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Nickie Shute: Losing My Bingo Virginity

A personal story by Nickie Shute.

I'm quite a late comer to bingo really, I don't recall ever playing seaside bingo on family holidays or participating in a game with friends at Christmas – my first ever dalliance with the game came following a friends request that I attend the local Mecca hall with her and her Nan. I think I was aged around 28 but I have slept a lot since then so it could have been a little older or younger however, whatever my actual age, I still felt far too young to be playing bingo.

Online bingo had not been heard of, the Internet was a toy of the well off and I had a clear picture in my head of what exactly a bingo hall would be like. Blue rinses, dodgy perms and the smell of cabbage – well that was my perception anyway. Despite this, my friend tugged on my heartstrings because her Nan's bingo partner had recently passed away and left her with no one to attend her usual session with.

The evening of my bingo deflowering approached and I ran through a million excuses of why I wouldn't attend but being the softy I am, none quite cut the mustard to let a grey-haired, kindly woman down. Luckily attire is not something you have to consider when attending a local bingo hall; at least for me it was not a concern. I did consider donning a hoodie and wrapping a scarf around my face in case someone should she me entering the hall but it was July and quite humid!

We made our way to the hall and as we parked in the car park I was quite shocked to see people of a similar age to me in attendance. Where they all accompanying elderly relatives to the bingo?

I'd been prepped by Nan of friend and friend about the best options for buying tickets because like many on their first visit, I felt a book of three tickets would suffice. However the error of my ways was soon pointed out and a book of six was purchased. For those not it the know, this is considered the best way to play with paper tickets as you know that all numbers, from 1 to 90, will appear on your ticket somewhere.

Next we found our seat and chatted for a while before the early session. There was a general hum in the place as 200+ people nattered amongst themselves until the caller started talking over the tannoy, then silence fell almost immediately and all you could hear is the rustle of paper as ticket books were opened to the right pages….

Dabber in hand I waited for the first call praying that they wouldn't be calling the numbers too fast and more than a little concerned about missing a number and ultimately a big win. Then he was off!

The pace wasn't as fast as I had expected but I soon found myself getting a little flustered and a couple of calls behind when all of a sudden a dabber appears across my card and marks of the numbers! My friends Nan was marking my card as well as her own.

It wasn't long before I needed just one number and my heart began to beat a little bit faster and I felt myself straining to hear the calls, despite them being loud enough, in case I missed the number I wanted. Sadly, it wasn't to be and someone else took the line prize but that was it for me, I was in love with the game!

From that point on, even when my friend had other plans for a Tuesday night, I'd be there with her Nan at the Mecca Bingo hall in Hayes.

It's one of the clubs that is still open and you can view details of opening times and even see a picture of the hall on our club pages here, the club that popped my bingo cherry!

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