6 Nations 2013

Sadly, as I’m getting older, my head is reigning in my heart’s ever-optimistic assertion: ‘Of course Wales are going to win the 6 Nations!’

My head’s objectivity is usually met with, and beaten by, my heart’s uninhibited, passionate, unreasoned optimism.

Maybe I’m getting more sensible. I hope not. I’m fully expecting that by 10am tomorrow I will, no doubt, be in full nationalistic swing, believing, nay knowing, that Wales will not only win their first match, but also that this will catapult us to yet another Grand Slam. (A few years ago I woke up my wife at 3am by singing Hymns and Arias in bed. No, I wasn’t even drunk)

So my head’s prediction for this year’s tournament goes a little something like this:

1st: France

In typical French fashion, they will surprise us all. Mainly by being good all the way through. Losing one of their matches, either in Dublin or Twickenham.

2nd: England

Damn them and their new-found humility and likeable coach. They have confidence and a togetherness that will see them do well. But they do have to go to Cardiff.

3rd: Wales

If we win the first match, who knows what the surge will bring. Lose it and we’re scrapping for a crumb of respect from the rest of the matches.

4th: Ireland

I just don’t see it happening this year. Their pack is missing key players and their backline isn’t what it was a couple of years ago. But again, a lot hinges on the opener against Wales.

5th Scotland

Only because the other team left is Italy.

6th Italy

Quite.

So there we go.

Be nice to the other people. Don’t let national pride become jingoistic, stereotypical hatred of others. Banter if you will, but only if everyone’s ‘in’ on it.

Oh, and my heart’s prediction?

WALES TO WIN THE GRAND SLAM!

Just like every other year.

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Remember, remember…

…Why we did Movember.

Well done everyone. For growing those magnificent lip-warmers, the undernose caterpillars, the crumb-stashers and the upper merkins.

To those sporting a variety of styles: The Mexican Bandit, The twenties Gent, The Sex Offender and, to a lesser extent, The Hitler.

Many men grew moustaches this month. A hearty congratulations if you did. Even bigger accolades must go to your long-suffering partners who braved your face to kiss you goodnight during your quest. And a big thank you to all who donated to the worthy cause.

The good thing about Movember is that it brings to the forefront of our mind those things that are all to often overlooked for too long. Men, at least stereotypically, are less likely to see a doctor when something ‘may’ be wrong. It is somehow not seen as a manly thing to do. But what could be more manly than, having identified a problem, taking appropriate action to rectify it?

There is some information on prostate & testicular cancer here, but a quick Google search would provide the same, if not better results. Albeit with rather scary pictures no doubt. Basically, get to know your balls and check that they haven’t changed shape or grown lumps every now & again. And if you’re getting up more often to go to the toilet in the middle of the night, check it out with the doctor.

The success rate for treatment for both of these illnesses is high if caught early enough.

In the meantime, here’s my MoBro donation page, should you feel the need.

And here’s another pic of my attempt as a lasting image for you:

28 Weeks Later

No, not zombies.

My wife is now 28 weeks pregnant. Or possibly 26 weeks pregnant, due to women having weeks 1 & 2 of pregnancy before conceiving (I know).

We’ve had the first trimester (the only time you use that word is when talking about pregnancy) during which there was constant nausea but, surprisingly, not much actual vomit. The second trimester, which involved a lot more energy, but the occasional sudden vomit. We have now entered the third trimester which, I’m guessing, is when the belly gets really big and you just want the baby out. Although not until an appropriate amount of time has passed for the baby to appear at a ‘normal’ juncture.

We have read books (lots of good ones, but don’t read too much about the birth itself, or look at pictures, if you’re eating) so we know vaguely what to expect. However, the one thing that has struck me is that pregnancy (and, presumably, child-rearing too for that matter) is completely different for almost everyone. And yet identical in many ways.

Another thing that has become apparent is all other parents’ badly-hidden, sadistic glee at seeing someone else about to join their ‘club’. Usually because they want others to experience the same trauma they have gone through. Barely has a discussion on children passed without some negative story coming up of bad behaviour, over-tiredness or lack of time/money without the cursory ‘You’ve got all this to come’ comment rearing its head, along with a knowing grin. But not so often with the positive, wonderful experiences of having children. Which, presumably, do turn up every now and again, otherwise WHY DID YOU HAVE MORE THAN ONE?!

So, we have got the pram (looks like Batman’s pram, according to my wife), ordered the nursery furniture, not decided on names (although ‘Chuck’ has, apparently, been vetoed), and started bulk buying baby wipes. Seriously, come February, I’m going to be a baby wipe-dispensing machine!

The next 12 weeks are going to fly by, aren’t they?

I can’t wait.

Then there were three…

Yes. 8 weeks ago, we read the magic words ‘Pregnant’ on the little magic stick that can tell these things. It was, according to the intellectually stimulating marketing campaign, ‘The most sophisticated thing you’ll ever pee on…’. Nice. (Although they are assuming there that you haven’t peed on Stephen Fry. Not that I have, you understand. I just think that there are probably more sophisticated things out there on which one may urinate. Should one wish to, that is.). Further magic sticks told us the same thing. So, instead of believing them, and as is convention, we went to the doctor. His medically-trained opinion was that, as the magic stick had told us so, my wife had to be pregnant.

Well done Medical School.

So, now our lives have been inexplicable changed. There is a whole lot more sick, tiredness and new clothes in the house. And the baby isn’t due until February.

I’d say that, at the moment, I’m 90% excited, 10% terrified. But 100% over the moon.

I don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl. My theory is that, if it’s a boy, it’ll want to play rugby (hey, it’ll be my son, of course it’ll like rugby!), so that’ll be good. If it’s a girl, she’ll like playing rugby until social convention tells her that she should be more interested in mascara and ponies, and by then it’ll be too late, she’ll be her own person and want to play rugby anyway. And the pool from which they pick international rugby players is much smaller for women, so I’m more likely to have a Welsh cap in the family! As it’s due to arrive just before Wales play Italy in next year’s Six Nations, it obviously wants to make sure the first match it sees is a Welsh win!

(Maybe we should use the first try-scorer as an idea for a name…actually, maybe not, Castrogiovanni Wynne might take a while for it to learn.)

So, I’m going to be a Dad. And my wonderful wife is going to make an amazing Mum. And a whole new adventure is unfolding before us…

The not so beautiful game

I read a column by Gary Bainbridge today (his columns are very funny, by the way, you should read them), that told of his notgoodness (I may have made up that word) at sport. This lead me to recall the times in school that I had a go at various sports. Without much success, I hasten to add.

As it’s Euro 2012, and it’s on tv, I’ll begin with football.

My first foray into ‘proper’ sport (as opposed to just, you know, playing for fun) was in Under Tens football. I was left back for Pengam (cue ‘Left back in the changing rooms’ jokes, which wouldn’t be far off). I wasn’t picked very often. Remember 1991? You couldn’t get contact lenses then. Or, at least, I’d never heard of them. You probably could, but only if you worked for NASA, or the FBI, or SKYNET. As a glasses-wearer, but not wanting to break my glasses by having a ball smashed into them, I used to play almost blind. Generally, as I couldn’t see the ball more often than I could, my tactics were to stay back ‘protecting the goal’ until I saw people running towards me. Then I’d run towards them and try to kick something. I couldn’t be accurate enough as to try and kick the ball, so I’d just aim in the ball’s vicinity. If, by some quirk of fate or team mate’s ineptitude, the ball came to me, I’d jog forward with it until someone came towards me then I’d smash it as hard as I could in the opposite direction to the goal I was supposed to be defending. You’re now getting a feel for why I wasn’t picked to start very often, aren’t you?

The glaringly obvious disadvantages of not being able to see whilst playing football were numerous:

  • Not being able to see my team mates. Hence the ‘twat the ball in the right direction’ attitude of my play.
  • Not being able to see the referee. Which led to me, having possibly heard a whistle somewhere, not being able to see whether my team were all frantically waving me on or calling me back. I ran towards the opposition’s goal until it seemed really odd that I wasn’t being followed and just tamely kicked the ball back to the big group of players on the halfway line. Not my most embarrassing moment, which occurred thanks to:
  • Not being able to tell in which direction my team were facing. You may think that this would be obvious and easy to remember. However, when you don’t touch the ball for large portions of games, it can be easy to forget. I did once gleefully run from beyond the halfway line to my own penalty area, before recognising the blurry person between the sticks. Not my finest hour.

I did once get an award for my contribution to football. The Ivor Davies Award. I treasured it for ages. Until I thought about it and realised that the award was (although slightly nicer worded) ‘For turning up week after week, not really being picked very often, and not getting any better despite coming to training all the time. Isn’t it time you retired from football?’ Award. It was some sort of lifetime achievement award for being crap but always showing up. I think it was a hint – ‘You’ll never win anything else, might as well give up now’.

And that was the end of my competitive football career. I never made the jump to the Under Twelves. It wasn’t like ‘quitting while I was ahead’.More like, well…..just quitting, really. Maybe I should’ve taken up karate, or chess, or computer programming at a young age instead.

Coming soon: My less than average Track & Field ability; Rugby for the blind; Almost-brilliance at Ultimate Frisbee and others…!

30 Things I’ve learnt – Part XXX

I’ve only gone and done it! A blog a day for thirty days in a row! I rule! (Humorous aside – the WordPress app on my phone doesn’t recognise the word ‘blog’! Ha!)

So, in keeping with the time-honoured tradition of ‘saving the best until last’, that is what I’ve tried to do. Today’s is a motto, if you like. One by which I try to live my life. It’s simple, straightforward, and easy to remember:

Enjoy the journey

When all else fails, remember that you should be having fun.

As nice as having goals is, if you’re only ever happy when you achieve a goal, you’re never going to be truly happy. There will always be bigger goals, more ambitious dreams.

Konstantinos Kavafis wrote a poem (which, to be fair, probably sounds better in its native Greek as it’s not the most catchy in English) about Ulysses’ return to Ithaca, his Odyssey. Telling him to remember his goal, but to realise that the journey he takes to reach it will teach him so much, and could perhaps even reward him more than the final destination will.

Here are a couple of examples:

Don’t lose sight of Ithaca,
for that’s your destination.
But take your time;
better that the journey lasts many a year
and that your boat only drops anchor on the island
when you have grown rich
with what you learned on the way.

If in the end you think that Ithaca is poor,
don’t think that she has cheated you.
Because you have grown wise and lived an intense life,
and that’s the meaning of Ithaca.

This is true for actual journeys as well as the metaphorical journey of life. If you achieve your life’s ambition at the age of 50, but have not enjoyed the journey you have taken to get there, was it truly worth it? Or, to look at it another way, should you never attain your life’s goal, but have enjoyed every minute of trying to achieve it, does that make the time spent a failure?

As for turning thirty? Well, tonight it will be like getting off the train at Cardiff Central with a free ticket to anywhere I like. I can choose in which direction I go, but I can’t guarantee how the journey will pan out. All I can do, is ensure I enjoy it.

And boy, do I intend to.

30 Things I’ve learnt – Part XXIX

I don’t like to stereotype the sexes. There are some similarities between women and between men, obviously. There are also similarities between men and women. However, one ‘fact’ generally gets bandied about and I don’t know from where it came. So I’m going to debunk the myth:

Men do not think about sex every 6 seconds

We can’t possibly. How could we possibly think about it every 6 seconds, while also fitting in thoughts about sport, sandwiches, Star Wars, cars, beer and snacks, amongst other things? It just isn’t possible. We’re not as complicated as that.

For example, right now I’m thinking:

‘Hmm, writing my blog. That’s short for weblog isn’t it. I wonder if that’s short for anything else. Danny DeVito, he’s also short. Will he ever reach the heady heights of Twins again? Is he jealous of Arnie and his political ‘career’? Does Short Man Aggression actually exist, or are short men just really annoyed that people automatically assume they do have it? Ha! I remember when that midget shouted ‘Cunt!’ At me in the street. Brilliant. He definitely had it. I should’ve picked him up and given him a hug. Shown him some love. Courtney Love, she’s a bit crazy, isn’t she? Poor thing. Must’ve been a massive headfuck when Kurt killed himself. Does the baby on the Nevermind album tells people that’s who he is? I wonder why they chose Lithium as a title for a song. Not Argon or Beryllium. Menstrual Cycles should appear on the Periodic Table. Who were the first people to use tables to eat food off? And when did cutlery come into fashion? Who decides on the number of prongs on a fork, there are usually four, aren’t there? Maybe there’s some Satanic connotation in three prongs. Wouldn’t want to have to summon the Devil every time I eat. Bet he’d nick all the ketchup. I don’t think I could name all of Heinz’s 57 varieties. Unless I include ‘salt-free’ or ‘light’ versions of everything. Even then I’d struggle. Mmmmm, beans. If it weren’t so late, I could eat some right now. Odd term, Baked beans. They must bake them first, before sticking them in the tomato sauce. I wonder if celebrity chefs have made fancy beans on toast, what’d be in that? Heston Blumenthal probably uses liquid nitrogen to cryogenically ‘bake’ the beans somehow. Bet Nigella doesn’t. Ooh, Nigella…’

There we go. First thought about sex. Far longer than 6 seconds in.

Proof.