I've always wanted to go to Dudley. It's unfortunate that it had to rain so hard but then I wasn't going for the weather. No, Dudley doesn't conjure great images of magisterial beauty for me, but that's rarely the reason I choose to go to the places I do. "Why the hell d'you want to visit that dump?" people will cry when I mention some town high on my hit list. Most people assume that the only reason you'd ever want to go anywhere is because it's gorgeous/foodie/middle class/twee and, whilst that's all great, it doesn't paint a very varied picture in one's mind.
So there I was, chugging through Lenny Henry's home town, not quite sure what I might do in Dudley when the Gala Bingo hall appeared to my left. Outside stood a banana backed, ravaged old girl with a huge cigarette jammed between her lips. She gaped at me, the lights went red and I reached across the passenger seat to unwind the window -
"What time's bingo on til?" I yelled.
"Three O' clock bab" she croaked back.
Right, only 30 mins to get involved. I pulled into a particularly grotty hotel carpark, cut through the hotel (far out - howlingly empty, electricity appeared to have come and gone) and hot-footed it over the causeway. There was a pearly haired lady with apricot nails and smokers' lips, trying to prevent me from going in. In the end I became a member. Imagine that. I fairly glid into the huge theatre, down past all the old girls and their fat pens, onto the main stage where I was furnished with booklets and then...what the heck happens next?! I didn't have a clue what to do - I approached a group of women and whispered for help: Vera, Hilda and Rose took me under their wing and showed me the ropes and I became one of scores of silently punching players.
Oh, how we laughed...but when it came to the end I couldn't get anyone to invite me for dinner. They all fled into the rain for their buses with looks of steely determination while I was left in the yellow glare of the bingo hall, counting my losses.