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Phat still going strong in village

PUBLISHED: 09:00 16 April 2010 | UPDATED: 09:34 01 August 2010

IT is a card game unique to East Anglia that has almost been totally eclipsed in a modern world of television and computer games.

But in Geldeston, where the village has held a phat drive for at least 80 years, the game is still going strong.

IT is a card game unique to East Anglia that has almost been totally eclipsed in a modern world of television and computer games.

But in Geldeston, where the village has held a phat drive for at least 80 years, the game is still going strong.

Phat was once very popular in Norfolk and Suffolk, however, the players at the Wherry Inn believe they are now the only group to be playing it for miles around.

“They play it at the Rumburgh Buck, but theirs is a Suffolk game,” said Mick Kinnair, of Chedgrave, who has been playing phat in Geldeston for more than 40 years. “People come here from far and wide - from Lowestoft, Belton and Needham Market.”

The Geldeston Phat Drive is held every Monday evening at The Wherry Inn. It has been played at the pub for about 50 years, and before that was held in the village hall.

Mr Kinnair, 71, said it was a hard game to explain, and that you can only really understand it by giving it a go. It is a game similar to whist, but more complicated, and is played with two pairs playing against each other.

“You can't learn by standing and watching. You've just got to play it. It's a game where you have to think and remember. It's the only thing that keeps our marbles circulating!”

The number of phat players at the Wherry Inn has dwindled in recent years, with around 16 players normally turning up.

“It has diminished, there's not the young ones coming through,” said Mr Kinnair. “I suppose the average age is 70, and only the landlady is bringing the average age down! The oldest player is 88.

“I can remember in my youth looking in the Evening News; there would be phat drive leagues. It was quite a popular game in the 1950s before television came about. Now there are too many other things for people to do.”

Another regular, Nigel Woolner, 71, of Geldeston, remembers the old boys who used to sit in The Wherry and play the game. “They used to sit in the old bar every evening,” he said. “If they could cheat, they would cheat. They'd be kicking each other under the table,” he said.

These days the players are less competitive, and Mr Kinnair said it is now as much about seeing their friends as the game itself.

“We love the game and we love the social occasion,” he said. “There's lots of mickey-taking about football and people's gardening - all sorts of things. It's typical village banter.”

Kelly Kirby, who took over the pub a few years ago has just started playing the game and is being taught by

some of the players on Tuesday afternoons.

She said: “I'd never heard of phat before. It took me a while to get into it because I was watching and I couldn't make head nor tail of it!”

This week's phat drive results at The Wherry Inn: First, Alan English and Maurice Jeffery; second, Tom Playford and George King; third, Nigel Woolner and Keith Warne.

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