There are few things I miss about the UK when I am in LA, but the Six Nations rugby tournament is one of them.
It’s still possible to watch it over there, of course, but today I’m rather glad I will be sitting in a Welsh hostelry for the 1.30pm kick off between Wales and Ireland, rather than the King’s Head in Santa Monica at a gruesome 5.30am.
Not that the King’s Head didn’t have its advantages – bumping into the divine Matthew Rhys in his Welsh rugby shirt being one of them – but there is something that just feels so wrong about shouting at that time in the morning.
This year, Wales has all the Blues away, which means trips to Paris, Rome and Edinburgh. It’s much better than the years where they visit just Dublin and Twickenham. I last went to the former in 2008 and remember just two things: nearly fainting with excitement when I spotted Brian O’Driscoll in the Four Seasons Hotel, and crawling across my bathroom in the same hotel when I was struck down with a very bad bout of flu.
I visited Rome during the Six Nations of 2005 and declared, when I arrived home, that there was “nothing to see” there. It wasn’t until I returned there at the end of a cruise that I realised I had managed to miss every ruin. My camera was full of pictures of penises, though, snapped outside the ground as men relieved themselves al fresco, owing to the city’s inability to provide adequate facilities.
Full bladders used to be a problem in the old Arms Park in Cardiff in the years before seating. Men simply used to urinate around you (the East Stand was particularly bad), uttering a “Sorry love” before filling their bladders up again with another gallon of Stella, thereby creating the problem all over again. At least when my bladder was full, I asked to be lifted over the heads of spectators in order to make my way to a proper toilet.
Only once in my entire life did I have to improvise a toilet, when I was on a two-hour journey on a train that had no facilities. I made a little nest out of a newspaper someone had left and went in that. So far, so good. The problem was that there was more liquid than there was nest and I was required to throw the first sitting (as it were) out of the window; or, rather, the problem came when I realised, nest cupped in both hands, that I had not yet opened the window. Struggling to contain the contents of said nest, I grappled with the window and chucked the receptacle with my best discus arm. It was unfortunate that the train hit a particularly vicious wind tunnel at the time and I ended up wearing the nest, plus most of its contents.
Queuing for toilets is the thing that ultimately stopped me going to rugby internationals. Although I was in New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup, I no longer go to Six Nations matches – or, rather, I go to the cities where the games are, but watch in a pub. It means I don’t get cold, I can use the toilet without having to pass pools of urine and vomit en route, and I don’t have to miss three tries while I wait in the eight man deep queue for a drink.
And so, here we go again. Six Nations 2013. It’s a beautiful sunny day in Cardiff (that alone is something to celebrate) and it’s just over two hours to go until kick off. My bet this year is on England to win, although France, my adopted team, can always be relied upon to put a spanner in the works, as they did in New Zealand against Wales.
Meanwhile, in the US, it’s a big weekend for the Superbowl. I never did find out what that was, other than it involved a lot of men watching TV and shouting a lot.
Give me rugby any day, just not at a time when the birds are still asleep.