Rugby World Cup Fever and Last Days in Dorset

28 Oct

 I’ve been singularly lazy lately. Four weeks since we arrived back in Australia and I’ve yet to post photos or notes of our final week in the UK. I could argue truthfully that we’ve not had decent wifi connectivity while on the move, but that’s pretty lame.

 

I can’t put my finger on why I’ve become such a slacker but I decided to embrace it and not write until the spirit moved.

 

Now I’m fifteen minutes into a two-hour absolutely chockers flight from Coolangatta (Gold Coast) to Melbourne and the turbulence is unsettling to say the least. There’s nervous laughter from adults and squealing kids as we’re tossed about. I’m flying solo as I’m on my way to a book club weekend without Stuart. Writing takes my mind off the regional severe storm warning I was tracking before I boarded.

 

I left off the blog in St David’s in Wales, where we wound up another glorious week walking the coastal path. With bags full of dirty laundry it was time to return to Sketty (Swansea) and Sue’s laundrette. This time I negotiated the express, full-service wash and dry while we retired to a trendy cafe for lunch.

 

The weather turned and by mid-afternoon cold rain was sheeting down. We high-tailed it downhill to Tides Reach Guesthouse on The Mumbles seafront where we’d stayed overnight on our way to St David’s. That time we were looked after by the locum manager, Chris. I’d booked in directly for the return. This time the owner-manager couple were in residence. Somehow we’d earned an upgrade to a superior room comprising king-sized bedroom and sitting room with large couch and two TVs. All this for the same bed and breakfast price (80 pounds) we’d paid for a standard room through booking.com. Luxury!  

Our wake up call was a 7am fire alarm. A guest’s shower set off the smoke sensor. The reward was this magnificent sunrise and the sight of Stuart in my dressing gown.

  

The room TVs were significant as we were building up to one of the highlights of this trip, Australia V Fiji in the Rugby World Cup to be played in Millenium Stadium, Cardiff. Stuart was very keen to watch all the World Cup coverage he could. His team(s) (England until they got knocked out of serious contention, at which point he switched to Scotland until they joined England) were expected to do well and he wanted to be fully informed.
 

Fortified by my last hearty vegan Welsh breakfast (beans, mushrooms and tomatoes with granary toast) we drove via Tenby down to Newport, just south of Cardiff. Extensive research had yielded the advice that for affordable hotels and the least time consuming transport we should stay within striking distance of Newport train station. The advice was sound but the execution contained a fatal flaw. I’ll return to that later. 

Tenby is the sweetest seaside town, a mix of pastel Victorian terrace hotels, fishing harbour and broad sandy beaches. 

    
    
 
Six months prior, in preparation for the match, I’d booked the Milton Hotel, ten minutes drive from Newport. Our English friend Charles, who had purchased the match tickets for us, was unable to get a room there so stayed some distance away at the next best option. Stuart and I drove into Newport, found a park opposite the station and hopped onto the first Cardiff bound train. The carriages were so crowded it felt like being on the Japanese subway without subtitles or men wearing white gloves. As we rounded bends at speed the weight of the jam-packed carriage set up a terrifying wobble. British rail compares poorly with almost every other developed country (it’s true, have you travelled by train in continental Europe or even Chile lately?). This rail line was clearly not coping with the load. We clung onto each other and any solid thing we could reach. It was grin and bear it for 25 minutes.
 

The next part of our experience was only slightly less nerve wracking. We waded through crowds of tipsy, rowdy fans dressed in their team colours and outlandish kit. For some reason a surprising number of caucasian blokes had donned what they perceived to be Fijian national dress, i.e.grass skirt, headband, fake flower lei, body paint and nought else, except perhaps a Fijian flag draped around bare shoulders. Whatever floats your boat.

    
 We met up with Charles in a huge, heaving, testosterone-filled multi-level sports pub (with wine glass holders in the women’s toilets) near the stadium then quickly moved on to the fan zone set up in Cardiff Arms Park. More semi-naked inebriated men but plenty of yellow jerseys too so I felt less intimidated. 

 
 When we took our seats half an hour before game time the Wallabies were all on the pitch warming up. That’s when it finally hit me that I was about to see my national team play their first World Cup 2015 match in front of a crowd of 67,253.

 

I’m seriously impressed by the Australian side and their coach Michael Cheika and unapologetically adore the gifted Tongan fullback, Israel Folau. To see Izzy looking fit and confident as he went through his pre-match routine gave me goosebumps. 

    
   
The outcome of the match is now a matter for the record, a comfortable win to Australia, but that’s not how it felt in the stadium with the majority of the spectators barracking deafeningly for ‘Fee JI!, Fee JI!, Fee JI!’.

 

Anticipating the crush of thousands of people emptying into the city we bolted for the train station as soon as the result was finalised. This is where Cardiff came unstuck. Social media warnings about the difficulties of exiting in a timely fashion proved all too true. Queues four deep for different train lines stretched back several hundred metres from Cardiff Central Station. We thought we were in the right queue but Stuart bravely surged ahead to check. We were in fact in the London queue, not the Newport queue… I insisted one of the volunteers lead us up to the Newport line as I didn’t want to be accused of queue-jumping by a punch drunk rugby fan. 

Any relief at being in a queue of only 500 instead of two thousand was short-lived when word went down the line that management were limiting Newport trains to one an hour. We spent two hours in that queue inching forward (see photo below). At least we were standing under a covered walkway when the heavens opened and only got a little moist and cold. Thousands of others waited in the rain. Cardiff you suck at crowd management. 


Charles had booked us in for a special Indian dinner in Newport and thankfully the chef agreed to keep the kitchen open until 11pm. It was ten o’clock before we arrived ravenous and weary. Best curries and Kingfisher beer I can remember.

 

With only three days before our flight home we drove down to lovely Dorset near our niece Sally and her partner Nick who live in Blandford Forum. Sally recommended we put up at the King’s Head Hotel in Wimborne Minster. A well-run historic inn now managed by the English Inns group, the King’s Head is a rabbit warren of stylish large restaurant rooms, bedrooms, and bars. Wimborne itself has the distinction of having the longest life expectancy for women in England and being the home of the inventor of the worldwide web, Tim Berners-Lee. And very comfortably middle class and tidy it is with thirteen hostelries and lots of tempting little clothes shops. 

     
The National Trust property of Kingston Lacy is a short drive away. The medieval manor of Kingston Lacy was held by the Bankes family from the early 17th century. Their fortune was decimated by the civil war as they sided with loser James 1, but their descendants recovered by mid-century and developed the house and grounds into an impressive Italianate estate with a king’s ransom in fine art. 

All families have their interesting characters and Egyptologist William Bankes was one such. William’s homosexuality came to the attention of the authorities, so much so that he was forced to flee to the continent in 1841, however he managed to oversee art purchases and estate renovations from there. 

     

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

Kingston Lacy’s market garden and pigs are major draw cards. I longed to liberate these handsome fellows, most of whom are bound for bacon.          

 
I’m wrapping this up as I wait for my return flight to the Gold Coast. Obviously I survived the flight but I am underwhelmed by Jetstar. They don’t seem to be able to stick to their published schedule and could care less.

 

Australia has forcefully claimed their place in the RWC 2015 final against the All Blacks next weekend and Stuart is confronted by his worst nightmare, having to barrack for Australia.

   

We have until early December to select fittings and finishes for the new build at Brokenhead and I can at last report that plans for Gypsy Cottage are with Ballina Shire Council for approval. We hope the builder’ contractor will construct the all weather driveway next month so he can lay the carport concrete, as well as concrete the support steel posts before the tradies knock off for their end of year month-long holiday.

 

We don’t anticipate completion before mid-June 2016, right around when we return from our next adventure. We may regret absenting ourselves for that period but for our mental health and marriage it might be best!

Here we have Stuart doing his ‘Try before you buy’ as he tests tubs for our outdoor sunken bath.

   

 

2 Responses to “Rugby World Cup Fever and Last Days in Dorset”

  1. trevor willis October 28, 2015 at 10:21 pm #

    great commentary. i think we should encourage the deportation of Stuart to Xmas Island asap!

    • Sharon Tickle October 28, 2015 at 10:29 pm #

      You crack me up Trev. It’s going to be so funny watching Stu watch the match. I think I might do a sneaky video recording. Love to Marg. Sxx

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