Who's The Daddy: Dabbers at the ready, eyes down and concentrate

I can count on the fingers of one hand the times I’ve had to concentrate for so long and so hard that it felt like my brain was oozing out of my ears.

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A wires shift on the sports desk of a national newspaper one Saturday in 2015. Driving a car down a stretch of the autobahn in northern Germany which had no speed limit, lost and in the dark, in 2013. And playing bingo for money for the first time for two hours solid last Saturday night.

Boy, the levels of concentration and mental gymnastics needed for that are comparable to landing a vehicle on Mars, performing brain surgery in a war zone and driving a car around Lancaster during the school run.

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In fact, I’d go as far to say that bingo regulars show way more numerical dexterity than any Chancellor in living memory. Particularly the last two.

Bingo is a serious business and takes a lot of concentration. Photo: AdobeBingo is a serious business and takes a lot of concentration. Photo: Adobe
Bingo is a serious business and takes a lot of concentration. Photo: Adobe

On Arctic Monkeys’ Fluorescent Adolescent, Alex Turner wondered, “Was it a Mecca dauber or a betting pencil?”. Well, Alex, the speed at which the numbers are read out by the caller, a pencil would be about as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike.

Yours truly won second prize in the Morecambe FC supporters’ Shrimps Trust draw in January, a VIP night for up to six people at Buzz Bingo. And me, the boss and four friends had a great time, even though everyone in our party had to concentrate way harder than we ever did at school.

Talking of school, apart from the caller, the cavernous room was quieter than any exam hall I’ve ever been in. There was the occasional “shush” as we all tried to keep tabs on one line, then two, then a full house on a sheet with multiple grids full of numbers from 1 to 90.

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It was tense. Like the last five minutes of a cup final tense. And the collective groans that went up when someone else won were positively life-affirming. Wow. They meant it.

None of our party won a single penny. Not that it mattered at all. It was just nice to all be out together, sitting around a table and wolfing down our lovely dinners at our desk between games like we were at work on a busy day.

To be honest, the last time I gambled, shamefully, was heavily backing Italy at 15/2 to win Euro 2020 before the tournament kicked off. I must’ve been the only man in England who wasn’t completely heartbroken by our shootout defeat in the final. I actually apologised to the bookie and told him how bad I felt when I went to pick up my winnings the following morning (bought the boss a lovely Rab Microlight Down Jacket with a big chunk of it that still looks as good as new today).

As well as being a lot of fun, bingo is hard. It’s a serious business. I’ve had a few high-pressure jobs in 32 years in journalism, tight deadlines and ever-changing stories with the editor standing behind you, huffing and tapping their foot as the clock ticks down are nothing new, but when you’re three numbers off a full house with folding cash at stake, it really is your first rodeo. It was all I could do to hang on and hope for the best.

Like the late, great commentator Sid Waddell famously said, “There’s only one word for that - magic darts.”

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