Irish defeat can’t dampen my love for Cardiff

It is a lovely sunny Monday morning and I am back in the real world, at work in the shop, Lynn Antiques (in case you’ve forgotten), after spending the weekend in that most wonderful Welsh Capital – my favourite city anywhere –   Cardiff. Before I say anything at all about our tour or about the very disappointing rugby, I must tell you why it’s my favourite city. If God told me he’d send me back for a second run at it, but I couldn’t make a reappearance in Ireland, I’d ask him to drop me off in Cardiff.

 

  First of all, everything is within walking distance, the Principality Stadium (always thought it was the Millennium Stadium, but they must have changed its name), and the Cardiff Arms are more or less back to back, so I could go to all the big rugby games. The people are lovely and they can all sing, there is a great shopping area that I didn’t see this time, and the pubs offer everything you would want. But the crowning jewel is the magnificent park just off the city centre.

  A few weeks ago, I went to Dublin for a visit to my daughter, Lisa, and she brought us for a stroll in the Phoenix Park, and I am ashamed to say that I never knew how big or how impressive that park is and, in fairness, it’s also very accessible from the centre of the city.

  Anyway, I headed off on a beautiful Friday morning for a walk in the Welsh park, over the big bridge across the River Taff, along the daffodil-lined footpaths, down past the many soccer pitches, intrigued by the numbers of grey squirrels that seemed to be everywhere. And it was almost surreal to think that less than a kick of a ball away, 82,000 rugby supporters were looking forward to the big game at eight o’clock that evening.

  The sheer size of the park meant that even with my two hips in good working order, I only saw, or got to, a tiny part of the total area. But I have to say it was sheer bliss and a most beautiful start to what turned out to be a disappointing match-day. And going back to the match and the eight o’clock start, I read a piece on one of the Welsh local papers yesterday about the great success it was, and how the closed roof, and the huge amount of alcohol consumed by most of the spectators, made for a fantastic atmosphere. I couldn’t disagree more with the writer in his assessment, and if he spoke to the members of our little touring party, he would have painted a very different picture!

  One of our members was unfortunately in the way of a flying column of vomit (hope you are not too sensitive), which came from a very drunken Welshman, who was seated several rows above us, and along with landing on the balding head and lovely new jacket of our man, it also hit several more unlucky punters who were also in the line of very accurate fire. The drunken vomiter was escorted horizontally from the stadium, and you would think that would be that; but you would be wrong, because directly in front of us were a few lads who, as well as drinking for Ireland, were continually standing up and spoiling our view.

  Now as far as I know, the introduction of all-seated stadiums was to make it easier to see the action, so as these boys kept standing up, another member of our party was getting more and more annoyed, and eventually he decided it was time to sort it out and he gave them a bit (actually quite a big bit) of his mind. For a time I thought there was going to be a good old-fashioned brawl, but eventually things settled down and we managed to see the rest of the match, unencumbered by either standing supporters or flying vomit.

After the game

After the game as I left the stadium, I joined a good few onlookers who were enthralled at the efforts of an Irish couple who were literally trying to walk up the road – notwithstanding the huge number of people that were milling all over the place and almost carrying them along. Our green-clad pair just couldn’t make any headway at all. They were so ossified they took two steps forward, and then at least five backwards. I don’t know if they are still vainly trying to get out of Cardiff, but my advice to them in the future would be to go to the earlier kick-off and stay out of the pubs, or if they can’t do that, at least leave their colours at home.

  We made it into the clubhouse of the Cardiff Blues, and even though there was a good crowd there, we got a nice corner for ourselves and drank a few nice pints of Guinness until the bouncers cleared the house at the stroke of midnight and all were out inside ten minutes.

  Saturday morning found us back in Cardiff Arms Park for an 11.30 kick-off between the Irish and Welsh women, and after the poor effort the evening before, the women put in a most committed performance and deservedly beat the home side by 12 points to 7. Some of the rugby was of the highest order and it was a great advertisement for the women’s game, so it was a pity that we couldn’t get programmes anywhere, and to get tickets to the game we had to queue for ages to buy them in the only outlet that had them. Maybe the crowd was bigger than expected, but they could learn from the GAA, who would have had multiple ticket-sellers all over the place. But that is a minor enough complaint and we were all very impressed with the quality, standard, and physicality of the women’s game.  

  Once upon a time, if anyone told me that I would enjoy a women’s game more than a man’s, I would have said they were crazy, but that is what happened in Cardiff and I am surprised to realise that it looks like I will get to the end of this piece without having to make any report on the actual defeat the men’s team suffered.

  For us, one of the special moments of the weekend came when four of us were invited into the famous trophy room of the Cardiff Blues. We were allowed as much time and space as we wanted to look around, take pictures, and wallow in the nostalgia and memory of some of the greatest Welsh legends.

  One amazing article was a 1905 All Blacks jersey, which was worn in the international between the teams, which Wales won, and our guide told us the jersey in question is worth a staggering one hundred thousand pounds. For some reason our request to try it on was politely, but firmly, declined.

  Anyway, it’s all over for another year, and all thirteen of us made it home safe and sound and happy to have had another very enjoyable tour behind us.

And finally…

Finally for this week, just a reminder that on Thursday night, 16th of March, the Tidy Towns Committee are holding a table quiz in Mikeen’s, starting at 10 o’clock, and everyone is invited. I have the honour of being the quizmaster, and I look forward to seeing you all there.

‘Till next week, Bye for now!