Eyes down for bingo and bubbly as players toast their return

Maggie Brewer and Audrey Woods from Lowestoft at Palace Bingo in Great Yarmouth on opening day. Pict

Maggie Brewer and Audrey Woods from Lowestoft at Palace Bingo in Great Yarmouth on opening day. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

Whoops and cheers erupted at a bingo hall as the manager declared it was "eyes down" once again after five months without a single number being called.

Early bird players waiting for Palace Bingo in Great Yarmouth to re-open chinked beakers of fizz in celebration declaring it "a champagne moment".

Patrick Duffy, boss of Palace Bingo in Great Yarmouth, ready to welcome people back on opening day.

Patrick Duffy, boss of Palace Bingo in Great Yarmouth, ready to welcome people back on opening day. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

For many it was their first time out of the house seeing different faces - and it was a moment to treasure as balloons bobbed and glasses were filled.

Maggie Brewer, from Lowestoft, said she "couldn't stop yapping" as she reconnected with friends at the venue - a social lifeline for many.

"It is the people, the company, having a yarn," she said.

Christine McDonald, Sylvia Fox, Trudy Jones, Susan Seaman, Brenda Larkins and Linda Simons at Palace

Christine McDonald, Sylvia Fox, Trudy Jones, Susan Seaman, Brenda Larkins and Linda Simons at Palace Bingo in Great Yarmouth on it's first day open again. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden


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"We could not wait. We kept ringing up and getting people to go online to see if the bingo was going to open."

One woman said it "felt like yesterday" since she last visited as she picked up with friends not seen since before Christmas and quickly resumed where they had left off.

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Another regular said it had felt like a long absence.

People waiting in the foyer for the hall to open said May 17- the day indoor hospitality could re-open under the Government's roadmap out of lockdown - had been ringed on their calendars for weeks.

For Christine McDonald from Gorleston it was all about the atmosphere and the friendship - as well as a chance to pull some posh clothes out of the wardrobe.

"I was excited to come back today and here before they actually opened," she said.

All agreed it was the friendship aspect they missed the most, with the added thrill of the chance to win big.

Brenda Larkins at Palace Bingo in Great Yarmouth on it's first day open again. Picture: Danielle Boo

Brenda Larkins at Palace Bingo in Great Yarmouth on it's first day open again. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

As friends cried out to each other in greeting the biggest hurrah was reserved for owner Patrick Duffy who had laid on balloons and bubbly to welcome his guests.

Mr Duffy, a famously early adopter of  Covid-safe precautions before the disease had even taken hold in the UK, said being back in business was "like riding a bike".

Handing out dobbers he joked they were "winners pens" his broad, beaming smile matched by everyone waiting, all fired-up for a whole day of enthusiastic gaming.

With screens, temperature testing, and social distancing, players - many of whom have had both jabs - said they felt safe at the venue and as arguably one of the most  affected age groups it  was time for them to restart their lives.

Trudy Jones and Susan Seaman at Palace Bingo in Great Yarmouth on it's first day open again. Picture:

Trudy Jones and Susan Seaman at Palace Bingo in Great Yarmouth on it's first day open again. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

The venue was reportedly busier than a usual pre-lockdown Monday as  regulars signalled their willingness to get back to normal.


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