The drab monotony of a Wednesday morning is pretty much the same as the drab monotony of any other morning, except that there’s usually a shaft of sunlight poking through in the fact that the weekend’s been sighted off the port bow. Half the week’s work’s about to be behind you, and given that I put the majority of the week’s work at the beginning of it, I welcome Wednesdays with the same aplomb as most people embrace Thursday evenings.
Anyway, on this particular Wednesday the hangover was licking the back of my neck like a St Bernard puppy and I lopped out of bed at 7am to discover that I’d left the heating on all night and the remains of a pizza box somewhere in the vicinity of the bedside table. God bless Lonely Tuesdays, I thought as I scrabbled down to the fridge in my shorts and drained a carton of Pineapple juice without using a glass.
After my customary hangover routine of sitting cross – legged under a warm shower sounding my Om for an hour or so, I reluctantly left it, dressed, cast a view at the drizzle drenched street from the bedroom window and summarily headed back into the shower for a while. I won’t bore you with any further daily routine details, save to say that my motivation for this particular Wednesday was a little lacking, and as my creative impulse was feeling similar, I figured it was time to make coffee and get pro-active on The List once more.
I’d been keeping up my breadmaking experiments each week, attended various meetings, acquired a camper van that wasn’t mine yet that lacked a carburettor, spent a significant amount of time over the last couple of weeks composing emails and making phone calls to anyone I could find on the net that might have been concerned with Gospel masses, Haunted Houses, See Shanties et al, and beyond a few nice polite and wholly unhelpful responses had come to the conclusion that the best way to approach the list, with my birthday looming ever closer, was to get off my arse and do it my bloody self. I’m aware that the previous sentence may well be the longest I’ve ever written yet apologise for nothing. I lack a good editor. Anyway, getting back to the action….
“And why not”? I reasoned. The List had already shown its power when I baked some Jack Daniels bread and used it beat The Gaffer at chess. I figured if I just started filling in the easier ones on the list by myself, then the list itself would help me tick off the rest.
And so, after much umming and aahhing, several cups of coffee and two cigars, this uninspiring Wednesday soon found me scratching my ear and wandering up several flights of steps on my way to play Bingo at the only place in Preston I could find to do so.
“Can I help you, young man”?
I glanced around the reception area. Well, I say that, but it more closely resembled the games room of the Mos Eisley Cantina. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. There was a rounded bar kind of affair behind which the gent who’d made the above request stood, with a couple of tills, chocolate bars on sale, and some electronic gizmos wired into it. Behind me, the door. Ahead, on the far side of the room, numerous gambling machines into which several senior ladies fed coins by the handful.
All in all, it was precisely what I probably should have expected, and exactly what I didn’t.
I fumbled around in my pocket.
“Well, I’ve got this list, see”… quoth I, producing said item and running a finger along it, “…of 40 things I have to do, and number 23 is to play Bingo”.
He gave me a huge, shit – eatin’ grin and hurried around the counter. In fact he even shook my hand. I got the feeling he’d seen it all before.
“Fantastic. Is it for charity or something”?
“It is”, I muttered, trying to ignore the taste of Pernod that had accrued in my mouth all of a sudden.
“I’m sorry, it’s my first time”.
“Then come on over here, sign this form, and we’ll get you in as a temporary member”.
Worra guy. Couldn’t have been more welcoming and helpful. 10 minutes later I was signed in, sipping from a Styrofoam Cappucino and perched on my backside while scanning through a nice long list of numbers. I had a nice fat book of tickets (gamecards, I think they called ‘em) and was happily dabbing away at my fingertips with big fat purple pen that had set me back a quid. I’d been told by the girl selling the ticket books that I wasn’t to take any pictures, fair enough, but that doesn’t stop me building up a mental picture for you, right here.
To be honest, the hall itself was pretty vast. It was straight on past the gaming machines I mentioned earlier and reminded me a bit of an airport lounge, although many of the folks here were getting close to a very lengthy kind of check out, if you know what I mean. Lots of little tables and chairs set into dividing walls that seemed to be made of the same material that swimming pools are made of.
A guy at the front called out numbers at a phenomenal rate, like he was commentating on a horse race. In the wall directly next to me were set two coin slots, and set into the table itself was a twenty number grid. I soon figured out that you had to feed the wall slots with money in order to play, and so once the game was over, I popped in a fifty pence piece and joined the next one. The digital display set into the table lit up with the first number. Eyes down, children, I was off. I’d beaten the Gaffer at chess, so I knew my luck was in. It was just a question of whether or not I’d brought enough plastic bags with me to carry all the money home.
Forty five minutes later and I was ten quid down on the deal and down to my last two fifty pee pieces. On the table in front of me was a 60% complete book of bingo cards and a temporary membership card all lovingly covered in proud graffiti from my purple dabber pen. A rather large gent of severe and sour sentiment, stygian suit and shiny staff badge sauntered along the aisles to stand over me, and I sensed his scrutiny of my spending. This Bingo lark’s an expensive racket, I mused as I drained the last of the third Styrofoam coffee and began to painfully gather up my arsenal.
I gave the hall a last glance round as I paused at the glass swing doors that led back to the reception area. A sea of grey hair and black rimmed spectacles huddled over identical tables while the numbers continued to flash up on every wall, digital, red, and inexorable. A grain of an idea crossed my mind, a place as empty as my wallet, and I suddenly saw exactly how I could make vast amounts of cash at bingo. It was simple, foolproof, a hundred percent genuine, and anybody could do it. Better yet, it could have no, absolutely no, negative repercussions. None whatsoever. Naturally, I suppressed the thought immediately. It could wait for another day, another time.
I swung back out through the door into reception, bumping it into the backside of an old lady picking some change from the drawer of a slot machine.
“I’m sorry, it’s my first time” I called back to her, as I tipped my hat to guy the guy on the desk and skipped back out to daylight, where I dabbed a thick purple tick onto The List before ambling off to embrace whatever joys the afternoon could bring.