The loud snap of a top-fastening ‘fifties handbag transports me in an instant to a warm, smoky, packed room in a village hall. I am at my Nan’s side, holding my excitement in by an extreme act of self-discipline for an 8 year old – it is Bingo Night, and Nan says I can call if she wins.
The room, as one voice, shouts out “clickety” before the caller has finished with “all the sixes”.
Every time my nan crosses off a number on the card in front of her, my heart beats faster.
Nan says I can shout “Housey housey” if all her numbers come up – with 3 left on her card, I am not sure if my excitement is more fear than anticipation.
Another number crossed off, we only want 16 (sweet sixteen) and two fat ladies, and my stomach begins to knot, and I wriggle in my seat, torn between wanting my nan to win and not wanting to have to shout out in front of all these people. Wondering if there is a prayer that allows my nan to win some money, and me to remain hidden; I start to swallow repeatedly.
I try to whisper to my nan that I might not shout “housey” in time, and maybe she should do it – but she is concentrating on her numbers, and I can’t get all the words out between calls.
Two fat ladies, 88. I take a deep breath, then almost let loose a giddy cheer as the lady 3 seats over in the next row shouts house.
People clap, then expel the torrent of chatter they had been holding in.