For some years now I have had an inexplicable desire to go to the Bingo. I don’t gamble much in other ways – the odd lottery ticket and a couple of ‘close-but-not-quite’ flutters on the Grand National. But something about dibbing (dabbing?) those numbers was calling me… One of the things that had held me back from going before now was not being able to find a kindred spirit who would come with me. My ‘Want to come to the Bingo with me?’ tended to be met with scorn and derision. Lucky, then, that amongst my friends there are certain individuals who are as kooky as me. (That’s ‘kooky’ in a good way, Mel…)
After a bit of research about venues and running times, we hit on the ‘Main Session’ at ‘Club 3000 Bingo’ on Western Avenue…and off we went. Out of my comfort zone, and into the bingo hall with a feeling of not knowing what the heck was going on. (Actually, I felt like that for most of the evening!)
“Hello, we’re Bingo Virgins… what do we have to do?” said Mel. A rather bemused counterperson proceeded to sign us up and issue us with membership cards; he then sent us round to the cashier, where we received instruction on which books we needed for the evening. £10 lighter, we proceeded into the main hall clutching books, tickets and brand new dabbers.
We found ourselves a table, sat down, looked around, looked at each other… nope, neither of us had a clue…! “They look like seasoned bingoers,” I hissed to Mel, gesturing to the couple on the adjacent table. I turned to the woman in black. “We’re Bingo Virgins,” I blurted (rather unoriginally), “can you tell us what to do?” Turned out it was their first time too. The only thing to do was to call over a member of staff, who patiently explained that our main session books would start at 7.30; we had just enough time to get a couple of beers in and prime our spangly pink and purple dabbers.
So, let’s get the disappointments out of the way…
- We didn’t win a penny… didn’t even get a line…
- The caller didn’t say ‘Eyes down’, ‘Two fat ladies’, ‘Legs eleven’ or anything of that ilk. What’s that all about?
- Did I mention, we didn’t win a penny…? (My closest was within one number of a Full House).
And now the fun bits…
Frankly, I can’t remember the last time I concentrated so hard!! The rate of the calling was intense and locating the numbers surprisingly stressful. I don’t think at any point during the evening I could say that I felt I knew what I was doing, and we both spent a lot of time looking around frantically trying to work out what everyone else was doing and then following suit… which was quite entertaining in itself. The hall was full of people dabbing their numbers – some on paper and the more serious participants with their electronic cards. There were slots at our table to feed with pound coins in order to participate in additional games (never worked out what that was about). There was a bar, with a strict ‘single-file’ queuing policy, and a food counter, from which we indulged in jumbo sausage accompanied by the fattest chips I had ever eaten. We managed scant conversation in the breaks between games, because talking during the calling… well, even I quickly grasped that aspect of bingo etiquette.
Which brings me to possibly the most surreal yet entertaining moment of the evening…
It was the penultimate sheet of the ‘Big 3 Gold’ book. The prize at stake was £600. Seemingly too much for some to handle. As the calling started on the purple sheet, *talking* was audible from one of the booths. And ‘shushing’ from all quarters of the hall. Another few numbers were called. The talking persisted, voices becoming raised. The shushing was more insistent, with a couple of calls of ‘Shut up’ emanating from gravelly-voiced matriarchs. And then it all kicked off. A male from the booth f-ing and blinding, a rush of centre staff to the booth and heckles from the crowd. “Shurrup!”,”Put your handbags down!”, “Get ‘im out!” and meanwhile… “Don’t f***ing touch me… Get the f*** away from me” and a stand off between a scrawny bouncer and a rather agitated foulmouthed bonehead. We sat at our table, observing in disbelief. I hoped my mouth wasn’t actually hanging as wide open as it felt. Finally outnumbered by staff, bonehead was ushered down the stairs from his booth, dropping the c-word as he descended, and was escorted from the hall to cheers, jeers and applause. Then, as if nothing had happened, eyes were back down to finish the game. I’m not sure how we managed to finish that sheet – we kept our heads down, hoping that no-one could see our shoulders shaking and the tears rolling down our faces…
So, the final number of the final sheet was called. The last dab made, we watched bemused as the hall emptied in an extraordinarily speedy exodus. We decided they were probably off to the next-door Tesco to pick up the last of the reduced food and a crate of ‘wife-beater’.
We, on the other hand, retreated to the relative safety of North Cardiff to debrief…
[5 down, 45 to go]
6 thoughts on “5. Go to the Bingo”
Am very impressed! How many games did you run at once?! Xx
It was hard enough to keep up with just the one!! x
Definitely reminds me of the ‘losing of my bingo ch**ry”…..there were about 8 of us virgins with little clue and one experienced veteran! We were lucky not to have the debacle from the booth ……although I think scorn was cast over our tables when one of my fellow bingoers shouted ‘house’ despite having the wrong number or one number short (I can’t quite remember!!)…only to have exactly the right number called next…. Thank goodness the Bingo employee was still next to our table….. A few ££ up….yay!….went in the Christmas night out fund!!
Loving your blog J!
Will catch up with the full stories on 9th March…. which, my fellow readers, may be one of the next installments on 50shadesof brave! Xx
My pulse rate was raised for the entire night, chasing those numbers up and down the columns. I think I’m actually glad I didn’t have to shout ‘house’ – I can feel the pain of getting it wrong from here!
Loving your blog Justine – what a prolific writer you are. You should embark on a novel you know. x