The first rule of Scrabble Club
1988: I was lucky enough to grow up in Peterlee before it developed a serious drugs problem. So I never got the chance to become a heroin addict like the younger kids in my street. But what a boring place it was to be a teenager. Me and my (only 2) friends would walk around all night, complaining that there was nothing to do. There were a lot of green open spaces and one of my friends would say "I wish they'd bulldoze it! Build a 20 screen cinema on it! Anything!" We were so bored we even did charity work in the summer holidays. My friend's mother was part of a tiny middle-class elite in Peterlee and she had formed a Scrabble Club for like-minded people. It ran from her house in the evenings. Somehow I was inviegled to go along. So it was me, my friend, her mum and a small group of mainly late middle-aged women called Barbara who wore glasses.
I was not very good at Scrabble, but I think that was the point, they liked people to beat. The star of Scrabble Club (and only other male apart from me), was a 50-something character called Wally Spink. He looked exactly like you'd imagine - glasses and greasy grey hair. He was totally OCD about Scrabble and was so good at it that he'd play two boards at the same time. And he'd insist on facing the boards upside-down, just to rub it in at how good he was. He always won. It must have been a year for strange names, because at one of the charities we worked for there was a woman called Bessie Gouge.
Gradually the Scrabble Club expanded its remit and they started to play a new game that was sweeping the board-game "community" by storm - Rummikub (really just an expensive version of the card game rummy). My friend's mother became so good at this that she started entering national tournaments (later on, when I saw that episode of King of The Hill where the mother goes into a Boggle Tournament, I understood the programme perfectly).
A few months later I left Peterlee and went to University, where I shamefully hid my membership of Scrabble Club, embarrassed that it would make me (even more) uncool and nobody would want to be my friend. However, I haven't forgotten all the tricks of the trade that Wally and the others have taught me. I'm still rubbish at Scrabble and usually lose, but at least I know lots of rare 2 and 3 letter words (you were issued with a photocopied list of them when you were inaugarated into Scrabble Club and made to commit them to memory), and I know how to make three new words just by putting one tile on the board.
I'm sure all this will come in handy one day.