Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Dwile Flonking: More Fun With Beer

In 1967, an ancient pub game was brought back into the light, complete with the discovery of an old text—the Wavenly Rules of 1585—to bolster its legitimacy. Dwile flonking had been played since the 16th century at least, and now was at last returned to its rightful place among the regular pub games of Suffolk.

Except that it was all hoax. The game was invented in 1967 in an attempt to draw attention to a village fete in Beccles, Suffolk. Creators Andrew Leverett and Bob Devereux created the imaginary “Wavenly Rules” with plenty of pseudo-old-English terms and traditions to give it a veneer of age. Despite these dodgey origins, dwile flonking actually caught on and became an actual tradition. After more than 40 years of continuous play it can be considered “aged” if not “ancient.”

In dwile flonking, a group of festive drunks link arms and dance in a circle to traditional music. At the center of the circle is a bucket of beer. Inside the bucket is a beer-drenched rag and a stick. Outside the bucket is another drunk, called the flonker. The circle begins moving counter-clockwise at the referee’s command of “Here y’is t’gether,” while the flonker turns in the opposite direction. The flonker lifts up the dripping rag with his stick and flings it at the circle, attempting to nail someone with several ounces of warm, flat beer.

Different hits score different points. A head shot (or “wonton”) is worth three points, while a torso hit (or “morther”) is worth two and a leg (or “ripper”) is worth one. A flonker gets two or three tries, but if he misses all three he has to gulp a pot of ale in the time it takes to pass the dwile all the way around the circle. If he can’t finish in time, he looses a point.

The game has plenty of colorful terminology to go with it. The stick is called a “driveller,” or sometimes a “swadger” (provided by a “swadge-coper” sold by the “tardwainer’s nard”). The circle is called a “girter” and the referee is a “jobanowl.” Other people call the whole thing “nurdling” rather than “dwile flonking.” Of course, there is a Waveney Valley Dwile Flonking Association, as well as competitions.

You can watch a Pathe News reel about dwile flonking here, and a more recent video below.


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