The further adventures of Stan -6
As well as my church related activities, I also play bridge several times a week. There are way more women players than men – and going through a mental list of the men I see on a weekly basis, I can think of only one or two who aren't married or in a relationship. In fact, now that I think back about it, one of them is more than friendly to me sometimes, as if he were sort of flirting, without being too serious about it. He's a widower – way older than me – but still very fit looking. Maybe I'll flirt back with him a bit, and see what happens. I can't for a moment think that I could envisage being married to him. But getting in some flirting practice for when I find somebody else won't come amiss.
There is one man at bridge that I could happily fall for, if he were single. And the funny thing is that he is so like John was – always wanting to be in charge, making his opinion known, deciding how things should be done. But also he is kind and thoughtful, including people who others quite definitely put down – sometimes because they don't have quite the same bridge skill as some of the rest of us. But common sense and my religion firmly tell me not to go there. He is one man I must not flirt with, not even to get back in practice.
The next day Stan said that he had kept his eye out at the pub, but his research was not very conclusive. There had been several tables of all women, but they hadn't seemed in the least bit interested in having male company. “But they were certainly seeming to have a good time,” he said. “There were a few single blokes hanging around, looking out for partner maybe, but they wouldn't be the sort I would think you would like. Too common and obviously only interested in one thing.”
“I've been thinking about this since you mentioned it yesterday, and I think there might be a man that I see at bridge each week who has more than a passing interest in me. But I don't know how to go about taking it to the next step. I can hardly ask him out.”
“You could invite him around here for a game of bridge,” he said.
“You need four to play bridge, but I suppose I could invite others to make up a table. Maybe another couple. They'd have to be good players or he'd be rude to them. He's rude to just about everybody.”
“Is he rude to you?”
“Not really. But he is a better player than I am, so when he criticizes me, he usually is justified in what he's saying. But I've never partnered him.”
“So make up your mind when you go to bridge on Monday. Invite him first, because if he says no, then you don't want to be stuck having to find somebody else to make up the group. If he says yes, then invite another couple – say for next Saturday evening. And I'll come back from the pub early and give him the once over, discretely like, and tell you what I think of your chances.”
“Can you tell, just like that?”
“I think I'm a pretty good judge of character. And from what you've said already, I sort of have my doubts about him.”
“Okay, bridge for four next Saturday, and if we start about 7.30, we'd have coffee and cake maybe about 10 or 10.30 – so that would be a good time for you to come back.”
Monday I went to bridge with much trepidation. It was one thing to play bridge with somebody, but to make a play for him – whether he had signalled his interest or not – was a very big deal for me. I got there early and picked the position opposite where Mark and his partner normally play the first round. That would mean conversation time for a few minutes anyway at the beginning. Maybe five minutes while we wait for the others to finish the round too. We are all very fast players.
As luck would have it, he arrived about the same time I did, well before his partner, so I didn't have the embarrassment of having her hear me ask him out. I picked the place opposite him, as planned, and before my courage deserted me completely, I said, “I was thinking about having some people around for bridge on Saturday. Are you interested?”
“Partnering you?” he said.
“Well, that would be one option. Does that fill you with fear or disgust?”
“No. Not at all. It's just that we've never played together before, and I do like my system.”
“I can play that.”
“Who else are you inviting?”
“I thought probably James and Viv,” I said, “although I haven't checked with them yet. Hopefully James will be here today.”
“That would make for a very good game, I should think. I look forward to it.” His bridge partner, Debbie, had just arrived and the subject was tactfully dropped.
Just then James arrived, towering over the rest of us. His wife goes to golf on Monday afternoons so he comes on spec, hoping to find a partner. I made my way over to him and asked if he and his wife would be free for a bridge game on Saturday. He said he would text his wife, and a few minutes later, he gave me a thumbs up. “What time?” he mimed?
“Church Lane House”
Another thumbs up.
My partner had finally arrived. She's always on the last minute as she works in the morning, and has to rush from Macclesfield to make it to High Lane by 1.30. She always has a sandwich with her which she takes bites of between bids.
I took a spare score sheet and wrote on it, “My house, Church Lane House, 7.30 on Saturday. James and Viv have agreed.” and I folded it and passed it surreptitiously to Mark. He just stuck it in his pocket without looking. I felt like a spy – passing secret messages.
The three hands we played with Mark and Debbie went fine – with everyone playing at his or her best, and the random hands on each occasion being interesting and challenging. Mark and his partner win a prize most weeks. Brenda and I win something perhaps one week in three. And there were another 18 hands to play this afternoon before we found out who the lucky ones were today.