Pete’s petanque piste

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Carol Saffer

Tucked behind the towers on Lygon St and situated at the rear of Drummond Place lies a small patch of gravel surrounded by green lawn and leafy autumn trees.

It is a petanque piste (or court) that would look more at home in a French village than on Carlton’s edge.

Peter Harris was responsible for this small piece of France when he and his wife Carmel downsized from the family home in Mornington to an apartment in Drummond Place Retirement Community five years ago.

The couple often visited their daughter, who lived in France for 12 years.

During those visits, Mr Harris developed a passion for petanque and saw the Drummond Place space as the perfect opportunity for a piste.

Mr Harris convinced the City of Melbourne to move the table and benches initially located in the middle of the gravel over to the side, allowing the Drummond Place residents a court of their own.

He took delight in teaching new players and welcomed residents who simply came to watch.

When Mr Harris passed away six months ago the residents named the court and the team after him.

Each Tuesday at 2.30pm, residents equipped with their box of eight metal boules make up two teams with a minimum of two players or a maximum of 10, depending on who shows up for the game.

Four Australian flags mark each corner of the court within which the boules must land.

Each player takes turns throwing a boule at the cochonnet, a small wooden ball about the size of a walnut, placed in the middle of the court.

The winner is the one whose boule is closest to it without touching it.

It is not unlike playing lawn bowls.

Barry has only been playing for 12 months.

He said it didn’t take long to learn how to play.

“You just need skills with patience and determination,” he said.

“There is no arguing, no cheating and no disputes.”

However, there is often lengthy discussion and the use of a measuring tape to agree on whose boule is the winner.

John said some new players take a while to come to grips with having to throw the boule underhanded.

Kevin mentioned that it was a friendly game and welcomed any Drummond Place residents to have a go.

With 90 apartments in the building, it is the perfect way to meet people within their community.

Traditionally Frenchmen play petanque with a glass of pastis or wine in their hand.

While it is a competitive game, it doesn’t lack hospitality and friendship.

At the end of the two-hour game, Pete’s petanque players retire inside the complex for an after-match drink and an autopsy on how the game was played. •

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