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ABF Accreditation Program – Stuart Packington

Stuart Packington – Randwick Bridge Club, NSW

Once a month on a Friday night, my father invited three friends round to our house to play bridge which, after cricket and rugby, was his passion. When I was about 13, I had already learned to play whist and canasta and one or two other card games and, if I had done my homework, I was allowed to kibbitz. I started to pick up the rudiments of the game by watching and asking questions and was eventually allowed to do the scoring.

At 14, my father taught me basic ACOL bidding theory (coincidentally, his father had taught him at the same age) and we used practice hands and a book I bought with my pocket money to further my bridge education. Once it was considered that I was not going to spoil the their enjoyment, I was allowed to sit in when one of the regular Friday evening guests was unable to attend.

I played quite a bit (probably too much) at University but when I started work, I found that I had less time and so, for the next few years, I only played sporadically. A change in career path found me teaching modern languages in Jamaica in a large secondary school near the town of Mandeville where we had to make our own entertainment. Fortunately, there were half a dozen or so bridge players amongst the expatriate teaching staff and a great deal of bridge was played during the five years that I was there.

Returning to England and to the hurly-burly of the commercial world, my job involved a great deal of travelling and so I was only able to play the odd game of social bridge now and again. It was not until I migrated to Australia in the mid-90s that I started to play seriously once more and joined Randwick Bridge Club in 1997. I was still travelling a fair bit but by about 2005 when I had decided to retire, I had become very interested in the directing and teaching side of the game. I qualified as a Club Director in 2007 and have been the Resident Director at Randwick BC since then. I starting teaching in an organised way the following year and have, to date, taught regular Beginners’ and Intermediate classes as well as some eleven times as Bridge Director on various cruise ships.

My most memorable bridge “experience”? I think that would have to be in Luanda, Angola in 1991 during the civil war. I was staying in the only “safe” hotel in the city which happened to be situated opposite the port which was in government hands. One night, the UNITA rebels decided to shell the port which they did periodically and we had mortar and artillery shells screaming over the top of the building. The hotel manager decided that the guests (there were eight of us) would be safer in the basement wine cellar (!) and so that is where we repaired. Camp beds were set up with a couple of tables and chairs and, miraculously, a few packs of playing cards. Conversation was difficult but four of us managed to establish that we played bridge and so, a Chinese, a Russian, a Portuguese and myself played bridge all night – aided by the contents of the wine cellar – without being able to communicate verbally as none of us spoke a common language.

Bridge truly is the international game!