Monday, September 05, 2011

I love Louis Sachar

I love Louis Sachar. My first love is Holes but I’ve just finished and enjoyed Cardturner.

I didn’t know it upfront but Cardturner is pretty much about bridge; you know, that four old person, card game? Now, if I had known it was a about bridge I might not have read it – even though it WAS a Louis Sachar novel – because I had been very seriously scarred by my bridge playing experience many years earlier.

When I was going out with Not Yet Husband* I discovered that he loved bridge. I came from a family that went to watch Shakespeare plays. My parents didn’t play cards. I knew what they were – I played Cheat with my cousins – but why would you play card games when you could watch Macbeth or King Lear? (Don’t get me started on that…)

NYH*’s family started me off slowly: I was taught to play Whist, Drellacabella and Sevens. Every time – and I mean EVERY time – we prepared to play, someone had to explain the rules to me. Again. And again. And again. Any experience I gained of the game evaporated from my head the very moment I left the card table. Retaining detailed bits of information is crucial in bridge. This is when I got my first inkling that some people’s brains are different from mine.

Eventually I agreed to learn bridge. Perhaps I thought that a life with this man would have to include it and perhaps I wanted to make an effort with something that was important to him. So, during uni holidays I attempt to learn, playing with NYH, NYMiL (have you got that?) and some cousins. They thought I was terribly clever because I’d seen all sorts of Shakespeare plays but that wasn’t to last long. They explained the game to me and were infinitely kind and generous and put up with my immense stupidity acknowledged my learning status. I had a little notebook that I wrote notes in, explaining the rules and bidding for contracts and even some of the play.

In my third year at university, NYH had a colleague in the chemistry department that played bridge and with the promise of a chilli con carne and beers we scrambled together some other friends to make two tables of four. They were great fun at the beginning when everyone else was learning but soon as our friends became more experienced… I realized then that it wasn’t bridge, it was me; I remained in a fug of bafflement.

You play bridge with a partner. When you see the hand dealt to you you have to bid a contract (saying how many tricks you’re going to win.) You need to know what kind of hand your partner has so there are rules to bidding which made no logical sense to me at all you have to follow to communicate with your partner. (If you aren’t already wanting to slash your wrists, for a laugh you can see here what some opening bids mean.)

So many things about bridge puzzled me. In order to know what tricks you might make it’s helpful if you can retain the information the other pair gave during bidding; and you should try to count the high cards as they are played. Except I couldn’t: ‘Was that a King of spades in the last hand? Hmm, it could’ve been, or it might have been a diamond and a Queen… Hmm; Who cares?’ As we were learning, we were allowed to query (this is strictly forbidden in real games;) NYH would say ‘she played the queen because she knew that it was good for a trick.’ ‘How?’ ‘Because the ace and the king have already been played.’ Really? And you’d all noticed this?

I tried for about two years to learn bridge. It was long enough for me to establish that I was void (a bridge joke!) of any natural ability to play cards.

And NYH married me anyway.

(Louis Sachar’s novel Cardturner is totally brilliant in spite of the bridge play – or maybe even because of it. His characters are real; their voices so strong and the story is great. They’re perfect for any teenager… or mum or dad, come to that.)


Cathy said...

My husband plays bridge. He takes it VERY seriously and can't understand why I don't share his obsession. But I know that I'd be totally rubbish at it so have never even tried to learn. At least when he's out on one of his many evenings at the bridge club or playing in a tournament I know he's mixing with old ladies not a serious rival. And he's recently got a little gardening work from contacts there which in our present circumstances is very welcome.

Jenny Beattie said...

Cathy, I wish I'd had the sense to know I'd be useless at it! In Cardturner you get a real feel for how serious it is. They play Duplicate Bridge so hotel ball rooms are FULL of tables with all these people silently playing. And then there's all the post mortem afterwards... I loved the book though. It was fascinating. I do sort of see that... but not for me.

Bernadette said...

People always used to say I'd be good at bridge because I was good at maths. I played it a few times but, for me, it just seemed like hard work. If I'm going to play a game I want it to be fun, not work.

Talli Roland said...

I adored 'Holes' I hadn't read it until I needed to teach it to a Year 8 class.

I've never learned how to play bridge, and I must admit, I don't particularly want to...

Jenny Beattie said...

Bernadette, AAAAHHH, that throws some light on the fact that I was so useless. I'm rubbish at maths too. I do (somewhat perversely) understand why they enjoy bridge. It's fascinating but I lack all the skills necessary to be able to play it.

Talli, no don't! Stick to reading Louis Sachar YA novels!

Jen Daiker said...

How neat to have a story written about such an interesting game!!

Maybe I'll start loving Louis Sachar too!

It's so great meeting new blogger (and by new, I mean new to me!!) I do hope you'll stop by and say hello!

BEAST said...

Horrified and touched all at the same time.

Horrified that I put you though so much pain (on several occasions), hoping against hope that one day the penny would drop and you would start to enjoy bridge with me.

Touched because you thought "perhaps I wanted to make an effort with something that was important to him", How sweet. Funny I didn't feel the same way about ironing.

Lame Bridge Joke:
Sheryl accompanied Wayne, her bridge partner, to the doctor's office. After his checkup, the doctor called Sheryl into his office alone. ”Wayne is suffering from a very severe stress disorder. If you don't follow my instructions carefully, he will surely die. Never point out any mistake he makes. Be pleasant at all times. Don't burden him with conventions and bidding systems. Always give him a hug when he feels down. And never discuss the hands. If you can do this for the next few months, I think Wayne will regain his health completely." On the way home, Wayne asked Sheryl, "What did the doctor say?" "He said you're going to die," she replied

Jenny Beattie said...

Jen, welcome here. I will certainly pop over to yours too.

Beast, brilliant. It made me laugh. But just to note, I didn't feel the same way about ironing either!