Every so often adult children make you do something completely out of the ordinary on the pretext that it's their birthday and you are their parents and therefore obliged to attend and the Kayaker's birthday bash was no exception. He had an evening excursion planned with friends to celebrate finally becoming a grown up at twenty-five and which he said would be entirely appropriate for people of our age.
Are you sure I demanded, imagining being set up for a terrible foam party clubbing experience ?
Yes, he assured me and he was not wrong because we had a great time and I'll be honest we were not very excited about it.
I can't believe that I've never done it before, at least not properly like this, in a room full of hundreds of people and occasionally via a live link to thousands of others doing likewise across the country.
I have never known tension like it and the concentration required fair knocked my poor brain for six. If anyone in the party spoke they were hissed at through gritted teeth and you just sat in awe of the considerably older generation (even than us) present who rattled through it with ease whilst I was struggling to keep up. I wish I'd taken my knitting too because they all got that out at half time.
You've guessed I'm sure but if not here's your starter for legs eleven.
Yes, it was Gala Bingo and what a night we had and no we didn't win the national jackpot, that went to someone in Grimsby, but what a revelation it all was. Firstly I do have to acknowledge that for many it is part of a gambling addiction and there were notices up warning of the dangers and offering help, but that aside it's all deadly serious. There's none of that clickety-click, quack-quack stuff which we'd been practising all day.
The Tinker was away so we didn't even have him with us for cover, really really old people, much older than him anyway, sitting there playing two lots of cards at a time, pen in EACH hand, awesome, and the numbers just flying out, barely a one second gap in between each call from a caller who couldn't say "th" so it was "all the frees firty free". Fortunately a very nice gentleman who had been going twice a week since 1976 came over and explained it all because we were clueless.
Well this first game is the Party Extra you need lines across, down, diagonal or four squares in the middle, once that's been won you need a full house.
Do I run up to the front?
No you just shout.
Anything, don't feel stupid, always shout.
What about all these?
Well those are one line, then two lines and then full house and then there's the National Game which is lines, then full house, the High Five's just full house.
Do the lines have to be in the same box? Two lines? Two lines where?
After three minutes intensive tuition and dire and solemn warnings about never tearing the pages out of the book we were off and I want you all to see this,
See, those two lines, right at the bottom. Well by the time I'd noticed and told Bookhound that I'd got two lines and Bookhound had verified that indeed I did have two lines, then I'd called out, "ME ME" waved my arms in the air, half fallen out of my seat and then tripped over my bag with excitement and clouted my knee, the whole thing was onto the next number and someone else had shouted. Silence.
All eyes fixed on me, hundreds of them piercing through me menacingly, everyone's concentration shot to pieces as proceedings were halted for verification and to advise me that, despite the undeniable drama and volume of my claim, I had called too late. 'FALSE CLAIM' was announced loudly to all and sundry, inciting frankly unnecessary smug grins around the olds and actually a surprising number of young people there too. I sank down into my seat, face glowing a fetching shade of Eating Room Red whilst bitterly bemoaning that I had been robbed of £15.
Meanwhile the smugly ambidextrous nonagenarians, having warmed up, are now approaching peak fitness levels. If this was an Olympic sport I swear we'd trounce the world. I was too busy concentrating to check but now I'm certain they were filling in extra cards with pens in their toes and probably utilizing a nodding technique involving a pen attached to their foreheads, and they were raking it in.
For the National Game halfway through the evening you link live to all the other Gala Bingo halls in the country and get beaten by nonagenarians in Basingstoke.
The trouble is your brain frantically scans up and down the columns for the numbers and forgets to look laterally for completed rows, I could feel bits of my cerebral hemispheres creaking undone like screwed up newspaper and the tension was indescribable. My jaw remained locked in such a state of clenched muscle spasm for the next two days that I thought I was at least sickening for tetanus.
However I think Gala Bingo might be the great undiscovered night out. You don't have to make polite conversation, completely unsociable, every time someone speaks you tell them to be quiet, but at least you know you are fending off the Alzheimers for a bit longer, seriously don't knock it, we were really impressed.