Calcutta Kibosh

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I remarked to a friend the other week that I didn’t think the Six Nations was any more exciting, or the day out at Twickenham any more enjoyable, than was the case twenty-five or thirty years ago in it’s previous guise of the Five Nations. We were all reminded of those days on Saturday when England turned out at Murrayfield for an old fashioned leathering the likes of which we had naively thought had been consigned to the past. In future years they won’t remember the shoeing that Scotland took at Twickenham last year. Saturday’s match though will be talked about in fifty years time as possibly one of the best, if not the best, Scottish performance ever on a rugby field.

The mantra I have always inculcated in the kids is that when a bad thing happens, it isn’t the bad thing that defines you; it is the way you react to it. So we shall see with England. In time we may see Saturday’s comprehensive defeat as the best possible thing to happen to this English team on the World Cup journey. For Scotland, who have always been hostage to high national expectation, the best outcome of these championships would be to see more youngsters flooding into their local clubs and increased sponsorship coming into the game there. The game in Scotland has been in the shadows for far too long and it is good for rugby that they are once again ascendant under Townsend's leadership.

Happy

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A Good Start

Why bother? Let's revist the Snake Oil Willie Band for a reality check.

January is out of the way, done and dusted. For the many who chose to elevate their sense of sense righteousness in going dry for the month, February has dawned with perhaps, a sense of relief. Tomorrow, pious sobriety will be thrown asunder by most as we launch into the Six Nations with a veritable jamboree of rugby. For me, there is just one incy-wincy-wee-small flaw in the plan. I've done dry January for just about 30 years now and recently, have started a programme of giving up all the bad stuff for 3 months every two years. This is one of those years. I've dropped 16lbs so far and we'll be going for the usual 3st in 3 months on the Bloody Minded 1100 cal/day Crumble Mind-over-Matter Hard Core Diet. This year then, January represents a bloody good start to water and Green Tea for just another two months. 

Opportunity!

An old colleague and friend of mine has two tickets in a corporate box for England v Ireland on Saturday in Dublin. He paid £350 each but didn't realise when he bought them many months ago that it was going to be on the same day as his wedding.

 

If you, or anyone you know, would be interested in taking his place please get in touch.

 

It's at the Registry Office in Winchester at 4:30pm. The brides name is Nicola; she's 5'7'', about 9 stone (57kg), is very easy on the eye, has her own income and is a rather good cook.

 

Hurrah!

We'll take that on the chin lads...

It's back. The best six weeks in the calendar with skill, drama, heartbreak and joy throughout. The Six Nations lifts the soul and gladdens the heart, whatever the hue of your jersey. It's one big happy pill to take you away from whatever aches, pains and worries may ail you. I absolutely love it.

What is there not to love about French rugby?

The French are in town today and of course we all hope they are back on track and closer to rediscovering their old flair and elan.  I have posted this before, but here again is the clip of the unforgettable try scored by Philippe Saint-Andre in 1991, who didn't have a great spell as a manager, but whose try against England was voted in England's centenary year, 2009, the best try ever scored against us at Twickenham. 

He just Kept Going.

So, I've spent two days assembling these things. What do I do now........... polish them?

We woke this morning to say farewell to another piece of worn but much appreciated national furniture with the news of the passing of Ireland's best export, Terry Wogan. The BBC has already gone into full Diana mode but not quite to the extent they did with David Bowie who got a full 20 mins on the main news. There I was thinking he was a pop singer who liked to dress up and wear make up but no, it transpires he was responsible for the transformation of the nations way of life from post war grey to colourful Cool Britannia. Seriously? Also carried off where Alan Rickman, Ed Stewart, the Bull Market and last but not least, I lost a stone in weight.

The Dry January thing isn't a new thing for me, I've done it every year for longer than I care to remember. I hit the track sprinting this year though and had a good alcohol, dairy, red meat and sugar free month. Let's face it, after Christmas and New Year, (in fact after 2015), it needed to happen. Losing weight isn't fun and it isn't easy. We all kid ourselves thinking, 'well, I could give this, that and the other up if I really wanted to.' Hmmmm....... There is only one way to lose weight, eat less. Exercise helps in kick starting the metabolism but the bottom line is, if the calorie intake isn't slashed you won't lose weight. The multi billion pound diet industry is full of puff and nonsense too. 'Yes, you can have chocolate, a glass of wine and a little treat if you follow our diet.' No you bloody well can't. You need two things to succeed; self discipline and bloody mindedness. Bin all the frippery, diet plans and the 'yes, you can have a wonderful good looking and tasting meal with our recipes,' magazines, programmes and blogs. If you are overweight its pretty simple. To lose the lard, go spartan. 1300 calories / day and get to know porridge, blueberries, green tea and pomelo fruit really well. Bob's Beige Diet is a good start. Like I say, not easy. If I eat any more fish and drink any more water I'll grow a set of gills but its the only track on the map. Fasting for the odd day helps and as the stomach shrinks, it definitely takes less to fill up the tank. 

At the end of the month, one thing has struck me and in fact, hit me quite hard. I was thinking of the last time I had three months off the booze and I'm embarrassed to say it is so long ago the number of years has a 2 in front of it. Usually, the dry January thing runs straight into the Six Nations and all the good work is undone, usually in the first weekend. Enough, I have to get over it and get through the rugby in 'good boy' mode. So, bollocks to it. I'm ploughing on and doing February too. I'm the Forrest Gump of Dry January................... 'he just kept going.'

 

Happy Days!

Remind me again, why is everyone whinging about French rugby.......... looks in great nick to me.

Happy Friday and it's off to Headquarters tomorrow for the France match. I'm so excited I could scream like a little girl with her fingers trapped in a car door. Bit pathetic really for a middle aged man but there we have it. The recurring joy of three pints of Guinness before and after a game shared with 82,000 like minded souls is a joy to cherish and one that remains undimmed, unlike most other things in my life.

Of course the odd stick is thrown into the spokes but we never quite fall off. Twickenham itself doesn't help with its ridiculous DJ prompting, ersatz piped singing and fireworks before kick off which is all as banal as it is unnecessary. Just leave the crowd be and the rugby will take care of the atmosphere. The growing "Engurland," element in the crowd is contemptible and so far resisting all attempts at retraining but we'll get there. Other gripes include the £1 deposit for a beer glass which effectively has just increased the queues and people who hold up queues even more when they pay for a beer with cards, "no, go away unwashed student person.... we don't use cards for a beer," and the loud mouthed Welshman that I always seem to have sitting behind me, wherever I am in the stadium, giving me a running commentary. 

I was going to add to this some negative comments about the "kicking" game which is in vogue this year. I find it as irritating now as I did when Jonathan Webb used to hoof the ball down the park in the late eighties / early nineties in a two man game of aerial ping pong. I was going to say these things come in cycles. Actually, having taken a cursory look at the stats, I would have been talking drivel which, is not at all unusual. 

With thanks to rugbyworld.com, we discover that in the England game, Ireland kicked the ball 38 times. Since 2009, a sample of 99 matches, we also see that a total of 38 kicks is the 21st highest in that period and the same number that England recorded against Wales last year. While there has been more talk on the subject the actual number of kicks in the games is pretty consistent. You can read more about the geeky stats at rugby world, (games catching up with American Football in the statistician department). I wanted though, to make a very simple point. Much sports media attention, and after match pub chat has focused throughout the tournament on the use of kicks from both an attacking and defensive perspective. There is just one wee, incy, wincy flaw in this Northern Hemisphere introspection.

Luke Morahan against the Lions in 2013; "they keep giving me the ball boss"

That would be the Southern Hemisphere currently licking their lips at the prospect of all these high balls raining down on them, gifting possession. 

Philippe Saint-Andre - taking it all on the chin at the moment but for years had us on the edge of our seats.... for all the wrong reasons!

I also wanted to just mention the French who have been in a world of pain and confusion in recent years. Some of the best and most memorable rugby I've ever watched has been with Les Bleus as it has for us all, (France v NZ 1999 at Twickenham, best match I've ever witnessed). Obviously, England fans know all about pain and confusion so I wanted to tip my hat to Philippe Saint-Andre who, rightly or wrongly, is enduring the worst of it and his 1991 try against England, voted in England's centenary year, 2009, the best try ever scored against us at Twickenham. 
 

Highland Under 18's Make Their Mark

So, on Friday we hurtled into the weekend after a pretty dreary week with another wonderful Six Nations festival of rugby to soak ourselves in.  How far away does Friday already seem. The All Blacks are probably sitting round the team briefing table arguing about what size tin of brasso they'll need for the next four years. 

Still, I think back to my first inglorious experience of the game when at school. Some lads, well men really, came down from Highland, the local club,  to give us a taster session. Well, I think we know where this is going. Right on cue your young and enthusiastic correspondent, (then not now), slammed cheek on cheek, (my cheek on his backside), with my arms wrapped firmly round the top of his legs. Unfortunately for me, the brute with legs like ancient Caledonian Firs seemed not to notice. As my arms slipped slowly down his legs to bring him down, (textbook), my cheek scraped over his bulbous thighs which had hair like wire wool. It felt like an out of control piston was gouging my skin with a wire brush. In seconds I was left lying in the mud leaving the next boy to his inevitable doom. Wouldn't happen now of course. Mostly because they don't train men with boys these days and I'm far to smart to get caught out again. I've never though, quite forgotten those lads from Highland.

So, having faced the ghosts of the past it was with some pleasure that I learned last week that the under 18's from Highland were bound for Edinburgh and the under 18 Scottish Cup Final in a match against Jedburgh Thistle. The under 18's, coached by among others, my good friend John Carson, did something special for themselves, the Club and for Highland rugby in reaching the final.

The final yesterday was indeed a historic day for the club. The lads got there by finishing first in their league and then seeing off West of Scotland in the quarters and Hawick in the semi. These are clubs at the beating heart and soul of Scottish rugby  so Highland walking onto the turf at Murrayfield is no mean feat. 

As with many Highland tales the ending was, shall we say unlucky but looking at the weekends international results they are in good company. A hard fought match ended with Jed in the ascendant with a 15-10 scoreline. The coaches, team and parents though should and will be proud. It will be long remembered as these things always are....."do you remember the time when we were at Murrayfield and Jed's hooker ran.........." The important thing of course is that winning becomes a habit. If you can get to one cup final ............

Rugby is the greatest and best of all community sports and is open to all. Well done; the town should be proud.

Football & Rugby

Happy Friday and excitement is quietly growing as we head into the weekend for a stunning conclusion to the Six Nations in what should be a monster festival of international rugby with the three deciding games tomorrow.

Our footballing friends though, appear to be struggling with the more mundane things in life as Manchester City's most expensive signing Mario Balotelli appears unable to dress himself,

Never let it be said though, that the rugby world can't laugh at itself...................... enjoy!

 

Thinking Mans Crumpet & England v France

It's a sad and weary reflection on the merry band of readers of my little blog that hits go through the roof when I put up a "Friday Fun," post. "More birds jumping out of planes," is what I most commonly hear. 

I'm not one to pander to the lowest common denomiator but our aims in life occasionally coincide. In my unerring pusuit of knowledge and enlightenment in the search for perfect TMC, (Thinking Man's Crumpet), I occasionally come accross a fine women who deserves a wider audience.

Here's my first contender, Imogen Poots

 

Why TMC? Well, she's fought Zombies you know, (28 Weeks), and if I were fighting Zombies I certainly like her by my side.

But is she, on a Six Nations weekend, enough I hear you cry? Well, I wouldn't be complaining but I can see that some of you might so here we really are going to kill two birds with the one stone. 

Now, we have some direct and meaningful advice for England delivered in a way that has resonance for all blokes of a certain age in Haslemere.............. pick the bloody ball up and run with it...

We may well have to return to debate this subject in greater detail in future Fridays.......

 

Bloody Hell

I should be sitting here on Friday morning anticipating a bright weekend and looking forward to the newspapers on Sunday celebrating a weekend of hard, close run and exciting Six Nations rugby.

Unfortunately, and I don't particularly want to rain on your parade, we learn from Guido that BBC political teams have been told not to leave town this weekend. The implication being that there might be an election announcement pending. Bugger it.

One thing is for sure and for certain, the BBC's political teams are unlikely to be on standby to report on what is rumoured to be another deluge of salacious scandal from our footballing friends. The problem with the Attack Dogs of the News of the World and the rest of the trash is they don't know when to switch off. I'd happily shoot the lot of them. John Terry would probably like to shoot the lot of them too or if he doesn't he will by about 8am on Sunday if any of the rumoured stories are true. I was half joking about teenage girls the other day. The premature retirement from international football by Wayne Bridge yesterday may look a wee bit hasty by Monday morning.

Someone else who I'd never heard of until this week is going to be wasting newsprint on Sunday. Much to the delight of delusional teenage boys up and down the country, Cheryl Cole who is also married to a footballer with over active glands, is getting divorced. She's so upset about it all she's apparently signed up to share the grief with the nation on that talentless twerp Jonathon Ross's show. To prove just how distressing the whole thing is she's been seeking solace with her new special friend in LA as opposed to her old special friend in LA. Keeping up...? No, I couldn't give a toss about any of them either.

Lets ignore the bloody lot of them and look forward to a good weekend of rugby.