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Old card game makes a comeback

PUBLISHED: 18:30 16 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:05 06 July 2010

Dan Haynes

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 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 the game is still going strong and the village has held a phat drive for at least 80 years,

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 at the pub for about 50 years, and before that it was held in the village hall.

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

"You could talk about it all afternoon but you still wouldn't get the gist of it," he said.

"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.

Mr Kinnair said: "It has diminished; there's not the young ones coming through. I suppose the average age is 70. The oldest player is 88.

"It was quite a popular game in the Fifties before television came about. Now there are too many other things for people to do. Lots of pub games have gone by the wayside. It's all computer games now."

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!"

However these days the players are less competitive, and Mr Kinnair said that 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. "We don't swear at the opposition but we might swear at our partners!"

Kelly Kirby, who took over the pub a few years ago, has just started playing the game. 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 or tail nor tail of it!"

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