RWC 99 Tour Journal
by Chad "Chad" Chaddleson
Maggot on-the-spot Reporter
THURSDAY - ADIOS
Thursday night we had a send off party at the Union Club. Billings Bull Bill and the Pocatello boys met us there along with many non-tourists. It was a good start to tour and by the end, everyone was pumped.
FRIDAY - KEVLAR TO THE PIT
We had the obligatory Northwest Airlines delay in the Minneapolis airport. We watched from the window while they had the "hood" up on the engine and stood around scratching their heads; then much to our surprise, a mechanic laid on his back and started kicking the inards of the engine above his head. Once on the plane and taxiing down the runway, the pilot informed us that the problem was "just a problem loading a floppy disk", to which everyone responded: Bullshit! The NW Airline reps kept informing us that it would only be another twenty minutes, so we would sprint down the concourse about 100 yards to the nearest bar for another round; this happened about 6 times. To our surprise, Brownie met us at the airport rather than in London. Peanut and Andi met us there as well. We spent the layover in the airport bar drinking and talking about rugby. While standing in line to board the plane, Kevlar shows up announcing that he is going on tour. Things suddenly went from "fun" to "scary fun." Fortunately for the British, Kevlar was actually heading back to Missoula.
Brownie had a 1/2 gallon of JD from the duty free that he shared with his rowmates Jakey, Mama and Eat Suck - trouble. The plane ride was a little boisterous but not bad, at least in our estimation. Apparently NorthWest disagreed because McComb learned on the flight home that the US-bound crew had been warned about us and they planned to hold us up in Detroit if we were too rowdy. We weren't rowdy going over. It's just that the NorthWest staff are assholes.
SATURDAY - WELSH RUGBY CLUBHOUSE
Landed at Gatwick mid-day and I learned how to get through customs. When the agent asks you who will win the Rugby World Cup you say "England" and he stamps your passport. Met Mandela, Lance, Shane and Tex at the airport. Ken, our tour organizer from Lowestoft, England and Scotty (as in "I'm givin' her all she's got, captain") the coach driver greeted us and ushered us on to the bus.
We hooked up with Ken via Kevin Green, the Kalispell Limey. Ken organized our entire tour from fixtures and sight seeing to buses and hotels. He did an excellent job!
Our first of many long bus rides took us to the Bridgend Travelodge near Porthcawl, Wales. I was surprised how much open space Britain has given they have so many people on an island smaller than Montana. Everywhere I looked I saw rolling green hills dotted with sheep and rugby pitches and I knew the Maggots belonged there!
After checking in to the Travelodge we went to the Porthcawl rugby club whom the Maggots played on their last UK tour in '83. Porthcawl RFC was founded in 1880 and was everything a good rugby club should be. The clubhouse consisted of a common area with bar, locker rooms, kitchen and a private bar for members only. Picture a grade school auditorium (but smaller) and you have the start of the common area. It had a kitchen at one end and a bar at the other. A hodge podge of tables, chairs and a couple couches made the furniture. We were supposed to be in Porthcawl around 3:00 to eat with them. Since we did not arrive until 7:00 or so(courtesy of the NW Airlines delay), they fired up the kitchen and made us all a helping of Curry. The room was full of locals - players, wives, old boys, friends, little kids - drinking, socializing and watching England lose to New Zealand in a pool match. Every Welshman there was rooting for New Zealand. As I learned in many conversations over the next two days, the Welsh do not like the English. We spent the evening socializing and learning about the area. The economy had been mainly coal mining. Within the last decade, the British government shut down 55 of Wales' 60 coal mines because they determined it was more cost effective to import coal from Asia. Steel production is now the largest piece of their economy.
That clubhouse reminded me of a scene from the movie The Commitments. Down to earth, hospitable people drinking and giving each other shit. There was a crowd of 12-year-old girls hanging outside the men's room trying to sneak a peek; fortunately Tex did not find them. Little kids were running everywhere, mostly with a rugby ball in hand. The kids were playing rugby on the pitch in the dark when we bused up at 9:30 (we hadn't slept for about 35 hours) to head back to the hotel. A 12-year-old named Scott volunteered to serve as our water boy in the next day's match.
SUNDAY - SOFT PITCHES AND SEA LEVEL
In the morning we went directly to the stadium at Llanelli (pronounced Claneckly) in hopes of securing tickets to watch the Argentina Samoa pool match. Llanelli has a Welsh pronunciation. Basically, Welsh is a screwed up language that nobody can speak or read, but it is on all street signs because the Welsh Language Society insists. Llanelli RFC administered World Cup matches at their stadium, which seats about 14,000 people. We bought tickets then walked around to the trinket and food vendors scattered around the entrance to the stadium. Guinness had a huge black trailer with miles of taps. The stadium was old but functional and the pitch was beautiful. Many Argentinean fans were painted up in blue and white and draped themselves in Argentinean flags. Our seats to our first ever test match were incredible - second row on the ten-meter line! Otto and the other group were across the pitch in standing room on the 50 about 5 seats back. We could hear the players sing their national anthems. We watched from 20 meters away as the Argentinean scrum destroyed the Samoans. It was awesome! The Argentinean tight head was an animal. Samoa was penalized many times for collapsing or popping out of the scrum because they simply could not defend it. Despite that, Samoa led at half 16-6. Argentina came out with the wind at their backs and kicked one drop goal and several penalties to win 32-16.
In the standing seats (???) immediately in front of us was a crowd of people with signs indicating they were Shed Heads. It turns out they were from Gloucester and their center plays for Samoa. They were at the match cheering for Samoa. We asked what a Shed Head is and they said their stadium has an area called the Shed, which a group of "very partisan" fans (the Shed Heads) sit in and cheer. I expected a Cleveland Dog Pound performance out of them; I was wrong. They cheered for Samoa, but applauded all good play on both sides of the ball. That was a common occurrence at all World Cup matches we went to. Nobody booed and everyone applauded all good play.
Back to Porthcawl, change in the locker room and onto the pitch. A lot of guys were nervous to be playing in Wales, the first game on tour. We took possession early and rucked very well. Then they got possession, created overloads and scored three quick tries. They definitely like to spin the ball. We adjusted, putting more people in the defensive back line, and squelched what looked like it could become a rout. We took possession and attacked in their half, eventually drawing a penalty. Butba kicked the penalty goal to score the first Maggot points on British soil in 16 years. We tackled and rucked well. Papa was taking Looseys with a lot of pace, making several meters past the gain line and recycling ball. Papa took one big one from about the 22 with pace (he actually looked fast), was tackled near the goal line, Bill the Bull picked it up and scored the first try on tour. Butba converted and we went to half 15 - 10. No one was tired at half. Playing at sea level on that soft pitch, we could have gone for hours. The second half was marked by Porthcawl's handling skills and Papa's Lucys. Porthcawl scored twice and converted one - the Maggots did the same. Down by 5, we spent the last ten minutes attacking in their end but their defense held us out. We encountered tenacious defense near the try line in every game - I hope that is something we bring home in our game. We lost 27-22 but felt very good about how we played. It was a great game. Scott did a great job of keeping us watered during every injury minute and restart. Scott and all the other little Welsh kids loved Tex and cheered for him the whole game - scary. Into the clubhouse for a quick shower and a curry, then beers and tales of how the Welsh hate the English late into the night.
Rugby is the number one game in Wales, unlike England and Scotland where soccer rules. The clubhouse was truly like a community center where families and friends of all ages came to socialize. Many Maggots are now rethinking our decision to not build the clubhouse right away.
MONDAY - MAGGOTS ARE BIO-SURGEONS and OUR OLD BUDDY JPR
A maggot breeding facility at Princess of Wales hospital in South Wales stumbled across maggots.org while conducting research several months ago. Noticing that we were touring their country, they invited us to view the facility, learn what their Maggots do (in case we should want a career change) and meet the nurses. By coincidence, the most famous player in Welsh history, Wales and Lion full back JPR Williams, is an orthopedic consultant at the hospital. We entered the reception area to be greeted by nurses with leather balls for us to sign. In the reception area were patients anxiously awaiting their turn to receive the "maggoty treatment." In short, the maggoty treatment consists of a patient with an infected, crusted over, pussy (pronounced with a short u), scabby wound pouring a pot of live maggots on it. The maggots spend four days under wraps eating and excreting the infected flesh (kind of like a long ride in the pit), leaving a sparkling-clean, healthy wound (unlike a long ride in the pit). Our tour guide, Steve, showed us a video describing the process and a few slides of case studies, then invited us directly into the cafeteria for munchies and coffee. Prior to the video, Steve introduced JPR Williams. In case you don't know who JPR is...do what the rest of us did and pretend like you do. JPR was the Welsh fullback in the seventies when Wales dominated Northern Hemisphere rugby. JPR welcomed us to the hospital, spoke a little about his rugby career and his experience coaching in the states and coaching Americans. He coached Belmont Shores, who he took from a below average team to national champs in two years. JPR commented on the teams he thinks have a shot at winning the World Cup and didn't mention South Africa (or France). JPR was not receptive to Rory's constructive criticism of his assessment. After pastries, the Production Manager (real title - we are thinking of replacing our Recruiting Director with this position), Steve and Nasty Spice walked us over to where the maggots actually breed. Outside, Steve presented us with a framed cartoon of the Maggots beating Wales in the Millennium Stadium 187-0. The hospital commissioned an artist to draw the cool cartoon! Otto presented the hospital with the same Maggot trophy we gave our hosts. It is the small MaggotFest trophy with a brass plate inscribed Maggot Proverb #1 - There are two kinds of beer: free and cheap." Two local newspapers were there to cover the story and apparently they each printed articles - we were out of the area when they ran. Then, groups of 4 Maggots at a time viewed the breeding inside while the rest viewed Nasty Spice outside. The "production facility" was a 20' x 10' room with about twenty 5-gallon clear plastic containers full of flies producing eggs. The facility sterilized the eggs using a super secret process they could not tell us about. After the tours, we gave them t-shirts and a tie and they gave us some t-shirts and hats with their logo - a smiling maggot with the words "Bio-Surgical Research" around it. Cool stuff. Apparently Steve knows how things go on a long tour, a long ways from home, clicking away the miles reading bus manuals, because he also gave us a blow up sheep. The sheep got pricked shortly after that and lost her wind. The hospital took a lot of initiative to invite us to their facility, then treated us extremely well. So, if you ever have a really disgusting scab, please patronize the Princess of Wales Bio Surgical unit.
On the bus ride from the hospital to Cardiff, many people commented that we could go home now satisfied. We had spent two evenings in the club house of a 119-year-old club talking to Welsh people about Wales and rugby, played well against a Welsh side, watched a World Cup test match and met JPR. Instead of going home however, we went to the host city of the Rugby World Cup and the capital of Wales. Two things struck me about Cardiff: 1) It is old, and 2) Rugby has a strong presence there. Buildings built before the US was a country housed restaurants and shops in Cardiff. Throughout the UK, buildings that would be national landmarks in the states because of their age and grandiose design are just "old buildings" there. The cities truly are grand. After being in the states where it takes super double duper digital satellite fiber optic Hubbell cable to watch rugby matches four days after they are played, it was nice to see rugby in every shop window and on every billboard. Actually, every shop window had a book, video or greeting card with our old buddy JPR on it. Throughout the tour we started each day reading anywhere from 1 to 5 pages of rugby news in the newspaper and ended each with a 1-hour rugby wrap up on the sports channel.
The bus dropped us off in Cardiff with the plan to pick us up at 9:30 PM. Everyone split into groups to walk about and absorb Welsh culture (drink beer in the pubs). We toured the Cardiff Castle, which was first built in the 600's or so. We toured rooms remodeled around 1900 by some rich guy who bought the castle and lived in it a few weeks a year. Each room was themed with a biblical story or astrology, etc. and was decorated with hand-carved stones, gold leaf, marble, ivory, etc. Several rooms had maggots somehow incorporated into the decor. We also saw the exterior of the new Millennium Stadium, built for the 1999 World Cup. It should be completed when Wales next hosts the World Cup in 2015.
At 9:30 the old folks caught the bus back to the hotel. Several guys stayed in Cardiff to go clubbin'. Tory, Butba, Bill the Bull and Shane got into the VIP lounge at one club because they were American rugby players. They met several players from the Welsh Dragons and impressed the chicks by claiming to be US Eagles. The most common phrase from the locals that night was "no wonder Romania beat them." After taking a cab back to the hotel area, Eat Suck and Jake got lost in a field - supposedly. I don't think it was coincidence that the field was full of sheep. Eat Suck turned in a "Big Buzz Award" winning performance in Cardiff.
TUESDAY - MOUNT EVEREST OR MOUNT JUMBO?
Tuesday we drove to Leominster England via Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales. Unlike the rest of Britain, which consists of green fields, sheep and stone fences, the Brecon Beacons National Park consists of green fields, sheep and stone fences. It was pretty country and featured the two highest peaks in the UK. They were 2,600 and 2,200-foot peaks! They looked a bit like Mount Jumbo except greener. Few people dare to attempt their summits. But, for those who do, they have a Mountain Ranger Rescue Team to wander up the hill in case of emergency. We stopped at the ruins of an Augustin monastery built before 1188. Made of rocks, it was spectacular and set on a beautiful green hillside high up a narrow canyon. The nearby building where we ate the traditional "ploughman's lunch" was old as well. The roof shingles were literally one-inch thick sandstone rocks overlapped like asphalt shingles. We traveled on to Leominster and checked into the Travelodge near the Little Chef.
We arrived at Luctonians field near Leominster about 45 minutes before kick off because Scotty got lost. Scotty is a hell of a driver but can't navigate or reupholster worth shit. Big Richard the Exiled Limey and Robin greeted us at Lucton and hung out with us through the evening. Our changing room had a four-color poster on the door designating it as ours. The bathroom and clubhouse had posters with the US Flag, UK flag, Maggot bus and rosetta announcing that "they're coming." They even had a program made up exclusively for the game with write-ups about the Maggots and the Luctonian side to play us. They had four beautiful pitches, two of them under lights, and a great clubhouse. You can read the Luctonian match report here. But rest assured, the Luctonians match report is favorable to the Maggots. They flat beat us, even with a ref that was "kind" to the touring side. We were warned for the second time on tour to watch our language on the field as "ladies our present." I didn't see any ladies as the only women nearby were our wives.
The feed was a hearty beef stew. It was a pleasant change from the food we had been eating because the British deep fat fry everything. I am usually not one to complain about greasy food and I have always claimed Orange Crush and corn on the cob and V-8 as my fruits and vegetables of choice, but enough is enough. I found Luctonian to be much like the clubs we play around here (except better rugby players). They enjoyed rugby, beer and dirty songs. The beer in Britain is not served under pressure through a tap. Rather it is pumped from the keg with a pump handle. The result is a non-fizzy beer with a skim of head that everyone agreed is better than what we have at home. And they don't consider a glass full until they have spilled 2 ounces over the side.
As the Luctonian account of the evening describes, a few songs led to Nancy Reagan and a march to the bus. When Otto told us they would leave the club open as late as we wanted and we could cab back to the Travelodge, all but the wankers and women returned to sing long into the evening. We learned some great new songs including a Scottish number you sing with bagpipes (stools) on your shoulder. After exhausting they hymnal we fired up the stereo to lock arms with our English buddies and sing along to Don Maclean's American Pie. Damn that's a snappy tune! Then some poor cab/bus driver had to take us back to the hotel. After several miles of pit brawls and cans off the roof, he graciously posed with us for a picture in front of his van.
WEDNESDAY -WHAT A DISCOUNT!
Wednesday we had a fried breakfast then bused up to drive to Barnsley, England via the Peak District National Park. US parks feature huge expanses of undeveloped land that looks much like it did 500 years ago. In the Peak District National Park, people raised sheep and built miles of stone fences 500 years ago. The park can not be developed any further and looks much like it has for centuries. We saw many stone homes and barns as well as ruins of stone buildings. I can only guess how old some of the homes people live are.
We made a lunch stop in a tiny town called Hope. Hundreds of years ago the town ordered a bunch of wool from a neighboring town's merchant and spun many of the townspeople's clothes with it. Unfortunately, the wool was infected with the plague and the town endured years of isolation and death. Other towns would deliver food and supplies to a site several miles outside the town and townspeople would go pick it up later. During the plague, the church would not allow people to bury their dead in the churchyard as was custom, so people buried their dead in back yards. You can still see grave markers in some people's yards today. The town featured a beautiful church and graveyard. The headstones were about 5' high and listed, from the top, the names of several people who died within one family over the years. Apparently, they were all buried under one marker. I guess they buried the first ones deep and subsequent ones a little shallower each time. It was a cool little town. Jiggly Spice lives there.
Scotty did not rest while we were in Hope. He was on the phone, working hard to negotiate us a cut rate on our upcoming tour of the Blue John Cavern - an abandoned coal mine. Scotty talked to the tour operator who agreed to give us a group discount of 5.25pounds (about $9 U.S.). We paid Scotty before leaving Hope so he could go in and make the deal when we arrived at the Cavern. Scotty parked the bus about 200 yards across a sheep field from the mine entrance, rushed across the field to pay for us, then waited for us all to wander to the mine entrance. Signs near the mine advertised the tour price as "5.25 with group discounts available." Andi went in and asked how much Scotty paid, which was 3.75 per person. Later, Otto confronted him on it and much to our surprise - he denied it. After that, Scotty quit cleaning the shitter and got lost when we were on a tight schedule. As any Maggot will tell you, the bus driver does have the power.
The tour began with a 100-yard walk down steep, slippery stairs with a 5' ceiling into the depths of a mountain (hill). At the bottom of the stairs was one end of the miner's horizontal tunnel into the mountain (hill). Upon discovering a little coal in a cavern, the miners had flooded the tunnel so they could haul the coal out with boats. The water is about 5' deep with another 4' above water level to the tunnel's ceiling. All us fat bastards hopped into the tour boat (presumably the same one the miners used forty years ago) and began to take on water. The young tour guide kindly asked us to try to balance and we proceeded 500 meters down this tunnel with about 1/2 inch of clearance above the water. The water was freaking cold. When they began the mining, the owners had determined, based on the mountain's (hill's) topography, that there were two caverns in the mountain (hill). They planned to drill in from the side of the mountain (hill) to the caverns, harvest all the precious coal and lead and become millionaires. They drilled 500 meters to the first cavern, another 200 meters to the second cavern, explored all over and came out with two buckets of lead. Apparently the only person to ever get rich off of the mine is Scotty. The tour was pretty cool. We saw stalagmites in the cavern that are even older than Bydie and Otto.
Next stop was Barnsley and the third Travelodge on tour; the one near the Little Chef. They all look EXACTLY the same. Once you step in the front door, I swear you could not tell one from the other. Right down to where the Kit Kats were sitting on the counter. Incidentally, they have awesome Kit Kats in Britain called Kit Kat Chunks. They are like one of the four sections of a Kit Kat, but as big as a Snickers. Every Travelodge was somewhat out of town and right next to the Little Chef restaurant with the same damn menu as the last one featuring small portions of fried food.
THURSDAY - THE ALL BLACKS ARE PRETTY GOOD
Thursday morning started with a short bus trip to the Rat & Ratchet pub in Huddersfield. The Rat & Ratchet is frequented by Pomme Dave's father (Pomme Mike) who arranged for them to lay out a traditional Yorkshire brunch including roast beef sandwiches, Yorkshire pudding, black pudding (what a treat!), local sausages (much better than the creamy sausages we had been eating for breakfast) and Timothy Taylor beer. A few blocks from the Rat & Ratchet we took a group photo in front of a huge billboard of the All Blacks doing the Haka. Then we walked over to McAlpine stadium to take our awesome seats about 20 rows up (which Pomme Mike had arranged for us) and watch the All Blacks destroy Italy 101 to 3. It was not much of a game, but it was fun to see the All Blacks run with the ball. There were about 22,000 fans at the game, mostly kiwis. We saw Craig Dowd, Robin Brooke, Ian Jones, Christian Cullen & Jeff Wilson play live. It sucks to be you if you weren't there. After the game, back to the Rat & Ratchet for beers and to watch Samoa upset Wales, then bus back to the hotel in Barnesly. Rory, Mama, Jersey and I walked down to the Black Monk which claimed to be the oldest pub in England. The original building was built in the 1100's. Many Maggots had been there the night before and gave the bar an autographed T-shirt which the bar had us four sign that night. Very nice people at the bar.
(Otto writing here) The more adventuresome crowd went in search of a RWC99 game which was on ITV2 that night. ITV2, as it turns out is this mysterious station, which almost noone can get. Well we found out about a bar named the Sports Bar in downtown Barnsley and figured it was our best chance. After our Mario Andretti-wannabe cab drivers dualed at speeds up to 70mph on city streets all the way there, we screeched to a halt in front of the Sports Bar. Upon closer inspection it was one of many "theme" bars around featuring a jetski under the glass floor and a real formula one car on the wall, but no ITV2. As we began sizing up our surroundings, we came to the conclusion that this part of town was a very odd place: girls age 15-20, all with spaghetti strap dresses and high heels, flitted through the bars and down the streets in search of.. well we never found out, much to the disappointment of all the single Maggots, as nobody got laid that night.
FRIDAY - WORLD CUP TEST MATCHES TWO DAYS IN A ROW?!?
Friday morning started with a greasy breakfast at the Little Chef and bus up for a long drive to Glasgow, Scotland. On the way to Glasgow, we watched a British Lions tape that Ken brought that highlighted the glory years and it wasnıt until then, seeing JPR work his magic, that we all came to appreciate the man we met at the maggot hospital. England and Wales had looked similar to each other with green hillsides dotted with sheep and stone fences. Scotland, by contrast, had green hillsides dotted with sheep and stone fences. Scotland however has more hills and almost appears somewhat slightly mountainous at times. There is a greater diversity of crops and bigger fields. It is beautiful country until you actually get in Glasgow which is a rough, dirty town renowned for tough people, fighting and drinking. If we had to leave the sheep...
Scotty got lost on the way to Hampton Park and we arrived immediately before the South Africa vs. Uruguay match. Walking in, Mandela saw two people he knew from back home in S.A. Pocatello's Mike and Melissa met us at the match - merrily. Atlas's Nicole met us as well. The stadium probably held about 45,000 people and the crowd was about 8,000. Empty stadiums were a chronic problem in Scotland, attributed primarily to ticket prices. As an American who never sees test rugby, it is worth spending 35 pounds (about $50) to see any test match. But if I were Scottish, I would not pay that amount to see S.A. squash Uruguay. Anyway, we had great seats once again and saw South Africa's first side play World Cup rugby. Though they appeared disjointed, South Africa simply outclassed Uruguay and beat them 39-3. We got to see world-class players such as Joost Eatamouseoften play. In Wales, rugby is the national game. In England and Scotland, Soccer is. That certainly showed in Glasgow where people have a soccer mentality. The perimeter of the field was lined with security guards about 20 meters from each other who did not take their eyes from the crowd. They expected violence in the crowd. We were to learn during a tour of Twickenham the following week that in England, the police arrest 3 people per thousand soccer spectators and 2 people per 500,000 rugby spectators. Soccer is the devil!
Back to the Travelodge in a rough part of town. The hotel security (which patrolled the parking lot) warned us not to walk around at night. Many people cabbed to downtown Glasgow which apparently lived up to its reputation. I asked three different people how it was and they each said "weird." Jakey told me "the key to surviving is to be as "f***ed up as them, otherwise they don't trust you."
SATURDAY'S A RUGBY DAY
Saturday morning we visited the Glenngoyne Distillery, courtesy of one of the Greenock RFCıs members, who was an employee there and who got us in free. Glenngoyne is one of a few remaining old-world Scottish distilleries. One of a few remaining old-world Scottish distilleries. The distillery tour began with a couple ounces of 10-year Scotch (the young stuff by Glenngoyne's standard). It was an interesting tour. All whiskey is made with the exact same ingredients. They receive their unique characteristics from the characteristics of the water used, the distilling process, the barrels the whiskey is stored in and the length of storage.
The day's ref and a kiwi player from Greenock met us for the tour. The ref rode with us to Greenock (Scotty couldn't claim to get lost with him on board) and took us to a scenic overlook of Greenock. We could see the river, rolling hills, a picturesque Scottish town and two glorious rugby pitches we would soon be playing on. It is very different from Glasgow. The town of Greenock historically thrived on shipping which died about 20 years ago. Now, it is a high tech center fueled by US (Microsoft) and Japanese investment. Across the road from the scenic overlook was a golf course. Tory had been whining the whole trip about how he wanted to play golf in Scotland and we didn't have time and winjun winjun winjun. He ran across the street where an old Scotsman was teeing off. Tory explained how all he had ever wanted to do since he was seven was hit a golf ball in Scotland and could he please please please please... The guy let him tee one up for a moment of glory. With a confident back swing and a glorious foreswing Tory topped the ball, sending it twenty yards, and the guy took his club back and sent Tory on his way amid cheers and jeers from the Maggot gallery.
Greenock had a beautiful spot as well with two pitches and a nice clubhouse. When we arrived they fed us some sandwiches while we watched the first half of France vs. Fiji on the telly, then we changed and took the field about two hours before the match. Apparently coach and captain suspected that the guys had been drinking some the past few days because they put us through an hour-long sweat to flush the system before warm up even started. The Greenock players stood outside the clubhouse drinking pints, laughing and watching us run up and down a nearby hill stopping only to do burpies. Greenock was another close match and probably our best opportunity to win. It was a close match in which we failed to capitalize on some golden opportunities. Again, we encountered tenacious defense when attacking near the goal line. It was great to see Pomme Dave steering the ship from flyhalf again - making perfect decisions and surgical kicks.
After the match we were clapped off of the field by Greenock (as with all our hosts), showered up and proceeded to be hosted like never before. We hung out in the bar for a while, enjoying pumped beer and talking about rugby. Then the Greeonock President invited us to the banquet hall, reminding us to sit with players from the other team. The tables were set with LINENS. Each table had beer, wine and scotch on it. Greenock was serving us the traditional Welsh meal of Haggis. We had heard horror stories for weeks before tour of Haggis being sheep lips and assholes mixed with lard and blood sausage and cooked in a pig's testicle. In fact, haggis is a beef and barley dish cooked in a sheep's bladder. Traditional haggis meals begin with a bag piper in full Scottish garb leading a procession into the hall. One person in the procession carries a silver platter with wrapped haggis on it and lays it on the head table. The master of ceremonies says a poem over the meal and makes ceremonial cuts of it. Then ya' grub. Greenock put on the full ceremony without the poem - the guy didn't know it. The haggis was awesome (not fried) and served with " taddys" (potatoes, not french fries) and "neeps" (turnips)! I managed to choke down four plates. After dinner we had the usual presentation of plaques, ties, etc. between Otto and Greenock's club president. We got to hear Otto give the exact same speech a third time in a row in which he incorrectly said Montana was founded in 1888. The Scots are extremely friendly people who took pleasure in treating us well. The women who cooked the meal began at 9:30 that morning.
Back to the bar for beers and Scotch until we returned to the banquet hall for a singsong. Greenock led off with "Singin' in the Rain." We followed with "Hand on my Shoulder." They continued with a kiwi on their team leading a Haka. Then Tex led the Tex version of yoho yoho yoho, after which the Greenock representative promptly ended the singsong declaring it a tie.
Trades, beers and bullshitting until about 11:00 when Scotty made us leave. We managed to pick up one Greenock player, a limey named Ben, to ride the bus back to Glasgow with us. The party was rolling nicely and it evolved into one of the best pit brawls I've seen - definitely a top five performance. During the brawl we discovered a flaw in the motor coach seat design. After discovering the flaw we tested it on two other seats and confirmed that there was in fact a design flaw resulting in a high propensity for breakage.
SUNDAY - 875 BILLION POUNDS TO PAY FOR THE SEATS
We thought Scotty would be grateful to us for discovering the design flaw and bringing it to his attention. He wasn't. We learned in the morning that the upholstery of the seats is no longer available so we would have to pay to reupholster the entire bus. Also, the bus was scheduled to go to Spain immediately after we were done with it and we would have to pay for a replacement coach. Hey Scotty, f*** you! On top of that, they were still deciding whether to continue with us or cancel the trip.
Bus up and on into Scotland's capital, Edinburgh. We only had three hours in Edinburgh, which was the most spectacular city we saw. The castle is immense - you have to see it to appreciate it. Huge, ornate buildings, memorials and statues were everywhere. Several people bought wool sweaters, scarves, etc. for very good prices. I am sure Papa bought a whole bunch of miscellaneous stuff because he did at every stop; he was worse than the Pocatello wives.
Bus up again and a drive down Scotland's Eastern coast. Green fields, sheep, cliffs and surf. We stopped at Bamburgh castle on the beach. Some people toured the castle and others walked to the beach. The castle featured a dungeon with several torture techniques. Otto described the worst as being wrist shackles above the head on a sloped wall. The slope was too steep to stand on, so people would hang from the wrists while laying against the wall and TRYING to stand. Above the prisoner's head was a hole that doubled as a drain for the toilets in the castle above. Long drive to the York - you guessed it - Travelodge. We watched the Full Monty on the way. Small portion of fried dinner at the Little Chef.
As it turns out, the 12 or so people who engaged in the vandalous pit brawl are paying about 60 pound each. Stay posted to the Virtual Maggot News for information on PITAID.
MONDAY - WALLED CITY
Up in the morning and a bus ride to York. York is a city about twice the size of Disneyland that the inhabitants built a wall around hundreds of years ago to keep William Wallace from coming in and killing them. It had old buildings, narrow cobblestone streets, bakeries, pubs and Yorkminster Abby. Yorkminster is the second most important Abby in the world behind Westminster. It is huge with spectacular ornate architecture and decoration. An area inside had memorials to various people who apparently were buried beneath the Abby floor. Lots of shops in York including a Canterbury shop.
Drive from York to Lowestoft, home of the Lowestoft and Yarmouth rugby club and Ken's home club. It was on this leg of the journey that Rory gave his now famous "no more winjun" speech, stating that this was a rugby tour and not a sightseeing tour, which is why weıve been driving for two weeks straight! About half of the players were being billeted and half put up in the nicest hotel in town by the club President. This was not just a nice hotel, but a beautifully kept old place, right on the coast, with rooms that faced an incredible sunrise; you might think that a hungover rugger would not want to be awakened by an early sunrise, but at this latitude, sunrise was about 8:00, which was just about right. We played a game of tip on the pitch while waiting for billets to arrive. First blood was drawn when someone managed to ram Jakeıs hat pin into his head, causing a serious leak. As they began to arrive we filtered into the clubhouse for a few pints and the bus took the hotel boys to the hotel. Jersey and I stayed with Tony and Helen, and Tony's 14-year-old son Craig and 16-year-old daughter Claire. Tony & Helen were preparing for their wedding in 1 and a half weeks time but still opened their house to us and hosted us. Housing in Britain is high-density - hence so much open space with so many people. Tony and Helen have a spacious, three-story house that is about 25' wide, four times as deep and three stories high. They turned over the entire top floor to us which consisted of a bedroom, a smaller room to lay our stuff out and a large bath. All of the housing we saw was packed right in next to each other. Tony & Helen treated us to take out Chinese and we turned in early to read rugby world cup magazines. I read more printed rugby news that night than you find in the states in a whole year.
TUESDAY - RUNNING RUGBY
We woke in the morning to find breakfast cereals and fruit on the table, as well as an envelope with a ticket to the England Fiji quarterfinal playoff at Twickenham. Tony had rounded one up for me and I discovered later, the club president had given Jake & Rory tickets as well. We are going to Twichenham! It sucks to be you if you don't have a ticket! Tony also gave Jersey and I each very nice pullovers embroidered with the Lowestoft & Yarmouth RFC logo. After a walk on the beach and literally pissing in the wind we walked down the street to Keith's house who was billeting Bullit and Marie. They gave us a ride to the pitch, we booted up to look for our first win on tour.
The game was Wednesday afternoon, so the Lowestoft team consisted of whoever could make it. It was a mixture of firsts, seconds and thirds - mostly seconds. It was a tight match with a low score at half time. Then it turned into running rugby and we traded scores often to finish at 52-41. We never could quite catch up to them. We actually scored more tries but failed to convert any of them. Johnny cut his eye open and Ken stitched him on the sidelines and sent him back on. Damn that would be nice to have at your disposal all the time. Inside for feed and beer.
After the party got rolling, a Lowestoft player announced that we would play drinking games and he would be Chairman. Despite several pleas to the females, only one woman joined the 20 men to play suck and blow. You put a credit card to your mouth, holding it in place by sucking air in like a vacuum. You passed it to the person next to you by putting the card to their mouth and when they begin sucking, you stop. If you drop the card you wind up kissing your buddy. If you drop the card, get lapped, cheat, drink with your right hand (which is wrong), miss the ThumbMaster's cue or annoy the chairman in any way, you drink. As it turned out the chairman got pretty annoying himself but we let it ride. For various infractions he made Butba guzzle a pint with a pickled egg and barbecue sauce in it and Eat Suck guzzle a pint with something I could not identify in it. I went to the bathroom without his permission and had to do 40 pushups spanning between two tables counting in French. Fortunately, Lance knows French and whispered the numbers in my ear so I could yell them out. By the way, if you have never kissed Mandela or had Lance whisper French in your ear, I suggest you give it a try this New Year's Eve.
They claimed to have the European champion beer skooner on their team and we clearly have the American champion in Tex. We decided to disregard any claim by other continents and announce that the Singles World Champion Beer Skooner would be decided that day. After a couple of warm up jabs, Tex smoked him. Then each continent's champion chose a team for the World Boat Race Championships which they could not sit on - only Captain. Tex appointed a strong 6-man side with the exception of BottleNeck Butba and lined us up in our seats. You'd have thought Tex was coaching an NCAA Final Four basketball team the way he was pacing and sucking on a cigarette to calm his nerves. I shudder to think what he would have done to Butba if we had lost. The lead off American put us out to a commanding lead. Good thing cause Butba was next. If I hadn't seen somebody pour the beer I'd have sworn that scabby-kneed cunt was drinking honey. The third leg had to play catch up and did a masterful job. The Common Wealth had nearly a full pint left when the American anchor turned his glass over on his head.
Being a limey, Tony the referee announced that that was only the first heat. We would have a second heat with two half-pints each, starting at the back. The first man (the guy in back) would finish a half-pint and turn it over on the boatmate in front of him's head. Up to the front where the turnaround man would drink two half pints and send it back to the anchor. Another decisive win for the Americans eliminated any thoughts of a need for a third heat. The crowd immediately erupted with chants of "USA!" and "Ryder Cup." Right on cue, like star spangled banners, ten flaming assholes streaked through the clubhouse and across the putting green, then ran around the pitch followed by the losing team (a condition of losing). We weren't 0-5 on tour. We were 3-5!
Then both clubs sang all their favorites. Tony introduced a couple of games of skill (kind of a dirty trick that late in the night). In one, you held two bottles in your hand, backed your feet against a wall, and walked on the bottles with your hands as far out from the wall as you could without lifting your toes. You left one bottle out there and inched your way back with the other. Some tall skinny bastard won that. The other game was played between two chairs facing each other. The contestant put the back of his head on one chair and his heels on the other to span between them. He then passed an empty bottle from one hand to the other around his body, counting each revolution as one. Some short skinny bastard won that with 108. This fat bastard turned in a stunning 24.
British rugby clubs are just like us. Or, more accurately, we are just like them. They sing dirty songs, trade gear, hold Kangaroo Court, relish the fact that we leave our aggressions on the field to share a beer afterward and say things like "what goes on tour stays on tour." It's the same the whole world over. I pray that professionalism doesn't ruin this game.
Farewell to Pomme Dave and Nancy after Lowestoft.
WEDNESDAY - A DAY AT TWICKENHAM!
Rory, Jake and I had tickets to the quarterfinal match and Browny had arranged to get a pair for he and Calkinballs at the stadium. Johnny 99 went along in hopes he could purchase one at the stadium. Let me tell you before I get started, this was a good fucking day. We met at the train station around 6:00 and found that Slug, the number 8 from Lowestoft who played against us Tuesday, and his buddy OJ were traveling to the game as well. Slug and OJ each had a grocery bag full of beer, which they broke in to as soon as the 6:30 train departed the station. Slug and OJ took us under their wing for the day and showed us a great time.
Slug told us Johnny could probably find a ticket but it would cost him plenty. When we arrived at the Waterloo train station, Slug got on his telephone then announced he found a ticket for 99 but Johnny would have to pay for it. Ten minutes later, Slug hung up his telephone again and said he had a free ticket for Johnny that we would pick up under that clock (pointing to a nearby clock) in twenty minutes. We hit Burger King where everyone got large Cokes to mix with a liter of rum Brownie had purchased at the duty free. After meeting Phil and his buddy (the two guys with the extra ticket, also from Lowestoft) we caught the 30-minute train to Twickenham. Rugby fans were packed in the train like cordwood. We got off the train and flowed with the crowd down closed streets to the oldest national rugby park in the world.
The first stop was the Guinness tent where, after standing in line for 15 minutes, Slug purchased 16 pints of Guinness. Immediately thereafter the tent was closed for the game and all the people standing in line thirstily eyed the huddle of pints at our feet. Slug sold four of them for 5 pound each to create a twenty pound beer kitty. At that very moment, Brownie and Calkinballs were looking for the guy who was supposed to give them their tickets. In asking people "are you Dave?" they happened across people with three extra tickets (who gave them to them) which Brownie sold for a total of 20 pound to add to make the post-game beer kitty 40 pounds.
Before long, we were sitting in a near-capacity Twickenham with a bunch of Englishmen singing "God Save the Queen" and "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" watching England beat Fiji. No one I asked knows why they chose "Swing Low" as the national anthem but they take it personally. And if you really want to get them worked up, ask them what the big deal is about the Queen. After the match we immediately sought out a pub in which to watch the Scotland game. We had to walk about 1 and a half miles past a dozen pubs before we found one we could get in the door of, and only half of us fit in that one. The pubs and streets were full of people dressed in red and white, singing and talking of seeing an England/New Zealand final???
After several hours in Twickenham we caught a train back to Waterloo where, once again, we simply walked into the nearest pub to watch a rugby match. This time Argentina beat Ireland in a high-intensity quarterfinal playoff.
(Otto here again) The less adventuresome of us piled on the bus (new driver!) for a quiet trip to London. We pulled in to the Travel Inn (not at all like the Travel Lodges; nice 6 story place), checked in and walked a half block to the Firkin and watched England Fiji at 1:00pm; the pub filled quickly with people in suits escaping work long enough to watch their beloved team. Then the Scotland game and many more pints and more great pub food (the pubs truly are the best place to eat in England). Much to our dismay, the Ireland Argentina game was on damned ITV2 and the Frikin didnıt have it. We did a good bit of pub hopping until we found a pub with ITV2 and settled in across the bar from a bunch of old Irishmen. Since watching Argentina knock off Samoa on our second day on tour, we had developed a bit of a following for the underdogs, and so began to match the Irish contingency in cheering. The game ended with six minutes of goal line stand, all in injury time, where Ireland kept the ball in play all within the Argentina 5 meter line and Argentina held. When an Irish prop tried to extend for the line and was stopped by a couple inches and the ball was tied up, the ref blew full time and the cheers went up. The poor Irish bunch could only turn away in dismay, as there were too many of us to get into a punch up with.
THURSDAY & FRIDAY - SIGHT SEEING IN LONDON
London is truly one of the world's great cities and offers many sightseeing opportunities. People went different ways to see Westminster Abby, Big Ben (sucker's big!), Parliament and the Tower Bridge. Tex, Long John and Papa took pictures walking across Abbey Road. Many of us went to the Tower of London which William the Conqueror first started building in 1066 after defeating the English. We saw Traitor's Gate where Anne Boleyn was brought to the castle after being charged with witchcraft and adultery, the steps where she begged for mercy and the landing where they chopped off her head two days later. A lot of history took place at the Tower of London.
On Friday, several of us took a tour of Twickenham, which was given by a former President of the Rugby Football Union. The arrogant Limey's don't call it the England Rugby Football Union, simply the Rugby Football Union. Twickenham was developed as the world's first national rugby site in about 1875 and now holds 72,000 people. We toured the locker rooms, VIP box, royal box (where the queen sits when she is there), etc. The pitch is mowed with a 24" push mower because they do not allow anything heavy on the pitch. It takes the guy 5 hours to mow and he walks 8 miles to do it. The carpet in the meeting rooms, VIP suite, etc. are all decorated with roses and rugby balls. Somehow they managed to make a rugby theme carpet elegant and tasteful. I think we should recarpet the Pit with an elegant pattern of Maggots, rugby balls and portraits of Nancy Reagan. In one area they had several display cases showing gifts from every national rugby union in the world, including a little Maggot statue (not!), to The Rugby Football Union on their centennial celebration. It was fascinating to hear someone who understood so much rugby history tell us about rugby's roots while sitting in the stands at Twickenham.
Friday night we met the Slimey Limey at the Cock (itıs a bar named after a rooster, you homophobe, Butba). Slimey seems to be doing OK - he has a 20-year-old girlfriend. The Cock is a pub that takes up one half of a building. The other half is a night club called the Psychodelic Cock. You have to walk through the ladies room of the Cock to get to the Psychodelic Cock. We had been reading about the newest Club drug in England, Ecstatsy, and got a chance to see it up close in action at the Psychodelic Cock. The Maggots ultimately owned the dance floor with Fish Flops and surfing.
SATURDAY - YOU CAN'T GET MUCH CLOSER THAN THAT
Saturday morning Rory and Lance went home, the rest of us went to play rugby at Ilford about 30 minutes South of London. It sucked to be Rory and Lance that day! Once again, our hosts had a beautiful spot with two rugby pitches. This was our last chance to get a win on tour and everyone was pretty focused. It was another evenly matched game and both teams were frustrated in the first half as the advantage went back and forth. Ilford has a strong back line with an excellent, hard-running, long-legged full back who took the ball in the gap with a lot of pace several times. We clearly had to keep possession because they were dangerous with the ball in hand. We rucked extremely well, picking and driving, and kept them on their heels. We were down 19-18 in the last quarter of the match when Ilford conceded a penalty under the poles. Otto kicked the penalty to put us ahead by 2. Not long thereafter, Ilford scored a penalty as well to lead 22-21. After the ensuing kick, Ilford attacked and nearly scored another try when Shane knocked the ball out of the guys hands from behind (as a safety would in American football) creating an apparent knock on. Right before the scrum on our 5-meter line I asked the ref how much time was left and he told me this would be the final passage of play (it seemed pretty quick to me). We had to keep the ball in play from our own 5-meter line. Two consecutive penalties by Ilford allowed us to advance to near their 22. They secured the ball a couple of times, as did we, during a long procession of play. Then, McComb (touch judge) raised his flag when the ball carrier clearly was not out. The ref, seeing that, did not blow the whistle, but many players stopped. Dega took that opportunity to pick up the ball and run 50 meters down the touch line where the corner-flagging fullback tackled him into touch half a meter from the line. Full time. It doesn't get much closer than that.
Had a great time in the clubhouse socializing, eating, drinking, watching Australia beat Wales in a close one and singing many songs. They even started up Dinah...which we finished!
Kangaroo Court that night at the hotel bar:
Papa - excessive shopping - fukenguilty.
Shane - wearing corduroy pants, ironing and wearing cologne on tour - fukenguilty.
Chad - excessive cleaning of the bus by the wife - fukenguilty.
Pocatello Men - wive's missing the Greenock match to shop - fukenguilty.
All Maggots who did not participate in the chair-breaking pit brawl - failing to engage in Maggoty behavior - fukenguilty.
Law John - wife puking on the bus - fukenguilty.
Excessive Winjun - Dega and the wife - fukenguilty.
Atlas - his wife complained that she wasn't "getting enough" - fukenguilty.
Charlo Bill - hording porn - fukenguilty.
Tour awards at the hotel bar:
Tory - Love Ambassador
Eat Suck - Big Buzz Award: Single Performance
Tex - Big Buzz Award: Sustained Performance
"I didn't drink too much the other night....... I can't remember which night that was."
Tex while watching Prince Charles from about 30 feet away comemorate some new building yells loud enough for everyone to hear: "Cheers big ears and here's to sand in your foreskin!"
"You got a good point, too bad it's on the top of your head."
Jake to a NW Airlines Flight Attendant
"Take me home husband. I'm feeling Randy!"
A wife at Porthcawl Clubhouse
"I've had a lot to drink. I hope I can perform!"
Husband at Porthcawl Clubhouse
"Look kids, Big Ben, Parliament."
Everyone at least twice, Tex 78 times.
"It looks like Nasty Spice is smuggling yoyo's in her pants."
"Look kids, Big Ben, Parliament."
"Here's the deal. Either you play a song and we give you lots of money, or
you don't and we kick your head in."
Slug to some guy with a guitar on the train who was refusing to play.
"Now that's a big whoopin' stick!"
Mama at the Tower of London armory
"Look kids, Big Ben, Parliament."
"I'm pissed because I'm not "gettin' enough" this tour."
Atlas's wife Nicole
"If she's complainin', you're slackin', drink!"
Thanks Otto for your initiative. If you hadn't forced the issue, we would have been playing at Jesterfest talking about how we should have gone on tour. Thanks Jake and Rory for organizing. Thanks Ken for an excellent agenda.
NEXT INTERNATIONAL TOUR - WORLD CUP 2003. DON'T MISS IT.
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