Big balls of steel and a tiny wooden one

By Mr.Bordsenius at 2007-05-13

Journal of a pétanqueteacher in the French Provence. This is an upcoming book, and we are proud to say that we have the first chapter online here at for your pleasure

By Rommert Kruithof

1. Players use hollow steel balls with a diameter of between 70,5 and 80 mm. The weight of each ball must be between 680 and 800 g. The “Cochonnette” (piglet or “Jack”) is made of wood and must be between 25 and 35 mm.

I play Pétanque (sounds as Pay-Taunk) since my first visit to France many years ago, and I’ve loved it ever since. You can drink, smoke and talk while playing it and I’ve even seen ladies on high heels doing so. I love drinking, smoking, talking, ladies and high heels and much prefer pétanque as a game rather than as a sport.

The French however think differently. They have an ardent ambition to get pétanque into the next Summer Olympics. But then, they’re different anyway. For instance they have the only airports in the world where pétanqueballs are not allowed in your cabin luggage. While teaching pétanque in the Provence to small groups of nice American tourists, I confronted the lady behind the check-in desk at Marseille Airport with this bizarre discrimination of pétanqueballs. She said it had probably something to do with France being the only pétanqueball producing country in the world. “What about China?”, I asked. And then she said she didn’t know about China being the biggest pétanqueball producer. She also said she had no idea about pétanqueballs being allowed in cabin luggage in the rest of the world.

I would soon find out why the French don’t allow pétanqueballs in cabin luggage at their airports.

They are so fanatic about pétanque that they have even sometimes in the past stuffed their balls with mercury, in the same way they stuff most of their food like “Poulet farcie” (stuffed chicken), “Champignons farcies” (stuffed mushrooms) and “Tomats farcies” (stuffed tomatoes). “Bouls farcies” were pétanqueballs with some heavy mercury stuffed inside the hollow interior to give them a built-in backspin and thus a better control.
In the International Pétanque Museum in St. Bonnet le Châteaux, near the French town of St. Étienne, you can see some instruments on display which were used for checking pétanqueballs for illegal stuffing with mercury. Big question to me now is why they don’t use those instruments at French airports to check pétanqueballs for illegal stuffing with Semtex or whatever terrorists need to earn, deserve, have a right and are entitled to 72 virgins in Paradise, to do dirty things with.

Meanwhile, come to think of it, the rest of the world better not allow pétanqueballs in cabin luggage at their airports. Or what about installing those old French instruments at airports around the world?
Never understood the fun of 72 virgins anyway, since my own clumsy experiences with one or two a long time ago.

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