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

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

Recruitment Genius: Concierge and Porter

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a customer focused, pro...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer / Front-End Designer - City of London

£27000 - £33000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End Devel...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Customer Support Technician

£15000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Waterlooville based softwa...

Ashdown Group: C# Developer - (C#, VB.Net, SQL, Git, TDD)

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Developer (C#, VB & ASP.Net, SQL Server, TSQL) - Pe...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The five reasons why I vote

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Daily catch-up: the gap between rich and poor has narrowed (a little) since the banking crisis

John Rentoul
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot