I have given my blog a new look, because, well, why not? And as I was doing that, I thought I may as well post this cautionary tale about the dangers of drunken bingo calling.
‘Young and keen,’ announced the bingo caller, looking neither young nor keen, ‘number 15.’
The bingo-goers huddled over their cards, marking off numbers, while also keeping a firm eye on the caller. He seemed to be staging a very public nervous breakdown.
‘Fifteen,’ he said. ‘Today would have been our fifteenth anniversary. If we were still together.’ He took another sip from his glass, which people were beginning to suspect contained something rather stronger than water. ‘But no… she left me. It’s been three years, but it still hurts. Why’d you do it, Lizzie, why…?’
Another sip, another ball. ‘Garden gate, number eight. You know…’ another sip. ‘Our son will be eight next month. Our son, although you wouldn’t bloody think it, I never get to see him, do I? No, he’s always with Lizzie and Steve, out playing football or going to the beach or bloody… bloody hiking! Hiking! The only bloody good thing about hiking is going to the bloody pub at the end of it, although that’s the problem, isn’t it? Apparently I go to the pub too bloody much. Do I look like an alcoholic to you, madam?’
His big red face lurched in the direction of the woman nearest to the stage. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, she tentatively shook her head.
‘Exactly. I am in full control of my facu… fadul… faculties. Now, where was I? Come on, Roy – oh, I’m Roy, ladies and gentlemen, did I say that yet? – new gig, new venue, let’s make a good impression. Dancing queen, number 17. Now, I could never dance, but Lizzie, wow, what a mover. She… she was always the one everyone watched on the dancefloor and I… I was so proud… to be on her arm… excuse me, ladies and gentlemen…’
Murmurs from the crowd. Roy wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.
‘…and then Steve, fucking Steve came along with his professional fucking ballroom dancing background and his ‘ooh, why don’t you and me go see the Strictly tour Lizzie, Roy doesn’t have to come, he won’t appreciate it, let him go to the pub’ and I was fucking stupid enough to think he was doing both of us a fucking favour and next thing you know they’re doing the goddamn tango in the bedroom while I’m having a pint down the road. Has anybody got a full house yet? No? Right, we’ll bloody well carry on then. Staying alive – ha, just about, I suppose – number 85.’
‘In a state, twenty-eight. None of you say anything, all right? I’m just fine, just fine. Anyone got house yet? No? Hell’s bells, come on, have any of you even played bloody bingo before? Fine, onto the next one. Burlington Bertie, number 30. Lizzie’s birthday is the thirtieth. Thirtieth of Februar… no, that can’t be right. March. Thirtieth of March. Kept forgetting it, though, didn’t I? I tried to make up for it though, after. I’d get her flowers, perfume, chocolates… one time, I got her a life-size cardboard cut-out of Michael Buble – she fucking loves Michael Buble. But every time she’d say “It’s too late now, Roy, you should have got me this the other day.” She’s still got that Buble cut-out, though. I saw it through the window when I walked past our place the other day. Our place… her and Steve’s place, I should say. They’ve put a woolly hat on it. Looks bloody ridiculous. House yet, anyone? Anyone at all? Fucking hell, COME ON!’
A long drink.
‘Stop work, number 65. Stop work? I’d stop bloody work if any of you would get fucking house? Anyone? While we’re fucking young? No? Key for the door, number 21. I remember the day my key for the door stopped working. Changed all the locks, hadn’t she? All my clothes in bags on the pavement. Next. Legs 11. Great legs, my Lizzie… I really fucking miss her.’
‘I wish she’d come back to me.’
‘I fucking love you, Lizzie.’
Another drink, and a new ball.
‘All the threes, thirty-three. I remember when…’
A hand went up at the back of the room. ‘House,’ quavered a woman’s voice.
‘Oh, about fucking time,’ said Roy. ‘Sorry, I mean congratulations. You’ve won two hundred quid, you lucky cow. Here, stand up a minute so we can see you properly, tell us all your name.’
The woman stood up.
Roy fell to his knees.
No-one needed her to tell them her name after all.