Beat Your Classmates Out Of Doors

penelope plod

Whilst at my Tooting grammar school I honed my skills as a card shark. Well, played a lot of rummy.

During a wet playtime this would be our classroom-bound pastime. No money was ever exchanged, although we could have played for tuck-shop-bought doughnuts, although this would have made the desks incredibly sticky; I’d struggled with secondary school education enough without having jam smeared over pictures of Gladstone and Disraeli in my history text book.

When I changed schools in June 1972 to go to Emanuel, rummy was not the card game of choice during wet playtimes. Because it was a posher school, some of my new classmates played bridge.

Before embarking on my fifteen-month sojourn at the Clapham minor public school, the only card games I’d ever played, aside from rummy, were Beat Your Neighbours and Newmarket. (Although I’d only played Newmarket on Boxing Days with family friends.  We’d play for halfpennies – how none of us ended up attending Gamblers Anonymous sessions I’ll never know!)

During these wet playtimes I’d look nervously on, but very quickly arrived at the belief that bridge was like rummy, only with more cards, the word “trump” was used a lot – a word I’d only heard my Nan speak, but this was a euphemism rather than something of an advantage – and there seemed to be a lot of inactivity for one quarter of the players.

I was eventually allowed to play. I say play as I seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time being the “dummy”.  If I’d have known this would have happened I’d have done some research before like buying the 1972 Titch and Quackers Annual.

It was the posher kids in my class who played bridge. I assume their parents ran bridge evenings which, given we were all living in suburbia, probably led to swingers’ nights; although you wouldn’t have wanted to be the dummy there unless you actively wanted your eyesight to worsen.

I rapidly realised that bridge was not for me and decided to extricate myself from this elite group. With the cards dealt for another rubber (bridge seemed to full of comedy words) and me being, yet again, the dummy, I watched, and as soon as the second card was placed on the jam-free desk, I shouted “SNAP!!”   The look I received could have been a real-life representation of an HM Bateman cartoon.  I grabbed my suit jacket (of course they didn’t have blazers!) and went outside to contract hypothermia.

I never played cards since, the withdrawal as legal currency of halfpenny bits simply accelerated that.

I found it strange that no one in my class at Bec or Emanuel wanted to play Happy Families. I always fancied Penelope Plod, the policeman’s daughter.

Rubbers are off, love

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