Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Column, February 8, 2005

A NEW picture hangs on my wall this morning.
It shows Mathew Tait wondering just when Gavin Henson might let him back down on the ground.
Henson looks like he’s quite happy to carry Tait around under his arm for the rest of the afternoon. “Don’t worry about this one boys, I’ll just keep him here, and I’ll tackle at the same time, oh and I’ll kick the winner too.”
February is a miserable month, none of the excess of Christmas and not quite into the promise of Spring, but Saturday was a day to bask in the warm glow of an England defeat.
Not just a defeat mind you, a performance in which they were outclassed in pretty much every aspect of play and even their most devoted fans went away counting themselves lucky not to have lost by more than they did.
You have to admire the Welsh rugby fan though, if this had been football they would have long ago lost their appetite for seeing the men in red beaten by a white tide of percentage rugby.
But they have kept the faith, turning up every time, often more in hope than expectation. But on Saturday you could sense that something was going to happen.
The national anthem has never sounded more like a call to arms, an outpouring of raw emotion, a collective expression of the hopes and desires of those thousands assembled there. In those few verses they did their bit, and what a bit it was.
It has become hard to watch Wales in recent years, such is the promise, only to be followed by bitter disappointment. But then Gavin Henson tackled Tait, not just tackled him, but gave a perfect demonstration of physics and what happens when you hit someone with just the right amount of force (a lot) and at the right point – they go backwards.
You began to sense that the tectonic plates of rugby were shifting as quickly as the rather shoddily placed turf was beneath the scrum.
England were a ‘team in transition’ we were told – management-speak for ‘not as good as they used to be’. Wales played direct, fast rugby and were wonderfully assisted by the fact that England took five minutes a time to extract the ball from a ruck. I could swear I saw some of the Wales back line having a sly fag while Matt Dawson tried in vain to extricate the ball from amongst his players. You can forgive them for wanting to keep the ball in the ruck though, as long as it was in there they were safe, the Welsh couldn’t run at them with it.
And while the London-based press has made much of Henson’s gelled hair, shaved legs and silver boots, the opposition can mock as much as they want, it’s hard to laugh when he’s broken past you ball in hand on yet another surging run. It’ even harder to laugh when he’s holding you up waist high and pointing your head at the ground – ask Mathew Tait.
In a way it is sad that we invest so much in defeating England. It is, perhaps, not entirely healthy to feel this way about one match. Indeed if you ask a lot of people what’s more important, winning the six nations or beating England, many will settle for a victory over the English.
It is as if it is payback for all that has been done to us over the years. Instead of undoing those wrongs, we settle for dominance on the sporting field. Throughout the ‘70s and into the ‘80s it was a given that the English would get a drubbing here and most times at Twickers too.
But then they even took that away from us – until Saturday.
Welsh rugby has had too many false dawns and this may be one of them, but let’s enjoy the sun while it lasts and look forward to Saturday and the Stadio Flaminio.

THERE is not a lot you can say to oppose the head of Ysgol Frongoch in Denbigh in his quest to clean up the language of a minority of his pupils.
These foul-mouthed youngsters have caused consternation in the streets, demonstrating quite how wide their vocabulary has become.
The head, Gareth Davies, blames TV in part for the problem.
While applauding his aims, you can’t help but feel he is a little Canute-like, as the tide of bad language laps gently around his knees.
Having a good swear is part and parcel of growing up. Some of us grow out of it, some of us do not (and it would appear, go on to work in newsrooms up and down the land)
The worst thing you can do is react to it. Once they know they’ve shocked you, they’ll use it again and again.
I have to confess to having form for this myself, having been hauled over the coals by Mrs Thompson, my teacher at Ewloe Green CP for gratuitous use of the f-word on the playing field.
She inquired whether I could find the word in my dictionary and, sad to say, the Pocket Oxford let me down badly, containing no mention of it. This, she said, showed that it was not acceptable language.
Oh to have had the large Concise volume in my desk – the word would have been there in all its glory, I could have given her definition, etymology and a host of examples of usage. An opportunity missed.
Ban all swearwords and you add to their mystique. It would be better to teach appropriate usage, although it would be a brave headmaster indeed who added that to the curriculum.

AND so, as promised, to the website that shows that Jesus was Welsh.
Well, it shows that his grandmother was Welsh, which would have made him Welsh enough to step out onto the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, giving us two players capable of walking on water.
I came across this little gem while reading a website called “The Guild of Glyndwr” - - which carried a list of Welsh claims to fame.
And down there at number 7 is the following “According to the latest research, Jesus' grandmother (Mary's mother) was Welsh!” Exclamation mark indeed.
It kind of makes you wonder what the previous seven claims to fame were, that this should only be number 7 – but they are much more mundane – St David’s is the smallest city in Europe and so on.
But back to Our Lord’s grandma. This could be big. I’ve seen what Dan Brown has done with this sort of gubbins and I’m thinking the ‘Dai Vinci Code’ could make my fortune (see what I did there, Da Vinci, Dai Vinci? Forget it, pearls before swine)
Anyway, the only ‘research’ I could find was on a very strange site called ‘The Royal House of Britain’ which seems to indicate that Jesus’s grandmother was called Bianca.
There the trail goes cold though, where in Wales Bianca was meant to come from I’m not sure. It sound like she might be more at home in Albert Square to be perfectly honest.
If any readers more learned in the Scriptures than me (that is, all of you) would care to enlighten me, a small share in the ensuing royalties from my international bestseller is yours.

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