Whistler-based au­thor talks about his pé­tanque ob­ses­sion and sense of be­long­ing

Vancouver Sun - - SCENE - STU­ART DERDEYN sderdeyn@post­ twit­­art­derdeyn

Uncorked — My year in Provence study­ing pé­tanque, dis­cov­er­ing Cha­gall, drink­ing pastis, and man­gling French by Paul Shore (Sea To Sky Books)

B.C. au­thor Paul Shore’s Uncorked has been named one of 2017’s best in­die books of the year by the In­de­pen­dent Book Pub­lish­ing Pro­fes­sion­als Group.

The story was a fi­nal­ist in the travel cat­e­gory of the 2017 Next Gen­er­a­tion In­die Book Awards, which honour in­de­pen­dent pub­lish­ers and self-pub­lished au­thors.

Whistler-based writer and long­time tech­nol­ogy in­dus­try worker Shore is pleas­antly sur­prised to see the ac­co­lades his book is re­ceiv­ing as well as the solid sales on Ama­zon.

He talked to Post­media News about Uncorked.

Q You men­tion in the first chap­ter of Uncorked that you had done the “typ­i­cal 12 coun­try, 37 city Euro­pean ‘been there, done that, got the T-shirt’ tour.” What made the South of France the fo­cus for an im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence?

A An affin­ity for French within Canada. I grew up in Ot­tawa, where French and fran­co­phones were very present, yet I lived in an English sub­urb with lit­tle di­rect ex­po­sure, and as I be­came an adult I be­gan to wish that had been different. And the beauty of the South of France stuck with me from that post-univer­sity Euro­rail-style tour. Years later, when I was of­fered the as­sign­ment to go there to open the Euro­pean sales and mar­ket­ing of­fice of our startup soft­ware com­pany, I jumped at the op­por­tu­nity. The lo­ca­tion was the Euro­pean head­quar­ters of our com­puter chip part­ner Texas In­stru­ments, which is why that lo­ca­tion in Europe made sense of us.

Q Choos­ing Saint-Paul de Vence for a nice, quiet get­away from tourists was a bit of a mis­take that worked out, wasn’t it?

A Ex­actly! I had no idea what I was get­ting my­self into. The re­lo­ca­tion agency showed me many apart­ments in many towns and the apart­ment in Saint-Paul was the first that wasn’t a dive, so I jumped at it be­cause I was tir­ing of tour­ing dive apart­ments all over the place. With­out know­ing much at all about the vil­lage his­tory and that it was such a tourist des­ti­na­tion, col­leagues at TI told me I had made a big mis­take and would hate liv­ing there dur­ing sum­mer tourist sea­son. But it all worked out great in the end.

Q Do you think that com­ing from a high-tech startup back­ground but be­ing sur­rounded by me­dieval beauty played a part in rewiring your head so you be­came ob­sessed with the game of pé­tanque? Can you ex­plain the game (in brief )?

A It’s true that the me­dieval beauty and at­mos­phere of a rich his­tory con­trib­uted to me want­ing to learn to play pé­tanque, though I think what drove me ini­tially was mostly lone­li­ness. I was alone in a for­eign place, where I knew few peo­ple (none in Saint-Paul), so when I spot­ted some­thing that I thought I could be­come good at and get ac­cepted by the lo­cals in the process, I pur­sued it. You are cor­rect that I sort of be­came ob­sessed with the game, break­ing into it and not just play­ing, but be­com­ing good enough to be re­spected. The deeper I learned its nu­ances and com­plex­i­ties, the more ob­sessed I be­came. The metaphors for busi­ness and for life in gen­eral, the friend­ships that could be de­vel­oped and the men­tal el­e­ments (mind games) were just as im­por­tant as the phys­i­cal skills.

The game is sim­i­lar to bocce, though don’t say that to any­body from France. It’s ac­tu­ally quite sim­i­lar to curl­ing, but don’t say that to any­body from France, ei­ther. It is typ­i­cally played two against two. Each player has three balls. There is a lit­tle tar­get ball that is thrown out each end and one nick­name for it is the bou­chon (the cork). Teams then take turns rolling or throw­ing balls to­wards the bou­chon, the ob­ject be­ing to get as many of your balls clos­est to it be­fore the near­est op­po­nent team’s ball, thereby count­ing one point for each of your balls that are closer than any of the op­po­nents. You play as many ends per game as needed for one team to reach 13 and to win by at least two points. And a match is the best two of three games. It can take hours to play a com­pet­i­tive match.

Q By the time you fin­ished your jour­ney, you had de­vel­oped quite a close bond with your men­tor/coach Hu­bert and pos­sessed an of­fi­cial mem­ber­ship card in the pé­tanque in­ner cir­cle. Does mem­ber­ship have its priv­i­leges?

A Mem­ber­ship al­lows you en­try into the tiny pri­vate club­house for a drink and so­cial­iz­ing. I never saw other for­eign­ers, or peo­ple whose first lan­guage wasn’t French, in that build­ing. Other than that, it sim­ply car­ries with it the priv­i­lege of a deep sense of semi-be­long­ing.

Q Given your Whistler lo­ca­tion, any chance of set­ting up a league there?

A There are two pé­tanque grounds here, though I haven’t seen them used in years. Both are sin­gle-game spa­ces out­side of restau­rants. I once played on Bastille Day with a group of French-Cana­di­ans. I think a league is likely out of the ques­tion, though maybe I should try to get some peo­ple to play July 14.

Find­ing six balls in town, to go with the six that I hap­pen to own, may be a chal­lenge.

Au­thor Paul Shore says “the beauty” of South­ern France “stuck with me” af­ter a post-univer­sity rail tour.

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