Petanque – Day 6
I’ve spoken to about a dozen people so far about this challenge and only one person had heard of petanque, so I was intrigued to join the guys at Tregony Petanque Club yesterday evening to find out more about it. From my research on YouTube, I felt my Fitbit and sports bra were not required for this particular sport.
I arrived on a beautifully sunny evening at the Village Sports Club, where I met Graeme and his wife Susan. As I was early, I was given a run through of the history and basics of the sport. My first question was how you pronounced it: I don’t want to be regaling some hapless listener with my story of trying it out and getting it wrong. Apparently it is pronounced P-TONK and it hails from France, where it is widely played and very popular.
The game is played on a rectangular, gravel playing area. No line painting here, as a stick is sufficient to mark out playing circles. Graeme took me through the health and safety aspect of the sport, which basically comprised of not throwing a boule at somebody’s head. You certainly wouldn’t want a direct hit by one of these metallic balls as they are fairly heavy (apparently a jam jar and a half in weight.) I imagined hitting somebody with a king-sized jam jar. Maybe this was an extreme sport after all?
Unlike when I tried bowling, the idea isn’t to bowl underarm but to grip the ball with your fingers and flick it out of your hand, aiming for the little jack. Now, I’m not foolish enough to think I could pick up tactics and gameplay in one session for any of my sports, so I try to focus on just one element of the game. In this case, it’s to try and bowl the ball as near to the jack as possible and hope that my fellow contenders fail to disturb my attempt.
Technique is a tricky business, so before we were joined by the rest of the club, I managed to get my practise in and stay out of the limelight. A further 8 people arrived and after introductions and the obligatory inspection of the list of sports on the back of my back, the game commenced. At this point, I was asked if I wanted a drink and a couple of people then skipped off to the sports club bar, reappearing with several pints. The sport immediately jumped up in my rankings, as it was rapidly ticking off my favourite things:
1. being outside
2. being outside in company
3. being outside in company, in the sun
4. being outside in company, in the sun, drinking a pint of cider.
So far, so good. Now, I just had to prove myself in the game play situation. Getting close to the jack would be easier if we weren’t playing on gravel, where one rogue stone would change the direction of the boule completely. I embraced this excuse until I actually got better at throwing and my attempts weren’t so wild. I think at one point, I even scored a point for my team, which received much congratulation.
Again, petanque seems to be played at any level, from the players who played in the County championships to the more social and novice players. And I’m sensing a common theme here – the club were very friendly, very welcoming and very social. So much fun, in fact, I am just about to go online and get myself a beach version for the family to play!
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