Wednesday 16 December 2009

Game On

If you’re down the boozer with Aunt Sally then you’re in Oxfordshire, while on the other hand Ringing the Bull will see you up in the north. Skittles is simple isn’t it? Somerset farmers on the booze enjoying a night off filling in DEFRA’s devilishly fiendish forms. Hold on a minute, there’s also the Long Alley version, which is played with a hardwood 'cheese' in the East Midlands, while Hood Skittles, also involving a 'cheese', is found in Northampton (rather than Nottingham). I could go on but it’s better to have a look at Played At the Pub, a gorgeous and encyclopedic compendium of all the games that people play (and have played) down the pub. It rightly won its author Arthur Taylor a Gold in the National Journalism awards at the beerwriters’ beano earlier in the month (he’s won several over the years and his guide to beer in Northern France was essential, along with The Beers of France, when I researched Bières des Garde a few years ago). Taylor has been writing about pub games for three decades and he was very helpful to me when I was researching an article for the Field a few years ago — the book is just wonderful in a way that I could never have thought, full of some fantastic pics and as someone who occasionally enjoys the occasional game of skittles (it is always odd when I play it as the more I drink the better I think I am, which is totally untrue) I find it an invaluable addition to my ever growing library of books of beer, brewing, pubs and all aspects of the culture that beer sustains. It’s published by English Heritage and costs £14.99 — one for the Christmas tree if it’s not too late.


  1. I can think of two West Sussex pubs that have Ring the Bull: the Murrell Arms in Barnham, and the Royal Oak in Friday Street — I never realised it was mainly a Northern thing.

    Mind, I've found Toad in the Hole being played in Antwerp as well :)

  2. I'm sure I've seen a ring-the-bull in London too, but I can't for the life of me remember where. I've played it at the White Lion at Cray, nr Buckden. Much harder than it looks.

  3. I suppose you could say it just shows the globalisation of the pub game, what was once regional has gone national.