A small but hardy group of UpARA members have been playing Petanque for a little while now. Hardy because we play in just about any weather condition and on not really appropriate surfaces. However, on Thursday 20th April, thanks to the Upchurch Twinning Committee, we were able to engage in a more serious contest with our “Twins” in Ferques, Picardy, France. So a small convoy of three cars and twelve passengers met up at the Chunnel terminal, a bonne heure, for the short dash under the channel. Off the Shuttle and just a 20 minute run to Ferques. That part of Northern France is very much like our home territory. Very rural, other than some enormous marble quarries.
The rendezvous was actually in a very pleasant municipal park in Elinghen on the outskirts of Ferques. Given the hour time difference, first item on the agenda was a snack lunch. Not surprisingly le picnic was baguettes and wine, or softer drinks if you preferred. The weather was very kind to us, being bright and sunny, if a touch cool, and we commenced this year's sun tans. We did rather eye the four Petanque pitches nervously, as they were a lot better than anything we were used to. They were flat and looked very “fast”. First sight of our opponents was also somewhat daunting, as a number of them seemed young and fit, and the rest older and looking very skilled. Clearly there was not too much common ground in terms of language, but signing and Gallic shrugs worked well enough. Our hosts had anticipated our relative inexperience, and paired each of us with un homme ou une femme. However, once we started playing we did not look totally the English amateurs, and acquitted ourselves quite respectably. The knock out tournament was a little hard to follow, but at the end of the day our Chairman, David, and his French partner, Roger, emerged triumphant.
We rounded the day off with a very pleasant dinner at a local Auberge in Weirre Effroy, and a speedy hoof up the motorway back to Calais. Unfortunately the machinations of Le Shuttle side tracked one of our cars to a later train, but notwithstanding that we all had a great day out. Obviously this sort of activity is what ARAs are about, and with a very timely grant from Swale Borough Council, we are soon to have our own Petanque pitch. More than that the sheer exercise of “going foreign” is that this is a stimulating and very positive way to reinforce our personal confidence and self esteem. Which must be the very core of the ARA ethos.
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