Last weekend, I went abroad. To Wales. In a bid to impress my father-in-law, who is Welsh and obsessed with rugby, I agreed to spend £50 on a ticket to see Wales Vs France in the Six Nations rugby tournament thing.
It was, with hindsight, a bit of a wasted ticket. I don’t really deserve to take up a seat in the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, for a Wales Vs France rugby match for I am neither Welsh, French, nor a fan of rugby.
Still, I bought myself a T-shirt with a dragon on it off Amazon for £8.50 and psyched myself up to pretend I cared.
On the radio that morning, I heard that George North was being put in midfield, or something. Wanting to bank that information so I could regurgitate it in front of my father-in-law, I had to think of a way to remember this George North bloke was being put in midfield.
George North. George North. How to memorise the name? By drawing on my extensive knowledge of celebrity baby names, of course. Kate Middleton’s baby is called George. Kim Kardashian’s baby is called North. Bosh! I’ve banked the name! Thank you Derren Brown for teaching me that trick.
We met up with the in-laws and I got to work showcasing my impressive ability to repeat what I’d heard on the radio that morning.
Under my breath, so as to find my point: Kate Middleton’s baby George… Kim Kardashian’s baby North…
Then loudly: ‘So, mad how they’re putting George North in midfield, isn’t it?’
Father-in-law looked at me skeptically. ‘Midfield?’ he questioned. Suddenly I wasn’t so sure I’d remembered that bit right. Does a rugby pitch have a midfield? Is George North playing centre back? Is Rory Underwood playing? Last time I tried to impress a boy by trying to memorise a rugby player’s name, I was about 12 years old and I accidentally called him Rory Undercut, which did not impress the boy. Stupid rugby.
“Am I Right? Does A Rugby Pitch Have A Midfield?”
Arriving in Cardiff, my mother-in-law and I queued behind some Frenchmen to get cash from a hole in the wall. They were taking ages, probably because extracting money from a cash point in a foreign country is challenging, but my mother-in-law needs a walking stick to get about and we didn’t have all day. Then a Frenchman turned around, pointed at her stick and ordered all his friends to move to one side so we could queue jump.
Oh la la! Merci Boo Coo! I unleashed my GCSE-standard French in his face. What a kind gentleman. I couldn’t imagine a bunch of English sports fans moving aside so a woman with a walking stick and her perfectly able companion could get ahead.
My father-in-law told me the man had been so considerate not because he was French, but because he was a rugby fan. Which sounds a bit like stealing a compliment from a Frenchman, but if he’s sure that it’s nothing to do with a cultural kindness and entirely to do with the fact all rugby fans are equally generous to women with walking sticks, then I stand corrected.
After that, Gaz and I started drinking red wine in small bottles. We met these choir boys, singing a load of Welsh stuff:
Onwards to the stadium we went.
Do you know what I noticed? You know when something exciting happens on the pitch and the whole crowd jumps to their feet in a fitful orgasm of expectation? If you half stand up, just to show willing, but don’t stand fully, because you don’t understand what’s going on anyway, you can get a really good thigh workout. So that was one benefit of the £50 ticket.
“You Can Get A Really Good Thigh Workout”
I’d decided another way to impress my father-in-law (who was only mildly impressed by the investment in a Welsh T-shirt that I’d bought purely for his approval) was to spend £10 on the ear-piece they sell at the gates so you can tune in to the commentators.
Once I had a commentator in my ear, it was a bit like watching rugby with my husband in a pub, in that I could listen to a pro explain what the hell was going on. And I could act knowledgeable.
‘Oi Nigel,’ I said to father-in-law in a gobby yet nonchalant way that I’ve really come to perfect over the years of getting pissed and acting like I know what I’m talking about. ‘France have a habit of winning away from home, don’t they?’ Those French, always winning away from home. So said the commentator in my ear anyway. (Before Wales won.)
He ignored me, for the game had begun. But I made Gaz laugh, which is all that really matters.
Watching sport is an odd concept, when you stop to ponder. I know the Six Nations and all the other competitions are very, very important to some people, but why? Our tribal instincts are fulfilled by sports. Whether we’re on the team or rooting for them, sport makes us feel we belong to something. Gone are the days of tribal war, but as I half-squatted my way through 90 minutes of men running around with a funny shaped ball shouting ‘chase me! chase me!’ over their shoulder, all I could think was that this was a modern day mini war between tribes, with the tribe of Wales being declared victor at the end. And possibly being given some new wives as prizes, depending which tribes you take my simile from.
My critical analysis of the game is that Halfpenny’s got massive guns and it’s great that they’re always doing a close-up on him so I get a regular visual, and Faletau is my fave, because he’s of Polynesian ancestry, and I like to think I’m a bit Polynesian, having never been there nor found any proof that any ancestors have. I just got a bit bruised at birth and they said I had Mongolian Blue Spot, which I have decided means I’m from Fiji.
Here’s a picture of me with some girls I befriended. (By befriended I mean they were unfortunate enough to be sat next to me. The drunker I got, the more I interrupted their viewing pleasure with my innocuous drivel.)
So that’s that then. Best part of £100 spent and I didn’t even get to meet Halfpenny. Next time, I’m not crossing the Severn Bridge unless there is a meet and greet after the game. I reckon I could dazzle Halfpenny with my George North chat. Just ask my father-in-law. I definitely dazzled him.