It has been pointed out to me that I have been silent on matters which concern us all for a while, and that it’s time for what has facetiously been referred to internally as “another sermon from the mount”. I hasten to add that I am aware that this is not a universally held view: the correspondent who wrote “please, just stop”, will no doubt be disappointed by the appearance of this piece, but needs, I’m afraid, must.
Although the circumstances around us offer precious little by way of hope and encouragement (the latest statements warning us that social distancing will be in place until the end of the year are not words of comfort to bridge clubs, counties and the EBU) we are all doing what we can. Players are dipping their toes into the on-line world, clubs are helping them, and we are helping clubs (and so are a small army of willing volunteers). The Board of the EBU are meeting regularly, and so are our re-start sub-committee, a core group dedicated to making sure that when we come back into action we come back swinging. Notes of Zoom meetings of these bodies will be on-line, available for perusal at leisure.
Zoom, and other forms of face-to-face communication across the ether, are proving a godsend for many of us, both in business and at home: it’s much more pleasant, when you don’t see anyone during the normal run of events, to see them on-line rather than just hear them down a telephone line (and yes, I know mobiles don’t have lines, but the concept remains).
One thing that might interest you (which I am shamelessly nicking from the restart sub-committee) is that this might be a good time to teach captive audiences how to play either minibridge or bridge. Got a couple of sullen teenagers hanging around doing nothing? Get them round the table, using threats if necessary (and threats are always necessary with sullen teenagers) and teach them to play bridge. They’ll be grateful to you for life. Almost certainly. You can even teach a group remotely, provided you can get them to sit round their kitchen table. In a way, it’ll be almost like the old days, only with broadband.
If I occasionally appear to make light of matters, it doesn’t mean that I’m unaware of the threats faced by the smallest clubs all the way up, yes, to the EBU. The longer the hiatus, the less income, at every level. We’re conserving our cash wherever it is sensible to do so, but at every level hard decisions have to be made, and doubtless will be. I hope that I don’t sound too fatuous in quoting a recent occupant of Number Ten: we’re all in this together. A lot of people at the time (and, indeed, subsequently) thought he didn’t mean it. I do. We’re here to help, now and hopefully in the future. When it looks as though bridge clubs can throw their doors open again, we’ll be there, with advice, encouragement and maybe every now and then, a shoulder to cry on. We have to accept the situation we’re in, but we needn’t dwell on it. Indeed, to do so is dangerous, because we all have to decide what our strategic aims are for emerging from the year of the virus.
I don’t know about you, but although today may seem bleak and depressing, I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring.
Ian Payn, Chairman EBU.