Archive for June, 2013

More on Bobby

As I prepare a more formal obituary of Bobby, things keep bobbing up. The incidentals, it might be said.

Bobby at the movies One night in the late eighties Bobby came to see Peter Greenaway’s A Zed and Two Noughts with me. I’m positive I gave all the right warnings first. I’m sure it was his idea to come, not mine. And maybe it would have been alright if the airconditioning hadn’t broken down in the cinema. But it had. I do believe I didn’t get another movie pick with him for ten years.

Bobby’s skin Pauline Gumby scratching his back at Double Bay. There was nothing he wouldn’t give for a backscratch, but Pauline did it because she’s Pauline. And I guess the reason I couldn’t is because I’m not.

Saving lives About 2005 Bobby and I were both in Seoul, he to play in one of his many Far Easts, me to do the Bulletins. I was sick and scared about being sick and scared about complaining about being sick. He listened to my issues, gave me a Bobby cocktail of this and that, ‘take 3 times a day’, and he fixed me. In 2010 when I almost died of DVT, getting to hospital minutes before a ‘catastrophic collapse’ as Jill later told me it is called, I couldn’t help wondering as I lay in ICU, if the reason things seemed to be turning out so much worse was because Doctor Bob wasn’t there.

He didn’t give compliments lightly. He gave no quarter at bridge. If he’d ever had to play his gran he would have crushed her if it were in his power to do so. So, if you won, if he said well done, he meant it. I was on a team once with Bobby, Reiner, Tim, amongst others, and I took a line let’s say 96.5%. The opponent in my seat took the 97% play. I no longer recall whether that was ignorance, bad maths, or a bright idea I had, but what I will never remember was their complete lack of sympathy. Bobby wasn’t there to baby you.

So, two compliments from Bobby. One day at Double Bay he was complaining about how girls play – no idea any more what the details of his discontent were – but I burst out with ‘they are not like that’, to which he replied, ‘Not you, when I talk about girls at bridge I mean the others, you aren’t a girl.’ High praise indeed.

The other was also from Double Bay days. Bobby told me one day that I had to become my own master, I couldn’t keep on being a disciple. A statement which said at least as much about Bobby as it might have about me. I keep wondering what might best sum him up and so far I’d say that’s it.


June 18, 2013 at 2:00 am 1 comment

Bobby Richman died yesterday.

Recollections of Bobby

hastily written before going to bed European time. Back in the morning.

G Ware (are there too many Wares on the bridge scene 🙂 ) said yesterday that for his generation Bobby was more important even than Tim and that’s true, not just because Tim was so much older, or because he wasn’t addicted quite as Bobby was to duplicate, but also because Bobby really did love kickstarting youngsters….and in….

1985 (?) Trials Brisbane….

….that’s what I was. I’d been playing about 3 years, recently moved to Sydney where my first introduction to the vibrant bridge community was Millhouse Road. It was one of the two bridge houses in the Double Bay area. The other was Bobby’s place. I had never played a natural system so Bobby learned Symmetric Relay, four card majors and it was a disaster. 10-15 HCP? Not even close. As he kept upgrading his junk and I kept overbidding in response we were always way too high. Late in Stage three, where we were still a bit of a chance, we played some friends who were determined to throw to us. Since they were coming about last, this was no great favour on their part and of course, in the event, they couldn’t even do that properly. The disasters included a 3NT redoubled. Declarer redoubled because, hey, why not, it was going down, might as well make it a BIG number. Only Bobby and I had one of those ‘does redouble mean your suit or mine?’ dilemmas and declarer had no choice but to notch up his contract. Of course, at the end of the event, I felt terrible because I’d let him down – we’d only come 6th or so.

Bobby was poor that tournament, so we shared a room: ‘don’t worry, I never sleep at night, I’ll probably do best in the bath with a bottle of champagne’. Okay Bobby…but if it’s all the same to you, I’ll be using the bedpan then. So poor was he, that he ate with Lavings when he could. Lavings was firmly into macrobiotic, which seemed to consist of lightly sauted root vegetables. The only vegetables that shouldn’t crunch when you eat them, but never mind that – I was invited, but even though I also had no money, I couldn’t bring myself to do that. I think it was the only time in my life I’ve eaten McDonalds.

Bobby at rubber.

I learned early on in my rubber career to be disciplined, play all day every day. Bobby was more of your ‘win a couple of rubbers and then go out for roast duck’ man.

Bobby at home

I shared an apartment with Bobby for a while, around 1994. He thought I was going to change his life. I was scared he was going to change mine. His office was his sofa, he would surround himself with the TV remote, the telephone, a big bottle of water. The doctor was in, there might have been a sign up. I was scared I’d end up obese and slothful. In the event, neither of us had much impact on the other. He liked my cooking enough that he paid me to keep cooking for him after I left.

Changing Bobby’s life.

Maybe I did something to change Bobby’s life and even make it longer than it might have been. I got him to take a sleep apnea test. Being fitted with a mask led to a transformation. Think about what that word means, it is probably overused, but this was. He went from a man who regularly played bridge asleep – I have no idea how he keep his cards in hand, but he never dropped them. He’d sit there, asleep, you’d say ‘your play, Bobby’ and he’d wake up, play a card, and go to sleep again – to wide awake, all because he started sleeping properly for the first time in his life. Even when he was a child, it turned out he was probably waking up THOUSANDS of times in a night. The doctor couldn’t believe he was still alive. Later, Bobby said he’d trained himself not to need the mask any more. I don’t  know if that was really true.

Bobby at the races and other methods of investing his money.

Bobby never did well enough at the things he could win at. Never well enough, that is, to cover the things he was addicted to and bad at. Or good at, but the edge just wasn’t there. He was never very happy with money in his pocket and races that could be supported. At the same time, he was scrupulously honest and never let anybody down financially – well, nobody he thought couldn’t afford it, at any rate. When the late eighties crash happened, most of his friends including bridge players, made sure they lost enough that their debts were written off. Not Bobby, he stopped the moment it was happening and spent the rest of his life paying off the losses he’d incurred. He was incredibly moral but in somewhat unexpected ways. It made him rather bitter that he paid whereas most people, including his mates, didn’t. But still, it didn’t stop him doing the right thing.

Bobby abroad

We met up in 1986 or so in Europe. You always had to look after your plans with Bobby in case he spent them on lunch. Seriously. This year we were going to a tournament in Avignon and met up in Paris beforehand. Bobby got there first and spent most of his money on roast duck. Some place where you pay a stupid amount of money and then you get a card saying you are the million and tenth person to eat the roast duck at…. Bobby actually got such a kick out of that sort of thing that he was probably the only person who got his money’s worth from the exercise. Avignon was a disaster (that’s another story) and then we had the bright idea of driving to St Moritz to stay at a friend’s place. I was plain terrified of driving with Bobby – not least because the very first turn onto the freeway we found ourselves going the wrong way – but we got there. Never fell down a mountain. But still, there we were and what to do? Bobby had no money and in any case was trying to diet. We weren’t exactly the mountain climbing types. There was supposed to be rubber bridge in St Moritz but not that we could find…

Bobby married

The invitation said ‘subject to psychosomatic weather conditions’. Nonetheless, it happened,  Bobby’s parents came. People took unkind but realistic bets about when it would end. One person that night gave up smoking for longer than the marriage lasted, another drinking. The fact is, it may seem, given Bobby’s obesity, to be an odd comparison, but he was like a bird in a cage. A beautiful cage, with a lovely wife, but caged none the less and he couldn’t do it. Women were wildly keen on Bobby, but in the end, he generally wasn’t able to give them the sorts of things girls want. He knew that. He’d tell them that. But they didn’t necessarily listen. I would no more have expected Bobby to be able to give normal relationship ‘things’ than a good dummy. I mean, it might happen, you might see the dummy he put down and say, ‘there. What was I worried about?’ But honestly. Still worry.

Bobby and the gaolhouse

Bobby had a never ending supply of stories, where often he was the butt of it all. One of my favourites was when he was playing in a world championship in France long ago. He was moving during the tournament from a posh hotel to a cheap one – the kind of wheeling dealing thing he was always doing. He’d been eating muesli in his room every morning in a bowl supplied by the posh hotel and decided that the practical thing to do was to pack it in his luggage and take it to the doss house where, after all, if they had crockery, it wouldn’t be as nice, would it? So, he’s in the foyer, he’s trying to check out and now he is confronted by the staff telling him there is a bowl missing. There was probably some diplomatic way out of this where Bobby could keep the bowl, but if so, Bobby missed the line. He insisted he didn’t have it and before you know it, in front of many of his friends from around the world, the staff is telling him if he can’t find the bowl, there is a police station that might help him find it – right there, pointing directly across the street at the flashing light of the police station. A hilarious nightmare the way Bobby tells it. Now, sweat pouring off him, starting to believe he might end up in gaol over this, he’s opening his suitcase, he can’t find the bowl…well, his suitcase was only so big, of course, he did find it. Utterly humiliated he finally managed to crawl away to his next insalubrious stop.

Bobby in business

When Bobby was in primary school, he discovered that his local bakery sold all the cakes half price at the end of the day. You might think you know what happened next….and you’d be wrong. I know it looks like he ate all the cakes, but in fact what happened was that he figured he could do a trade. Clearly Bobby was born a wheeler-dealer. He’d buy up the cakes, take them to school the next day and sell them at a profit. It was a tidy little enterprise that caused him soon enough to have a pile of money hidden under his bed. One day his mother came upon it and when she found out what was going on she (a) closed down the business and (b) put the money in the bank. It was still Bobby’s but Bobby didn’t see it like that. He used to have a pile of money under the bed, and now he didn’t. It was the last time he undertook business seriously. He saw the error of his ways.

Bobby as friend

Generous to a fault.

I imagine the number of Bobby stories in the world is practically infinite, I’d love to hear other people’s….

June 8, 2013 at 7:12 am 8 comments

June 2013
« Apr   Jul »

Recent Comments

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.