The loto evening

APEM posterNot getting out enough?  Bored by those long winter evenings at home?  Do like the French.  Go out to a loto evening.

Loto – bingo or lotto to you – is the astonishingly popular pastime of seemingly half the local population.  Last weekend we could have gone on Friday to a session at the next door village of Aigues-Vives, stayed in Laroque for more of the same on Saturday, and then gone to Lavelanet on Sunday afternoon for yet another action-packed few hours.

Somehow, we’d so far managed to avoid being roped in.  Until last Saturday.  Well, the Loto in Laroque was to fundraise for the Ecole de Musique, and the organ teacher Vanessa’s Organ fund.

So what’s an evening at the Loto actually like?

You’ll arrive to find ranks and ranks of tables set out.  You’ll need to buy your Loto cards – and spend hours choosing your lucky set.  First mistake: we just took the top few.  If you know what you’re doing  – we didn’t – you’ll have brought a bag of counters with you to cover the called-out numbers.  Settle down with your friends and family, buy some crêpes or a slice or two of home-made cake to pass the time, and wait for the action.

And at 9 o’clock, it all begins.  Nearly four hours of heads-down, as the loto numbers are called out.  What you’re aiming for at different points in the evening is a full line (‘quine’) or a full card (‘carton plein’).  And if you achieve one of these feats, the winnings are worth having.  A microwave.  An i-pad.  A SatNav.  A flat-screen TV. A food processor. Half a pig.  Several ducks (To cook.  Not to take home and rear in your back yard).  A weekly-shop’s worth of vouchers to spend in a local shop.  A free meal in a local restaurant.  A hairdo.  Local businesses are incredibly generous with their donations – more so when you consider how very often they must be asked.  Yet our Asso. also invested about 800 euros in the judicious purchase over many months, of high-end prizes.  Only decent makes need apply.  No dubious bits of equipment from some unknown factory in China.  To make good money on these evenings, the organisers have to spend, spend, spend.

Naturally, Malcolm and I won nothing, so time hung a bit heavy: we had to concentrate to be sure of filling our cards correctly (‘soixante quatorze: quatre vingt dix: soixante dix-neuf’.  No ‘Clickety-click, 66, Two fat ladies 88’ to help us out here).  Chatting the night away not an option – this is serious stuff.  The friends we were with were no more enthusiastic than we were.  We’d all come to support the cause.

At about 12.45, the very last numbers were called.  Nobody, not elderly inhabitants, not young parents, nor their – often tiny – children, had pushed off early.  But one lucky group of women trundled home with some difficulty: they’d won four major prizes.  But they wouldn’t have got lost on the way home.  One of their prizes was a SatNav.

8 thoughts on “The loto evening”

  1. What a pity! You won nothing! The prizes were great! I am sure time hang a bit heavy as you says. I like lotto from time to time it’s easy, relaxing, but it’s always too long! I went one day with Matthieu and Joanna to show us la France profonde (deep?)!
    Good week-end! On saturday we return to go for a walk with snowshoes (faire des raquettes)!

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    1. I hope you enjoyed raquettes today – the weather was gorgeous. I’m going tomorrow with walkers in Laroque, but Malcolm’s staying at home. Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday!

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  2. What stamina! I don’t think I could keep up with English bingo for that long let alone in French. Although the prizes sound quite good. I’ve never played but there’s a very popular one in Hunstanton. We’ve often walked Mortimer there on a summer evening and heard the slightly spooky voice of the caller echo down the beach. Have a good weekend.

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    1. I’m quite surprised. I thought bingo had had its day. I remember beetle drives from days in the PTA and my children’s schooldays. Secretly, I quite enjoyed those. Yes, you too!

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  3. beetle drives! and those bizarre suppers (can’t remember what they were called) when you had each course at a different house. Can’t see the French adopting that one.

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  4. I’ve never dared to go to Loto, French numbers are not my strong point. Imagine the embarrassment if you shouted ‘carton plein’ and half the numbers were wrong. Terrifying thought!

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    1. Absolutely! You’re already searching your eighty-somethings and then they sneakily add in a ‘quinze’. But did you know you can buy cartons which the computer plays for you? There were about 150 cartons played that way on the night, several of which won prizes…. but we were up for a challenge.

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