Miles Kington: You can't beat Bath, boules and a bottle of wine

Somehow, even without a French player, the Firehouse Rotisserie team beat us

Share

I have seen Peter Gabriel in the flesh twice. Once was in the 1970s, when The Times sent me to Hammersmith to review a concert of his. The other was last Sunday, when he shook my hand and said: "Hi, I'm Peter. Heads or tails ?"

I have seen Peter Gabriel in the flesh twice. Once was in the 1970s, when The Times sent me to Hammersmith to review a concert of his. The other was last Sunday, when he shook my hand and said: "Hi, I'm Peter. Heads or tails ?"

Yes, he was captain of one of the teams in last Sunday's Boules Tournament in Queen Square in Bath, and I was captain of another. I said: "Hi, I'm Miles. Heads" and then I looked deep into his eyes, and was relieved to see that he had no memory of my Times review, in which I remember speculating what a rock star like Peter Gabriel might end up doing in thirty years' time. Turning into an all-round entertainer and doing pantomime in Eastbourne, I suggested. How wrong I was. Of course, he would be playing boules in Bath.

The name of his team was the King's Swingers, and we had played against them before, though last year it had been much later in the day, in Happy Hour, and they had indeed been very happy and we had been so distracted by this that, although sober ourselves, we had gone to pieces and lost. This year they seemed different men. Was it the early time of day, 10am? Or the bar not being open yet?

"This year we are indeed different men," confirmed one of the trio to me meekly. "You see, last year Peter was not with us. This year he is here and has decreed that his team shall not drink at all. We shall just have to play as well as possible under these terrible circumstances."

This symbolises a great dilemma at the heart of human existence, and if any of the philosophers who Melvyn Bragg is asking us to vote for on Radio 4 had ever tackled the question of: "A glass of wine during boules? Yes or no?", I might consider taking an interest in philosophy, but none of them has. Actually, it is very hard to avoid a glass of something at any time during the whole Bath Boules weekend, as it is organised by the most French restaurant in town (Le Beaujolais) and our premier wine importer (Great Western Wines), so for a few days Queen Square, normally scented with bus and car exhaust, is redolent of champagne and vin rose, coffee and croissants.

Indeed, one of the next teams we played after beating the King's Swingers in a very tight finish was Champagne Joseph Perrier, a charming trio all the way from Uppingham, Rutland, and one of the rewards for beating them as well was to be offered a glass of their own fragrant product. It seemed churlish to refuse.

"Here's a warning," said John. "Watch out for the hairdressers."

I looked round in alarm.

"No, no," he said. "They're a female boules team called the Essensuals. They're all good, especially the one with big Philipino Diving Centres on her chest."

If this was a euphemism for "bosom", I hadn't encountered it before. Meanwhile we beat Jigsaw, and the Manor Farm Muckers, and then encountered the Firehouse Rotisserie, the excellent Bath eatery run (and captained at boules) by Richard Fenton. The one mistake Fenton has made is in not hiring French waiters. When it comes to Bath Boules Day, a French waiter is invaluable for any restaurant team. Not only do they know how to play the game, they are desperate to beat the English at it. Yet somehow, even without a French player, the Firehouse beat us. My team, Isabel, Elliot and I, are deeply despondent. Then we have an idea. Why don't we buy a bottle of wine!

And it works. We do not lose another game. Not even against the hairdressers, including the woman with "Philipino Diving Centres" modestly printed on her T-shirt. Not a euphemism after all, then.

Alas, we do not quite qualify from our group for the final stages, so I do not stay to see the Bath Priory Hotel emerge as final winners. But as I leave, I look back at the sun-drenched crowd, the merry chatter, the cries of despair and joy, the popping of corks, and the sound of Le Beaujolais's Jean-Pierre Auge going mad on the microphone, and I think, as I do every year, that if I were offered a choice between this and Glastonbury, 20 muddy miles away, I know which I would choose.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: A widow’s tale with an unexpected twist

John Rentoul
 

For all his faults, Russell Brand is utterly sincere, something politicians should emulate

Janet Street-Porter
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss