Petanque? “What the heck is petanque?”, I asked the chap at the bar during a mid-afternoon break of touring Bath, England. He and his mates were getting very worked up over opening night of Bath’s Petanque League. Between fight songs with his petanque team mates, he tried to explain it. It sounded something like the Italian game of Bocce Ball, but I wasn’t getting it. He invited me to watch them play that night.
The league meets in a one-square block city park near the Circus, just four blocks straight up the hill from the pub. The “court”, or lane as its called, looked like it was made by simply scraping off the grass and throwing down some gravel, no smoothing or leveling. String lines were drawn to show the boundaries, which looked about 30′ long and 10′ wide.
This friendly fellow from Wales was kind enough to explain the game to me. Teams of three each have three boules, which are hollow metal balls about the size of a tennis ball that weigh up to 1.5 lbs. To start the game a small colored wooden ball, called a “jack”, is rolled down to the opposite end of the lane. Then players take turns trying to get their boules closest to the jack. Plenty of beer must be consumed to remain competitive.
Scoring is similar to horseshoes, in that only the closest boules of the same team score. The boules all looked the same to me, but they have their own special engravings or markings. The jack looked like someone dropped a cherry-flavored gum drop.
The shooters must stand within the designated circle (another use for an old hula hoop) and keep both feet on the ground while throwing their boules toward the jack.
No special equipment, other than boules, are required for this game–no pads, no special shoes, no helmets, not even a bouling shirt. Nor is any athleticism required for this sport. If you can carry a lawn chair (optional) and cooler of beer (must have) to the park, you can play petanque. Competitive, but lots of good wholesome fun … my kind of game.
Geez, I love the UK.
Thought for the Day: When I am abroad, I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the government of my own country. I make up for lost time when I come home. Sir Winston Churchill