Wednesday, February 3, 2010


I want to tell you about a remarkable act of kindness. My friends and family have hot ears from hearing the tale told with my cheeks peach and flushed, my midlands throat trying its best to rise to a pitch that would convey the wonder of the story. To them, I send an apology and an appeal to let me tell it again. (Though let's be honest, not for the last time. Give me half a pint and any chat about cards and you'll hear it again.)

The story came up again after a visit to my aunt's house yesterday. My cousin Elaine spotted my "I love Bridge" sticker on the dash of my car (yes, on the inside. I love the sticker so much that for fear it would be stolen, I stuck it on the inside.) And so we got talking about my foray into the world of bridge.

Stumbled upon in Copenhagen by the good soul Fiona Hallinan
in a shop purely devoted to all things bridge!

In the dying days of last summer I met with my friend Michelle in a beautiful old park in Dublin to learn how to play bridge. Michelle went to an all girls school where they were taught how to play bridge in first year and then played it throughout their time at school. On Valentine's Day the boys from the boys school would come over for a bridge tournament and before the big bridge rumble the girls would go around and offer them heart shaped chocolates on little plates! Anyway, I digress. Michelle taught me the bare bones of bridge on that gloriously sunny day in the park and so we became bridge partners.

If only we could all find the time to lay aside
our guns and play cards

On my way home on the very busy train I found myself sitting beside an elderly gentleman. I'd just got off the phone to my sister, wheezing laughing at the lovely old etiquette and archaic rules of bridge, when I happened to glance at the notes he was reading. Written at the top was 'Introduction to Bridge' followed by a hundred and one different bits of Morse code to let your partner know you've got a terrible hand, are panicking and need help.

I struck up conversation and we talked bridge the whole train journey home! We poured through his notes and talked about how he would catch up on his wife, an avid bridge player, in no time at all. I told him all about my day. And when I complimented his notes, he hesitated out of politeness, and then offered to post them to me. I wrote out my address, we shook hands and exchanged names. He folded that piece of paper into the most sublime set of rectangles and then carefully put it in his pocket. We shook hands again and I stood for a brief moment waving on the platform.

Every morning I expected to see a letter but nothing came. I'd resigned myself to my address having been lost, the rectangles too small, the wind too strong or the will too faltering. Until....about a month later a package arrived in the post! I'd long forgotten the promise of post from the man on the train. Puzzled, I opened the package and out tumbled a beginner's bridge book and inside, the most beautifully written letter!

It was coming up to Christmas time so I made him this Christmas jumper card and sent it back to him. No word since. For a little while I thought we were going to be pen pals. Eventually sending each other bridge conundrums, musings on the weather and funny articles cut out from the newspaper. That would have been lovely...though with the way the price of stamps are soaring, it would have worked out to be quite a pricey friendship. I joke. I joke. The exchange was lovely. Unexpected flourishes of kindness. There's no beating them!


  1. Dear Mauve!
    Thanks for your sweet and wonderful comment on my bloggy!! :[) I loooooooooooove your illustrations! oh dear, you have become an instant favorite! You know something funny...I sold two pillows over the summer to a lady in Ireland..whom I think lives in CASTLE! NO JOKE...I think I google earthed the address? I can't remember who I figured it out...anyhoo... we should be illustration pen pals, no? I am a good letter writer and am trying to start a collection of international penpals! :) <3

  2. I would love to start some pen-palling! I know of this great project that Oliver Jeffers was involved in. He and his friend and his brother had a penpal notebook they sent between the three of them, each filling in a new drawing in response to the last drawing in the book. The book they made is beautiful. Have a look at it here: I'll send you a drawing to kick it all off! If this all sounds good and not too creepy or crackers, you could email me your address! I'm at I think we should get lots of people involved. Sending the book back and forth like a message in a bottle til it's packed with drawings!

  3. Whoops! I never sent the website for that book. It's

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