Friday 21 June 2024

A Sunday Afternoon Bridge.




There are four people sitting around a small circular wooden table; I am one of them.


It is possible that one of the other three made the table but it is impossible to know for certain as the table exists only in a past memory and two of the people sitting there, including the potential carpenter, have long since passed. I didn’t ask at the time – I was too young – and although my sister might know – she too is sitting there – I think it is unlikely that she knows. Besides, I’m happy believing that the table was made from my father’s hands. He is looking at the hand of cards he has been dealt and considering my mother’s call of one spade.


One spade.


It means something, and I try to remember what; I have only just learnt how to play this game. My sister has only just learnt to play too, so she is probably also struggling with the concept.


One spade.


We both know what a spade is, after all we have been brought up to call a spade a spade. But why one?


Then I remember. 


It has something to do with tricks, and my mother is telling my father that she thinks that if spades are trumps she will win one trick more than…more than what? I’ve already forgotten. Average? Half?


I look at my sister. She doesn’t like this game much, she prefers cheat and I see that she is about to show me her hand, something you should never do in a game of Bridge, even if it is only with your parents on a Sunday afternoon at home. You can say something like ‘one spade’ which mean you have some reasonably strong cards in that suit, but you can’t show them.


“Two hearts.” My sister speaks.


I know she has to say ‘two,’ because my mother said ‘one’ and there is some sort of sequence, some sort of hierarchy. Clubs, hearts, diamonds, spades. I think that’s it. If it is, it would be alphabetical and that would make sense. Little else does.


Why are we playing cards on a Sunday afternoon?


Surely we should be playing outside, climbing trees or something? 


But I only think of this now, many years later. At the time everything made sense. The table, the cards, the radio – the radio is playing, and a programme called ‘Sing Something Simple’ is on-air – even my sister saying two hearts.


“Two hearts”. She says it again, in case I missed it.


“I heard you”, I say. “I don’t like hearts,“ I add, but my father interrupts me. 


“You can’t say that. You have to bid.” He explains.


Bid.


It’s a new word for me. I look at it. It’s small. I wonder if he made it up. 


At lunch we had some disgusting vegetable that I had to eat. I looked at it suspiciously. It looked very similar to turnip, which I hate and which they keep feeding me.


“What’s this?” I asked, poking the stuff with my fork.


“Pinrut,” my parents replied in unison. When your parents do something in unison there is no way that you can escape.


But bid? 


Only my father said it. My mother just nodded.


“Two spades.” He says.


Two, but my sister said two. Then I remember, it’s that alphabet thing again. So if I want to say anything it will have to be three!


And my cards stink.


Beat you neighbour, now that’s a game I understand. And snap.


“That was Sing something simple with The Adams singers, until next week at the same time.” The announcer on the radio sounds nice. I wish I was an announcer on the radio, but when I’m old enough it probably won’t exist anymore as a job. Radios probably won’t exist anymore either.


“Did they just say The Adams singers?” I ask. “That’s our name. Our they family?”


“Your bid Christopher.” My mother is the only person who calls me Christopher, until much later when I am in my forties and I work in an office with a boss called Rachel. She calls me Christopher. I find it sweet.


“Can I do two if I do that no-trumps thing?”


“You should only do no-trumps if you have a lot of good cards.” Unison again.


I look at my sister. She pretends to drop the ace of hearts on the table.


“Sorry.” She smiles.


As she bends forward to pick it up she lets the rest of her cards fall forward and I can see most of them.


They stink too.

 

 

 

Friday 31 May 2024

Hill on a Rain Side.





No one speaks because we are all waiting for the coffee to express itself. When it does, Gile gives us a voice.

“Have you noticed how everyone is intrigued by unusual noises, even the dog?”

Bill considers the dog. It’s true, her ears picked up at the sound of the coffee pot bursting into life and now her head is tilted towards Giles. 

Waiting.

I can wait no longer.

“Smells are stronger,” I say. “Fresh cut grass, someone’s perfume, caffeine .. these will turn your head. A sound only touches your ears.”

“Caffeine isn’t a smell,” Gile replies.

 

 

“Bullshit!” Mary is livid. “Money doesn’t grow on trees you know.”

“And beggars can’t be choosers,” retorts Jane. “Take it, or leave it.”

Mary looks at the flowers on the table, they are pretty after all but she needs paying for her time.

“I have to eat. Poppies, thistles and honeysuckle won’t do.”

“There’s an orchid in there too, it could fill you up,” Jane points to the flowers and turns her attention back to her sewing.