Is there a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than playing scrabble and drinking alcohol in the familiar surroundings of your cosy local pub?
Apparently not, according to the organisers of Scrabble Sunday. Based in Cardiff, the hobbyists also travel to summer festivals, including Latitude and Green Man.
But last Sunday they came to my local, the Pembury Tavern on Amhurst Road.
It’s a fantastic pub at the best of times: real ale, cheap prices, friendly staff and mismatched furniture.
And with added board-game fun, it’s even better.
When I arrive on Sunday evening, and survey the room there are Scrabble boards everywhere, and animated discussions over the validity of different words abound. I am a keen player anyway, but this just seems like the perfect setting.
There’s a chalk board which lists the best words (FACTOIDS) and all the bingos. It is free to play, and all the boards are provided. The energetic organiser, Lisa Heledd Jones, even provides complimentary cakes and biscuits!
With her friend Paul, she started a monthly Scrabble night two years ago, when the Facebook version had become popular.
“People were always talking about their latest move on Scrabble in the pub. I just thought it would be great to start an event where people could actually play each other in real life.
“I really like the idea that stuff online makes it out into the real world.”
Inspired to create an event with a relaxed atmosphere by a bad experience at a Scrabble club when she was younger – “They all took it so seriously and even locked the biscuits away in cupboard” – she has certainly achieved this.
When my friends arrive, we start our game, and as they’re all rather inebriated already, we are soon in the midst of many, very vocal, discussions on which words are allowed.
And every time we argue over a word (“Is it ‘gyrate’ or ‘girate’?”; “Is ‘Venus’ allowed, even though it’s a proper noun?”) the lovely group of middle-aged players on the table behind us give us their opinion, which we normally trust.
And when we don’t trust even their decisions, we hop off to another table to borrow someone’s else’s Scrabble Dictionary.
There’s a real sense of camaraderie: people are unrestrained in their praise for other team’s brilliant words.
Lisa was in town as part of the London Word Festival, having approached the organisers as she thought it would be a “perfect marriage.”
Sam Hawkins, one of the founders of the performance-centred arts festival, was at the Pembury on Sunday.
“It was such a great night, and I loved the image of a pool table covered in Scrabble boards – people were so keen to play that it was literally pushing away traditional pub games!”
After one, at times very intense, game of Scrabble; one glass of wine spilt over said Scrabble board; countless heated lexicographical discussions (‘Memes’ is allowed, even though it’s French) and several free biscuits, it was time to go home.
A perfect Sunday indeed.
Scrabble Sunday’s London offshoot is currently on holiday, but is due to start back up in May at The Lexington in Angel.