Crunch time

Rugby ball

Don’t listen to any talk of expecting a home win, the locals were fearing the worst as the Autumn Internationals against the best of the southern hemisphere were about to draw to a close for another year. A display of inflatable rugby balls should not be taken as a sign of inflated expectations. The venue was still the same old Heartbreak Hotel

Millenium Stadium 2

… where the script remained stubbornly unedited. Wales just love to be in the lead against the three most successful teams in the world, only to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the last minutes of each match. Today was crunch time, as this would be the last of the big three arriving in Cardiff before next year’s Rugby Union World Cup, with leads already surrendered against Australia and New Zealand earlier in the month.

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It was also crunch time as matches against the South African Springboks are always prefaced with terms such as physicality, brutality, and heavy crunching tackles.

 

Two hours to kick-off and the stats were far less significant than the all-important preparation before the match… where clearly there was no room in the inn…

The match gets under way, and in the stadium everything was going to script, as the game remained evenly balanced as the first half progressed…

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But, for some spectators there was a clear preference for a sunny disposition, even if the result went the way of other visits by South African teams at the final whistle…

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But, just once in a while the pain of history can be soothed by that rare experience of a win! When the final whistle came… well, it was always expected according to my ‘in-house prophet’!

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It also clearly seemed to mean something to the perennial bottlers, as the final whistle provides a cue for public man-on-man kissing and cuddling. At least it makes a change from all that sniffing of arses vibe going on during the match!

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Strange how this sport gives you some winners silverware when you achieve only the second win against your opponents in a lengthy history of this fixture. There must be a world surplus of silver I guess…

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Wales flags

 

 

WALES 12 SOUTH AFRICA 6

South Africa flags

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, until we speak again I have been Baffled Juno, subjected to a month of observing something resembling egg-chasing. I am sure us cats would never demean ourselves by indulging in such strange pastimes…

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As for the locals, my guess is they will be oblivious to the result when they have finally dragged themselves home from the pubs and clubs of a raucous and victorious Cardiff!

[With thanks to wesclark.com for the image of cats playing rugby].

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The sheep-shaggers derby

“This is it, this is the big one” my resident sporting masochist kept repeating in the build up to the weekend. I stifle a yawn and feign interest, as this is the person who fills my bowl and knows not to disturb my finely calibrated sleeping routines. To me the idea of mutual arse-sniffing is a distinctly dog-thing, not to be engaged in by 30 self-respecting grown men, under the subtle cover of playing something called Rugby Union. But, on this occasion it seems we are talking the world’s number one all-conquering New Zealand All-Blacks coming to town. I gaze into a mirror and try to remind the unobservant one that the all blacks are always in town… me!

In a failed attempt to avoid all forms of stereo-type I imagine the trophy for this occasion… a startled Welsh ewe being mounted by a triumphalist kiwi. While my in-house hopeless romantic is dreaming of another planet somewhere in a parallel universe, where a Welsh 15 are putting the all-blacks to the sword. However, it is an occasion to behold, as it is not often that a consistently world-beating team swagger into town. As I stroll about the town centre, a mere three hours before kick-off, it is obvious that the forthcoming encounter requires serious preparation, as kiwi’s gather in familiar territory even when on the opposite side of the world.

Kiwi's

Not to be out-done in their own back-yard, the locals of Wales put on a display of national pride… otherwise known as the Max Boyces’ version of a boy-band called Boycezone!

Max Boyces

Everywhere you walk is accompanied by the deafening silence of plastic glasses, as the overlords of health and safety ensure everyone has fun… but with a strange after-taste in the mouth.

‘What about the match?’ You ask. ‘Who needs a match when you have an excuse to drink yourself stupid all day?’ I wonder. For the record, local expectations were high, and it all begins with the usual New Zealand tradition of the Haka

New Zealand captain Tana Umaga (2eR), su

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The match quickly develops throughout the first half into the unusual rugby combination of a low scoring ‘cracker’, before the home team twice take the lead in the second half, to set up the unlikely prospect of a ‘haha-wacker’!

But we are talking the world’s number one team here; and for all of the expectations as Wales lead with little more than 13 minutes left on the clock, inevitability strikes… with three tries and no further points conceded the scoreline takes on a familiar, but for this match rather unrepresentative, look:

Wales flags

 

Wales 16 New Zealand 34

NZ Flags

 

 

 

 

 

 

My resident optimist searches for a ray of hope in the repeated gloom, and offers a thought that maybe revenge will be sweet in the World Cup in 11 months time. Until we speak again I have been a bewildered Juno, and feel any such optimistic thoughts belong locked away in the bubble from whence they came. Don’t suffer too much disturbed sleep dreaming of the vision of that Welsh ewe!

[With thanks to BBC News Online for images of the Haka].

Culture Clash

Cardiff City 2 Reading 1

Do the Ayatollah

“ROYALS OF READING SUCCUMB TO LOCALS DOING THE AYATOLLAH!”

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Checked out the You Tube clip so you can become wiser about the Ayatollah thing? Nope… me neither. So, until we speak again this is Pundit Juno bringing you all you need to know about football in less than 10 words.

[With thanks to Graham Chadwick for uploading the image].

Shambolic drama

Wales flags

WALES 17 FIJI 13

 

Fiji flags

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rugby is a religion in Wales, believe me. As a cat brought up initially in parts of London I thought it was just the passtime of posh boys who liked to get in touch with the animal instincts of sniffing each other’s rears…

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But here in Wales it is the life blood of men, women and children alike… a kind of national identity that bonds everyone together for 80 minutes every now and then, before they resume the mundanity of their usual lives.

As a sport it is little understood by most, and having just lost a couple of hours of my life that I will never get back, I can assure you that a casual glance at the video replay of this anticipated majestic autumn international will be illuminating… at least about everything the game is not meant to be about! Here is a game where both teams managed to completely avoid doing anything that they are best known for… fast flowing rugby full of the thrills and spills of high energy running and hard tackling. All you get from this shambles is the ‘spills’ with very little of the thrills, save for the surprising moments when tries were actually scored.

Fiji managed to spend just over half of the game down from 15 to 14 players as a result of unfathomable misdemeanours; while Wales managed to score precisely no points for the duration of the time they had a numerical advantage of personnel on the pitch. The game probably scored the highest number of clueless mistakes from both sides, but particularly the home side. All that can be said in the land of rugby dreamers is ‘job done, just!

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Until we speak again I will be Baffled Juno, avoiding local men providing cartoonish visions of what passes for work.

[With acknowledgement to fotolibra.com for the rugby scrum image].

The pain of deja vu

Wales flags

 

WALES 28 AUSTRALIA 33

Australia flags in St Mary Street

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was a rugby match that had as much, if not more, to do with other days as it was about today. Whoever said that rugby is just about 80 minutes of 30 big cats running into each other clearly hasn’t been in Cardiff on an autumn international match day when Wales are hosting Australia. This type of afternoon in the Millennium Stadium is what psychology looks like in the raw.

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Today is just tomorrow’s yesterday‘; or you might want to think in terms of ‘times of future past‘. But, whatever linguistic scrummaging you want to get your headspace into, there is no getting away from the fact that Wales have developed a habit, one that nobody should really fall into. This is now 10 straight defeats to this particular opponent. But worse than that… this has become a fixed pattern of Wales leading with minutes to go on the clock, only to commit sporting harikari as they commit a simple error or two to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

So, that takes care of the psychological impact of the past, what about the future? Today comes with added spice, because these two teams find themselves in the same World Cup pool as England in October 2015, and only two teams can qualify out of the pool into the quarter-finals. While at the last World Cup Wales and Australia were both losing semi-finalists, and England returned home early in disgrace! (Welsh folk seem to like using that adjective); now the circumstances look more evenly balanced. So, 3 into 2 is going to leave one nation languishing in dejection. Cue the moment for ending a long run of a particularly poor habit!

 

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Until we speak again I guess I will be Solemn Juno surrounded by a nation in mourning for what could have been… yet again!

[Thanks go to Wes Clark and Afro J Simpson for posting the two fabulous images].

Fellini appeal

Forgive me for confusing Fellini for being something cat-like… particularly sensual and emotive, sleek in movement and extravagant in taste. As my resident ‘cultural imposter‘ watches a DVD of La Dolce Vita I am left wondering whether the title is meant to be an advert for a healthy ice-cream. But then, so many things in Italian just sound like they should be eaten, whether you know what they are or not.

Anita Ekberg

Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita

I am reminded of a recent sojourn into what passes as Little Italy, Cardiff-style. No, not the clusters of ersatz pizza chains designed to remind the casual holidaymaker of something they used mainly to soak up the excess alcohol. I am reflecting on something with a little more authenticity and panache. For those in the know, I am talking a gentle sashay down The Hayes to Giovanni’s joint.

Giovanni's [3]

Original since 1983, here you will be greeted by truly melodic Italian accents, and a clash of cultural images as something a little more sinister bids you ‘buon appetito’.

Giovanni's [1]I strongly advise you to check out the menu before you go, because there is so much to tempt the taste buds, and all sounding like they should be devoured with relish (no, not the American stuff for covering up bad tasting food!). Just for starters you can indulge a Carpaccio di Manzo (marinated raw fillet of beef), Gamberoni alla Marchesa (roasted large king prawns); or if you are strictly vegetarian they even throw in some humourous offers: Funghi alla Mimi e Coco’ (sort that one out for yourself). And then there is the inevitable Zuppa Giorno ( because life is a minestrone!).

As for the main course, this cat couldn’t resist the Penne Spezzatino (fillet steak pieces tossed in garlic, wine and traditional Italian tomato sauce). I am still tasting it as I write.

Giovanni's [2]

As for liquid refreshment, there is nothing like a bowl of Peroni Nastro Azzurro to whet a cat’s whiskers before the main course. And it was a certain Hannibal Lecter who once advised the choice of a nice Chianti, but just be careful what the meat is if you are taking this source of advice!!!

Until we speak again I have been Don Juno wishing you buon appetito.

[With thanks to Arte.TV blog for posting the still image I borrowed of Anita Ekberg].

Arcade Fire

Cardiff City 3 Leeds United 1

Castle Arcade, Cardiff 1

Castle Arcade, Cardiff 1

Castle Arcade, Cardiff 2

Castle Arcade, Cardiff 2

Castle Arcade, Cardiff 3

Castle Arcade, Cardiff 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leeds arcade roof detail

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“SHOPPING FOR PYROTECHNICS? LOOK NO FURTHER THAN FOOTBALLING RIVALRIES.”

Until we speak again this has been Juno Fawkes bringing you everything you need to know about football in less than 10 words, and wishing you fireworks like the local team eventually produced in the second half today.