Friday 13 November 2009

Knur and spell, anyone?

You might fancy yourself a reasonable hand with the arrows and very comfortable with a pool cue, but how's your nipsy? Had any games of daddlums lately, tried your luck at bat and trap, or rolled your sleeves up for a hard-fought round of knur and spell?

Only a handful of games are played widely in the pubs of Britain today, but this is a very recent trend, because not long ago if you wanted a game of any kind the best place to find it was at the local. Cards, dominoes, throwing games, ring games, cue games, pushing and shoving games, and games based on the ability to twist and spin could be found all over the country, with ample regional variation thrown in to baffle the standardisers.

Many have disappeared under the impact of TV and Xboxes, but there are still plenty to be found if you know where to look, and a good place to start is Played at the Pub by Arthur Taylor (English Heritage, £14.99), a superb new book documenting the history and details of these games, and providing pointers for where to find them still. You could begin with the once-ubiquitous game of skittles, still in rude health in some areas, including at the thatched, Grade II-listed Shave Cross Inn in Dorset, as good a spot as any in which to get the cheese among the pins.

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