Thursday, April 9, 2009

*B*I*N*G*O* - Only the strong survive

You just never know how things are going to effect people. Last night a friend invited me to attend a bingo night being held by her daughter's work. It was a non-profit evening so all the money collected in buying the bingo books went back into the kitty for the prizes. They gave away £1500 in prizes plus a couple of hundred pounds worth of Easter eggs in the raffle.

My friend, M, was collecting me at 6.30pm. My husband had only just arrived home from another business trip (this time to London) twenty-five minutes earlier.

‘Where are you going?’
‘I don’t know where it’s on. M didn’t tell me.’
‘When will you be back?’
‘It’s not going to be a late night.’
‘What does that mean?’
‘I don’t know, about 10.00pm I suppose.’
‘Who else is going?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘So you don’t know where you are going, you don’t know when it will finish and you don’t know who will be there.’
‘Yes that’s right. Look I didn’t ask too many questions – it was a night out. What can I say? I do know we will be playing Bingo though.’
‘Will you have your mobile?’

I’m not sure what emergency could possibly happen when the kids were fed, washed and ready for bed but he was obviously thinking there may be one so I made sure my mobile was on, just in case aliens invaded, a toy was rammed into an orifice or a small pox epidemic broke out in the four hours I was going to be away.

The black four-wheel-drive pulled up outside the house, the front door was flung wide, I was dressed, make-up applied, perfume sprayed and ready to make my escape, ‘Bye. Love you.’ I could hear their cries as I walked to the car. I turned to see four faces pressed against the glass of the lounge room windows, three small, one large. I could hear my youngest calling for me. For goodness sake you would think I was leaving forever not just a couple of hours. Don’t get me wrong I do love being an at home Mum but sometimes it is nice to know you are an individual as well as a parent.

We drove to collect the other members of our table. It was when we pulled into the Les Rocquettes Hotel car park that the evening’s entertainment really began. Please let me set the scene; Guernsey is small, space is at a premium, land values are high as a result, you need to count yourself lucky if the venue you are attending has a car park at all. The Les Rocquettes Hotel does have a car park for approximately forty cars. We pulled into the drive and there was an empty park directly in front of us; it was the last space; it would fit the four-wheel drive; we could drive straight in; it was perfect. When I say empty I should clarify, it was empty aside from the angry looking, short woman in a beige overcoat standing in the middle of it with her arms firmly folded across her chest.

‘What is she doing?’ asks M.
‘I don’t know.’ –I wasn’t very helpful
‘She’s barring that space,’ pipes up one of the three passengers in the back seat.
‘She can’t do that!’ says M.

The angry woman made a jabbing motion at the M’s car and then pointed to her right.

‘What is she doing?’ asks M.
‘I don’t know.’ – helpful as ever.
‘She’s telling us to park over there,’ pipes the peanut gallery.

M winds down her window.

‘Excuse me would you please move. We are trying to park our car.’
‘I’m minding this spot,’ says Angrypants.
‘You can’t do that. This is a private car park. It is a first come first serve basis,’ says M
‘I know that is why I am barring this spot. I was here first,’ replies Angrypants. She was crossing her arms so tightly by now I feared the circulation may be cut off from her hands at any moment.
‘Who are you holding it for?’ asks M.
‘My Mother,’ replies Angrypants.

M’s colour was a little reminiscent of a beetroot by this stage. I should tell you I have know M for about 20 months and have always found her to be exceptionally calm, controlled, unassuming and friendly; apparently car park thieves bring out her Incredible Hulk side. There was a heated discussion going on in the car about the validity of her barring the space; in the meantime four other cars were now stopped behind us trying to enter the car park, with a few more lined up on the street behind them. The car park is one-way; one-way in, one-way out, one car width wide.

‘A car has just left over there. We can park there.’ I suggest.
‘I am not parking there! I am parking here. She can’t hold that spot.’
‘But we would fit in that park.’
‘We are parking here!!’ – I shut up at this point.

M leans out the window. ‘Excuse me this is private car park you can not hold parks for other people. If they had wanted a park then they should have go here earlier as we did.’
‘This park is for my mother. She is in that silver car behind you,’ says Angrypants
‘Well then she can park in the spot you were pointing at before can’t she,’ replies M as she slowly starts to roll the car forward.

The car was silent. The peanut gallery in the backseat was quite. Tumble weeds were blowing across the car park. Did Angrypants have a weapon concealed under the oversized beige coat? Was M going to whip a crowbar out from the boot? Was a car park space worth all this upset? Just as we were about to witness the ‘Last Stand at Les Rocquettes Hotel’ Angrypants gave up and left.

We exited the vehicle rather speedily in case Angrypants wanted a rumble (ala Grease but without the hair gel) but by the time we had left the car she had retreated into the bar. I entered the room where the Bingo was to be held and turned to talk to M, but M wasn’t there. I went back outside to find M and one of the peanuts talking to the ‘Mother’ in the silver car. Apparently Angrypants knew every trick in the book, the lady in the silver car who she had claimed was her mother was in fact……not. The driver had never seen Angrypants before in her life and judging by her age it was a biological impossibility for the driver to be Angrypants’ mother unless she had given birth in her pre-teen years.

It took M a good half an hour for the ‘red mist’ to rise; even the calming, somewhat monotonous tone of the bingo caller failed to soothe her jangled nerves; ‘Legs 11, anyway up 69, Heinz variety 57, three doz 36.’

The prizes were more substantial than I anticipated. It started at £20 for a line and £30 for house and gradually moved up during the evening until the final round was worth £100 for a, line and £220 for house.

We had a dinner break after five rounds. I avoid fried food, not just for the sheer capacity my body has at sucking all fat from food and directly depositing it on my lower half within a matter of minutes but all that grease usually gives me indigestion. When M had invited me she didn’t have the menu to hand so she rattled off a few of the items and asked me to choose. I should stress all options were of the fried variety, I settled on spring rolls served with chips, of course! Apparently these spring rolls had come directly from some secret super food laboratory which was attempting to feed the starving masses as they were literally the length of my hand and about ten centimetres wide AND there were two of them perched precariously on top of a mound of chips. I would have normally only eaten one but I felt it I should eat both in hope of countering the two drinks I had been purchased. I am still getting used to the whole ‘rounds’ system of drink buying here. I prefer to buy my own drinks then I can control how many drinks I consume and don’t get caught in the dangerous cycle of rounds where more alcohol keeps coming regardless of whether you want it or not. The bar tender was of the belief it is best to give customers value for money and managed to fit a third of a bottle of wine in each glass, after two of these particularly generous beverages I felt a little food, fried otherwise, lining my stomach was a very good idea. By the end of the evening the wobbly boot was far from on but perhaps the wobbly sandal had paid a visit.

One of our table won £70 and another won £110, there was a third win but once again Bingo Aggression came to roost. It was the third last round, the line had already been won and the prize given, we were ‘dabbing’ (the technical name, I was to learn, for crossing out the numbers and also the name of a large leaky pen which covers the number with a circle of ink, as well as you hands, and any other item on the table in your vicinity) like crazy; everyone was focused on the £80 prize for the house. ‘Bingo’ the call came from across the room, ‘AAWWWW’ echoed all the other bingoers who only had one number to go. ‘Wait!’ says one of our table. ‘I’ve got it too.’ Off she rushes to the head table to find out if she can claim the prize even though the other lady called bingo first. She came back to the table with £40. She had actually had a full house two numbers ago but hadn’t realised it. The judge said he would split the money as she had failed to call bingo but was the rightful winner. The lady who had called bingo was NOT happy; within thirty seconds of her backside touching her seat her entire table had the events relaid to them and the ‘death stares’ began. There were loud comments being made, glares, stares and other nasty looks in our direction.

We did make it out alive. Next time M asks me out for a quite game of Bingo I now know to don the full Kevlar suit, to be prepared to rumble, come equipped with crowbars should any car park gang wars break out and be prepared to shoulder charge to escape the ‘homies’ of disgruntled prize sharers. All in all it was a most enlightening evening.

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