Alexandra's Notebook

Playing with the Card Sharks

Following on from yesterday’s post about my introduction to shift work, the reason most of us survived and, quite possibly flourished on night shifts, was nothing to do with the copious amounts of thick, treacly black coffee we all consumed, but the fact we all played cards. Bastard Whist, to be precise.

It didn’t take me long to find out where the card games were being played through out each night shift. All I had to do was stumble into the Comms room and there they all were, staffers from every department; sergeant, corporal and junior airmen alike, rowdily playing this crazy fast game where, I suspect, everyone, including myself (eventually) cheated. As that was all part of the game and what made this mad-cap game so much fun, never mind, an addiction.

Each session could be played with between 3 to 7 players. No less no more. Not 2, not 8. I’m not sure I can explain just what the game involved, you would have to play it. It took me a few hands to understand not only the game play itself, but the strategies involved. It was simple and yet, it was as complex as the people playing it.

Playing this game kept us all sane and, for the most part, I guess, gifted us a sense of camaraderie. It was these people outside of shift who we usually sat with at meals, or at the NAAFI bar of an evening, and celebrated milestone events with, like birthdays, postings, births and weddings.

Even today, I still wonder what happened to some of these people who, over time, became good friends, and those who I stayed in touch with for a long time, over the years, long after we had all left the military. I still think of them fondly, along with the game. And wonder if service personnel still play Bastard Whist in the wee small hours on night shift, on bases around the world?