‘Beer and skittles’ is shorthand for a life of indulgence spent in the pub.
Skittles, also known as Ninepins, which was the pre-cursor to ten-pin bowling, has been a popular English pub game since the 17th century. The pins are set up in a square pattern and players attempt to knock them down with a ball. It is still played but not so much as previously.
Citations of beer and skittles and variants appear in literature from the 19th century; for example, Dickens’ Pickwick Papers, 1837:
“It’s a reg’lar holiday to them – all porter and skittles.”
Thomas Hughes’ Tom Brown’s Schooldays, 1857:
“Life isn’t all beer and skittles.”
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