The meeting was set for 8:30 at the Fox & Hound Restaurant & Pub in Cary, North Carolina. Eager fans started trickling in shortly after 8:00, and the private meeting room quickly reached its 30-person capacity. As the organizers completed their set-up, the arriving guests picked up their name tags, signed the new membership directory, and began browsing the EastEnders literature and memorabilia on display. Fans meeting for the first time greeted each other as old friends; we found we already had a world in common! We seemed to know all the same people (Grant, Phil, Kathy, Michelle), hang out in all the same places (the Vic, the Café ("Kaff"), the Launderette), and hum the same tune. We quickly found that there are no strangers at an EastEnders fan gathering!
Our meeting room was the perfect replica of an old English library, with book-lined shelves, dark wood furnishings, and hunting pictures on the wall. It was the ideal setting for this group of Anglophiles, and we felt ourselves transported to another place and time. When organizer Dave Horne called the meeting to order, he could just as well have been the master of the manor welcoming us to a weekend of hunting and shooting!
Dave introduced himself and his co-organizers, Christy and Linda. It was a pleasure to finally be able to put a face with the name we'd seen on so many E-mail messages. Dave called on each of us to introduce ourselves, say where we were from, and how long we'd been watching EastEnders. There were attendees from several North Carolina cities, including Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Cary, Wilson, Pittsboro, and Salisbury. There were even visitors from Louisville, KY, and New York City.
The servers began to deliver tray after tray of delectable appetizers. We feasted on fruit and cheese, miniature Cornish pasties, vegetable crudite, ginger chicken kabobs, and a dessert assortment that included mini cappuccino eclairs, white satin tarts, and pecan pie bites. Dave made some announcements about UNC-TV, our growing member list, and the Web page he designed for North Carolina EastEnders fans. He highlighted some wonderful resources for EastEnders news and trivia: The Walford Gazette (a quarterly newspaper), Judy Hirsh's EastEnders mailing list, and the Minneapolis Albert Square Fan Club newsletter. We each received handouts containing the most recent editions of these publications, as well as lyrics to the EastEnders theme song, contact information for UNC-TV, and a first look at our new Web site.
We discussed how often to meet (3-4 times a year), when to hold the next meeting (October), and possible venues for future gatherings. There were thirty attendees at this meeting, and Dave had been forced to turn down several people once the confirmed number exceeded the available seating. We realized that future meeting locations would have to accommodate much larger groups.
After finishing our club business topics, we settled in to serious eating and conversation. Linda was horrified to overhear several discussions directly related to the questions she'd prepared for the Quiz Night contest. She could hear quiz answers flying right and left ("Wicksy is Steven's father", "Michelle had an abortion while she was married to Lofty"). All this, despite the fact that no one had ever seen the list of questions!
Dave announced the arrival of Quiz Night, and we formed into teams of 4-5 people to compete. Linda, who read the questions, apologized for forgetting to wear her leopard-print blouse, black leather miniskirt, and push-up bra (a la Peggy Mitchell). Each question was met with a respectful hush, followed by a burst of animated discussion as the teams debated their answers. The collective EastEnders knowledge of our group is astounding. Even questions like "What is Vicki's middle name?" and "Who was Donna Ludlow?" couldn't stump this bunch. The only hotly debated issue was the gender of Alan and Carol Jackson's youngest child, Billy. Is it a he, or is it a she? (The consensus was "he".)
When the scores were tallied, we had a three-way tie. A tie-breaking question was posed: "Name all the Taverniers you can remember: one point for each!" The winning team had five correct answers, out of a possible seven (see #48 in the Quiz Answers). Four EastEnders books were given as prizes, and winner Cindy happily claimed a Queen Vic refrigerator magnet!
The evening concluded with a viewing of the very first episode of EastEnders, introduced on the video by Tracey Ullman. It was a dream-come-true for many of us to relive our first encounters with Den and Angie Watts, Pete and Kathy Beale, and Pauline and Arthur Fowler. We witnessed the famous opening scene--the discovery of the near-dead body of Reg Cox--and heard the immortal first line, uttered by Den Watts: "Stinks in 'ere!" That was a time to remember, and so was our first meeting of the North Carolina EastEnders Fan Club!
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