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First Stop Biarritz

26 July 2010

Graham Hopes in action at Pau

Graham Hopes in action at Pau

The first RCTC expedition to foreign parts took place over the first weekend of May. Peter and Julia Kent flew to Biarritz on Tuesday 27th April, and as they had both forgotten their driving licences their visit to Bordeaux the following day was by bike and train. Sadly no local opposition was available. Paul Knox and Ben Matthews were in good form. We enjoyed our game, but the 40 Euro court guest charge is not likely to encourage casual visitors.Thursday was spent in Bayonne, watching “main nue”. The bare hands are covered with sticking plaster and padding, but still have to be warmed up carefully, and retired “main nue” players all wear the hand deformities caused by the game with pride. In the evening Biarritz hosted a big Cesta Punta match, the Basque game popular on postcards, where the ball is caught in long wicker baskets, and then tossed fast and hard up and down the court. Men only play both those games.

On Sunday RCTC (Graham Hopes, Julia and Peter Kent, Andrew Leslau and Nick Manby-Brown) took on the locals at Pau. Pau court is interesting. Basque games 6 days a week, and on Sunday the net is put up, masking tape is applied to the floor to provide chase lines, albeit wobbly ones and real tennis is played. The first 2 metres at the receivers end is stone flags, so get the serve to land there, and the receiver won’t have a clue where it’s going. The opposition was led by Paul Mirat, a Pau player who had just won the Kressman cup in Bordeaux, aided by a generous handicap. (His many games at Pau hadn’t given him one, as it isn’t a recognised court.) Players came from Bordeaux and Bayonne and Paul and Ben came from Bordeaux to give demonstration match, and get the court some publicity. We even had an Aussie whom Chris had taught to play in Melbourne! A good time was had by all, but we’ll draw a veil over the results.

Our visit concluded on Monday with a lesson and games on the Trinquet in Biarritz, playing palata. Only Andrew Leslau in our party could get the serve in consistently. Hard work, but we enjoyed ourselves.

Many thanks to Graham Hopes, whose project the outing was, and to him and his wife and daughter for their splendid hospitality while we were there. Where to, next time? Peter fancies Fontainebleu, and I’d like to go to the States. Anyone else for tennis?

By Julia Kent

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