We hadn’t known him for very long.
For the last eleven months, however, we have met up with him – and a handful
of like-minded others – to play the fascinating game of cribbage. I liked playing against him because he was always cracking gentle jokes, quite possibly to put me off my stride (which isn’t that difficult.) Mr B particularly liked playing him
because he was a tricky opponent – and Mr B likes nothing better than a tricky opponent. If he had finished his game, while you were still playing, he liked to come and look over your shoulder and ponder on how he would play the cards if they were in
his hands instead of yours.
Today we were among six members of our cribbage group to meet up on a beautiful sunny day at Worthing Crematorium to say goodbye to
Peter, our Partner of the Cribbage Board.
Obviously if you have never played cribbage, you will be none the wiser if I start spouting off about the intricacies
of the game. Most people say: “Ah, that’s the game with the pegs, isn’t it?” Mr B taught me to play (he claims all credit when I play well, but if I fall short of his high standards, then clearly that is because I have been ignoring
what I have been taught.) This Autumn, however, we will start off on a level ground as we are joining a Canasta group. Neither of us can play Canasta but we have been persuaded into it by the group leader who is one of those people who won’t take
“no” for an answer.
Mr B doesn’t like the idea of being a novice. He prefers to be an expert or, failing that, a good all-rounder. In preparation
for our Canasta group, therefore, we resort to the Internet for basic instructions on how to play and end up totally confused. Here’s an example: “A canasta is a meld of at least seven cards, whether natural or mixed. A natural canasta
is one that comprises only cards of the same rank. A mixed canasta (or dirty canasta) is one that comprises both natural and wild cards.” Oh, for goodness’ sake!
Apparently “canasta” is another word for “basket” – hence a dirty canasta is a dirty basket. This is how our Foursome always referred to the linen basket when they were young. I remember the day we moved house, when the
removal men were carrying all our possessions out to their van and the kids were calling out everything by name for the doubtful benefit of our neighbours: “Oh, the dirty basket! The dirty basket!” they chorused in unison.
Canasta. Cribbage. Snap. Whist. They are just card games, aren’t they? Nothing more or less than that. And yet. And yet....
When we had heard the awful, shocking news that our cribbage friend’s illness was terminal, we all signed a card to say we were thinking of him. Two weeks later, at our last cribbage session before we "broke up” for
the summer holidays, there was a knock at the door and there he was, frail and gaunt but determined to say “thank you” for our card. It was the very last trip out he was able to take.
We wouldn't have missed his funeral today. Suddenly we have become more than a group of people who meet up once a fortnight to play cribbage. We have become, instead, a little community of people who care about
each other, bound together by our feelings of loss for one of our own.
Rest in peace, Peter. I just hope there’s someone up there who plays cribbage and
can give you a game...