We pulled up outside I queued behind the other drivers depositing their elderly passengers at the door to the 'Hall of Dreams'. Her Ladyship duly wrestled Mrs Beeton from the car and escorted her inside as I went to park. As I entered the foyer I searched for them amid the jostling crowd all desperately trying to get to the desk so that they could get their hands on the 'dream ticket'. A selection of geriatric blond man eaters still hopeful that they might pull even though they outnumbered the men ten to one, the men in question all either being attached to a formidable other half or having dubious parentage denoted by the odd arrangement of their facial features, (three ears and a nose an ant eater would have been proud of are not a good starting point).
Before we were allowed to enter the hallowed hall, we had to join. For this we needed to head to the membership desk. We ushered Mrs Beeton over to it and took our place in the line. After what seemed like an eternity, the several elderly 'virgins' ahead of us in the queue had a hard time filling out their forms, hindered by the lack of reading glasses, arthritis, and several senior moments forgetting names, (their own), addresses and one actually forgot where she was. Joy, her Ladyship smiled benignly as her elders giggled at their predicament and chatted to one another oblivious to the impending countdown to the start of the bingo fest. It was our turn and so we stepped up to the counter.
The rather surly young woman pushed the forms towards us and a pen, hmm. So with only one pen I was delegated as the chief form filler. Her Ladyship's form was first to complete so as I was completing the others I passed hers back to the aforementioned surly young woman. It was at this point that Mrs Beeton tugged at my coat,
"I need to go," she whispered softly.
"But we've only just got here, you haven't actually played yet!" I replied.
"No I need a wee,"
"Oh, can you hang on for a couple of minutes?" What was I thinking, of course she couldn't.
So as I continued with the form filling her Ladyship offered to escort her Gran to the toilet. Slight problem, the toilets are inside the hall and as we were not technically members they could not get inside. After several desperate minutes of frantic form filling and the agony of gauging the moment when the now dancing Mrs Beeton would have an 'accident' on the floor we had our membership cards and as her Ladyship and her dancing Gran headed for the toilets I entered unknown territory and procured the bingo tickets. Fortunately there was an old 'pro' ahead of me so I just followed her lead and took what seemed like a small forest of paper through to the now relieved Mrs Beeton and her even more relieved Granddaughter.
We managed to find a table towards the back that offered us a view of the big screen but that also allowed easy access to the 'facilities' should Mrs Beeton be taken short again. I now had the opportunity to take a look at the forest I had purchased. There were books of tickets, flyers, showbirds, earlybirds, and the 'dream' ticket. I glanced at her Ladyship who was also perusing the small pile of paperwork in front of her. Mrs Beeton was busily emptying her handbag onto the table.
"Have you lost something?" I enquired
"I'm just looking for my glasses,"
"You did put them in didn't you?" Panic was only a heartbeat away.
"No it's alright, I did put them in my bag, but I remember now I decided not to bring that one. Never mind you can help me out can't you."
With that statement her Ladyship confiscated Mrs Beeton's bag and after a mad rummage discovered the back up pair. Calm once more restored she set about putting the contents back whilst I set about putting the tickets into the order that they were to be played. Having done this I handed Mrs Beeton her stack. Without time to explain the caller announced that we were about to start the first game. Fortunately I had remembered to purchase three 'dabbers' when I got the tickets. We sat dabbers at the ready hovering over our first ticket, then the caller started. My giddy aunt, I wasn't prepared for the speed at which they went, neither was Mrs Beeton. It quickly became apparent that she was not up to the task and was by now several numbers behind, amid a flurry of dabbing, her Ladyship and I managed to get her back on track until thankfully someone called and we could take a breather.
After a couple of games more where it was discovered that Mrs Beeton was playing on the wrong ticket I decided to take charge of her tickets and pass them to her when needed. She appeared to be getting into the swing of it now and was managing to keep up. We were onto the earlybird now whipping through the games at breakneck speed. The caller announced the next number and Mrs Beeton in most uncharacteristic fashion jumped to her feet shouting. Stunned her Ladyship and I looked on as the assistant took her ticket for checking. The hall fell back into the quiet buzz of expectation. Mrs Beeton sat amid the admiring gaze of those about her as her ticket was flashed up onto the giant screen. As I stared up at it an awful realisation swallowed me up, I wish the floor had! Mrs Beeton had indeed got a line no argument about that, sadly the line had gone, and we were playing for the full house.
It took several minutes to convince Mrs Beeton that she had not won. I think it was to the relief of those around us and the staff that Mrs Beeton announced after the next game that she had, had enough and it was approaching her bedtime. After much whispered conversation during the next game and some frustrated sshing from her once admiring fans, we made our way out of the 'hall of dreams' heads bowed and for once we were all in agreement. Never again!