Schemes active/complete: 36
Money made: £58.77
Another dense wedge of silence between this blog post and the last, but Rowe and I have now successfully acquired the keys to our new flat so the principal reason for calling a rain check on this project is hopefully now behind me. To prove I still have a glimmer of attention wavering about the money making schemes please draw your attention to my new financial total!
Gratifyingly my overall earnings can no longer be encapsulated by a single note of British currency, and the extra tenner I’ve popped on since last checking in didn’t involve a harrowing amount of hours being a slave for a music review site (Scheme #23) or amassing months of receipts (Scheme #71), but was earned swiftly and leisurely over a couple of pints last night.
The 203rd scheme to grace my list is bingo, and not the virtual Gala-Sun-Foxy-bingo which is constantly advertised as played by mothers in the bath whooping aloud with glee (for that is Scheme #174: Free bingo sites & other tacky online games), but rather the original, old-school variant involving a trundling cage of numbered balls and a superabundance of senior citizens. Thankfully I live in Bournemouth which has an average age of about a hundred, so a 5 minute walk past the charity shops, opticians and funeral homes sits my local bingo hall, and they offer free games on a Friday. Consequently yesterday evening saw me dragging Rowena out for an exciting night of marking off spoken numbers from a grid of paper.
Registering upon arrival was a simple process but I could already feel wary eyes upon us as we strode in; not only were Rowe and I not regulars but we were easily the youngest there by two entire generations. I was the only male not wearing something beige. It was a similar feeling to the police lot auction we attended for Scheme #112, which likewise hosted a much older demographic sitting in silence before a person with a microphone.
We awkwardly took our seats, ordered some beers and a £2 burger, and waited for our game to start. If you’re thinking of channelling your inner pensioner and losing your own bingo virginity then a warning to you – you are not explained the rules at all. I sat gripping my Carling (as they only sold Carling) and staring at my pad of colour-coded spreadsheets in a bewildered panic as a man at the forefront of the audience called out numbers with the microphone far too close to his mouth and everyone around me confidently scribbled away. It was the closest I’ve felt to sitting an exam I hadn’t revised for since I sat my last exam.
Besides the muffled numbers pouring rapidly from the speaker’s mouth (I was disheartened to hear ’88’ was just “all the eights, eighty-eight” and not “two fat ladies” which is probably considered too offensive nowadays), the rest of the room was in total silence, save the soft fluttering of the ceiling fans which did nothing to disperse the miasma of stale smoke. The only time anyone made a noise was to yell “Bingo!” or “House!” or just a generic excited yelp to indicate they’d ticked off a complete line or box of numbers, at which adjudicators would literally run to the source of commotion to validate the win. Again, like the auction house, I was constantly paranoid I would cough or sneeze or spasmodically waggle my arms which would be misinterpreted and bring the whole room’s attention to me.
It was quickly evident that our fellow players were here not to have fun but simply to win cash. There was no jovial atmosphere during or in between games, and it’s no exaggeration to say I didn’t see anyone except Rowena smile all evening. Us two were the only patrons I could see drinking alcohol as well, everyone else was glugging back Pepsi to keep their reaction times sharp. I genuinely saw women clutching their heads with rage when they were just one number shy of a cash prize only to have Dawn from the neighbourhood watch swoop in with a sneaky full house at the last second.
The lady sat alongside me was unmistakably a pro, spread out over two tables and utterly motionless besides the flurry of the pen in her hand and the odd crafty vape. When Rowe asked her for help as to which of the games we were eligible to participate in she sat resolutely in silence, not even registering us. “Excuse me… sorry, excuse me…” Rowe proffered. But nothing – the woman was in the bingo zone, it was impossible to shake her out.
Eventually one of the workers was kind enough to vaguely explain the structure of the games to us, how we were only to cross off numbers for the 8 red games which started on lilac, not the middle two national games or the special game, but we could do our special game which came after the last red red game (preceded by the red blue game), which was the final of the 8 games out of the total 8, before our 9th game. I smiled blankly back at her and ordered another Carling.
Gradually I figured out what we were doing and became one of the silent masses intently poring over a number sheet. It was strangely, unexpectedly absorbing, and I could see why the regulars were so hushed during games. I have never before experienced a buzz from a chart of recited numbers but I kid you not when I say bingo actually had me adrenalized.
At around the half-way stage I was marking off numbers on the brown grid, having played through lilac, yellow and grey, and I was doing very well for myself – all I needed was a 32 to complete my box and win me £20. The caller rattled through 56 and 87 which naturally each elicited a wee whispered fucking swear from myself before clearly and casually he announced “three and two, thirty-two.”
It’s very rare that I win anything – take coming a close second in The Write Contest’s short horror fiction competition worth $100 for Scheme #173 as an example – so I forced myself to quadruple check that I really did have a complete box before I spluttered “rehp! Yep! Me!” and chucked both arms into the air.
I heard the urgent patter of a bingo worker’s feet heading over and smugly turned in that direction, only to see them congregating around someone else! A woman a few tables up from me had also been waiting for a 32 and had obviously screeched longer and harsher than I so as to drown me out! Her ticket was verified and the booming voice of the bingo God was about to continue listlessly hollering numbers, so I had to cry “woah woah are you having a fucking laugh??” which was sufficient to capture the attention of the nearest bingo hall droid.
My ticket was ratified, the caller commented “OK, joint winner there, joint winner” before continuing, and the woman whose cash prize I’d just halved treated me to her most withering glare. But I couldn’t have cared less; the free entry meant that the £10 prize from this scheme was all profit. Yes I’d bought beer and a burger and the bingo pens themselves which had discharged red ink over my hands all night but that’s simply me being portly, boozy, disorganized Matt Rose. If I was a tee-total vegetarian who carried a pencil case everywhere then this scheme would have bagged me money at absolutely no expense to myself!
Following my brown victory I had no further luck, and Rowe won nothing at all, until finally all the games were complete. I still had half a pint left and expected the congregation to stay for a while chatting and finishing their drinks, but as soon as the last number had been called the entire room stood up as one and marched out sternly like they couldn’t wait to leave. Not a murmur of convivial chatter was to be heard, nothing but the tramp of feet and the clop of walking canes.
So I would recommend Scheme #203: Bingo – it’s surprisingly exciting, you can win, and if Bournemouth’s anything to go by then their burgers are cheap. Just don’t expect to be accompanied by anything other than an angry geriatric cult who would sell their granddaughter for a lilac 29 in the second to last box.