A Day at the Boulodrome

I wonder if, deep in the heart of the North, they still play Boule au cadran?

It's a long time since we spent a remarkably memorable summer in Bruay-en Artois, where they could get pretty serious about what must be, against all comers, cricket in Yorkshire not excepted, the slowest game in the world.

It's all very simple and very civilised. Early in the morning, the Committee arrives at the Boulodrome. The groundsman marks out the target – le cadran – at one end, while the scorers set out their chairs and table and the sheets of cardboard they can stand on to avoid marking the playing surface. And, of course, the umpires' chairs. The rest, at the other end, get down to the serious business of setting up the card tables and opening the bar.

At about eleven o'clock the players start to arrive. Each one drops his franc – I suppose now he drops a Euro – in the kitty and rolls his five large white boules the fifteen metres or so to the target. One in the centre scores five, in the next ring four and so on. During the course of the day, a man can have several tries in between glasses and games of manille.

At the end of the day the bouliste with the highest score goes off with half the kitty.

The rest pays for the upkeep of the boulodrome and the occasional new sheet of cardboard. A full day's entertainment for a minimal outlay, with the chance of a big win thrown in.

If you can stand the pace, that is.