Christmas is cancelled...

December 22, 2020

The last person to cancel Christmas was Alan Rickman, in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. Now the government has followed suit, and although this will be a cause of great disappointment and heartache for some, one can hardly blame them. Perhaps we shouldn’t have got our hopes up, after so many disappointments already this year.

Face to Face Bridge seems as distant as ever. My colleagues on the Board and the staff of Aylesbury continue to focus on what to do when we actually do come back, but it’s difficult when the target keeps moving. One thing we can do is make the current online experience as good as it can be, and hopefully we’re close to achieving that.

One thing we have been doing is trying to lobby, to try to find out under what circumstances we can start playing again. Chief Executive Gordon Rainsford had made strenuous efforts, but when he approached the Sports and Recreation Council they referred him to Sport England. Sport England didn’t want to know because – surprise, surprise, we’re not a sport. This is what our “Bridge is a Sport” legal case a few years ago was all about. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t about claiming that bridge players were akin to marathon runners, and it wasn’t a greedy attempt to snatch funding. It was about one thing, and one thing only, and that was recognition. Recognition would have opened so many doors to us, including getting bridge in schools, competing for municipal facilities on an equal footing with the badminton club, and…access to support from Sport England when we badly need guidance and authority.

Ah, well. No use crying over spilt milk. Perhaps if we all wrote to our MPs? We don’t want special treatment, we don’t want to swerve any of the rules and regulations, we just want a clear and unambiguous interpretation of what those rules and regulations mean to us.

That’s all a bit depressing, so I won’t make things worse by saying anything about on-line cheating, other than to observe that new measures have been brought in, and that we continue to make strenuous efforts (whether they’re more or less strenuous than those made by Gordon in a previous paragraph, I don’t know, but I do so like the expression “strenuous efforts” – I’ll try to slip it in again later) to protect the interests of the vast majority of the membership who don’t cheat.

My wife and I usually spend Christmas with two other couples, each pair hosting one year in three. Alas, this year, that won’t be possible (we’re all in Tier 4) but we will be having a brief get together via Zoom on Christmas Day (not watching each other eat, of course, that would be gross). Whether we all have to wear paper hats has not yet been established, but I have a horrible feeling it’s on the horizon. We have decorated a Christmas Tree, so one of us should probably get that in shot. Other than that, as for most of us, it will be a quiet Christmas, but perhaps having a little time to reflect will do us no harm. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had some bad news on various fronts in 2020, but rather than wallow in self-pity (which, believe me, comes easy to me) I think I’d rather count my blessings. I’m not infirm, I’m not isolated, I haven’t seen those close to me drop dead from this wretched disease, or seen them languish in Intensive Care for weeks on end. Lots of people – millions even, including some of you reading this, no doubt, are a lot worse off than I am. So I’m going to spend the next couple of weeks not being miserable about the things in 2020 that life has thrown at me, but instead I’m going to make strenuous efforts (there you go!) to look on the positive side and focus on the future.

One of the things that keeps us going is having our faith in human nature restored. I mention this, because we have had some generous donations to help support us in these cash-straitened times. My thanks go to those members who have found time, and found it in their hearts, to make individual donations; to Stamford Bridge club, who have sent us an astonishing and very welcome £1,400, and to the Kent County Bridge Association, who have sent us a whopping £5,000! Now, let me make it clear, that whilst all and any donations are gratefully received, I’m not one of those American television evangelists – I’m not mentioning this to try to shame other clubs and counties into donating. Everyone across the country is working hard, and doing what they can – this doesn’t necessarily make them able to help us out financially. Kent, Stamford and other clubs and individuals could help, and did. I’m drawing attention to that, not trying to subliminally generate more donations in an attempt to keep up with the Joneses. Earlier in the year, by the way, Manchester (county) generously offered us a donation. We turned that down at the time, on the grounds that we thought it might be better directed towards local clubs in trouble. I am also pleased to note that several counties are waiving their UM charge, again, helping out their clubs. But in some ways, it’s not just the money. It’s the fact that individuals and committees have decided that what they want to do is support the EBU, and through the EBU ensure the future of bridge in this country. I hope that their faith in us is justified. 

Finally (at last!) some thanks – this can get a bit like an Oscar speech, so I’ll do my best to keep it brief. My thanks to my colleagues on the Board and on various Standing Committees and Sub-Committees, volunteers at county and club level, off-line and on, teachers, directors, players, our colleagues at EBED and the staff at Aylesbury, whose efforts, particularly those that might be described as “strenuous”, have allowed us all to pursue the love of the game as best as is humanly possible, I raise my hat to you, I raise my glass to you, and I wish you all the very best health and happiness in 2021.

Bring it on!

Ian Payn
EBU Chairman