Over the weekend, it seemed like a good moment for a picnic and so I had a most enjoyable time with some charming company, sitting in mottled sunshine next to the lake in the local parkland, with plenty of breeze. The picnic was very much in the style of The Water Rat in The Wind in the Willows, with “a yard of long French bread, a sausage out of which the garlic sang, some cheese which lay down and cried, and a long-necked straw-covered flask wherein lay bottled sunshine, shed and garnered on far Southern slopes.” Well, if one adds tomatoes of various hues, gazpacho, melon, raspberries, grapes, a little duck, some hard-boiled eggs, tabouleh, a prawn concoction with smoked salmon and cucumber and assorted bottles of simmering champagne and rustic rosé. Add to that a very dodgy apéritif called La Belle Sandrine, served glacially cold, which is wonderful, but can be used to knock out entire tank crews, being a mixture of passion fruit juice and Armagnac brandy. The one disguises the power of the other…
We took a clever little machine that Sony created, a handbag-sized speaker that leaps into life whenever a smartphone comes into the vicinity, playing whatever music leaps to mind, by way of Spotify and had a splendid time. It was late afternoon by the time we headed home for coffee and chouquettes. The guests went home and an obligatory snooze followed and then we turned on the TV to see if there was anything worth watching. Oddly, this is not something I ever really do on a Sunday and, despite the proliferation of TV choices, here was evidence that the TV talent is now spread thin.
In the end we settled for what was perhaps an odd choice: The Masters de Pétanque competition from Soulac sur Mer, in the Médoc. Now, I understand if you think this might be dull, but I was fascinated to see how a TV company could make pétanque into an interesting spectator sport and I have to say I was pretty impressed. There were cheerleaders for a start, which is never a bad idea. We couldn’t really remember the rules of play, but after watching for about 10 minutes it was all fairly clear what was going on and there were some incredible skills on display from players of very different ages. In pétanque, the old men are not 35 as in F1, they really are old men. It was fascinating, not least because it was a commentator’s nightmare as Equipe Sarrio (which seems to be the Manchester United of boules) was playing Madagascar, represented by Tiana Razandrakoto, Lahatraina Randriamanantany and (I’m not kidding) Tonitsihoarana Urlicha Alhenj Zoe. The French names were fairly easy in comparison. The clever use of the cameras gave one a very clear indication of the level of skill involved in the sport, without dwelling too much on the sponsors names on the walls and it really was nail-biting stuff, filled with super tactics, which were explained well by the commentators. I guess that it was a sport made simple because there were no agendas, no need to have Rolex on screen for x seconds, or to have the cameras placed high up, which always loses the impression of speed. It struck me that lessons could be learned by the F1 television people, if they can get over the usual F1 Not Invented Here syndrome.
After that was done, I was channel-hopping and chanced upon the IndyCar race from Iowa, which was one of those fairly awful broadcasts where the commentators are clearly in a studio in Paris and are not really interested in anything un-French, spending their time extolling the virtues of Sébastien Bourdais (ninth), Tristan Vautier (12th), Simon Pagenaud (14th) and “notre ami” the Monégasque Stefano Coletti (who hit the wall). They failed to really pay suitable tribute to a terrific drive from Josef Newgarden, an American 1-2-3-4-6-7 finish, and a really remarkable run by Graham Rahal who overcame multiple problems (including a flat tyre and a gearbox glitch) but still managed to finish fourth, just a few seconds behind the winner, lifting himself to second in the championship as a result.
They were only vaguely interested in some terrifying driving from 20-year-old Sage Karam, who ended up on the podium but was berated in the pit lane by Ed Carpenter for being, well, I won’t use all the words that Carpenter used, but immature, arrogant, stupid and over-confident is a polite précis of what was said. Karam looked like a kid who has played too many computer games and does not fully understand that you don’t get another life if you kill yourself.