St Enogat is a small, pretty town just a few miles from Dinard on Brittany’s Côte d’Émeraude. One quiet Sunday I sat in the shade of a persimmon tree and watched two elderly men preparing to play pétanque on an otherwise deserted terrain. They went about their business silently at first, moving slowly and deliberately in the manner of those for whom the activity is governed by unwritten but immutable protocols. Half way through the game, without varying pace or style, the blue-shirted man began to speak. This is what I may have overheard.

boules 2


There are the two men,
this square of ground,
the sun, the cypress tree.
The men unpack
their boules. The man
in the blue shirt
clacks a pair together.
The man in the
red shirt arcs
the coche into
the dust, steps back
and lights a cigarette.
The blue shirt
throws his three.
One hugs the coche
and two lie close.
The red shirt bowls.
His final boule
scatters the group.
The two advance.
They contemplate
the spread of boules
and coche, the disposition
of them all, then stoop
to gather and cast
the coche, the boules
again. Inside the
cypress shade the
blue shirt cups
his boule and lifts
it high. At the point
of release his fingers
tip it back, reverse
its spin. At the point
of its contact with
the coche he says:
“Your sister. Is
she well?” The red
shirt draws deep on
his cigarette.
“Quite well”, he says.
“She’s been home
three weeks now.
She’s walking. She
can cook. She walks
the dogs down by
the canal. She manages”.
The blue shirt listens,
two boules held
between his fingers.
The red shirt drops
his cigarette, grinds
it into the dust.
“Go on”, he says,
nodding to the splay
of boules and coche.
And from out of
the shade of
the cypress, the blue
shirt drops each boule
behind the coche,
completing a triangular
wall. “Once”, he says,
still stooping, his hands
on his knees. “There was
a time once”. The red
shirt lights a second
cigarette, shakes out
the match, steps up
to throw. “There’s always
a time once”, he says
and he looses a boule.
The blue shirt watches
the arc and fall, the
puff of dust where
it lands behind the
triangle. “Celine and I”,
he says. “On the beach
at St Enogart. Down
by the rocks”. The
red shirt straightens,
purses his lips. “Enough”,
he says. “Enough”.
“And then”, the
blue shirt says,
“you and I, we might
have been brothers”.
The red shirt works
the cigarette to the
corner of his mouth.
“Brothers enough without”,
he says.

2 boules

About Dick Jones

I'm a post-retirement Drama teacher, currently working part-time. I have a grown-up son and daughter, three grandchildren and three young children from my second marriage. I write - principally poetry but prose too, both fitfully published. My poetry collection Ancient Lights is published by Phoenicia Publishing ( and my translation of Blaise Cendrars' 'Trans-Siberian Prosody and Little Jeanne from France' (illustrated by my friend, the artist, writer and long-time blogger Natalie d'Arbeloff) is published by Old Stile Press ( I play bass guitar & bouzouki in the song-based acoustic/electric trio Moorby Jones, playing entirely original material. spotify:artist:07MDD5MK9MnRGSEZwbsas9 I have a dormant blog with posts going back to 2004 at Dick Jones' Patteran Pages - - and I'm a radio ham. My callsign is G0EUV
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