It looks like disaster. My partner Philippe has a deep frown on his face and his shoulders are tense. He has thrown his last boule. Two of them are in a good position but our opponents have one closer to the cochonnet and a clear path to it is blocked by their next best boule. Now I know none of this should make sense unless you have played petanque a few times. Before I continue here is a brief lesson on the game. Petanque means feet tied together in French. Teams take turns standing in a circle throwing heavy metal balls called boules towards a small wooden ball called the cochonnet (little pig). The team with boules closest to the cochonnet get points for every boule they have closer than their opponents. Most teams have a pointer (someone who tries to get in close to the cochonnet) and a shooter (player who knocks the other team’s boule out of the way with their own). Games go to 13 and each team has 6 boules. Now back to my story. I have the game in my hands. First I need to make an impressive shot by tossing over their second best boule and removing their point with mine. Shooting in petanque is a skill learned through hours of practice. It requires a steady hand and sometimes nerves of steel. As I walk towards the circle I began taking deep long breaths. I step into the circle and relax my shoulders. Closing my eyes I envision throwing my last boule with a long arc threw the air and striking the opposite teams in dramatic fashion. I open my eyes and imagine breathing in through my feet and out through the top of my head. I take one last breath and hold it as I pull my arm back, hand with boule brushes past my hip. My arm springs forward in a straight line. Finally I release the boule when my arm is level with my head. I won’t know if my aim was true until an infinitesimal moment before either hitting the ground or the boule. If you blinked you wouldn’t have thought anything had changed and my boule was the one sailing out of bounds. Instead I hit my target and the kinetic energy of my boule transferred to theirs leaving mine in the exact spot theirs once was. We won the game, narrowly beating out our competitors!
With the confidence hard won we go on to win the rest of our games and the tournament. Both of us pocket 400 dollars in prize money. That night we celebrate by eating and drinking too much. At least that is how it should have gone. Instead I opted to point my last boule and it was far too short to make a difference, so we lost. That night we still over indulged, but hey that is who we are!
My partner and I faired pretty well despite the heart breaking loss. Any day I can play petanque with my friends is a good day.
My life can get busy with work and family. Petanque allows me to relax. I find the moments when I am in the hoop shooting or pointing almost Zen like. I love the camaraderie and the gentle ribbing we all give one another.
If you are more curious about the game please reach out to me. We have a great group of people who meet each week. Most of us are Frankafiles and we all love wine. The club plays one to three times per week depending on the weather. For the time being we are playing at 10 am each Sunday here at Tertulia.