Janet Street-Porter: How Scrabble nearly wrecked my love life

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The Independent Online

Scrabble - more addictive than cocaine, group sex and champagne? A more attractive and rewarding way of spending an evening than a fumble with a stranger? Tommy Sheridan definitely thinks so. The Scottish MP is conducting his own libel action against the News of the World in Edinburgh. For the past few weeks we've been entertained with allegations of sex involving red rubber gloves, ice cubes, five-in-a-bed romps and mood-altering banned substances.

Mr Sheridan opened his summing-up speech to the jury with the following statement: "You will hear of my addiction to Scrabble and sunbeds, not champagne, cocaine and swingers." Almost sounds like a line from a Pet Shop Boys song, doesn't it? But the man definitely is on to something with the mention of Scrabble. I can confess to being a former Scrabble addict - and it totally took over my life.

I blame Charles Saatchi (another recovering Scrabble addict who moved on to art acquisition and Go-Kart racing)) for introducing me to a compulsion that took up hours of my day when I could have been having sex, working or doing drugs.

After playing Mr Saatchi several times, and winning a few games, I started to exhibit all the signs of a true addict. I would be unable to function every day until I had memorised a dozen three-letter words. I would take to ringing up friends who also suffered from the addiction, shouting my latest score down the phone at them, and hanging up. I couldn't get on a plane or a train without double-checking I had my scrabble CD-rom and my lap top with me.

On arrival at any hotel or destination, I would go to my room and play a couple of games before dinner, more after dinner till 3am, and more still upon waking up. I travelled the world increasing my score, raising my game until I was one below championship level. I would scream abuse at the screen like a demented harpie when the electronic opponent (code-named Maven) would offer up a particularly inane word. I had stopped being interested in the opposite sex, and only had eyes for one being. I couldn't go more than a day without tapping out my response to whatever Maven threw my way. In short, like Mr Sheridan, I put Scrabble first in my life.

Finally, at 5am one night in a hotel in Barbados, when I had suffered my third defeat in a row to Maven, I made a decision that would change my life. I took a deep breath, ejected that cherished bit of plastic from my computer and broke it in half. Gradually I rediscovered the important things - bonking, rubber gloves and ice cubes. The other day a friend tried to seduce me into a game. After five moves, I resigned. I've got my life back.

Madge's sexy new look: white towels

Madonna is well known for employing the best stylists in the business. She even acknowledges that she is a psychic vampire, re-using cutting-edge ideas (like the young Los Angeles dancers from David LaChapelle's film Rize) and recycling them into her own shows. Her whole modus operandi is to plunder to stay commercially viable.

So who told Her Royal Madgesty it was groovy to appear on a beach in Miami, clad in white towels from head to toe, like a housewife out shopping for groceries in Riyadh? Do the words attention-seeking disorder have any relevance here? I think so. The kids were probably drowned in the tidal wave of paparazzi capturing Mad Mom for posterity.

* How does an 80-year-old pensioner deal with temperatures in the nineties? If you are a millionairess who is also a monarch with loads of relatives, you cleverly book a boat for a family holiday and then sail around the only place in Britain (the Western Isles of Scotland) that has experienced showers and cloudy weather several days running. You also arrange to change shipmates (one lot of grandchildren on and another lot off) every couple of days to renew the entertainment and stave off boredom.

I can't be jealous, because I've already done exactly the same cruise as the Queen, last September, for this newspaper. The vessel, the Hebridean Princess, has been cruelly described by (I suspect jealous) journalists as "a former car ferry", but it's a delightful, small boat with a friendly crew, good food, loads of wine, and cabins that are comfy but not large or ostentatious. In other words, it's the complete antithesis of those horrible floating bungalows you see moored at nouveau riche resorts like Puerto Banus or St Tropez.

Of course, when I sailed around the isle of Harris, and hiked to a remote beach - where the Queen used to picnic from the Royal Yacht Brittania - it was absolutely sweltering, and there were clouds of midges. But at least I didn't have to curtsey or say "ma'am" after dinner.