originally published September 2, 2012
The big grey sun of a new school year’s worth of stress is looming beyond the horizon. Many of us enrolled in post-secondary studies have but one final guilt-free night in which we can drink until we’re half-blind. Well, until next weekend, anyway.
If sitting around and swilling pint after pint sounds a little dull to you, why not try out some pub games? Darts and pool have been done to death. Foosball and air hockey are in bars everywhere. How about some quoits and skittles?
One of the great British pub games is known as Aunt Sally. Though it may look as though it belongs at a carnival – most pubs I visit tend to frown on throwing stuff at other stuff, unless it’s darts at a dartboard – Aunt Sally is still played in pubs in Oxfordshire, Warwicksire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. It’s big in shire joints I suppose.
A ball is set up on a small plinth about four inches high, then players take turns tossing sticks like the ones pictured above, trying to knock the ball off without hitting the bar beneath it. Traditionally it was played with a figurine of an old woman’s head, and the object was to knock the pipe out of her mouth. Apparently it’s believed that the game originated with a live chicken on a pole, with the chicken going to whomever killed it with their stick. Now that’s a sport.
If your local pub is open-minded enough to let drunk people throw things, maybe you should suggest they pick up a skittles table. Having nothing to do with the delicious fruity candies that share their name, skittles is like table-top bowling. Instead of rolling a ball down a lane (and that actually is the more common form of skittles, played in a bowling alley-like setting), you toss a ‘cheese’ at nine pins. The cheese is made of something called lignum vitae, the same wood used in croquet mallets. Also, you could probably use cheese.
The other pub version of skittles looks like this:
That’s called the Devil Among The Tailors, and it’s probably less likely to cause a bar fight due to an inaccurate throw. The skittles pins are knocked down by a ball swinging from a string. This should be pretty easy to manage if you’ve downed a half-dozen tall flagons of Guinness, and if you miss, you’d be hard-pressed to put someone’s eye out besides your own.
Fans of Downton Abbey and the film A Hard Day’s Night probably remember seeing this game pop up. It looks entertaining, but it’s got nothing on dwile flonking.
Now here’s a game with some style. A dwile is a knitted piece of cloth, in this case soaked in beer. Flonking derives from flinging, because essentially what you’re doing this game is flinging a beer-soaked rag at other people. How is this not played more frequently?
First, pick a dull witted person to be the referee. Then toss a sugar beet to see which team goes first, after which the referee yells out “Here y’go t’gither!” I’m not making this up – these are the rules.
The non-flonking team joins hands and dances around a member of the other team, known as the flonker. The flonker dips his dwile, which is placed over the end of a 2 or 3-foot stick called a driveller, into a bucket of beer. He then spins around and flonks his dwile at one of the people dancing around him.
I can’t believe ‘flonks his dwile’ is not a euphemism for masturbation.
If the dwile misses, it’s called a swage, and the flonker must drink an ale-filled chamber pot. Each round is called a snurd, and each game consists of four snurds. This game wins for having the most goofy-sounding words in its vernacular.
Toad In The Hole is a game simple enough to be learned by any drunkard, and probably safe enough to prevent any violent confrontations. Yes, you’re throwing stuff again. But you’re throwing little brass coins instead of wooden sticks. As long as your coin doesn’t land in someone’s drink, you should be okay.
All you need to play Toad In The Hole is a table-top with a hole in the middle, and four brass coins. Each player starts with 31 points and counts down to zero, darts-style. A coin that lands in the hole is worth two points, and one that lands on the table without hitting the back is worth one. Piece of cake.
This game has grown in popularity to the point where they have an International Competition each year in Lewes, East Sussex. I can’t imagine what would be more intense, a Toad In The Hole competition or the world championship of Tetris. Either way, ESPN should pick up those broadcast rights.
If close only counts in horseshoes, it probably counted in quoits first. Quoits is the game that inspired horseshoes, in fact it’s basically the same game. You throw a ring at a stick. If you get the ring to land on the stick, you celebrate. If not, you probably don’t.
The pub version may have a single stick or multiple sticks with different values. It seems that the formula for coming up with any pub game is to find something to throw, find something you can throw that first thing at, and figure out how to keep track of points to determine a winner. If nothing else, this article should help you to appreciate dwile flonking, if only for its batshit originality.
I can’t find a picture of this game, nor do I have any idea how the hell you play it. It’s called Goblin, and it came from the pubs of Bristol where miners used to play it. You’re throwing pegs again, this time at two ‘receptacles’ called the ‘scuttle’ and the ‘souse’, across a length of five meters, called ‘the shaft’, hoping to win the ‘leg’ and much ‘honor’ for your ‘family’.
Reading through the specifics of the game, I can’t be bothered to figure out what the hell is going on here. There are no diagrams, no pictures, and a Google image search only provides screenshots of fantasy games, drawings of drunk goblins and a photo of something called a sugar scuttle. At this point I don’t care anymore. You drink, you throw things at things, you drink some more.
I think that’s the real message here. Just drink lots, throw some stuff, and try to stay safe and out of a fight. And while you’re at it, try not to think of the term papers and midterms that lie ahead. It’ll just bring you down.