It was on a rainy Monday in March that my wife Judy and I, together with Elaine Howard and Peter Cobb, made our way to the magnificent Drapers’ Hall where the annual Inter-Livery Bridge Competition was to be held. As this was the first time that Feltmakers had been represented in this pairs competition, we felt we were making history.
None of us had ever before played bridge in such wonderful surroundings. We were told that Drapers’ Hall has been used as a stand in for Buckingham Palace for films and it is very easy to believe. The rooms are so beautifully decorated and appointed and of such magnificent proportions that they are quite awe-inspiring.
After a warm welcome from the Master Playing Cards Maker, Anthony Carter, we were shown into a reception room for a cup of tea and an opportunity to chat with our fellow players. As newcomers to the event, we were made to feel very welcome by the old hands. There were 59 pairs in total and the play was split into four sections playing in two rooms. Elaine and Peter were in one room and Judy and I in the other, so we wished each other good luck and took our seats.
We played 12 boards against 6 different pairs before dinner but play was leisurely with plenty of time to chat between boards. There was a wide variety of ability and experience in the pairs we played but they all shared a great delight in the occasion. As ever, we had some triumphs and some disasters but were very pleased to see that, at the end of the first half, both we and Elaine and Peter had come through in the upper half of the results.
Dinner was served in the Livery Hall under a glorious pre-Raphaelite ceiling painted by Herbert Draper. Our dinner table wondered whether this was a coincidence or whether his name had helped him to earn the commission. With interesting conversation and lovely food the break passed a bit too quickly and all too soon we had finished the coffee and it was back to the tables.
In the second half we played a different set of players but, as before, they were friendly and sociable. It felt much more like an evening of social bridge than a cut-throat competition. Again we played steadily with some ‘gifts’ from opponents and some misunderstandings of our own but after another 12 boards we felt we had acquitted ourselves honourably. It was with great pleasure that we read the results list and found ourselves placed 14th and Elaine and Peter at 17. Not at all bad for a first attempt, but leaving room for improvement next year!