November 2, 2006

Peter Mayle about Fanny

Today, between the bills for our new office, and advertising for carpet cleaning (which will have to wait until the former are paid), arrived a surprise package from Provence!
Peter Mayle was kind enough to send me his new book, "Provence A-Z". Earlier this year we had provided him with a series of "Fanny" pictures - one of the "F" words in his latest ode to Provence.
This pretty lady on the left (a close up of our Fanny tile), was the chosen one!
I have read most of his books and always crack up at his subtle observations. Even more so after having lived in Provence!
The "P" chapter has a 3 page analysis of pétanque that brought me tears of laughter.
For your enjoyment here's Fanny, while I'm off reading the other chapters!


I always think of Fanny as one of the great heroines of Provençal mythology, up there with Petrarch' Laura and Mistral's Mireille. It may seem like a heretical grouping, but my excuse for doing so is that Fanny, in sporting circles at least, is perhaps even more celebrated than the others, and still very much with us; her name is invoked wherever the game of boules is played.
Like many mythical heroines, Fanny's origins are a little murky. One version has it that she was a boules groupie in Lyon - the kind of girl whom today you might see hanging around soccer players. Another is that she was a café waitress in Isère. The Provençal version, which is naturally the the one I take as gospel, is that she worked in a bar overlooking the boulodrome in La Ciotat, where pétanque was invented.
Boules players may disagree about Fanny's history, but they are unanimous about her place in the sport: she is there to provide comfort and solace to any player who loses by the humiliating score of 13-0. As to the delicate question of exactly what form the comfort and solace should take, a kiss is the generally accepted consolation prize. But where? Originally, the cheek was the target area. Over the years however, however, the focus of the kiss changed - encouraged, so the story goes, by a deliberate wardrobe malfunction that left Fanny's derrière exposed. You can guess the rest.
Fanny is remembered today in boules terminology: faire Fanny, baiser Fanny, or embrasser Fanny, all of which mean a 13-0 loss. And her derrière has been commemorated at sporting bars throughout Provence in the form of statuettes and wall sculptures, each awaiting the loser's kiss. Like so many other things in life, consolation ain't what it used to be.

© 2006 by Escargot Productions Ltd

Provence A-Z

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