Adrian Holla, a dedicated player of Scrabble, learned to play in the “wet canteen” (bar serving alcohol) at the Snowy Mountains Scheme in Cabramurra, working there as an electronics specialist in the late 1950s.
He came to Australia in 1955 from Holland, and at the age of 85 still has a slightly Dutch accent.
“English is my second language, but I can teach you all what there is to learn to win games if you come to the Library on Tuesdays at 10am,” he says.
The Herald caught up with Adrian, who generally likes to be known as Arie, recently at the Cootamundra Library’s Tuesday “Social chess and Scrabble” morning.
It was obvious he enjoys the game because he has the best equipment - a top of the range “lazy Susan” Scrabble board, and the latest dictionary to check whether a word is acceptable.
Although he started playing in the 1950s he only took the game up seriously in 1992, going on to run three popular clubs in Sydney and organising 32 tournaments.
Arie is a recent arrival in Coota, having arrived from Parramatta only six months ago, which he describes as the “best move I’ve made in my life”.
Why? Because “the other day I was in the Post Office and there were ten people in the line and they all called me by my first name - that just doesn’t happen in Sydney”.
With Arie at the Scrabble board were Glenn and Pat Richardson, of Stockinbingal, who were enjoying their game despite Arie having produced a “Bingo” - a word using all seven letters in his rack, scoring a bonus 50 points on top of the normal score.
Glenn lived 35 years in Los Angeles before visiting and falling in love with Canberra.
“In LA I was driving an hour and three quarters each way to work and when I saw Canberra with its blue skies and wide streets and if there were three cars at a stop sign it was a traffic jam, I thought that’s the place for me.
“Then I found I could make a living there marketing defence equipment, and made the move.”
Pat, originally from Sydney, had worked for the BBC in London and Sydney and was living in Yass when she met Glenn 33 years ago - and they’ve been married now 32 years.
They decided to retire and see Australia by caravan, and found Stockinbingal to use as a base for their travels. They got as far as Rutherglen, then came back to Stock and set up an antique shop at the old school building.
As far as the Scrabble goes, Glenn and Pat are happy to learn the tricks of the trade from Arie and enjoy the social side.
The chess and Scrabble mornings are great for making new friends and having a good time - in line with the Library’s mission of making itself a social centre, with more going for it than being just a place that lends books.