A Great Day Out In Gloucester
You know when you go to a fancy Italian restaurant and the waiter asks you if you want some pepper with your pasta and you say okay? He disappears for a while, reappearing a few minutes later, toting a mother of a pepper mill which he heaves into a position above your plate and with the greatest of effort he grinds and he grinds and your plate is suddenly covered in a layer of black grit and he says ‘Prego,’ or something.
Well, that’s what it feels like in Gloucester at the moment. We, the loyal fans, are the spaghetti all’aglio, olio e pepperoncino and the blooming pepper-cum-rumour mill hanging over our heads is churning out too much tittle-tattle for us to handle.
Over-peppered, I am, and a bit confused.
Is Laidlaw our number one number nine, or our number two number ten?
Who-the-Barry-John is Aled Thomas when he’s at home and is he our number one number ten or our number two number fifteen? And when did he stop singing castrato, or is that someone else?
Did Danny Cipriani take the wrong train after a good night out and just accidently end up at Hartbury last week? Or is he going to be our number one pain in the neck, next season?
Have Saracens pinched Jim I-left-my-heart-in-Castle-Grim Hamilton or are we not that lucky?
Is our Nige about to be shown the revolving door as Gary Glitter … Gold, I mean, Gold … enters by the back entrance?
And what the hell we’d want with Dean Richards, is anybody’s guess.
See what I mean? It’s all too much.
And I haven’t even touched on the punch-up gossip. It’s a blooming war zone in Kingsholm, at the moment, and you walk the dark corridors at your peril, it seems. You might be able to avoid being drawn into the three-way skirmish between major Burns, minor Burns and our Nige, but you can bet your bottom thruppenny bit that Moriarty senior will be lurking in the shadows somewhere, ready to duff you up.
So I thought a couple of pre-match pints in Teague’s would be just the ticket. I’d be sure to find some fellow Shedheads and we’d cry on each other’s shoulders and swap stories of the good old days of when men were men, women were happy and Gloucester Rugby shirts were hooped. The perfect antidote to over-peppered pasta, I thought.
I don’t know whether you’ve ever been to Teague’s but I can highly recommend it. It’s a pretty down to earth sort of place – spittoon in the corner, that sort of thing – but if you fight your way through to the back you’ll find a miniature Shed, which is called, unsurprisingly, The Shed Bar. Then, if you go outside for a gasper, there’s a little rugby pitch in the garden – posts and all (well, one set, anyway).
I reckon this Teague bloke played a bit of rugby in his time.
As have the Shedheads I met, I can tell you. What they don’t know about the game hasn’t yet been dreamt of and for an hour before the match, I basked in the glow of their collective intellect.
There’s RTS2 for starters. Not what I expected at all. His 2000-word postings have attracted some negative attention in the past and so I expected to meet someone who had an opinion on everyone and his wife and – even worse – wanted to tell me about it. Well, far from it. RTS2 is passionate about Gloucester Rugby – I suppose we all are in our way – and he politely welcomes discussion and listens to what people say. In real life, he’s not a 2000-word talker at all, he’s a 2000-word listener.
Then there’s Chris from Spain. For some reason, when he told me that I asked him where he came from (I know, I know) and he gave me a bit of a withering look that said ‘Verdad?’ He’s not often in the country, he told me, and so I was really lucky to meet him. Very friendly, too, because when I suggested that I and my four mates came calling when we hit the cerverzas in Malaga next month, he offered to put us all up.
Baz is exactly what I expected. He’s a big man but there’s a quietness about him that belies his knowledge of rugby in general, and Gloucester in particular. This guy is a legend, but I got the impression he’s a man who doesn’t suffer fools and is not to be messed with. So I didn’t.
Oxford Glaws was there (I’d learnt my lesson so I didn’t ask where he was from) and his mate Sid was from the Forest of Dean. Now there’s a contrast: OG is friendly, polite and articulate; Sid, on the other hand, is equally friendly and blooming good fun, but quite plainly off his rocker. I had a very interesting discussion with young Sid on the benefits of in-breeding in the Forest and he was most insistent that I’d be very welcome if I chose to move to that part of the world – something I can’t see myself doing any time soon.
And the game?
What can I say?! It’s not often I get to see ten tries in a match and even less often I wish I hadn’t. Talk about from the sublime to the ridiculous.
We were cruising disdainfully through the gears – one-try, two-tries, three-tries, four-tries, five-tries – and opening up a thirty-point chasm that was almost embarrassing, when old Dean I’ve-done-my-time Richards sent on this little boy to play at fly half. Well, there I was thinking he was just the guy bringing on the blood capsules and next thing I know – I must have blinked or something – this young kid – Joel Billy-Whizz Hodgson, he’s called – had orchestrated a five-try comeback and was kicking the ball over the posts to claim the losing bonus points as well.
I ask you – is there anything more exhausting than supporting Gloucester at the moment?