It is with some shame that I confess that I have lived in Manchester – which is “up North” for any Southerners who have mistakenly strayed across this blog – since I was seventeen years old, and until last night had never played bingo. It’s fair to say that I am often a late starter with regards to such things; I lived in Rusholme for a good year or so before I had my first curry, for example, and have only recently made my first stumbling steps into the murky yet thrilling world of black pudding.
Perhaps the reason for my bingo virginity lies in my lack of competitiveness. I am the person who goes out into the kitchen to rustle up a few snacks if a board game of any kind is produced at a social gathering, and once had to have my pulse checked by a nearby doctor during a game of Buzz that produced excessive palpitations. And from what I’d heard, bingo is perhaps the most competitive game ON EARTH, played mainly by sharp-eyed, tight-mouthed old ladies, dabbing violently at a whole fleet of cards with pinpoint accuracy, their trusty stick by their side ready to beat off any young pretenders. Comments from friends did little to dispel this image; drink through a straw, suggested one, so that you never have to take your eyes from your card, and under no circumstances be distracted by the crisps and nuts that will have been left provocatively on your table (no doubt planted by sharp-eyed, tight-mouthed old ladies) to lure away your attention from the matter in hand.
Well, anyone who knows me will see the sheer ridiculousness of suggesting I ignore food placed before me, or suffer the indignity of drinking wine through a straw. Luckily, last night’s inaugural foray into Land of Bingo came not at Gala, but at the much less threatening-sounding Curry and Bingo Night at West Didsbury’s Love2Eat Deli. This once regular night has been resurrected, allowing the great and good of Burton Road to get their bingo fix on a monthly basis without being stabbed in the back of the hand by a cross old dear armed with a dabber specially sharpened for that very purpose.
This is how it works: £20 English pounds buy you a three course meal followed by several games of bingo - we had five rounds last night, but the number of games seems to depend on how drunk Tim – bingo caller extraordinaire – gets before the end of the evening. Anyone who has eaten at Love2Eat before will know that their food is simple but good – we had poppadoms, onion bhaji and kissing chutney (a gorgeously tart Granny Smith pickle, presumably made from the old dear with the dabber) to start, followed by chicken curry, smoked aubergine curry, lentil dhal, rice and naan bread for main. Pudding came in the form of a choice of ice-cream cakes by Ginger’s Comfort Emporium – I went for the gingerbread with caramel sauce, a little like a very posh arctic roll, and requiring a quick run-round of the plate with a finger when no-one was looking. Even better, you take your own booze, meaning that dutiful Mr Liz was swiftly dispatched into the rain to grab a few bottles from the handily placed Reserve Wines just down the road.
So, food over, and it was eyes down. A hush descended as, dabbers poised, a roomful of slightly drunk diners prepared to fight to the death for an array of desirable prizes. We had already decided that I wanted to win the cream tea for two, and my friend was after the dinner for two with wine; we had set our sights high, for they were the two biggies. After the first three rounds, nothing; the table behind us scooped everything. That’s OK, we thought, we didn’t WANT to win wine, for we are after the BIG PRIZES. A change of dabber brought a change of luck, and I – Lightning Liz – had snaffled the cream tea, prompting me to applaud myself wildly and display warning signs of becoming dangerously over-excited. Hurrah! said my friend, but I really must get home, for it is almost midnight (yes, honestly – who knew bingo was such a tense, drawn-out affair) and my dog is already not speaking to me. No, no! said I, for our luck has changed, and you shall win the BIG PRIZE of dinner for two with WINE. And – double hurrah – she did, showing a speed and determination with her dabber that can only be found in a girl hailing from Accrington.
By now, it really was midnight, and the atmosphere in the room had clearly soured as far as we were concerned – so we took our prizes and got out while the going was good, Mr Liz just a little despondent that he had sat at the Table of Luck and won nothing. Obviously, I will be going again next month, and would suggest that everyone do likewise to support this lovely local deli – if it didn’t mean I was less likely to win next time *adopts sharp-eyed, tight-mouthed look, stick ready to defend Bingo Queen title…*