Dom Joly: Why the sound of leather on willow is muted in France

'So you call this stupid version of the game French cricket because we are inferior to you?'
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The Independent Online

I'm on holiday in France – the Dordogne to be precise. You wouldn't think it, however, as the area is rammed with Brits and the sporting activities around us tend to be reflected by this. Forced to retreat from the pool due to unforeseen rain, I discovered an ancient radio set in the attic of our rented house. No doubt left over from the period of intensive French Resistance to the German occupation (10 May 1940–15 May 1940), it had sat unseen and unused for over 70 years. The moment I switched it on, however, it crackled to life and the attic resounded with voices from the local ether. I was particularly taken by one conversation. It seemed to be between the captain of the local cricket team and the French owner of a large field that the captain was keen to turn into their new headquarters.

"Hello... Jean-Claude... this is London calling..."

"'Allo Jeremy... this is Jean-Claude receiving you loud and clear, mon ami... what can I do for you?"

"We need your field Jean-Claude, the big one near the river..."

"You wish to take my field? For what purpose may I ask? As you know I receive a fairly extraordinary amount of money from those idiots in Brussels as long as I do absolutely nothing with it whatsoever..."

"Yes... so I understand, Jean-Claude, and I have no wish to get in the way of your sedentary lifestyle... it's just that some of the chaps and I have put together a little cricket club and we are looking for a ground to play on... our own little Lord's in the Dordogne."

"What? I'm sorry my friend, je n'ai pas compris... you wish to play in my field with some midget aristocrats?"

"No... Jean-Claude... Lord's... it's a famous cricket ground in London and we wish to use your field for the same purposes."

"Ah... je vois... like Parc des Princes?"

"Ah, good, you're a rugger man, yes, exactly like that."

"I know all about zis... Patrick McPherson taught me to play French cricket at his cheese and wine party last year."

"Yes... well, I've never really clicked with McPherson since he insulted me at the wine-tasting evening in Castelmoron. What he was talking about was slightly different from the real thing, Jean-Claude."

"Why? Eet is cricket...played in France... it ees therefore French cricket, non?"

"Yes... well... no... you see French cricket is just somebody defending their legs from being hit with a tennis ball by using a cricket bat... it's a very simplistic version of the game that all the family can play. The real thing is far more complex and intricate."

"I see... so you call this stupid version of the game French because why? Because we are inferior to you in some way? These ees typical of you English."

"No, no, it's called French cricket because... uuhhmm... because... I'm not sure why it's called that actually but I'm sure it's not intended to be offensive Jean-Claude... Anyway about this field...."

"I am not a stupid person, Jeremy."

"No... I'm sure you're not, Jean-Claude."

"I'm on my personal computer as we speak. I have looked up the term French cricket and it is widely acknowledged to be a derogatory term intended to hint at the resemblance between a French cricket stroke and the method of hitting a ball in croquet which... despite the use of a French name is not even a French game... do you theenk I am an idiot, Jeremy?"

"No, no Jean-Claude, far from it... whatever the origins of the term French cricket, we wish to play proper cricket... no anti-French slant to that whatsoever I can assure you."

"Ah oui... what about the French Cut then?"

"The what?"

"I am steel on my personal computer and it says that the term 'French Cut' is a poorly executed cut shot which nearly gets a batsman out... the term is used to mock the French. Maybe you theenk that Monsieur Wikipedia is a liar and writes these things simply to upset the entente cordiale?"

"No... of course not... look, Jean-Claude... this is getting silly. I'm not responsible for ancient names given to the game... how much would you charge for us to use your field?"

"For your racist game? I currently get 550 a year from Brussels..."

"Fine... we can pay you €600 a year. I think that is more than generous..."

"That ees €550,000 a year, Jeremy."

"Oh... I see... right... well I'll have a word with the chaps but I think that might be a little steep although Piers Dimmo has just got some early pay-off for agreeing to stop running the Post Office into the ground and renaming it the French Letter Company."

"You are doing it again, Jeremy, you think this ees funny?"

"Sorry, Jean-Claude... got to go... it's tea-time."