Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Michael 4


A couple of years ago i lost a Football World Cup bet with my friend Mike.

The rules of the bet took longer to establish than the competition itself took to produce Italy as the winner, and to this day I think he abused the rules.

Then again he thinks I did too so…..well in a couple of years I’ll get another chance.

His prize was an air ticket to come and visit for a weekend of game playing, an interest we share, and I had to meet him at the airport an hour’s drive from the house. I could have insisted that he caught the bus but my collecting him was in exchange for him writing the next chapter of a book that we have been working on together for even longer than it took us to establish the complicated point system for our World Cup bet.

I arrived late at the airport, well after passenger processing had finished and I searched the small car park, café, toilets and waiting areas with no effect. I phoned him on his home number and left a message saying I was sorry he had missed the flight but that under the terms of the bet it was not refundable and then went back to the café for a coffee.

I don’t know how I had missed him the first time but there he was in the corner, a beer at his side and a game set up ready to play. I sat down and he explained the rules of Milleborne , an old French card game based on driving, with the Borne, or kilometre stone as a significant feature; my local child care facility still has a playable edition though it is hard to find it on eBay.

The Borne go back to Roman times and have in the past been made of stone and were once lovingly cared for by municipal employees in the time when quality of service was more important than profit, but now they are either neglected in which case they fade into the weeds that choke them or they are ripped up and replaced with plastic one that soon break.

When I was a kid people were always asking “what do you want to be when you grow up”, a question I tried not to answer as Peter-Pan-wise it felt like a threat, though secretly my answer would have been, “a railway level-crossing attendant”.

Now that I almost qualify as grown up the job no longer exists, for a long time it has been the victim of modernisation and technology that has also done away with the Routemaster bus in London and, I read today in the Guardian, will soon mean the end of the London Taxi cab.

And here in France dooms the Borne to a plastic oblivion.

We are lucky that the local village still cares.

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