blasted back to the 70s as I arrived at a church hall to play a game of Bingo. It was all very retro! What fun!
I met my beloved in a football club and part of the evenings entertainment there was a game of Bingo. I used to roll my eyes as the reading glasses, lucky pens and rabbit foot charms emerged from bags and pockets and watched in amazement at the serious demeanour of the club patrons as the Bingo caller took the microphone. It was eyes down, look in for three quid a line and a tenner for a full house. This was serious stuff! I would cringe with embarrassment when the lucky punter would cry "Ere you are luv!" in a Coronation Street accent, and a gasp of disappointment went around the hall with lucky pens slammed down loudly on the table and tutting and head shaking preceded claims that,"I was sweating on one number." I was a waitress and nobody ordered drinks when Bingo was being called. Staff weren't allowed to play and silence was called for - so this was my time for people watching.
On the one occasion I happened to be there on a night off and was cajoled into joining in - I happened to be 'sweating for one number' and when it was called I shouted "Ere you are luv!" in the same voice and felt the sharp daggers of a hundred pairs of eyes in my back as I collected my tenner.
I was raised to believe that Bingo was a pastime for the working classes that my parents had worked hard to elevate themselves from. Like fish and chip shops, headscarves and chewing gum - It was frowned upon. When my youngest was 11 we went on his first visit to England. One of the treats was to spend a day at Blackpool Indoor Sun Centre - where we swam in man made waves, screeched down water chutes and when our skin was white and pinched and our lungs fully chlorinated, we made our way to the entertainment area. It included a bingo corner where you could perch on a stool and when enough people had perched the game would start. As we had a free ticket it was only natural that young Sean wanted to play. I said no and when he asked why I said that it was a game for the working classes. Being the focused young man that he was - he debated this and eventually worn down, my sister, Julia, agreed to perch on a stool and play with him while I stood behind them. The other stools were filling up and the Bingo caller invited me to play - I declined politely. A few minutes passed and there was only a couple of stools vacant - I was asked again by the Bingo caller to play,"Come on love treat yourself to a game of Bingo - you look like a winner." Again I said no thank- you and that was when Sean piped up, "My mum says only common people play bingo." I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me as again I felt the sharp daggers of 11 pairs of eyes bore into me and saw my sister's shoulders moving up and down as she convulsed silently in laughter. The game started and Sean didn't win but at the end the Bingo caller called him behind the counter and said,"There you go son, help yourself to any prize you want. That was the funniest thing that has ever happened to me in all my years of calling Bingo and yer muvver's face was a picture!"
This Friday night was different. It was for fun and a good cause - although I suspect that there were a few lucky charms hidden away and a few prayers offered for the safe delivery of the R75 jackpot. Our Bingo callers were a couple of pensioners. Dot wearing a pink cardi and the most sensible pair of shoes I have ever seen - sort of orthopedic gladiator pumps. She took the mike and welcomed us in a geriatric warble. George sat smiling next to her in a handknitted jumper and a silly grin on his face - his cheeks flushed with excitement. It was eyes down look in and the numbers were drawn by George and read out by Dot - I think that they had been practicing as they had all the cute sayings that Bingo callers use - Two little ducks number 22; top of the shop blind 90; on its own the lucky 7 and when Dot called sweet sixteen she puckered her lips and made a kissing sound into the mike - which conjured up awful images of geriatric snogging! There was some confusion when someone called Bingo after four numbers and it had to be explained that the line had to be horizontal - not vertical (really) and the game got under way again with much tittering from the Bingo die hards (including me).
As the evening wore on Dot's calling skills came into question as she fluffed the numbers a couple of times and we began to wander if the clear liquid in her glass next to her was actually water. Then there was the dilemma of the evening, when George dropped one of his balls and it disappeared - a search party was called in and it was eventually found to much relief, in the folds of the stage curtain, and the game continued. There would have been a mutiny at the Town Ground Football Club had it happened there, but on Friday it just brought more titters as we clickety clicked and marked off number 66.
Fish and chips were served and then more Bingo was played. We didn't win but Lady Luck danced at our table when our host walked off with a bottle of Whisky in the raffle and then called "ere you are chuck!" in a German accent (Vidink viavore line - yah!) for the line in the final game.
I think perhaps my parents were wrong - Bingo is a just a game, like any other. Great fun when it is played in the spirit of a game but like any game - when winning becomes more important than the fun - It becomes a pastime for common people!