An Absolute Shower
“An absolute shower!” would have been Terry-Thomas’s verdict.
Mine was more graphic while reading the sports pages of this morning’s newspapers.
There, alongside accounts of the England rugby team’s lamentable on-field performance against Scotland in the World Cup, we read that more England players have been carpeted for lamentable off-field exploits. To wit, three of them allegedly made lewd comments to an employee of their hotel in Dunedin, New Zealand. This neatly complemented, on the same page, the continuing coverage of their colleague Mike Tindall’s night-club encounter with an anonymous blonde – it seems that Mike either suffered a memory black-out or has been telling porky pies – and news of the suspension of two English coaches for their illicit custom of replacing the match ball with another one whenever Jonny Wilkinson attempts a standing kick at goal (many of which he has been missing by the width of the goalposts).
The story does not end there. So far in this tournament England lead the field in two negative statistics: the number of players yellow-carded (three) and the most penalties conceded.
‘Absolute shower’ starts to sound like a mild form of abuse.
Now, I am not so naïve or so strait-laced as to be shocked by the notion of rugby players having a few beers after a game, or even indulging in a few sophomoric shenanigans in saloons and other places of entertainment. It can even be argued that none of the incidents so far reported qualifies by any censorial standards as horrifying.
But the pattern of ill-discipline that seems to be emerging is such that England’s prospects of lifting the Webb Ellis trophy must now surely be downgraded from slim to none.
There is still hope. England manager Martin Johnson needs to start living up to his reputation as a martinet. If he does, and the England players start to put the same energy and imagination into their work on the field as they have been putting into their activities when off it, we should win the Webb Ellis in a canter. So far, though, their priorities seem to have been precisely reversed.
Come on Martin, at the next training session start kicking backsides as well as footballs.
La Belle France
There is nothing like a visit to France, however brief, to lift the spirits and stimulate the appetite.
Dear old England has much to offer a visitor, but food, table service and the feeling of freedom that comes from driving through what seems to be an endless and sparsely-populated paradise are not among them.
Martha and I have just spent a few days swanning around the Loire Valley – actually just a small section of it. One forgets what a big country France really is. On consulting the map at the end of each day, it was apparent that we had not strayed far from our country inn, yet by the end of the trip we had added well over one thousand miles to the odometer.
British license plates were much in evidence everywhere, and it is easy to see why we islanders are swarming all over the place. There are many impressive vistas to take in, and no apparent end to them.
The evening meals were exquisite – the food, the service and the ambience. Even breakfasts were a delight – and not a slice of black pudding or fried egg in sight.
I realize that hotels with Michelin star restaurants are a far cry from everyday reality, even for the French, but what a pleasure it is to know that they are so profusely available, and by London standards affordable.
I can’t wait to go back.