Slam and Dunk

Deep in the Northern Hemisphere winter is a time when the egg-chasing sports enthusiasts get their moment in the limelight; when the Six Nations Rugby Championship takes centre stage; where some of the people of Wales connect with a strange kind of religious fervour.

This year it all kicked off with the biennial ‘Men in Skirts‘ weekend, as Scotland arrive in Cardiff. A brief moment when men can be true to their inner selves, and at least one shopping-laden woman can turn a blind eye…

1. a) Scary scrum

Scotland were in the rarified position of being tipped by many as favourites to win in Cardiff, only to be blown away 34-7 by the native dragon of Wales

1. b) City Road dragon [2]

Next up, it was the turn for Wales to be on the road, with the fixture that inspires thoughts of a clash with old enemies rather than a celebration amongst rivals. What would the marauders across the Severn Bridge take to the hosts of England, tipped to be champions before the tournament started? Well, with dragon-hearts in mouths for most of the last 60 minutes, it wasn’t to be, as St George stumbles to a 12-6 win, and the guest fire-starters prove at the final whistle to be a little more inert in portraying their true heritage…

2. Inert firestarters

Staying on the road, next up is the always welcome trip to Ireland, where the lotion joyously flows, and the red army have frequently found travelling success. As added-on time arrives Wales are only 3 points behind and in possession with the potential of a match-winning try; and then that wayward pass…… Ireland clinically strike for a 37-27 victory, as Welsh heads are bowed…

3. Fallen head [4]

With two oh-so close matches away, Wales return home determined not to let an unpredictable season slip on the banana skin that Italy may lay down at the Millennium Stadium (no Principality Building Society product placement accepted here!). A frenetic first half is followed by a procession to a 38-14 home win…

Banana skin

Which only leaves the simple matter of a victory in the final home match with France to secure a creditable second place in the Championship. If only… Wales don’t do ‘simple’! After most of the match watched through parted fingers, mouth agape, from behind the sofa, the final whistle brings that rarest of outcomes… Rabbits 14 Headlights 13…

5. Desperately holding on

Until we speak again, you may ask “but what about the other matches?” to which the carefully tutored Juno and Bella would answer “so what!” Another Six Nations comes to an end, with congratulations to Ireland for the Grand Slam of 5 wins in 5 games, and even greater congratulations to England for their Number 5… the Dunk of finishing 5th out of 6!

4. Pride restored

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Leek & Onion Soup

It’s a cold February day and my ‘in-house Oliver Twist’ is asking about ideas for feeding the masses. It being a big match event in the locality, I have no hesitation in coming up with my very own recipe. First, we need a pan big enough for all those insisting on “feed me ’til I want no more” (that’s an ‘in’ rugby comment). This will do…

Principality Stadium

Throw in generous portions of the main ingredients…

Ingredients

Add some heat to the cauldron…

Fire [1]

Fire [2]

Simmer for a few minutes…

Simmering

Sprinkle in a dash of yellow stuff…

Boil [1]

Add some crusty bread…

Bread [1]Bread [2]

 

 

 

 

 

Home appetites are guaranteed to be satisfied, as the final result clearly indicates a sumptuous outcome…

 

Final score

Rugby cat

 

Until we speak again I tempt your taste buds with my next menu, coming to an event near here: ‘Pizza for Proles’.

EU integration at work

     V.      

Who says that England and Wales don’t work well within a European Union structure? Clearly a Cardiff-based eleven would like to do a UKIP, and put a sharp spike into the idea of European unity in today’s match. However, Arsenal’s current place atop the Premier League suggests that a pan-European blend is managing to disturb the notorious hush of the Emirates Library in north London.

A definite Franco-German axis dominates the Arsenal landscape at present, with a more than adequate support from English, Welsh, Spanish, Polish, Belgian and Czech Republic counter-parts. However, as with most European institutions, the Arsenal style can tend towards the over-elaborate with an emphasis on style over substance. The onlookers are often left with a feeling that the never-ending ‘process’ fails to deliver any tangible ‘products’ to their liking.

Many of their opponents experience that UKIP-like feeling, that any encounter with a European Union structure only leaves you mesmerised by the maze of hoops and rings spun around you. This understandably gives rise to an increasing urge to kick something… Arsene’s Arse providing the most obvious target (if you can penetrate the quilted wall of its defence):

    

The big questions for today are: what will happen when the English of Wales outnumber the English of England; and the greater number of Welsh players could be on the English side? Who will need to become most demonised by UKIP when they open up their cheque books to Rumanians and Bulgarians during the January transfer window? How many smiles will Arsene Wenger crack open during this match (all betting agency sources and Ray Winstone are available naaarrw).

  

A 3.00pm kick-off on a Saturday afternoon is a bit disorienting for supporters who have had more Sunday kick-offs so far this season. But the home fans are not left waiting for too long before their historic appreciation of former player Aaron Ramsey is put to the test. He scores to put Arsenal 1-0 in the lead, and there is a rare moment in the football kingdom where a scoring opponent is applauded by the home fans. Are you smiling Mr Wenger? Perhaps this is what joy looks like:

 

Cardiff somehow hang on to a 1-0 deficit through to half-time, but more due to the visitors playing slightly below their own standards. The second half approaches with the home team needing some inspiration from somewhere.

City v Arsenal

A more evenly contested half ensues, but the clinical efficiency of the league leaders produces a further two goals for a fair winner but maybe a slightly flattering result. Purple Dragonbirds are out-gunned by Arsenal 0-3. European unity prevails and there is time for one particular face to crack open a smile:

      I have been Juno, and with a busy weekend I will give you my views on a Wales v Australia rugby match next time we meet.

Why aye, monsieur

The land of song welcomes the city of great rock music for 90 minutes brimful of inane shouting and chanting dressed up as collective banter. Yes its time for the weekly ‘who are ya’s‘ and ‘your support is f*@king s%!t‘ to be eloquently presented by the neanderthal minority from one end of the stadium to the other. The Men of Harlech meet the Geordie Hordes as the passionate masses proclaim their city’s rites to Premier League glory. A musical son of Newcastle (born in Glasgow) recently provided us with a dialectical treat in the form of Why Aye Man, including the lyric There’s English, Irish, Scots, the lot. The following line talks about United Nations’ what we’ve got, which has been taken to a new level as Newcastle United can claim French, French, French and Argentinian is what we’ve got.

           

If you’re looking for the English then strangely it is the Welsh team line-up that will be of more interest to you! It’s 3.01p.m., and the home crowd are wondering…

City v Newcastle [1]

… which Newcastle team will they be up against: a cordon bleu menu served up with Chateauneuf du pape, or cheap plonk with a load of old pap? The away fans recall their old favourites, Lindisfarne, and the lyric Hey mr dreamseller, where have you been, tell me have you dreams i can see? For the first 45 minutes their dreams are answered as their team dominate pretty much everything of note that happens. With a half-time scoreline of 0-2 The Fog on the Tyne has done nothing to dim the view of the Newcastle players and fans, whereas the home fans are left wondering if the ‘Fog on the Taff’ has descended over their team, and fear a lyric of another Lindisfarne favourite: Had my share of nightmares didn’t think there could be much more.

Football has its moments, times when the bizarre passes off for normality, and this match duly obliged during the half-time interval… the away fans are treated to a personal performance of their icon tune, Blaydon Races, by the local and world famous Treorchy Male Voice Choir assembled on the pitch directly before them. Those of the Toon Army who hadn’t disappeared below ground to partake of the pie-eating challenge were duly appreciative of the gesture. The home fans played their part, with a backing vocal of a chorus of boos and obscenities; not a version that will be released for sale anytime soon! The second half couldn’t come soon enough…

City v Newcastle [2]

… and in a blaze of sunshine the cliche took on its usual embodiment; for the uninitiated football is often known as a game of two halves (yes, a first half and a second half… occasionally with four unequal halves if extra-time type competitions are being played… don’t ask, it’s probably just a need to out do cricket in the ‘need for explanation’ stakes).

Anyway, back to the real action… Cardiff City totally dominate the second half, scoring an early goal, and the away fans are now haunted by the Sting lyric: On and on the rain will fall… like tears from a star… how fragile we are. The casual flakiness of fans when their team suddenly change from being world-beaters to dead-beats usually causes something akin to introspection through the fearful chords of If I ever lose my faith in you (though ‘introspection’ and a shaven-headed neanderthal aren’t a regular mix to be found anywhere!). The home team keep knocking on the door (another one of those strange descriptions of footballing action), but to no avail. As the final whistle approaches the away fans are left to reflect on a brand new Sting song, as they take a battering And Yet I’m back, as they go away with the three points for a win. For the record the score is:

Bluebirds    1                                                 Magpies       2

          

Many thanks to the music legends of the north-east for providing the backing track to this post. I’ve been Juno, apparently listening to a report of yet another competition where different birds are represented, though my preference would be for a mix of both teams in a Blue-Pie stew. See you again soon.