We tasted a bit of real french life when our neighbour, Michele, who has two children at local schools, invited us to the equivalent of a bingo evening in aid of the Association des Parents d’Elèves (French: Association of Parents of Students or APE); She has been fantastically welcoming and helpful since we moved in, told us that the bingo didn’t start until 9pm but we should get there by 8.45pm to ensure we get a seat, she also said we would need our own counters for covering up the numbers and said she would bring some for us. So Callum, grandma and I headed out to the salle des fêtes in Duras not knowing what to expect as none of us had played bingo publicly before.
We arrived and were met by Michele, our neighbour, who explained that for €10 we would get to pick 13 from a pile of vintage bingo cards that were piled up and strewn across several large trestle tables. This was our first test as, people were gathered around the tables sifting through the cards to find their personal favourites. I decided to simply gather 13 and pay for them. I always feel so inadequate when attempting to interact with French locals and this time was no exception. Grandma handed me the €10 and I handed it over, although I now realise I was also offered some raffle tickets but completely ignored that request and said “je ne parle pas français”. (although later we did buy some from one of the APE fathers)
We purchased only €10 worth of cards (13) but many people had a table full in front of them. They were very serious about the bingo and had not only brought their own counters but also had magnetic counter collecting devices. We sat down and placed our cards out on the table in front of us. We split them so grandma and I had 9 and Callum had 4. Grandma hadn’t got to numbers on http://www.duolingo.com but was a fast learner and after writing the tens down soon got the hang of them. This would be a great opportunity to practice my knowledge of French numbers too. Although not used often, many are hard wired into my brain from O Level French back in the day.
So we were all set. The prizes were much better than the UK PTA events that I had experienced at St Peters. We usually would manage to gather together the odd bottle of wine from the back of someone’s cupboard together with various boxes of smellies that people would find at the back of the wardrobe from some Christmas past and there would also be the ubiquitous unwanted foot spa. However, here there were donations from parents and local businesses including various vouchers for local shops, chocolate fountain, toaster, huge jambon legs, digital camera, cases of wine from the local vineyard “Bertico” and finally the star prise of a two hundred Euro voucher for a local white goods store.
Trente-deux, soixante-trois, cinquante-huit , quatre-vingt-dix. We were helped by Michele, and one of her two sons Nathan, who said the numbers in English for us. We also new what we would have to shout should we be lucky enough to get a line or a full house. In French we would shout “carton” for full house or “quine” for a line. Carton means card and quine is what the French call a set of 5 numbers.
Well hours went by and when I say hours I mean hours!! The bingo did start promptly at 9 pm but at midnight we were still listening to numbers being called. During the evening, Michele was helping to hand out the prises. Callum joined Nathan with his school mates in a game of tig while later, Grandma and I were struggling to keep our eyes open. The rest of the people, including the children (many very small) were bright as buttons). You would have thought it was midday and not midnight. At about 12.30am we thought it was all over and began to gather our counters and cards together, WHEN!!!!! The final carton was announced. This would be for the big one €200. Girding our loins we began to listen carefully for one last time.
Onze, vingt-quatre, un, trente-neuf, cinquante-quatre etc, etc, etc. I was nearly asleep, it was almost hypnotic. Then I looked down and saw that on one card I only needed vingt and quatre-vingt-cinq.