"We've got football, two darts teams, pool and a bagatelle team as well."
The licensee I was chatting to was giving me a list of the various sports that are played at his pub. He dropped in 'bagatelle' so casually that I assumed it was some sort of card game that I probably ought to know about.
I let it go for another minute or two before the voice of an old teacher crept into my head, "no question is stupid if you don't know the answer."
"Hang on," I interrupted the licensee's flow, "you said bagatelle, what is that, exactly?"
The "exactly" was designed to show that I obviously had some knowledge of bagatelle, but I just needed a little nudge on the intricacies of the game.
"It's a bit like pool." That's strange, I thought, pool isn't usually played with cards. "You play it on a table but there are holes in a circle in the middle rather than pockets in the corners."
"Ah yes. It's similar to bar-billiards then?" Which is not like any card game I have ever played before.
"A bit. But without the mushrooms in front of the holes."
I was getting a clearer picture now. The licensee went on the explain that the game is only really played competitively in and around the Chester area and his pub was doing so well in the league they could make a claim to being one of the best sides in the country, possibly the world.
Now I felt daft for thinking I knew what bagatelle was in the first place.
The conversation prompted me to think of all of the other brilliant sports and games that are played in pubs across the country. We covered them in Inapub once in a series called 'Minority Report', taking in competitive pastimes such as shove ha'penny, spoof (a personal favourite way of seeing who buys a round – me, usually), and quoits.
Beyond those there are the off-shoots of more traditional games. Things like 'Killer' on the pool table or round the clock on the darts board. There must be hundreds of these played all over the country.
Jamie Vardy, of all people, (my son's a Leicester fan, he watches too much YouTube) informed me about one the other day. He told an interviewer how he plays golf on a darts board with teammates. You play 18 holes, starting at number one. If you hit the largest segment of the number you score par, the lower level is one-under, the double, two-under and the triple three-under. Miss with all three darts and it's a double-bogey.
I love this kind of creativity with traditional games.
When I was a kid my football team trained at an old social club. After, we would play pool (putting plastic cups in the pockets to catch the balls and save us having to part with too much cash) or table tennis. The thing was there were about 15 boys and only two paddles.
So we improvised, playing around the table, using anything we could find – old ashtrays, beer mats, hands. Everyone would play a shot then run to the other side of the table to join the queue waiting to play from that end. If you missed, you were out. If you made it to the last couple standing you got to start with the bats in the next game.
I quite fancy a game of that now but more than that I'd love to hear about the other variations on games that are played at pubs up and down the land.
Do your customers get creative on the pool table? Maybe they have invented a card game or come up with something daft on one of those nights that has taken on a life of its own.
I'd love to hear about them all. Who knows, maybe we can inspire some cross-party competition or create something new.
We'll certainly feature the best and most original.