Rolling in the Gard – part 2


Here’s the concluding part of Sam’s article – enjoy!

Now Frankie, painter and decorator only plays for money these days, and says he can’t afford not to and rarely plays melees where he can’t pick partners.  There is no such thing as shooting for two in triples.

At Ales, Saint-Ambroix, it was sudden death, as usual, lose and you are out.

His claim to a reputation was supported by the fact that a stream of blokes came up and gave a varying number of “muahs”and hugs. Two is they know you well, three, very well or owe you money and four are usually relatives, formal or otherwise. There appeared to be about twenty five to thirty of those. Frankie’s game plan was brilliantly simple, “Sa and me can shoot 4 boules and the other two are up to you Sam”.  Sa (probably a shortened nickname, so leave it) is a quiet, shy character starting to go grey and I would have guessed with Madagascar connections. I noticed in passing, the terrain is across the road from the funeral parlour which seems impressive forward planning.

Anyhow, we got off to a steady start, had not lost by midday and the field was down to a quarter.  

It was working well so far but advice about the folly of enumerating poultry prior to their incubation should have been kept in mind

Being France, here the trouble started. We finished bang on twelve feeling a trifle smug just as lunch was called. We agreed that a sausage sonvich was all we wanted. It was bright and hot,the day that is. We finished these while 100 metres of tables and chairs were being laid out. We then sat in a humid 30 degrees while an army of dedicated trenchers got stuck into a paella based four courser (13.90 veng compris). The host club members then gave an apres-desert singsong and a couple of party pieces.  At about three or as close as matters on a day like this, the arbitre got on the p.a. to set the agenda for the afternoon. First the sponsors were thanked and plugged at length, all 30 of them, garages, burger bars, bike shops, hairdressers and a local dominatrix service etc

( I made the last one up).    

Then the embarrassing bit. “Welcome friends and guests . Lovely to see you all etc. Second stage, unbeaten teams etc , equipe Lafleur includes Monsieur Porter Sam , un Irlandais who we warmly welcome,oui tres bizarre but they haven’t been beaten – yet.”

Had to be the kiss of death, and sadly so it proved. One more win and we are in the money. Bear in mind it was now well over three hours since we finished our sandwich. Sa had wandered off for an hour with some shifty looking acquaintance and I suspect had been sampling some relaxing local herbs.

You could say we had gone off the boil and lost the focus and, to put it bluntly, we screwed ourselves.  Frankie won the toss, I pointed a yard short with both boules. Frankie misses both his shots and Sa put a good one in which was shot – voila! 5-0 down. Sparing the gory details, we bowed out 13-6, having only played a few decent boules and being given a couple from shot coches. In games like these it’s all about least mistakes. You can expect each triple to shoot at least three and often four an end. We blamed the long break, heat, the dust, the slope and finally ourselves ,vying for who had played the most merde.    

I love these folk. The advice in the coaching manuals about staying relaxed and focused between games is not, I fear, based on a 3 hour lunch break in 30degrees +. 

At the end of play, Sa’s friend comes back for a word with Frankie. I got the distinct impression that he was organising a private game where spectators could have investment opportunities and he needed a couple of reliable gunslingers. Anyhow, Sa stayed behind but, try as they might, Frankie would have none of it, besides we had come in my car and he had already arranged for his partner to pick him up at Carrefour. Funnily, it was not mentioned on the drive back, we talked about families.  

One good outcome is that my stock ball, the batard, a foot wide and a touch to the rear of the coche, worked a treat, better than the front boule and beat quite a few of these handy players because it looks easy.  We are talking players who will normally strike 8/10 times. From the circle, in bright glaring sunlight, I think the boule appears to be pretty much coche length and quite a few players dropped short and skipped on a rock hard piste.

It’s the simple things. But those two duff short points started the rot and were probably the most expensive I’ve played and won’t easily be forgotten.

I went to watch Frankie in the Gard Doubles, in effect the ‘France’ qualifier the following Saturday and again the wheels came off in the third as his partner wobbled. The title was up for grabs as the holders Ben and Tyson Molinei have now jumped ship to Lyon.

His analysis of the game was “Pfuuuf we didn’t play well”



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