Bastille Day, or more correctly, Bastille Eve.
We were at The Radisson, one of Dublin’s best venues for outdoor socialising, playing for the FOOD & WIN (no typo) team in the charity petanque tournament brilliantly conceived and organised by Maureen O’Hara of Findlaters and sponsored by Veuve Clicquot.
For anyone not familiar with Petanque it’s that game played with steel balls, a Gauloises sans filtre and a glass of marc in French provincial towns. Apparently its origin is “pieds tanque” meaning “feet together” although you wouldn’t think so judging by some of the hooky stances adopted by competitors.
FOOD & WIN, it has to be said, were fielding what was on paper a weakened team. The original selection involved a trio who wouldn’t let their granny win an egg & spoon race at a family gathering but alas the other two dropped out – maybe just as well given what was to follow – leaving the serene and unflappable Emma Cullinan and guest player Pat Cooke of the OPW to uphold the honour of FOOD & WIN.
The early money was on Patrick Guillbaud’s premier team, nattily clad in French rugby jerseys and berets, though the spread betters would have been more inclined to put their spons on Team Alain Bras. But the hot favourites were narrowly defeated in the semis by dark horses Bin Number Nine in a protracted match that made waiting for whisky to mature seem exciting by comparison.
Meanwhile in the other half of the draw, things were getting heated. We opened with a match against The Espresso Bar who, judging by the practise session, seemed a team of aimiable duffers. Yeah, right! We got slaughtered 0-7 by these cheerfully apologetic hustlers. Still we had our moment of glory in the second game where we blooded the noses of Les Grenouilles from La Cave, masquerading under the soubriquet of Balls of Steel. Actually they were an international III but led by sommelier Cedric, a man whose competitive, nay combative nature could best be summed up as “Napoleon on acid.” One disputed end had the writer thinking that George Bush and his mates had actually got it right after all! No more magnums of Petrus for me! (I wish)
Still, the righteous prevailed and we came back from 4-6, taking 3 points from one end to demolish any remaining entente cordiale.
However, our lack of points in the first game cost us dear as the Ball boys went on to defeat Espresso Bar and scrape through on a countback.
The final was an anti-climax. Bin No 9 murdered La Cave in a match where both sides briefly lost their cool. My sympathies went out to the long-suffering referee who must by this stage have regretted he hadn’t stayed at home to watch the GAA on telly.
The prizegiving was notable for the worst rendition of La Marseillaise the writer has ever heard. Even the guys from Cameroon in the French soccer team make a better fist of it!
Plaudits are due: To Veuve Clicquot, Findlaters and particularly
Maureen. To the Radisson. To the gods, who gave us brilliant sunshine until the final game. To Sarah for her terrible joke, endearingly told – “Some c*nt from Wexford” forsooth. To Ann-Marie for her gymnastic display. To Martina for defying gravity when she launched her boule. To Vida for her lovely outfit – and I don’t mean P Guillbauds. And to Stephane – for playing the role of The Nice Frenchman to perfection. Finally to Wither Hills and the Bombay Brasserie (in that order) who rounded off a great day.
So “bonne chance” lads – see you next year. Like your General De Gaulle “we’ll be back”.
VERDICT: Bin No 9 were great – but not as great as Bin 95, right Maureen?