Chairman's Update 18th February

February 18, 2021

Looking back over my notes, I see that my last offering on this site was a cheerful little number coinciding with the effective cancellation of Christmas.

So, a belated Happy New Year to one and all. In the middle of February.

The national lockdown continues, and although it’s fairly hateful, I hope we all agree that it’s better to learn from experience rather than repeat mistakes. Last year everyone got a bit carried away when freedom (or near-freedom) was dangled under our noses, and by trying to return to normality, we shot ourselves in our collective foot, and worse, mixed a metaphor.

So, when do we think we’ll be back to whatever passes for normal? What I would like to happen is for the Eastbourne Summer Meeting in August to be the point at which we decide it’s okay to emerge blinking into the new dawn, and that clubs can take that as their cue to re-open, and find their balance between those who want to get back to the table and play in person, and those who have become firmly attached to the online game. That’s what I’d personally like to happen. And it might – clubs may even feel that guidelines allow them to open earlier than that, which would be wonderful. But we have to be prepared for disappointment, because we don’t want to move too quickly. If my annual visit to the second-hand bookshop in Eastbourne has to miss a second year, I shall bear it stoically, and will just have to hope that the place is still there in 2022. But we mustn’t let gloom displace optimism. We just have to carry on being pragmatic, realistic, and not compromising on safety. And even if the EBU, and some clubs, feel comfortable opening, we have to accept that some clubs won’t. People, and clubs, must be given room to make their own decisions, in their own time, with health and safety their main criteria.

As you can imagine, the Board is facing up to the vexed question of what comes next, and regular restart discussions are taking place. We also have a few changes on the Board, which I’d like to tell you about.

Adrian Darnell, from the groves of academe (Durham branch) joined us at the AGM in November, and has already taken an active interest. I don’t know about you, but I like people who jump straight in. Adrian is already getting involved in the EBU’s relationship with EBED.

At the AGM the board was empowered to allow clubs to elect a “Club Representative” to represent them on the board. This happened, and Gayle Webb, from Wiltshire was duly elected by the clubs. She too, has “jumped straight in”, and her experience of admin at club and county level has seen her in good stead. She isn’t expected to come up with solutions to all problems facing clubs large, small and medium-sized, but she can prove to be a useful conduit between the Board and clubs (all the Board members belong to bridge clubs, of course, but not everyone is, or has been, involved in the day-to-day running of them, or is one hundred per cent au courant with the problems they’re facing).

We have lost one member, but not really lost him. Kiat Huang, who was co-opted last year to help us understand and address IT issues, is moving on, with our gratitude. But he’s not moving on very far: he remains on our IT Executive Working Group, and will be working closely with Gordon and the staff at Aylesbury in the future.
New hand on deck is Kay Preddy, from Kent. She brings with her a wealth of experience in management and finance, and is a very welcome addition to the Board.

We’ll soon be setting the agenda for the County Chairman’s meeting in June (by “setting it” I mean “inviting suggestions”, not just making up anything we fancy), so if you’re a County Chairman look out for a solicitation for your county’s opinion on that next month sometime. Speaking of counties, now’s a good time to mention the generosity of the Manchester County Association, who have sent us a very kind donation. All contributions gratefully received, from individuals and organisations, of course, but I mention this not to solicit further donations, but to draw attention to Manchester’s generosity.

Back at the virtual table, life goes on. My county has already had the county teams, and the county pairs follows next month. Oddly, since the teams, I’ve not heard a word from my county partner about playing in the pairs. Surely it wasn’t that bad? Actually, it wasn’t, but our “practice game” on Realbridge a couple of days before had been a poor effort, to say the least. Richmond (Surrey) has a game at 5.30 every day for the more social player, eight relaxed boards. This sounded like just the ticket and my expert partner and I logged in. Everybody was very nice, as they took us to the cleaners. We started off misdefending a doubled part score (my fault entirely) and things did not get appreciably better. Our fourth and final pair of opponents were two pleasant young women who were part-way through a course of lessons but enjoyed just playing (a commendable attitude, if you ask me). Were they intimidated by playing against the Chairman of the EBU and one of the county’s best players? Were they buffalo. They thought we were just a pair of old duffers who’d wandered in off the streets, and a casual glance at the results sheet supported this view. They were, however, fulsome in their praise of Richmond’s teaching, and how quickly they’d organised everything online when the curtain came down last spring. So well done, Richmond, and well done all the other clubs, counties and individuals who have made strenuous efforts to keep games and classes going in these difficult times.

Next Monday, 22nd February, is W-Day: We launch our new web site, and we’re all a-flutter about it. A whole new look, and, we hope, better accessibility. Please have a look, and let us know what you think.

That’s all for now. Not much to say other than keep on keeping on. It’s been a year now since our lives were disrupted by this wretched virus. Whilst some of us might feel we can be congratulating ourselves for how well we have adapted, perhaps we should also find a moment to consider those who aren’t coping quite so well, and ask ourselves what we can do for them.

Until the next time,

Ian