28 Dec

I’m just back from a family Christmas.  One of the things that makes Christmas christmassy is playing board games.  You never look at one for 11 months of the year, and then, when there finally is (usually) something decent to watch on the TV, you dig them out.

This year it was Scrabble.  I was up against a Scrabble ace (she claims her neices always beat her – they must be world champions) and two teachers, including an English teacher.You’d probably expect me to hold my own at Scrabble, given that, as a writer, words are the tools of my trade.  It turns out Scrabble isn’t like that, though; it’s all about tactics.  I had played the game before, but too long ago to remember properly, and I thought it was all about coming up with long words.  It’s nothing of the kind.  It’s coming up with anything that is a real word, provided you land on a double / triple score square.  My best score (30-odd) came from adding two letters to make “it”, “in” and something else with an i, while my longer words struggled to score in double figures.  I came last in the first game, third in the second, and won the third, albeit with a lot of heavy hints from the Scrabble ace.

The most interesting thing to my mind, however, was not who won (although I wasn’t completely indifferent), but the way being observed by your competitors makes you unsure about how to spell the simplest of words, or even they are words at all.  The dictionary flew round the room as if we were playing pass the parcel, as people checked whether “cog” started with a c, and if “id” is a real word.  (It is, but meaning a part of personality, opposite to ego, rather than short for “identification”.)

It’s a good job we only played three games, otherwise my confidence would have deteriorated so far I would never have been able to write another blog post again!


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