Up close in Baddesley Ensor: How getting a ‘full house’ on Sunset Strip now means people keeping their distance

  Posted: 23.07.20 at 19:08 by Nick Hudson

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DIE-HARD bingo fans have drawn a line under four months of Covid-19 lockdown misery to show their favourite parlour it’s still “top of the shop”.

Officials at Baddesley Ensor Social Club were worried only a handful of regulars would return to the thrice-weekly evening sessions once restrictions were eased earlier this month.

With most of the 20 or so players in the “elderly or vulnerable” category, the club wondered whether there would be enough for a game.

“We honestly thought we would have to say it isn’t worth doing it as there would not be enough numbers,” said bar manager Julia Gilbert.

'Mad house': Margaret Kester, 75, is glad to be back playing bingo

But the club need not have been concerned. All but three are back with marker and card in hand with the maximum win of £10 for a full house certainly not the motivator.

For the ladies – several of them retired Atherstone hat factory workers – were desperate to break free from self-isolating or shielding and get back to the pastime they love on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday nights.

Normally they look forward to fortune paying them a visit when the balls drop on ‘Boris’s Den’ (nickname for number 10), ‘Danny La Rue’ (number 52) or Heinz Varieties (57).

Instead they must have thanked their lucky stars to have escaped the confines of Government regulations since March 23 – to be able to enjoy the ‘Saving Grace’ (number 68) of actually playing again at the New Street emporium.

Margaret Kester, who goes on Fridays and Sundays, was in no doubt.

Cheers: First pint 'outside' the confines of her house for four months for Margaret Congrave, 80

Shielding since mid-March, the 75-year-old told Nub News: “I think it’s great to return to the club.

“I was going slowly mad – and I’m just glad to be out.”

Octogenarian Margaret Congrave had two reasons for enjoying her return to the ‘Sunset Strip’ (77) of bingo venues.

“One, I’m glad it’s back and secondly it’s my first time in any pub or club since lockdown,” she said.

A Type 2 diabetic, the mum-of-four – with eight grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren – sipped her first ‘outdoor’ pint and quipped: “This beats being confined to sitting in the house and back garden.”

Club chairman Rob Jakes: Custom will "start to pick up"

Club secretary Anne Taylor doubles as the session’s bingo caller, admitting she keeps a card going while announcing the numbers as she “likes playing as well”.

She told Nub News: “I’m so pleased they have nearly all come back.” she added.

But from now on Kelly’s eyes will be firmly fixed on keeping the numbers apart after coronavirus restrictions have put paid to a “full house” – in terms of those playing in the main function room.

The club had made strenuous efforts to comply with the regulations on social distancing in order to open its doors to members again.

Club chairman Rob Jakes expects a slow return but is hopeful custom will “start to pick up”.

Baddesley Ensor Social Club: Back in business

He accepts that it “could have been Christmas before we opened” as some in the trade feared the Government would hold out on allowing pubs and clubs back until very much later in the year.

“At least it’s a start and I appreciate that until people feel safe enough to come back here, they will be reticent,” added Mr Jakes.

The club has been far from idle during its time closed to customers – having been the focal point for a food bank operation which has serviced not only the village of Baddesley but Atherstone and Wood Green as well.

- Bingo sessions on Tuesdays (female members only) with doors open at 7pm and ‘eyes down’ at 8pm; on Fridays and Sundays (all members) with doors open at 7pm and ‘eyes down’ at 8pm.

- Club opening hours are Monday to Thursday from 7-11pm; Fridays and Saturday from 7-11.30pm; and Sunday from 1-5pm and 7-11pm.

- Its Facebook page can be found here; the website is here and phone number is 01827 337598.

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