Playing the game in Harrogate

The petanque tournament runs all summer.
The petanque tournament runs all summer.

When Harrogate Montpellier Petanque Club announced it was holding a tournament this summer, I thought it might be fun to enter.

The fact it was all in aid of Saint Michael’s Hospice made it seem even more of a good idea, as did the locatin of the new courts – at the top of Montpellier Hil, close to enough bars to drown my sorrows if it turned out I was rubbish at petanque.

I managed to recruit the required two team members. The first was my boss, news editor Tom Hay, which seemed like a good idea until he asked me what petanque was.

To make up for Tom’s shortcomings, I also signed up Yorkshire Post reporter Joe Shute, who came up with our team name, Les Miseraboules. He has played competitively before and even has his own set of boules, but doesn’t technically work for the Advertiser, so in sporting terms, I think he’s known as a ringer.

After arranging a match, we turned up in time for a quick practice. Or, in Tom’s case, to learn what petanque was.

We ran through the rules and watched nervously as our opponents, Mange Tout, practised on the opposite court and, worryingly, seemed to get their boules quite close to the coche.

Eventually, it could be put off no longer and we went across to begin the match, apologising profusely for the fact we had very little idea what was going on. Mercifully, it turned out that the other team’s members had played just once before, so only had a slight advantage over us.

We did not get off to a good start and were soon four-nil down. However, we fought back and managed to reach six all.

Then we hit our stride.

Suddenly, boules were landing right next to the coche, or bouncing off the other team’s boules, knocking them all out of the way until ours were the closest. In fact, we were so good that nicknames were being suggested – I distinctly remember “Vicochet!” being yelled at me as I made a ruthless shot.

The match finished 13-6 in our favour and we shook hands, trying not to look too delighted, or shocked, at the result.

It being a club night, there were a few members of Harrogate Montpellier Petanque Club present and they challenged us to a quick match. We accepted, expecting to be soundly beaten.

When we went ahead, I did begin to wonder about the etiquett of beating our hosts. In the end, though, their experience shone through and the result was a respectable 13-11.

There are two more matches in our league before, hopefully, we progress to the next round. Follow our progress in future editions of the Advertiser.