Documenting the Decline of the Bingo Hall

Documenting the Decline of the Bingo Hall
From thriving social clubs to piles of rubble.

abandoned bingo
(Image credit: Forsaken Fotos via Flickr)

The rough-hewn simplicity and rustic charm of traditional land-based bingo halls have captivated the imagination of thousands of people throughout the decades. Indeed, brick-and-mortar bingo halls are teeming with vibrant characters and interesting personalities that bring life to a time-honored establishment. So it’s not too surprising to learn that a few talented photographers have devoted their time and energies to document the humanity inside these old-school bingo halls. Washington resident Andrew Miksys was exposed to bingo at an early age. His father published the daily Bingo Today newspaper, which Miksys then delivered to bingo halls and convenience stores across Seattle. Miksys eventually toured America’s bingo halls to present a respectful look into the communal spirit that’s part of a bingo hall’s character.

There’s even more proof that the time-honored game is a veritable treasure trove of expressive portraits. German photographer Michael Hess is a structural engineer by training and a self-taught photographer by choice. Currently residing in London, Hess lived near a bingo hall in Southampton in 2005 and always wondered what happened inside. One fateful game in that same bingo hall was all it took to motivate Hess to travel to almost 70 bingo halls in the UK for the next four years. The result was Bingo and Social Club, a good-natured and graciously rare peek into the enigmatic society of bingo halls.

However, bingo halls are believed to be not long for this world, with many different bingo halls now closing all over the world. The classic game has found its new home online, where various companies have begun to launch online bingo portals which are much more convenient and easy to play. The Virtue Fusion software that runs the games on Betfair Bingo also allow for a variety of themed games to be held simultaneously, and land-based bingo halls just cannot keep up. As such, many bingo halls have shut down, their doors closing as though to keep their memories nestled within.

While they’re no longer visited by the average bingo player, these abandoned bingo halls have made for some truly evocative images, inspiring wayward photographers with the stories they seem to tell. Web Urbanist has even come out with a collection of haunting photographs of abandoned bingo halls called “Punched Cards”. The selection of photos has everything from dilapidated signage to the remains of old bingo cards and the remains of old structures that have now been reduced to rubble, and they make one think about all the history and memories that have been made in these places. Where people once crowded and fought to shout, “BINGO!”, there lies nothing but shambles and old signs. But often, these are exactly what the urban photographer is looking for.

Urgh…

Today’s title is a sound, not an actual word.

I am tired and I don’t know why. True I took a book to bed with me last night and read about 150 pages before I finally turned out the light. But, I also slept in. That should equal out, right?

But, I started taking medication for depression and OCD (which is short for obsession, really). I didn’t really think I had any abnormal hang ups until I started looking at the things I do a bit closer. I do have a lot of focus for details, especially once something catches my interest. I do get fussy about the smallest things, having them right. Not that I’m a tidy neat freak. Apparently though, being a neat freak is not actually required. Being a hoarder is the other side of the bucket.

Don’t get pictures of hoarders you see on TV. I’m not that extreme. I keep it to one room, mostly. I don’t bring food around here, other than coffee and the occasional snack which I am careful about. I don’t have mice and the only bugs are those attracted to my hoard of paper, not crumbs of food. So, I’m not a disaster of a hoarder. Just a hoarder light. I did get quite a bit of it cleaned up too but it seems to be creeping back. Anyway, that’s a story for another day.

I think the medicine I’m taking is making me tired. That is one of the side effects but I thought by now (over the first month of taking them) Id’ be past that. The tired comes over me all of a sudden. If you have ever taken an allergy pill (anti-histamine) you will know what that’s like. One minute you are fine the next you can’t possibly seem to keep your eyes open and your body wants to melt down and rest on the floor (or something softer if you can pull yourself together long enough). Maybe not everyone reacts to allergy pills that way. I find even the non-drowsy pills get me.

I’m mostly back to working on my sites again. Still getting sucked into little details rather than starting in on the bigger jobs like all those photographs for the exploration which need to be posted to Flickr (no posts since 2013!) and now my own urban exploration site, Wrecky Rat Bird. I also want to find a simple way to watermark my photos. This gets complicated because I don’t want to watermark my originals, just a web copy. Also, I have a lot of photos on Flickr but my originals from years past are burned on CDs and I’m not sure where they are in the clutter. Another thing, I found one of my saved CD’s but it was broken in half. Discouraging. So I guess that is all part of why I keep putting off the big job of posting my photos. Instead I’m fluffing around with plugins which I could really not bother with compared to the actual photo content which I do need.

There won’t be an image with this post. I’m mostly writing to keep myself awake and it seems to be working. So far. But, I need to get more done than this today. I should have gone out to the grocery store but I put that off for another day. I did the same thing yesterday. Urgh and bleh! There are days like that.

Women and Friendly Fire

I was watching a US TV show, Bones. The episode was about war heros, men in the war and the afterwards, the after care and how they are not understood or respected for what they went through.

My mind went to women who have been through an attack or stalking and other violence and victimization. We aren’t given much respect, understanding either.

Also, we go through it all alone. We are alone when attacked, no team has our backs, no group of soldiers. Mostly by our own choice because we don’t feel chatty about it all either. So many of the same emotions but so much difference in how people react and how women are misunderstood, blamed and treated afterwards.

Women don’t think to be proud of having survived being preyed on the way soldiers are told to be proud they served their country.

The question is – what do women serve , other than being a survivor, what is there for them to be proud of? Should we think we serve men by being abused? Is that what we can be proud of, like a soldier?

Ironic that the TV show I was watching ended up being about the death and cover up of a soldier killed by friendly fire. Is that how women should look at it? Attack or death by friendly fire? It doesn’t seem friendly to me.

This is Me Today – Making Myself Crazy

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Being a perfectionist is a vicious circle of events. Nothing is ever good enough. So we (or I) end up keeping endless stuff because I feel I have to finish it, get it right before I can let it go. I feel obligated to the stuff and myself. I’m letting myself down if I don’t do everything and do it right. I can’t just let things go so they pile up.

Ironically, the piles of actual stuff make me feel pressured and I can’t deal with all of it.

On top of that, no woman is an island. I get request from others who want me to do things for them. They even have deadlines and complain when stuff isn’t done, for them. Then I get annoyed because they expect me to just drop everything and put them first.

The joke is on me. I’m getting so little actually done that things are piling up (of course). In the end – I am the one on the bottom of the pile under all this stuff.

So, the plan is to wait until sometime in November when I will have the house (most of it) to myself and I can move things out of my work room and into other rooms. This will give me some space and maybe clear my mind a bit. If I feel I have some space to work in maybe I can actually get to work and get some of this stuff done.

Of course, we come back to the perfectionism issue.  Is making the space enough? Can I let things be imperfect? Can I decide to just get rid of some things, undone, not completed? Can I give up on some of the things which I thought mattered so much? That will be the hard part. It isn’t the stuff or the lack of space so much as feeling I am losing parts of myself and who I think I am and should be.

If I get rid of everything which makes me feel like I’m someone, what will be left of me? Once I am clutter free how will I know what to do with myself?

From Live Beta March 25th, 2001

The following is the introduction I had written for my website on Geocities, posted March 25th, 2001.

I’m a Sagittarius, year of the Dragon kind of woman. I like being outdoors, having a great coffee in the city mall, spending too much time in bookstores, traveling around on a shoestring budget, comfortable shoes, Civilization 2, Carmageddon 2 and Caesar3, cats (predatory animals in general), writing, reading, sewing, quilting and embroidery, yellow smiley faces, being on the Internet, publishing online, Wicca, nature, tulips and wildflowers, ascii art, Raggedy Ann, taking pictures but not so much being in them, history, my family, Christmas and Halloween.

My favourite colour is deep dark red. My favourite food is chocolate ice cream with nuts and sauce. Though I have found a really great vanilla flavour called Vanilla Storm but its not always available. My favourite smells are vanilla and lemon, not together. My favourite place to travel to is British Columbia, Canada. My favourite time of day is very early in the morning. My favourite time of year is a tie between Spring and Winter. I don’t like people who are fussy nit-pickers, they usually look for ways to stab you in the back. I like people who enjoy life but aren’t agressively perky about it.

I used to write to penpals around the world and trade postcards and coins with them. I met my husband when we were both 14 and began writing as penpals. I still like to collect postcards and old Canadian coins. I enjoy learning new things about computers and the Internet, history and nature. I can’t ever see myself being one of those tidy, organized people. I live in chaos yet I know where everything is, until someone moves it. I always have projects on the go, half done or not quite started yet. No doubt that tells you a lot about the kind of person I am. But, if you’re the sort of person to sit there feeling superior we’ll never get along anyway. 🙂

How to be a Better Hoarder

It starts out small. You don’t suspect at all. One day you just have a bit more stuff than space, more stuff than time or energy. So you make a pile of it. Maybe on the seat of a chair, a stack on a shelf, a junk drawer in the kitchen or a few things tossed on your bed while you tidy up the rest of the room.

Hoarding comes along easy.

That pile of stuff on the chair doesn’t get dealt with and next time you want to use the chair the stuff is in the way. A minor annoyance so you stash it somewhere else. A temporary fix, right?

Sometimes you may get caught up and avoid the start of a hoard. Usually you don’t. I don’t. I have a stash of unfinished work on nearly every surface available in my bedroom, most of the floor space is taken up with bags of stuff to do.

The rest of the house is tidy. Right now. I don’t live alone half the year. But, that’s part of the problem too. She is a clutter freak. Anything left out bothers her. I like having my coffee pot and the coffee grinder out on the kitchen counter. Why not, I use them every day at least once. I clean up any spilled coffee grounds or drips from the pot. There is no mess, just two pieces of kitchen gadgets out in open space. It took time but I’m now allowed to have them out.

Anything else I want to keep much be stashed away. This means adding it to the other stashes, stacks and piles of stuff in my bedroom. Stuff gets lost in there. It is a jungle or piles and stacks and stashes of assorted stuff I need or at least don’t want to have taken, thrown out or lost.

Ironic that I keep things here to avoid losing them when I’ve long gotten past the point of being able to keep track and find much any more.

Hoarding happens when you need to hold on to things and run out of better options, or space.

Don’t think this is taking the easy way out. Living this way is frustrating, for me more than anyone else. They may think whatever they like and they believe the problem is me. It is and yet it isn’t just me.

A lot of the stuff here are things other people want me to do for them. Tasks and jobs and demands I have not found time or energy to do. Do you know the old joke about a round tuit? Look that one up and if you ever do find that legendary round tuit please send it to me when you’re done tuiting.

I need to say no but that isn’t so simple. I won’t get into all of that. It’s an exercise in frustration to explain my need to be perfect and fix everything, do too much and prove myself to anyone who isn’t inside my own head. So, just know that it is very hard for me to say no to family and friends who ask for simple, small favours. I add their photos, their lists and assorted other things to my hoard of to-do.

I don’t think anyone outside of hoarders can understand the pressure of having too much stuff around them. It weighs on you, it pushes against you and it limits you mentally, emotionally and physically too. I hate having just a small path trough my bedroom from the door to the bed with the computer desk being along that same path. I can’t put my clean clothes away because I can’t reach the closet. I can’t start tidying up because I no longer know where to begin. It’s all a chain. One thing leads to another and another. To pull one string means pulling another and finding a place to put the first string before I can pull the next string. But, there is no more room to put anything.

In frustration I toss a pile of papers and old photos onto another stack of papers piled up on the floor. Another task demanded and no time or energy to do it. Another weight added to the pressure. Another layer added to the stuff I already can’t deal with! It lands atop the other stuff and I’m angry because this was demanded of me and I know I can’t do more and this is just more of more.

People think a hoarder is an awful thing: dirty, miserable, derelict. I’m not any of those things. Not ever miserable. I live my life around this hoard and I try to function in spite of it all. I can’t let go and give up the things in this hoard which I actually value. I can’t give up on the things I said I would do, even the things I never actually agreed to do. I feel pressure and guilt and anger.

A simple solution is to deal with some small part of it each day.

Seems simple enough. Until you start somewhere and get caught up in one thing for too long. One thing leads to another problem when you don’t have enough space to work in. Too many things are buried and it is frustrating to know they are there but out of reach. To begin finding what I need causes the moving of the hoard which means the things which were on top (the things I could locate) will now be moved and become the things I can’t find.

Hoarding is a trap.

During half the year when I live here alone I take a few days and then begin moving things out of my space and into another spare room. I get some clearance, some room to move and work. At first the release of having space and feeling hope again is just nice in itself. I haven’t thrown anything away but I have space again. Having space makes me feel I have some control, and can actually do something about all of it.

I make some progress. The hard part is choosing where and what to start on. Last time I began with clothes. I sorted out a lot of clothes I haven’t worn in years and those which I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing now that I’m no longer 20-something. I had them all ready to go to the Salvation Army thrift store. I felt good thinking some other woman would be able to wear those clothes. But, I got caught up in road blocks.

I was stopped from giving away the clothes because other people thought I shouldn’t just give them away. You can’t just give away something that still has value! Some day you may fit into that again. That dress used to look so great on you.

Isn’t that funny? I thought I was the hoarder.

I originally wrote this for Medium but no one is reading it there so I have moved it here.