Moving into 5 Grosvenor Crescent in July 1976 marked the start of my bridge journey. An elderly neighbour sallied out every Saturday wearing her best, including hat, and with a cheery smile – when I asked the reason she said “Bridge, my dear”. I think she was a regular at the Rose Club, which met for a very social afternoon of bridge and cake in the Melville, then at 9 Grosvenor Crescent.
I’d played the odd hand of bridge at the end of school terms, and then a lot of whist at university before life and work took over. However, living so near a bridge club it seemed a pity not to take some classes, so I ventured along and was lucky enough to meet the late Alistair McGregor. Classes would not start until autumn, but he suggested a game and beginners’ luck triumphed. I joined the Melville as an associate member, had very understanding partners, and galloped my way through “All about Acol”.
There were no bidding boxes then, and the first time my partner said “Stop” I froze and must have looked horrified. But our lovely opponents explained what it meant, and we often laughed about it later.
The club occupied four floors with a resident steward in the basement. It was reverse- hierarchical: the higher you ascended the lower the standard. It was a lovely building and I found the bridge world very welcoming, though there were some prima donnas. There was an unwritten dress code: not quite hats for all, but frocks were de rigeur and shorts a near hanging offence. Smoking was part of the thought process for many; there were resignations* when it was banned after, I think, 8pm before a total ban came in for the card rooms.
For many years, bridge was a lovely hobby. It was great to get past the stage where you arrived home with a headache after an evening’s play; it became all-absorbing and the troubles of the day seemed to disappear. I’ve played much more in retirement. Though I’ve enjoyed games with some top club players (Alistair McGregor, Freddie Short, Mollie Reid, Dolf Yzer, Deirdre Sanders were all supportive) it’s those with my regular partners which have given most pleasure – friendship matters, and I’ve been lucky.
* some on civil liberty grounds