1st April 2013. George Orwell and Aldous Huxley at the Bingo
If 2013 is going to be remembered for something, perhaps it could be remembered for record high levels of Easter Iconography Confusion. Traditional Easter Iconography, as we all know, consists of fluffy yellow chicks, bunnies in sunny meadows, sunny bank holiday afternoons in the beer garden of Ye Olde Bull And Vatman out in Thrumpton-on- the- Glutswold and, of course, that perennial favourite, mild domestic tension. This year’s different. Perhaps, now that the radio reports that these days only 13% of people who say that they are Christians actually go down to St. Hymelda of the Nine Wounds to celebrate the religious side of the Easter break, God and his minions have decided to broaden Easter’s appeal by making it look, as the song says, a little bit like Christmas.
We’ve all noticed the snow, and the arctic temperatures. It’s been so cold up here at The Gables, that I wouldn’t have been at all surprised to find Captain Oates wandering about asking if anyone’s seen his mates. Strangely, as I was driving down to Moor Park tube last week to pick up Her Indoors, one of the houses near the station was fully decked out in the full Xmas kit- giant baubles hung from the eaves, big Xmas trees either side of the door with lights on etc etc. It was only upon closer examination that I spotted a professional photographer running about who explained that the family had decided to take advantage of the unseasonal snowdrift and have pictures taken for this year’s Christmas Card. Yes folks, confused iconography is all around this Easter. The Polar Express was on TV, and that well-known centre of global spiritual activity, the Radlett branch of Budgen’s had this on display above its selection of Easter Eggs. See if you can spot the deliberate mistake-
I remember reading once that in the 1950’s, the burgeoning Japanese plastics industry were making its early attempts at cracking the western nick-nacks market. Their researchers got a little muddled, and as a result of which, for the first and only time in Nick-Nack retailing history, Father Christmas on a Cross figurines were shipped to the USA. I reckon that if Easter carries on like this, they may have been onto something after all.
It was Andy’s birthday on Monday last, and a trip to Watford Mecca bingo had been arranged. I’d not been to bingo before, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was fabulous. Cheap beer, and the reassuring tones of the bingo caller made for a pleasantly meditative atmosphere, spiked here and there with the eternally exciting sensation of raw greed if it looked as though the numbers were coming up. Food is available too, at knock-down prices. Mostly brown in colour, it contained large amounts of salt and fat, valuably comprising two out of a chap’s five -a-day (the other three being beer, fags and hot sauce). We started off with some small in-house games, but the juices really started to run when we were linked up with Mecca in Chadwell Heath and Andover. All of a sudden, the prize money had rocketed up to ten quid for a whole line! Best of all, the calling was being piped live from Chadwell Heath! White-hot technology! I know it sounds a bit like I’m taking the piss here, but I’m genuinely not- there was something indefinably exciting about the disembodied voice booming out over the speaker whilst all the staff in our hall stood reverentially still, and we diligently dabbed away. It had more than a whiff of Huxley’s Brave New World to it, I can tell you. Adding to the other-worldly aspect was the addictive voice of Geoff, the caller. We reckon he was half Chinese and half Essex, but trying to talk in a mid-atlantic accent. Whole new worlds of hitherto undiscovered vowels were opening up as we listened, and when poor old Anoop, who was doing the calling from our hall stepped up to the mike and took over the local game in his broad Watford accent there was a discernable lessening of the excitement. Chinese-Essex Geoff was back on hand later though, for the big national game. By this time, the beer had loosened my sense of things, and I was having a great time enjoying the sonic journey offered by Geoff’s revolutionary new ways with old familiar numbers. It really was feeling like a trip to the Feelies , and I found my mind wandering from Huxley’s vision of the future to the rather less cuddly offering made by George Orwell in his novel 1984. It was here that I noticed briefly that I had in my hand the logical culmination of Orwell’s newspeak- the Bingo Dabber! Back in the day, bingo veterans will explain misty-eyed, you made a cross on your book with a pen. A crosss. Two whole strokes. It took co-ordination, craft, and years of practice and self-denial. Now you get the dabber. An ergonomic masterpiece, the dabber marks the page with one addictively satisfying squelch. Dumbed down? It’s for the social analysts to decide. Within seconds, however, Man and Dabber had fused to become a lean, mean bingo machine. I was so struck with it, I took a photo. I assumed that I was in luck because I had been presented with a Wills and Kate Royal Wedding Souvenir Dabber, and was therefore vouchsafed with a highly prized talisman which would bring the dough rolling in. I was wrong. I won bugger all, but, as we all remarked over the inevitable curry later, it was a fabulous night out, and all for about twenty quid with the beer and brown things.
It’s been quite a quiet week in all other respects, really. Great work has been done in The Shed (Or Home Studio) on the Seaplanes Of The Axis Powers Diorama, but all in all a very quiet week. When this happened on the BBC news in the 1930’s, the announcer would get on and explain that as nothing really interesting had happened that day, there would be some music, and it was over to Harry Roy for a rendition of “Keep Young And Beautiul”, or if you were especially lucky and it was after the watershed, “I Love Swimmin’ With Women”, as a saucy bedtime treat. Taking a leaf from the BBC’s book, I’m going to finish therefore with some music. This is the Bonus track on the forthcoming Benny Duke & Peggy CD, and as such doesn’t really have anything to do with any of them. It’s a tune I’ve really liked ever since I first heard Miss Piggy sing it on the Muppet Show when I was 11, and it is of course that old torch song, Temptation. The orchestra here comprises me, Spats Langham on Guitar and Jeremy Brown on Bass.