Here Comes Herbie

It is almost 30 years since my Granny died, and 26 years since Granda passed away. They were quite a pair, and the stories are many. But over the last few weeks I have been thinking about them because of an event currently happening in my life. Not lockdown, but an event born out of lockdown – Bingo!



Every weekend Granny went to the Bingo on Cumbernauld Road in Glasgow. She walked there from her house in Riddrie and she met her friends. Granda was with his friends at the Riddrie Bowling Club. Both establishments still going strong - pre-lockdown of course.

The Bingo was a place of mystery for me as a child, but I knew it was a place I liked. Even though to this day I have never stepped inside a Bingo Hall, I liked it.

Why did it I like it so much?


Well, it was a place where stories came from, tales of events and happenings that were interesting and funny, but more than anything it was a place where treasure and trinkets came from. All manner of goods were brought home to be shared between children and grandchildren.


I guess it was an evening offshoot of the Barrowlands market.

Granny loved giving us things she had procured and sometimes if she had cash winnings there would be some extra pocket money that week.

I never questioned the origin of those goods, I took them gratefully and in good faith, as did my siblings and cousins.

Roll forward to 2020 and the highlight of my week is Bingo, just as it was the highlight of Granny’s week all those years ago. But this is Bingo with a twist, socially distanced out in the street. My friend, Lois, suggested we play and my 11-year old and I have taken on the role of chief organisers. We have played 3 times now and we, organisers and players, are getting pretty slick.

We have some rules

  • The venue is the end of your driveway

  • Bingo cards are posted through letterboxes beforehand

  • You wrap up warm and enjoy your pre-dinner drinks and snacks whilst we play

  • The bingo numbers are called using a number generator and delivered by cyclists

  • There's a mystery prize for the first full line and the winner takes all for a full house

  • To call house you hit a saucepan with a wooden spoon so the whole street can hear

You can feel the excitement mounting before we start. We begin prompt at 6pm and in the half hour beforehand chairs and tables are being carried to the tops of drives. Drinks and snacks are organised, and everyone turns out, even the teenagers – 21 households all spaced out the length and breadth of the street.

And we have prizes. Lots and lots of prizes, all donated by the residents. There is wine and beer, chocolates and toiletries, even plants. These prizes are like the treasure and trinkets that Granny used to bring back from her weekend trips to the Bingo.

But my favourite prize so far is the 7-year old boy, kindly wiped down with anti-bacterial wipes. You can tell his Mum had been having a great home-schooling experience that day!

More than anything though, our Street Bingo brings a sense of community and neighbourhood. Something that perhaps has been missing a little in recent years. Something that I think we have all craved but not known how to retrieve. Something thrust upon us by lockdown that we are embracing ecstatically.

It was summed up by one of our residents who said they had never spoken to their neighbour a few doors along before, but they were speaking every week at Bingo and thoroughly enjoying each other’s company. Long may it continue.

What do I get from this game of Street Bingo every week?

  • A sense of purpose, something to plan and organise that makes people happy

  • Exercise – it is hard work cycling up and down delivering those numbers

  • The opportunity as one of the cyclists to speak to everyone in the street

  • Feeling part of a community

  • A link back to the past, remembering good family times

As I said, I have never been in a Bingo Hall, and I am not au fait with Bingo speak, but I did have a quick look online at some Bingo phrases.


Of course, I knew ‘Legs Eleven’ and ‘Two Fat Ladies’, but the rest were a mystery.

One however, struck a chord, reminding me of a brutal childhood game. ‘Here Comes Herbie’, the title of this blog and in this instance coming with a couple of meanings. In Bingo speak it is the slang name for number 53, the racing number of Herbie the VW Beetle. Players might reply “beep beep”. For me though it reminds me of the VW Beetle that my Granda drove and the game we played when out in the car called Thump Buggy Beetle. It was basically an excuse to ‘legitimately’ attack your siblings or cousins by thumping them if you saw another VW Beetle. Good times indeed.

On that happy note called reminiscence I will leave you as I go and plan this week’s Big Bingo Night Out.

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