Driving around we saw signs for "Loto" and sometimes "Super Loto". Not the lottery, but bingo and anyone who has been here for any length of time knows exactly what I'm talking about. It's prize bingo. A leaflet has appeared in the postbox, our village is having a bingo evening. "We should go," I was enthusiastic, "It's not as though we're seeing people in the village". It's the middle of winter and our village has shut. You'd think it was a ghost towns, all the shutters are shut, the whole village smells like Bonfire Night, but Bernard on his tractor and the post lady still pass daily. The lady in the bread van has a multiple layers on, with a trapper hat and a scarf holding that in place tied under her chin. It's 8 degrees outside, they never lived in the North of England, I'm in a t shirt. How this will change in the coming years.
We arrive amid to find a wave of puffa jackets, the mayors wife at the desk selling cards which she'll stamp. The same cards are used each year, they're a bit tatty, but they do the job. There's a new stamp each year to indicate that you didn't squirrel one away from the previous year to get out of paying the euro per card. There are also raffle tickets for sale, the prizes are on display, looks like a decent haul so let's have a few strips.
There's a bar, and it looks like some form of cake to the stage area and the bingo caller has ditched her questionable daily knitwear for something rather lovely. She is flanked onstage by two adjudicators. All looks a bit serious for my liking. We take our seats, "Anywhere you like," we're cheerily informed "Except there, X always sits there with her family". We're seated next to some lovely people we've never seen before and there are little plastic dishes filled with snacks. As a child I remember that there was a savoury snack in the UK called "Fish and Chips", which were salt and vinegar flavoured shaped, I don't know, corn based snacks, which made my eyes water and my nose run. I'll give them a miss.
Out of my bag I fish the list from the French class which has the numbers on it, it's double -sided, 1-50 on one side and you know what's on reverse. I'm eyed with a pity head tilt but a gentle smile, I look at my husband who is already thinking "Fresh hell, what fun". Next to the snacks is a dish of cardboard counters, there are no bingo pens with those trolls on the end, the cards are recycled every year. It appears that we have sole use of the counters because everyone has, I'll describe it as a pro bingo kit. It's a wand with a magnet at one end, this has been through through because that looks like an ergonomically designed handle, and with it are little plastic discs with a magnetic ring. I want on one of these. I will have one of these.
Bingo starts. If your village is anything like hours it's going to go on for hours. They have the childrens bingo first and that runs until all 32 child friendly prizes are won. I wonder why on earth anyone would sit through this, it's a long night, but there are vouchers for jambon hams and a big screen tv up for grabs so maybe that's why they bother. The caller announces it's about to start, the main event. Suddenly, I see our commune worker standing in front of us. "The mayor sent me, he said you might need help". Insulted at first then struck by the kindness of it, eyes down and look in.
We won a steam iron and in the raffle the hamper. It wasn't a hamper, it was a huge metal rimmed folding bag full of confit de carnard, pate, tinned goods, rather nice biscuits etc. The full hamper - not pick something out of the hamper. This British woman disgraced our kind by immediately reaching for the bottle of red wine, assuming that the next raffle ticket drawn would get to pick something. The following day we went into town. I have a pro bingo kit. I like loto a lot. more soon, Alice X