Being the ever-optimistic sort, I stumped up for tickets to see Wales -v- France in Cardiff, shortly after watching us get humped by Australia in November – for which I have now, very magnanimously forgiven the nation of Australia*.
As ever getting there for this Friday night match meant a four-hour drive straight after work on Thursday night, which is part of the fun actually, it’s a great way to listen to and really concentrate on some new tunes driving through the dark. This time it was Teeth of The Sea Master, which I was given for my birthday which hadn’t really clicked for me yet. Boy did it click properly on Thursday night, it’s a brilliant LP and if listened to properly sounds like the soundtrack to the sort of future war that provides the backstory for the Terminator films; the last elements of humanity waging guerrilla warfare amongst the ruins of downtown, umm, Cardiff or Fort Wayne, IN – that sort of caper. You ally that with my patented ‘1537-aoke’ CD which had me belting out unsurpassable versions of Green Green Grass of Home, Folsom Prison Blues, Romeo & Juliet, No Diggity and Hit Me With Your Best Shot and the journey just flew by.
On Friday my dad and I hit Spillers Records in Cardiff as soon as we got there, the world’s oldest record shop at 119 years and counting, it is still cool as hell. My dad sought various modern blues obscurities downstairs whilst I hit the vinyl upstairs, after a bit of soul-wallet-searching I snagged a copy of, Danish dudes, Papir IIII (which I still haven’t had time to spin yet); which surely makes me the only guy to turn up to an international Rugby Union match clutching a Danish psychedelic prog/jazz LP?
Cardiff as always on rugby days was just full of a festival atmosphere and happy throngs of men and women wandering around dressed in dragon costumes, miner’s helmets, daffodil hats and/or sheep costumes; national flags draped over every shoulder. BUT and this is the beauty of rugby, all amicably mixing and having fun with all the French fans, decked out for the occasion in berets, striped Breton tops, strings of onions, outrageously false moustaches, Asterix fancy dress and one guy, brilliantly dressed-up as Napoleon**. It was loads of fun, chatting in my broken French to some guys from Carcassonne in the pub beforehand, lots of pats on the backs and ‘Bon chance’ s being wished all over the place, the French guys saying how much they loved coming to Cardiff. The French vs. Welsh sing off in the pub was awesome – we won, but I’m biased. Why can’t all sports fans behave as well as this? everyone was just out to have fun.
The tickets we had were the best I’ve ever had to see Wales, six rows from the pitch behind the sticks. It was a great perspective to watch the match from and you could really, really see and hear how ferociously physical the match was. Before the teams were led out they turned out all the lights in the stadium which was an incredible effect, lit only by thousands of mobiles twinkling like diamonds in the dark, searchlights strafed the crowd and there was more pyro than at a Judas Priest gig. The build up was actually far more like a concert than a match and all the better for it.
I shan’t bore non-rugby fans too much, but the match was a damn good one, Wales seized control from the off and never really looked like relinquishing it at any stage as soon as George North seized his early, opportunistic try (thrillingly, right in front of us). The Welsh back row really fronted up again. As always the singing in the stadium was brilliant, the French cries of ‘Allez les bleus!’ countered either with, the witty, ‘Allez les rouges!’ and several verses of ‘Bread of Heaven’. I’ve not watched highlights yet, but it was a tough match with Wales over-powering France to win 27-6.
After the match – lots more ‘Bon chance’ s for the next round of matches, back-slapping and the French fans directly behind us unveiled a big banner which read ‘J’aime Wales’ which I thought was a lovely touch – sadly my phone had died by that point, otherwise I’d have got a picture with them. So off I went into the night and the bladder-testing 2 hour coach ride back to Llandeilo, clutching my LP.
Add in a nice walk up to Dinefwr Castle yesterday and I feel like I’ve had a week off, rather than just the three days. I may even be ready for the working week.
Not only that but a legend from my teen years was directed to my blog yesterday – Mark Wilkinson, Marillion’s^ artist was directed to my nonsense yesterday and was kind enough to explain the missing record player on the cover of Marillion Fugazi. I am humbled – this was a man whose art decorated my bedroom walls and my chest for years; not only was he here, but he’s really nice too and didn’t seem to mind me defacing his wonderful creations with bits of Lego.
You know what? life is good.
342 Down (Still)
*and Austria after they became embroiled in the whole sorry debacle after a typo; sorry Austria, I didn’t mean it.
**you know, him out of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
^and Darkness, Iron Maiden and Judas priest – amongst lots of others check him out here – he’s amazing.