Bridge is an improbable solitary vice, but I confess to its lonely pursuit. I no longer play, but I remain an obsessional reader of bridge columns and books. I also sneak away for one-handed sessions with my electronic toy, which is too predictable to be a satisfactory substitute. The ingenious gadget has another, vulgar defect: you cannot play it for money. Wittgenstein pondered if you could play chess without the queen; he might as well have asked whether it can still be bridge if there is no price to pay for ineptitude.
u u u
thirty years ago, I was an addict to the four-handed version. I wasted my afternoons at Crockfords and at the Hamilton club. My addiction began when obliged to watch my parents playing with my paternal grandparents on wartime Sunday afternoons. Having acquired the general idea by osmosis, I achieved, when still at prep school, a world record score by redoubling when my partner had doubled, thus enabling us to collect 4,000 points in a single hand. It was only in the following holidays that my father broke the news that one cannot redouble unless it is an opponent who has doubled in the first place. Well, Napoleon gained his reputation for generalship in the Italian campaign, by breaking the rules of war and cutting a corner-and turning a flank-through neutral territory. Correlli Barnett was terribly shocked, but the result stood.
I renounced serious bridge in 1970, after my father was thrown through the windscreen of a car. He had not fastened his safety-belt lest doing so cast doubt on the driver’s competence. He and I had been duplicate partners for some 15 years. My father’s stoicism was established by his long willingness to have me for a partner; I am both a bad loser and an unreluctant critic.
We had our small successes, not least when we won the Crockfords cup. Our regular partners were John and Mary Moss. Mary (who became an English international) was of Polish origin, very attractive and a memorable cook. The couple met while John was a colonel in the Allied government in Germany.
The Mosses went to live in the south of France where they were in great social demand until, in her early 60s, Mary fell victim to Alzheimer’s disease. John became Mary’s nurse. By the end, she was unable to communicate, except very first thing in…