It’s only a game!

This week’s prompt for the promptless is yet another new word to me – honne.  (It is a new word to my spell-checker as well, it changed it to hone, without asking!  So here is an attempt to hone my writing skills, writing about honne.  It did it again!)

Honne is a Japanese noun referring to the behaviour and opinions someone truly believes in– often displayed with one’s closest confidants.

The doors are unlocked.  People begin to arrive.  The officials are sitting behind tables ready to take the entrance money, give out score cards and sell raffle tickets.

The tables and chairs have been set out in rows: folding tables with green baize tops and the ubiquitous stacking chairs with moulded plastic seats.

The devotees divide themselves into pairs, ideally in the antediluvian style, male and female.  There are never enough men, so some ladies partner each other.  (Do you remember that wonderful comic song made famous by Joyce Grenfell – As Stately as a Galleon?)

Here the gentlemen have more responsibility than the ladies.  They have to shuffle and deal the cards, remembering to have the pack “cut” at the appropriate times.

Are all the people seated?  Are the tables full with no empty spaces?  Oh, they are a lady short there and a gentleman over here.  That extra table wasn’t needed after all!

If all the tables are filled with one to three people remaining, the last table is left for the spare people who sit out for one hand and then play the next.  They are sometimes called flirts, as they have to keep themselves amused for a few minutes, while everyone else is busy.

The whistle blows and they are off!

The gentleman who won the cut deals the entire pack, the players sort out their cards.  Hearts are trumps!  The lady to the left of the dealer plays first and the game continues, the gentlemen collecting the tricks won by their partnership.

The hand is over, the score cards completed and countersigned.  The winning partners stand up when the whistle blows and move in opposite directions to the next table in sequence.  The losing gentlemen move one seat round the table and are joined by a lady and gentleman from opposite directions.  Clubs are trumps and they are off again.

The next hands see diamonds followed by spades as trumps.

There is social banter after each hand while the slower tables finish their games.  Sometimes the chat is about the hand, which has just been played, although a detailed post-mortem is not always good form.  Or it may be the weather, holidays or health, domestic disasters or family news.

Twelve hands are played and it is the interval.  Tea or coffee and biscuits may be served on waterproof cloths placed over the tables and the raffle drawn.  Anyone who has scored 80 points or more in the first half has their scorecard checked by a committee member.  (12 hands with 13 tricks each is 156 points, so 80 and above means a chance of winning.)  All the trays and cloths having been cleared away the whistle is blown and the game resumes.

Twelve more hands are played in like manner.  The total scores for the second half and the grand total are entered.

The winners are identified and the prizes given out to applause.  More banter especially to the losers who received the consolation (or booby) prizes.

Chairs are stacked and personal belongings collected up.  The players leave and the committee tidy the hall, switch off the lights (and possibly the heating), lock up and go home to prepare for the next time.

In the days of television, computer games and 3-D cinema, whist drives remain popular.