We’ve just had the daily stack of advertising papers through the post box and I usually just add them to the pile of papers to light the fire. Today, however, I decided to sit down and browse through them while waiting for the kettle to boil. I came across one advertisement “LOTO GEANT” that caught my attention. It was advertising a Loto coming up in a local town – you can win a car, so it wasn’t an ordinary one! As I flicked over the advert, I had to smile. It’s in the local village hall and one of the main advertising features was that it is 'Très bien chauffée', which means its very well heated. I can just imagine all the old dears noting this very important fact. A rather telling indication of the people they are expecting to attract.
The Loto, in case you hadn’t guessed, is bingo. But not the snazzy set ups in old cinemas in England, where it’s all computerised with satellite links to other towns for jackpots of £500,000. Oh no, this is more like the bingo you’d find in the amusement arcade at Margate seafront. They are very popular and every village has at least one a year. Instead of winning cash prizes you win things like 10kg of confit du canard. They also throw in the odd television or iPod, but what most of the participants really have their eye on is that large leg of ham or the packet of duck breasts!
Last year I decided to go along to the school lotto for the first time. You know, do my bit, show support etc. It was on a Sunday afternoon and I’d been told lottos are quite a family affair, so I took my Mum and 4 of my kids with me. Gary decided to give it a miss and use the opportunity to get some gardening done (how sensible).
I could see as soon as I got there it was a much more serious affair than I had imagined. Lots of lady’s of a certain age sat with 8, 10 or sometimes 12 cards spread in front of them and a stack of counters – they’d obviously been before! I bought some cards for us all and some counters, found us a space, sat us all down and shortly after the Loto began. There was a man on a small stage with a mike, surrounded by all the prizes. He started calling out the numbers and here lay the first problem – my Mum doesn’t speak French and struggles with numbers over 10. Ryan, my 17 year old, had to repeat everything in English for her benefit. I have to admit I found it quite useful too as I do find the number system frustrating. Quatre vingt quatorze - four twenties fourteen for ninety four, why so complicated?) We got a few hard stares from the professional loto goers around, but we just smiled and carried on. After about 10 minutes or so, Frankie and Luc had got totally bored and started running around. I tried to get them to sit down nicely, but I could tell by the glint in their eyes that the battle was already lost. So, I took them back home to their Dad (much to his delight) so we could continue the lotto in peace..
I got back to the village hall, rejoined the others and it was then I remembered why I don’t like bingo. I hate drawing attention to myself and whilst everyone else is there willing their numbers to come up, I’m sitting there praying mine don’t! Yes I know it’s pathetic. Luckily for me, we didn’t win, so I was saved the embarrassment of shouting out and not being heard or tripping up on my way to collect something I didn’t want in the first place. I don’t think I’ll bother going again. Next time I’ll donate a prize, stay at home and cut the grass.