spread the net very wide before we can do our thing on Friday afternoon just a few blocks down the road at the South Ladies.

You’re thinking that surely that must be it? Not on your life, the Trico Centre has a duplicate game every Tuesday evening and it was only the other day that Stephanie Martinez was there, partnered with Joy Gloin to rack up a 60% game. Linda Walker’s brother, once a month runs a Saturday afternoon game in the Southport Centre on Macleod Trail. It’s non sanctioned but still good enough to attract Janet Sharpe from time to time and yet two more of the Bridge Nuts folk, Sandra and David Pethrick.

So there! Just because you’re all as disgusted as I am with all today’s politicians, it doesn’t mean they always get it wrong. My first reaction is not to vote at all but that can’t be right. Who to vote for though? There’s the rub.

April 17, 2015 - Tricks of the Trade

Seeing as there are thirteen tricks in every hand, it should be a no brainer to find that there are at least thirteen trades in our bridge world; especially if we can include those with lofty careers, together with the trades people.

Starting with the medical profession we have the recently retired Don Gladman as the family doctor to many of us; his son now has the practice but whether he inherited us lot as well, I’m not sure. Nurses, we have several, Carole Anne Snow, one of my regular partners, together with her colleague, Lee Poirier being but two. Pharmacists; Sam Huculak, Claire Strachan and I think that maybe it was Roy Shaw’s business too.

A geologist? Alex Knox springs to mind; I always have visions of him tramping the forests of Quebec in search of gold but he was equally at home roaming the deserts of Mongolia looking for something or other. Those of you who have been around a while may remember that “the pickle” used to pop in with his two cents worth of nonsense in the days of the kibitzer, well now it can be told, Auntie Pickle was Alex.

A related profession? Tom Webb was a geophysicist causing things to go bang on the surface to find out what was the shape of things way down under. Not surprisingly, living in Calgary as we do, we have more than our share of oil and gas veterans. The comings and goings of Fi Nadir never failed to amaze me; he would literally commute back and forth between Calgary and London several times a month. How come those British oil companies didn’t have anyone of their own as brilliant, as knowledgeable, whatever the word is; I have no idea.

Accountants? Seeing as one of the keys to being an acceptable bridge player is the ability to count, it’s not surprising that we have more than our share of this trade, profession, whatever. Some on our side and at least two on the side of the inland revenue making sure the government gets it’s share; namely Keith Falkenberg and Steve Lawrence. On our side of the fence, we were lucky enough to have Winn Dolsen of course, joined by the likes of Murray Haggins and Walter Brock.

Teachers? Oh my goodness, no wonder I have a hell of a time scraping the odd master point together. The room is full of them. Marian Pennell, Linda Walker, Janet Hughes, Charles Liegerot and then of course we have the head teachers, the principals. Our current unit secretary, Judy Madge was a principal and so was Vince Lacoste for many years at Bishop Grandin High School. Vince particularly sticks in my mind because both my daughters went there and just a year or so before it was their turn, the school had an unsavory reputation to put it mildly. In came Vince and in no time flat, he had things turned around.

Yet another profession common to our midst would be that of real estate. Still doing her thing, as she has for as long as I have known her would be Carol McManus. Jim Berglund is also very active, in fact did I hear a rumor the other day that the one day, hoped for, bridge centre might get tied in with the Bow Cliff Seniors?

Are you getting hungry reading this? There’s no need. We have people in the restaurant business too. Marlene Fullers’ family have a big stake in the popular Earl’s restaurants, in fact the chain was called Fullers not that many years ago. You are all aware of Chris Galbraith’s prowess in the kitchen. Not only does he titivate your appetite at the tournaments, he’s also the executive chef at Jack Astors in Southland Crossing. Juan Alvirez owns a very successful parlor on International Avenue and Caroline Colliver’s husband has only just retired from making the best chocolates in the city.

Did we get up to thirteen, not sure but I must mention that since Don Gellatly retired from his full time career he’s taken to being a croupier at a local casino, no one can ever accuse us lot of not being versatile!

We bridge people are a very close and caring bunch, Beth Massie remarked that I should not be the one mentioning that Avril Karr recently retired from WestJet. She was absolutely right, it’s none of my business!

Lastly, I’m still trying to recall who it was expressing surprise that a mere surveyor, me, no less, could actually write a blog! The nerve! I’ll have him know we may not be the sharpest knives in the drawer but we’re not totally Ilitteret.

April 3, 2015 - Fun And Games

It’s without doubt that what 90% of the world calls football is far and away the most popular game on the planet; the fact that North America insists on calling it soccer is neither here nor there. Second, again not to our liking, would be cricket. Cricket! I just heard from the back of the room, I thought we were talking about sport not insects.

We are, you’d better believe it; every country in the British Commonwealth is devoted to the game. Not Canada surely. Oh yes indeed, wander over to Riley Park on the weekend and you’ll see what I mean. In some countries, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka for instance, it’s the only game. As for me, an immigrant of course, I was surprised that hockey was in third place followed by basketball and believe it or not volley ball.

I knew you’d ask. Where does bridge fit in? The last time I checked, it was tucked in between hang gliding and kite flying! Okay, so I am exaggerating just a touch. I recall Gordie Sharpe hazarding a guess some years ago when Calgary had a population of less than a million, that the city had around 50,000 bridge players doing their thing every week. One in twenty? That’s not bad, I seriously doubt there’s 50,000 kites in the whole province.

One group taking their fun and games very seriously would be the +55 Alberta people; they just got through having a tournament in Lethbridge and our folks did very well. Steve Lawrence and Abdul Fakir took the gold medal in bridge, backed up by Marilyn and Murray Haggins pocketing the bronze.

Talking of Abdul, not only is he an accomplished bridge player but he’s heavy into cricket as well. The World Cup finished just a few days ago and because of it, he didn’t get much sleep this last two or three weeks. He subscribes to a TV channel exclusive to cricket and with every game starting at 10pm Calgary time and finishing in the early hours, you get my drift.

Things did not go overly well for Pakistan either. They struggled in the early games, but eventually edged their way into the quarter finals only to be beaten by Australia. No disgrace there though, the latter went on to win the cup, which by the bye they have won a record number of times in the past. It was about here that Abdul piped up, commenting on how badly England performed; quite right too, especially when one recalls that it was we Brits who invented the game in the first place.

Going back to bridge. Things are not as bad as I first thought; we have approaching a thousand members in unit 390 and you can rest assured that each one of us knows countless numbers of social bridge players. I hate that expression “kitchen bridge players” don’t you? Continuing, if you multiply 1000 x countless, you come up with somewhere between 47500 and 49000, so Gordie wasn’t so far wrong after all! Good enough in fact, that bridge in the city is now sandwiched somewhere between darts and backgammon, a distinct improvement.

Not only that, things are getting better. Every one of us is remarking these days about all the new faces turning up at the clubs; much of it because of the Haggins but that’s a whole new topic we’ll dwell on another day.

Lastly, I’m lost. Not sure whether I’m the nosiest parker on the planet or the best eavesdropper in the world. Either way you can join me in congratulating both Linda Legare and Avril Karr becoming our newest life masters, Avril just this past weekend!

March 20, 2015 - None Of My Business

Some things are my business, one being to congratulate Cindy Ferguson on becoming a life master. With all the fuss and bother about bronze, copper, silver and nickel life masters, I do believe that Caroline Colliver hit the nail on the head when she remarked that nothing ever gives quite the same moment of pride as achieving that first big step in a lifetime of bridge!

Changing the subject on you is the fact that Helen Dillen and Gamil Tadros never did get around to telling me where they spent their honeymoon, probably because it’s none of my business. Having said that, do this pair ever get around?

Only recently did they get back from a trip to Italy, highlighted by an Andrea Bocelli concert in Verona. Then almost without a pause they were off to Egypt; one reason for going was so that Gamil could introduce his new bride to his brother but that was only the beginning. Landing in Cairo, not surprisingly, one of the first things they did was to visit the Pyramids and the Sphinx; having done that, there are so many tourist attractions in the city that even Gamil scarcely knew where to start.

One of the more hard to forget, is the Monastery of Saint Simon the Tanner, carved right into the Mokattam hill/ mountain, although relatively newly built, this Coptic cave church is astonishing. Even getting to it is an adventure on it’s own; you have to pass through the Zabbaleen Village, this being the area where most of Cairo’s trash is sent, much of it recycled. If it sounds scary, it really isn’t, more like a unique experience.

Next on the agenda was river cruising up stream on the River Nile finishing just a kilometer or so from the Sudanese border. On the way they stopped off at Luxor, frequently referred to as the world’s biggest open air museum. It is true that these days Egypt is not awash with tourists but you would not think so taking this trip.

Time to head for Sharm el Sheikh, a world renowned sea side resort on the Red Sea. Helen avidly enjoys both snorkeling and scuba diving, so here she thought she had died and gone to heaven; even more so because there’s no need to fret about such things as sharks and whales! Why, when the water is so very blue, is it called the Red Sea? Not only does Wikipedia not have the answer but more surprisingly, neither does Gamil and he knows everything!

Still determined to pack yet more into their holiday they flew off to Tel Aviv in Israel and made their way to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. This time things didn’t quite go according to plan. Hard to believe, but both cities had just experience a 6-8” dump of snow and were effectively shut down; not that this stopped our two heroes, it just made them feel more at home!

Finally after returning to Cairo it was time to come back to Calgary and settle down to catch their breath. Settle down he says, not on your life. As we speak they’re in New Orleans for the bridge tournament; it’s a good job it’s being held in the middle of Lent, if it was still Mardi Gras time, goodness knows what these two would get up to!

March 6, 2015 - Time To Come Home

It’s been well over a year since I finished my whirlwind three hour trip around the world and whilst I did enjoy my time in China, river cruising down the Yangtze, looking over the Great Wall plus a guided tour around the Olympics facilities; I have to confess I was getting a little homesick and I sure missed my weekly fix of bridge.

I did have to pick my moment though, it’s not very often that Evelyn and Arthur Iwasa get to visit their relatives in Japan, so it was my lucky day. More than lucky, Tokyo is the obvious first choice but hey, who in their right mind wants to spend time in yet another urban jungle? No, their grand niece lives in Kushimoto, way down south, not only a delightful seaside resort but would you believe, it has a bridge club. Okay, the two beat up on us, as usual I might add, but it made for a great start to our return home.

Next stop? Most of us have got to know Sheila Evans’ caregiver, Stephanie Martinez, she’s originally from the Philippines but I was trying to catch up with her whilst she was still working in Taiwan; too late, she’d already left for Calgary. Not to worry, we have since played together since I got back home and it was then that I found out that on her very first ever duplicate game she was rewarded with a whole 0.5 masterpoint playing with Bev Miles; can’t help thinking that must be some kind of a record.

Not surprisingly I decided this was not a good time to go flying around the Far East so we sailed from Taipei to the west coast of India. Remember how much we enjoyed that game against the Satinders? This time it was to play against Umesh and Kanak Khare, they too were visiting relatives. It’s 45 years that they have lived in Prince George but recently moved to Calgary to be close to their two daughters and two grandchildren.

Back to flying, this time to the Ukraine to catch up with Joe Achtman, it was probably his last trip ever to Rovno where he was born, pushing a hundred years ago. I think I’m right in saying that the town used to be in Poland but these days it’s tucked up in the northwest corner of the Ukraine. Plus ca change, plus c’est le meme chose, borders have a habit of moving back and forth in that part of the world. As we speak Joe is in a hospice behind the Mayfair Building on Glenmore Trail and would welcome a visit from any of his bridge friends.

Next stop Athens, Greece where Linda Vowel was staying a few weeks with her family. I first met Linda at the Haggins’ bid and play game together with her good friend Linda Rogers; they have long since graduated to the real game but not as we speak. She went and fell down the stairs some weeks back and is only slowly recovering from a broken leg; there’s good news though, she now has ample time to indulge in her true passion, painting.

A ferry ride over the Mediterranean to Alexandria to meet up with Maged Wafa. This gentleman never fails to amaze me, is he that handsome, is he that charming, is he that rich, that he’s always playing with the prettiest girl in the room? I was curious enough to ask him what was his secret? None of the above, he replied, it’s just because I’m a good bridge player!

Back across the sea to Grace Galanti’s table in Milan, but before we get that far we took time to revisit the Abruzzi, half way down the east coast of Italy. We worked there for a year way back in 1967, a beautiful part of the country; yes Tuscany has it’s charm but it’s hard to beat the attraction of the many hill top towns further to the south between Pescara and Rome.

Finally! We make it back to Canada with two rounds left to go. Betty Fenton is at the PEI table but as it happens I barely get a word in edgewise. She’s too busy reminiscing with Richard Bickley about all the beautiful beaches on the island, seemingly some more so than others.

Last round. A table with would you believe two Nova Scotians? This is the same pair, Elizabeth Sprague and Ruth Gilchrist, who gave me such a hard time when I passed over the maritimes on my way round the world. No matter, I told them I was sorry and I think they have forgiven me.

March 4, 2015 - Keep Ginny Happy

I’ll have you know that the Savilles are not the only ones having an anniversary about now, It’s exactly a year since I agreed to go and live with the Hindes. As it turned out, it was a good decision but I have to confess that we got off to a slow start.

It took me longer than I anticipated to get the pair of them trained to my liking. Particularly Kathleen; I would hazard a guess that their previous cat was one of those roll over and stroke my tummy variety without a whole lot of character. Me, I pride myself on having a mind of my own and whilst I like sitting on laps and having my nose rubbed, you’d better not try doing any of that tummy nonsense, if you do, be ready to watch out for my claws.

A lot of effort on my part but it’s all worked out, I straightened them out on the food, shelter and litter box requirements and they now know enough to let me out into the back yard when I sit at the door and meow once or twice, leaving the door open in the summertime I might add, so that I can scurry back in if there’s a vehicle in the alley!

We cats are good for you lot but truth to tell we kind of love you too!

Changing the subject on you. If one of these days for whatever reason, you arrive at a Woodcliffe game an hour or so early, you have a couple of choices; you could go in and help Joy and Brian set up the game or. You could drive into Edworthy Park and take the first turning on the left marked no exit; keep going some 4, 5, 600 metres and park in oh maybe the third or fourth parking lot.

By this time you are astounded at the view, a veritable vista indeed but there’s more. This part of the park is an off leash area and it’s easy to get fascinated by the behavior of the dogs; they are all so well behaved. They race around and greet each other, they roll over and snuggle up together but the thing that always strikes me is that everything is so peace loving, not a bark to be heard!

I suppose it must be something to do with the owners bringing up their pets to be well behaved, quite the opposite indeed to who rules the roost in our house!

February 19, 2015 - When the Cat's Away

We all know what happens, and it was my turn to play the mouse a couple of weeks ago. My wife and our younger daughter were off holidaying in Cuba for some ten days and being as weird as the rest of you, I played bridge just about every day, once twice in a day.

It was lots of fun, not because of the bridge, that’s always fun, but more that I got to meet people that I kind of know at the different clubs, but don’t get to see that often. Then there was the gossip too, never forget the gossip!

My first time ever at the Chinook game and it was a pleasure to see at first hand all the good things I’ve been hearing about. Solved the problem of why I don’t bump into Roy Shaw any more at the local library, it’s because we both now put our choices on hold as opposed to wandering and looking; we’re in and out in a flash.

Sorry that I hadn’t already taken the time out to look at the latest Bridge Bulletin. If I had, I would have been able to congratulate Dorothy Mersereau, not only on becoming a life master but also on being up there with the pros in the “it’s your call’ competition”. Not only Dorothy incidentally, Arlene Connell and Patricia Roberts both have reasons to feel proud of themselves!

A big stroke of luck. You may recall that I have yet to return from my three hour trip around the world; it’s been over a year now, the problem being that no one has invited me to stay over. Bless them, both Grace Galanti and Evelyn Iwasa are going to make it possible by saying that I can come and play at their tables on my way back home!

Thursday afternoon I got the chance to berate Pat Slack about how she keeps promising to phone me but never quite gets around to it. Probably didn’t do any good but I tried. Didn’t know until then, about Diana Burn’s upcoming trip to Myanmar, she had to educate me by telling me that’s the modern name for Burma. I tried to reassert myself by warning her to stay away from the north west corner of the country but seemingly she already knew all about that.

Richard Bickley and I reintroduced ourselves. We had met briefly once before and I actually thought he was new to our game; how wrong could I be? He told me he’s been playing bridge ever since he was knee high to a grasshopper, maybe not in so many words but you get my drift . Originally from Montreal, he has lived here in the city since 1985. He first latched onto bridge, reading an Alfred Sheinwold book, I wonder if it was ‘Five weeks to winning bridge”, the one that taught me all that I know. All that I know he says; five weeks spread over thirty years and I still know nothing!

Thursday evening was fun too, another first for me, at the Bridge Nutz game. More lovely gossip about nothing. Virginia Jeffries, Diana Campbell and Ineke Boudewijn, we all doomed and gloomed about how all the young folk these days are glued to their smart phones. It’s not all bad though, all the four families got together at their homes to play old fashioned games like Monopoly over the Christmas holidays.

Let’s see now, I had just that day been jilted for the next Monday afternoon game at Woodcliffe, so when Betty Fenton saw me drying my tears she offered to play with me, I am so lucky! Next table was Crystal Mann; my goodness, what a difference this young lady has made to our game this last year or two. I asked her what was Doug up to and she reminded me that he is passionate about singing, I should have known that, Mary Ross is always full of praise for her lead tenor.

So there, I’ve said it many times before but I’ll say it again, what would we all do without bridge?

February 12, 2015 - Spreading the Word

Seemingly the word is getting around that we bridge people are a place to go to if you need help. Wonder why it took so long? We’ve been doing it for years!

A week or so ago there was a day long bridge game at St. Gerard’s church raising money to help the cause of the Bishop Grandin marching band. Not sure how much went into the coffers but you can be sure it wasn’t peanuts.

Around the same time Melanie Toews made a presentation at Woodcliffe about an upcoming similar event supporting a high school in Okotoks, the Foothills Composite. This school is different in the sense that the students come from as far afield as Black Diamond. Turner Valley, Longview and goodness knows how many farms and ranches along the way.

Therein lies a problem. Their graduation ceremony is held at the BMO Centre in the Stampede Grounds and not only does the Centre not come cheap, it’s also far from being a hop, a skip or a jump away from the above towns. Some of the graduates will need help and that’s where you and I come in; a morning and afternoon of bridge for $50 at Okotoks United Church on Saturday, March 14th. Not only bridge, but breakfast pastries and a lunch, not to mention a host of prizes available to be won, all donated by local businesses and individuals.

If you are interested and you should be, Get in touch with them at melanietoews@telus.net but don’t delay, there’s only room for 40 pairs! You can view their flyer for the event by clicking HERE.

As an aside, from time to time, our Unit 390 toys with the idea of somehow starting a sanctioned game in Okotoks; who knows, this event could be a first step on the way.

February 5, 2015 - A Silly Story

In actual fact, anything but silly. If you’ve missed some of your favorite people at the bridge table recently, it’s because they’re all off river cruising some place or other. Someplace or other indeed, because many of the places are “impossible”. I pride myself on having been wide awake during geography lessons at school, so when people like Marie and Jack Driscoll, Marlene Fuller and her husband amongst others; tell me they river cruised all way from Budapest to Amsterdam, I know they’re pulling my leg. The Danube flows east, the Rhine flows west and ne’er the twain shall meet.

Seemingly I must have missed a lesson. I now find out that some smarty pants engineer joined the two together with a canal. I guess he must have been smart, they tell me that making the whole thing possible required 70 locks, up or down, whatever. Oh yes, the river Main, pronounced Mine, gets into the act as well.

Maybe I didn’t miss the lesson, I now find out that the canal was built in 1992 so my pride remains intact. But back to the cruise; you make your way to Budapest in Hungary and there board a Viking ship which will take you up the Danube through Slovakia, Austria, Germany, then on the Rhine into Holland, ending up at Amsterdam.

One place that very much sticks in Marlene’s mind is Passau, in southern Germany, on the Danube. The town sits at the confluence of three rivers, and having said that, if you think Calgary has a flood problem, try living on this section of the river. It floods seemingly every week or so! It did the very day their ship was trying to sail under a bridge. Trying, meant stripping the top deck of everything that could be moved and having done that, the boat still had a little less than two inches to spare!

You can get off the ship, ship? Or is it a boat? Whichever, get off at all the big cities to tour the landmarks but there’s more. There are numerous picturesque towns and villages along the way, each with it’s own tale to tell; one of the more interesting being the one told by the Lorelei Rock, famous for being the home of the maiden who lured sailors to their demise down the ages. Be careful, don’t stop now, she’s still doing her thing!

When does the silly story start? Whilst you were in Vienna, one of you had time to take a side trip to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic and it just so happened that you picked the very day they were celebrating the achievements of Sir Nicholas Winton. And who might he be pray?

I was recently watching an interview with this gentleman on “Hardtalk’. He is 105 years old and recently returned from a 75th. anniversary celebration in Prague, commemorating his rescue of over 600 refugee children in 1938. It was then that he organized the evacuation of two train loads of mainly German Jewish children from a camp on the edge of the city, all the way to Britain via Holland. And once there, found foster homes for them all, no easy task.

Interestingly, he was not some government official or even tied in with some charitable group. He just happened to be born of German parents who had lived in England for many years; he was not even a do-gooder by habit, quite the opposite, a very successful stockbroker. Be that as it may, he did it, and was eventually rewarded with a knighthood for his efforts.

Why am I telling you all this? Because towards the end of the interview he was asked that having lived such an interesting life, was there anything he particularly regretted? Oh yes, he replied, you’d better believe it, very much so, all my bridge partners are dying off, one by one!

January 22, 2015 - We're Weird

Yes it’s us bridge players I ‘m talking about. We can’t wait to get to the bridge game, we can’t wait for the game to start and once we get a hand, we can’t wait to claim and get it over with!

It’s the same weirdos that look forward to every Wednesday night’s game at the Bow River. A selection from every level of bridge skills in the city, all the way from we ‘E’ players up through the alphabet to people who, as far as I know write books on the game.

It’s a team game and by definition that means there’s someone out there doing the heavy lifting on the phone, piecing it all together. Who is it? Or rather, who is she? You all know about my belief in “when you want something done, ask a busy woman”. It’s Elaine Stewart, who else? She’s been doing this ever since she organized and ran the biggest game in town way back in the days of the Martinique.

Am I supposed to be apologizing again for forgetting to mention that the Bow River Bridge Club is yet another non- profit club in the city? Maybe I should, maybe not. It is true though that no one makes any money; Elaine works for nothing, management does their thing for nothing and the same goes for the grunts helping out. So where does all the money go?

It goes to the group who are the reason for the club’s very existence. The proposed Calgary Bridge Centre. You’ve heard me mention it’s name before but maybe I didn’t dwell on the names of it’s believers like I should have. Delores Hedley and her long time friend Carol McManus are always the first to arrive, they get the coffee pot going, set out the boards and thank the Kerby staff for setting up the tables.

Linda Wallace has already done her share contacting the C, D and E team players and of course there’s that solid group who just help out because it’s their nature. You know who I mean, the likes of Marlene Fuller, Pauline Huculak, Linda Martin, Hazel Skelton and hey, they’re not all ladies, Jim Berglund pitches in as well and that’s to name but a few!

Who are the directors? The club is lucky enough to have Doug Mann when he’s not taking Crystal out for a romantic candlelit dinner and if he is, then Michael Farebrother will happily take over.

All in all, the club is successfully battling the decline in evening games and has one of the biggest turnouts in the city, averaging in the low twenties and believe it or not, poised to grow. If you are not already a regular, be sure to check it out.

January 9, 2015 - Ho Hum

Ho hum indeed, meaning like how boring can I be? Glad you asked. If I read one more word about lawn bowling on what’s supposed to be a blog about bridge; I swear I’ll throw up! I know what you mean; I feel the same way too; about the way he keeps prattling on and on, and I mean on and on, about my not always remembering to pick up my convention card before I leave home. It would be nice if he’d cut us a little slack from time to time.

Well, that straightened me out! I’d better start mending my ways. So, what else is there to talk about? How about the Kerby Centre? Somehow or other, I recently picked up a copy of the Bow River Times, probably because it featured a photo of a pretty girl but was surprised to find that it was really all about the Bow River Bridge Club. Perhaps, more about them later.

Back to the Kerby Centre; a senior’s organization took up residence in it’s present down town location in 1973. The building started life as the original campus for Mount Royal College, so when the College moved over to Lincoln Park, the new owners honored the founder of the University to be, Dr. George William Kerby, by naming their senior’s centre with the grandiose title of the ” Kerby Memorial Building” . Grandiose indeed, too much so for the new users, to them it quickly became known as the Kerby Centre and so it remains to this day.

Quite a remarkable club, exclusively for the plus 55s, but that’s the only restriction; after that anything goes. The things you can do boggle my mind. Aerobics, badminton, belly dancing, usually finishing up at yoga but not at the Kerby, you keep going to Zumba, but only after you’ve stopped to wonder what the hell might Qigong be?

I myself have participated and taken lessons there. Badminton, Spanish and oh yes, I just have to tell you about one of the proudest moments in my whole life. My dad and his sisters were all talented painters so I thought I would try my luck when I retired. One week, the teacher gave us a homework assignment, to paint a sleeve, you might want to read that again but yes, I mean a sleeve!

Anyway I happened to have this red leather jacket and being used to doing what I’m told, I painted the sleeve. The following week the teacher had us all gathered around and she says I want you to…. If I could get you to……….what I’m trying to say is………. John, would you bring your painting over for us all to see! Was I ever as proud as punch? I’ve long forgotten the point the lady was trying to make but I’ll never forget that moment of pride!

Enough of me, the club holds a dance every week where you can meet up with all the cute widows and the following day invite one of them for lunch in the club restaurant. Which reminds me, when I was eighteen there used to be beautiful girls, so so girls and a handful of the homely variety. Now, they’re all drop dead gorgeous.

Let’s see now. Back to the perhaps we should be talking about the Bow River Bridge Club. Only one problem, I have a deadline to meet. It’ll have to wait for another week.

Click HERE to view John's columns from 2014 (and previous years)