Three men and two women around a niche pub game. The game of kings! In the White Lion, the centre of my world. I’ve defected from the team I joined when I moved back and helped form a new team. I’m known as Judas on the old team. So be it. Nate-Dawg and I wanted to get together a team in the old style, revive the spirit of bar billiards. We scrambled to get people together before the AGM.
We’re practising for the new season, getting to know each other between shots. We’ll get all the rubbish shots out of the way now, we agree. Four pints in and we start to play well. A thousand plus scores, holes in the red off the back cushion. Good angles. Everything’s flowing, including the banter: a mix of praise and insults, as is the way. We’re coming for the old-timers in division one, we agree. New blood! The team spirit grows. This is a new bar billiards era, we agree. It’s almost a spiritual thing. It’s a community thing.
There are six pubs with billiards tables, and each pub has two or three teams with more or less amusing names. Each team has a captain. The competition is fierce. The team constellations change as players retire and new enthusiasts join. There are people of all ages, from all walks of life: tradesmen, businesspeople, academics, brewers, foreign students, council officers, tree surgeons, driving instructors, me…
At the AGM arcane rules are discussed, hands are raised, new teams are announced and schedules are set. The winning team in division one sets the agenda and leads the meeting. The laymen drinkers at the bar look over and wonder what’s happening.
What’s happening is democracy in action! This is Athens reborn, the Pnyx in the Rose! A dynamic, self-organising community. And pints, lots of pints! Nate-Dawg, captain of the White Lion Manes, gets highfalutin when he announces our new team: we’re all the custodians of this game, he says, and we want to keep it alive. A few nods, general agreement. I’m proud of him, our skipper.