Accompanied by a chocolate cheesecake that I made earlier in the week, I go to Isabelle and Jean-Pierre’s for dinner. Isabelle takes me into her vast, French country style garden to show me the camellia that I gave her last spring, which is now in full bloom. After dinner, Isabelle, her 10 year old son Gabriel and I go off to play bingo, or ‘lotto’ as it is known in France, in aid of the village school.
The Salle des Fetes is already packed by the time we arrive and the game is over an hour late starting, because they cannot get the microphone to work. In the end, the pink-faced bingo caller has to shriek the number to another woman positioned half way down the room, who then yells it again for the benefit of the people at the back.
Isabelle and I have never played bingo before and between us we have bought ten cards or ‘cartons', imagining they were for consecutive games. But, we discover, we have to mark the cards simultaneously for each game. And instead of marking them with a pen, we have to put pieces of corn on the cards, so that they can be re-used. [Many of those around us are using big coloured discs, I notice, which they have brought along with them.]
It is a struggle to keep up - even with the aid of the three French girls sitting next to me who helpfully point to the relevant numbers. Frankly, I am relieved everytime someone calls ‘king,’ - the French equivalent of shouting ‘bingo.’
‘Oof, what work for a Saturday evening!’ declares Isabelle, who is also having problems marking her cards as she has forgotten her glasses.
Cross-eyed and hot, I am happy to leave before the final game - for the star prize of the tumble dryer - is called. I give our cards to the French girls sitting next to me, who now have ten to mark apiece, and wish them good luck.