Sunday, 21 July 2013

A Minstrel's Lament

Oh blinded men who will not see
The truth is not where it should be.

When Sah-la-dhin came close to death
from steely blade with Sinan’s breath,
the price he paid for lengthened life,
protection from assassins knife,
was not of slaves or swathes of gold
but bounty from a conflict old.

Where Christian wood, a source of tears,
a remnant of a thousand years
was taken from a Sultan’s gaze
and cost the bloodiest of days and
murder was the story made,
two thousand slain by Christian blade.

The price of life was nought but tree,
a simple gift that couldn’t be
for Sah-la-dhin no longer knew
the resting place of aged yew,
the bounty of those glory days
won hard beneath the Horned one's gaze.

So seek the relic not within
a treasury or Sultan’s whim
but in the place where all men sleep
and place their trust and bones to keep.
Where mountain men with feared name
ensure it’s not seen again.

The yew that Christians so desire
was not destroyed in Muslim fire
but hides away in trees afar,
A fortress of Jabahl Bahra.

Medieval 1 - Blood of the cross. - Coming soon.

Friday, 19 July 2013

The City of Acre in the 13th Century


Gateway to the Holy land.


Medieval 1 - Faith and Honour

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Medieval 1 - Blood of the Cross

Sample Chapter from the latest novel (unedited) 
Due out approximately 15th August 

Chapter One

The Kingdom of Brycheniog
Wales 1269

     Elena Wyn tended the fire in the stone hearth, feeding in the extra logs to warm the contents of the pot. The sound of metal on metal echoed from the other room on the ground floor as her husband worked the ore to make a new plough blade for the manor. Elena paused and wiped the sweat from her brow. The combined heat from the furnace and the hearth meant the single living space was stuffy but it was better than the piercing cold that lay outside the thick stone walls.
     Wales was in the grip of winter and the snow lay knee deep throughout the valley, forcing the villagers to stay indoors and ride out the storm. Ordinarily this meant only a few days isolation but the snow seemed never ending and they were relying on the dried fruit and salted meat they had put aside for times such as these. Throughout the summer, Elena kept pigs and chickens but though most of the birds were kept alive for the eggs, it made no sense to feed the pigs through the winter so every autumn they butchered the animals and salted the meat to preserve it for the colder months. In the spring, she replaced her stock with piglets bought from the Manor farm, using the small amount of coins her husband had earned from the occasional traveler needing to shoe a horse or straighten a knife.
     Every family in the village made their own arrangements against such winters and though often the precautions were unnecessary, if anyone neglected to prepare and the weather caught them out, then the ensuing hunger was a cruel bed mate.
     Elena stirred the Potage, content that it was thickening up nicely. She turned to her five year old daughter sitting in the window alcove, peering at the white world outside through a crack in the shutters.
     ‘Lowri, summon the men,’ said Elena. ‘The food is done.’
     The girl jumped from the stone ledge and ran to the door separating the two rooms. The blast of heat was instantaneous and Lowri waited until the sounds of clashing iron eased.
     ‘Father,’ she shouted when there was a pause, ‘the dinner is done.’
     Thomas Ruthin looked over and smiled at his daughter before straightening up and stretching his back.          The young boy on the bellows also stopped and pulled a rag from his pocket to wipe the sweat from his brow. Garyn was her sixteen year old brother and worked alongside his father at the forge.
     ‘Are you sure you haven’t eaten it all, Lowri?’ teased the boy.
     ‘No, we haven’t touched it yet,’ answered Lowri with a haughty shrug.
     ‘Well, that’s a shame,’ said Garyn, lowering his voice menacingly, ‘because now I’m going to eat it all …and then I’m going to eat you.’ He crouched and ran with arms outstretched toward his sister, chasing her into the living area.
     Lowri squealed in delight and ran around the table before seeking refuge amongst the folds of her mother’s skirts.
     ‘Enough,’ chided Elena, ‘the pot is hot and you will burn.’
     ‘He’s going to eat me,’ cried Lowri.
     ‘No he’s not,’ said Elena, ‘Garyn, leave your sister alone.’
     Thomas walked in, closing the door behind him, shutting out the smells of the furnace.
     ‘It smells good,’ he said taking his seat.
     Elena wrapped a piece of cloth around the handle and hoisted the pot from the flames to the table.
     ‘I put in another piece of pork this morning,’ she said, ‘as well as a basket of dried apples and some grain. This pot should last for three days.’
     She placed five wooden bowls around the table and silence fell in the room as Elena filled just four, leaving the fifth empty alongside a knife they knew would remain unused.
      ‘Prayers,’ said Thomas and they linked hands. ‘Heavenly father,’ he said, ‘we thank you for your bounty and pray you bring our son home safe. Amen’
     ‘Amen,’ answered the family.
     Elena looked toward the empty place setting before glancing at her husband with a sad smile.
     ‘Thank you,’ she said.
     Thomas just nodded and gave her an encouraging smile of his own.
     ‘Can we start?’ asked Lowri.
     ‘Wait,’ said her father suddenly, ‘I’ve forgotten something.’ He left his seat and disappeared into the workshop.
     ‘What’s he doing?’ asked Garyn.
     ‘I have no idea,’ answered his mother.
    ‘Can we start, pleeease,’ whined Lowri.
     ‘In a moment,’ said Elena. ‘We will wait for your father. The soup is still too hot for you to eat.’
     Again they fell silent, the quiet broken only by the crackle of flames from the hearth and the sound of Lowri blowing her soup.
     ‘Sorry,’ said Thomas, re-entering the room. ‘I forgot where I hid it.’
     ‘Hid what?’ asked Elena.
     Thomas produced something from behind his back and placed it on the table before Garyn.
     ‘Your mother tells me it is the anniversary of your birth,’ said Thomas. ‘This is a good day, Garyn so I have made you something as a gift.’
     Elena’s hands flew to her mouth as she gasped at the unexpected gesture..
     ‘A gift?’ said Garyn taking the Hessian wrapped package from his father. ‘For me?’
     Thomas looked at Elena who was beaming with delight.
     ‘For you,’ said Thomas, returning his attention to his son.
     ‘What is it?’ asked Garyn.
     ‘Just open it,’ moaned Lowri impatiently.
     Garyn poked out his tongue at his sister before slowly opening the hessian and revealing a perfectly formed eating knife. The blade shone in the flickering candlelight and the highly polished oak handle was silky smooth to the touch. It was a replica of that used by his father.
     ‘Every man should own his own eating knife,’ said Thomas.
     Garyn picked up the knife and held it up.
     ‘It’s beautiful,’ said Elena.
     ‘And well made,’ said Garyn.
     ‘I should think so,’ guffawed Thomas, ‘or my years as a blacksmith have been wasted.’
     ‘Can we eat now?’ whined Lowri.
     ‘Of course,’ said Elena and while three of the family lifted the bowls to sip at the hot broth, the fourth was already delving through the liquid with his knife, quietly excited at the acquisition of his first blade.
----
     ‘It’s stopped snowing,’ shouted Lowri, early the following morning.
     ‘Does that girl never rest?’ mumbled Thomas into the horsehair filled deerskin that formed his pillow.            ‘The sun is not yet up and she already seeks adventure.’
     ‘Her spirit fills me with joy each day,’ said Elena, snuggling closer to her man beneath the sheepskin cover. ‘Her laughter is a tonic no apothecary can hope to bottle.’
     ‘I know,’ smiled Thomas, ‘and I would have it no other way. But is a few moments’ extra sleep too much to ask in the morning?’
     ‘You go back to sleep,’ said Elena. ‘I will take her to feed the chickens.’
     ‘No, it’s all right,’ yawned Thomas. ‘The little devil has me awake now, besides, I have a busy day before me.’
     ‘Come,’ said Elena. ‘I’ll get some bread and cheese. You light the fire.’
     They descended the ladder from the sleeping platform in the rafters and Thomas smiled to himself at his daughter’s constant chatter as he gently blew the central fire back to life.
     ‘Can we go out in the snow?’ asked Lowri, peering through the window shutter. ‘It looks so clean?’
     ‘Later,’ said Elena, ‘call your brother first and join us to break your fast.’
     Lowri went into the forge to wake Garyn. Her brother slept in the corner of the workshop in his own cot while she slept in an alcove of the main room. Her nose wrinkled at the smell and was glad she didn’t have to sleep in here. It was so dirty. She ran across the workshop and pounced on the sleeping figure of her brother.
     ‘Wake up, sleepy,’ she said. ‘It’s stopped snowing and mother said we could play outside.’
     ‘Go away,’ mumbled Garyn and turned over to get more sleep.
     ‘You have to get up,’ said Lowri. ‘Mother said.’
     With a sigh, Garyn threw back the sheepskin and followed his sister into the living area.
     ‘Hello, son,’ said Thomas. ‘Sleep well?’
     Garyn nodded and sat at the table with his eyes shut.
     ‘Here,’ said Elena, handing him a wooden tankard. ‘There is some milk left, drink it before it goes off. Now the snow has stopped I can go to the village and get some more.’ She placed a chunk of cheese on the table along with half a loaf of flat bread.
     ‘Eat up,’ said his father, ‘we have a busy day before us and you will need all your strength.’
Garyn produced his sheathed knife from below the table and Thomas had to stop himself laughing when he realised Garyn had slept the whole night with his new knife attached to a belt over his woollen night shirt.
----
     ‘So what are you doing today?’ asked Elena as she cut slices of cheese for Lowri.
     ‘The brothers at the Abbey sent word they want a cart re-wheeled,’ said Thomas. ‘We have to go up there, strip the cart and bring the wheels back as templates. God willing, they may have some other work as well.’ He turned to Garyn. ‘Get yourself dressed boy, this commission will keep us going until the weather breaks.’
     Ten minutes later, father and son trudged through the virgin snow toward the far side of the village, their heads covered with hooded capes against the biting wind that still whistled down the valley. Soon they approached the imposing walls of the Abbey and Thomas rapped his knuckles on the large wooden door. He repeated the action until they heard the sounds of bolts being drawn back and the door swung slowly inward with a lazy creak. A monk stood inside, dressed in a full length black habit secured by corded belt around the middle.
     ‘Good morning’ said the blacksmith, removing his hood. ‘We have come about the commission…’ His sentence lay unfinished as he recognized the man before him.
     ‘Thomas Ruthin,’ said the Monk in recognition. It is good to see you again.’
     The two men stared at each other and Garyn detected a hint of anger on his father’s face.
     ‘Brother Evan,’ he said. ‘It has been a long time.’
     ‘It has,’ said the Monk and fell silent again. ‘I forget my manners,’ he said eventually standing to one side, ‘please come in out of the cold, you are expected.’
     ‘Do you know him?’ whispered Garyn once they were in the gloomy corridor.
     ‘I did once,’ said his father curtly.
     The Monk turned toward them.
     ‘Please follow me.’
     The three men walked down a narrow corridor, lit by a few candles. At the end they passed through another door and Garyn stopped in awe as they entered a large chamber decorated with tapestries depicting the glory of God and tales from the bible. Statues of angels lined the walls staring down piously from above as they passed.
     ‘I thought the Brothers lived frugal lives,’ said Garyn.
     ‘Shhh,’ admonished Thomas.
     ‘It’s quite alright,’ said Brother Evan. ‘Your son is very astute and is partly correct. These corridors are for the eyes of the people of the village who expect such things from the order. We live a far more frugal existence than these surroundings suggest and you would find our cells austere in comparison. They passed through the hall and stopped as the Monk knocked on a door.
     ‘Come in,’ said a voice.
     The Monk opened the door and they entered the sparsely furnished room. At the far side, another monk sat at a small table writing methodically in the light from a single slit window.
     ‘Father,’ said the Monk. ‘This is Thomas Ruthin the Blacksmith.’
     ‘Ah,’ said the sitting monk. He put aside the quill and turned in his seat, ‘I am Father William, the Abbot of St Benedict’s. Thank you for coming.’ He nodded at the first Monk who promptly left the room, closing the door behind him.
     Please, be seated,’ said the Abbot. ‘Would you care for some wine?’
     ‘No, thank you,’ said Thomas. ‘We have come about the cart.’
     ‘Yes, the cart,’ said the Abbot. ‘Well, there is indeed a cart that needs repair but I have to confess it is of secondary importance to the real reason you were summoned.’
     ‘I don’t understand,’ said Thomas.
     ‘I hear you are an honest man, Thomas and can be trusted to keep your silence.’
     ‘I am a man of my word, Father, a trait that all men would benefit from.’
     ‘Indeed,’ said the Monk, ‘and your son?’
     ‘Our values are shared,’ said Thomas. ‘I will vouch for him.’
     ‘Good,’ said the Abbot. ‘I do have a commission for you, Thomas. It is but a small task but pays well, twice the price of a cart wheel. In return, I require your silence as to what you are about to see and do. Can you guarantee this?’
     Thomas only needed a few seconds’ thought before agreeing. Commissions of any sort were rare during the winter, especially lucrative ones such as these.
     ‘You have my word,’ he said. ‘What is the task?’
     ‘Follow me,’ said the Abbot and picking up a lit candle, led them through a second door. They crossed a courtyard before descending a winding stairway to a set of cells below the Abbey. As they walked along the corridor, they saw two plainly clothed servants struggling with a sobbing man.
     ‘What goes on here?’ demanded the Abbot.
     The two men pushed the third against a wall and held him securely.
     ‘Father,’ said one, ‘we caught this thief in the grounds. He stole a loaf from the kitchens.’
     ‘Is this true?’ asked the Abbot.
     ‘Father, my children starve,’ said the man over his shoulder. ‘The shutter was open and I forgot myself. I will pay as soon as I am able, I swear.’
     ‘Theft is never an option,’ said the Abbot.
     ‘But my children cry in pain at the ache in their bellies,’ begged the man. ‘Please, just a crust until I can get work at the manor. I beg you.’
     ‘The times are hard,’ said the Abbot, ‘and many feel the pangs of hunger. How would it be if we just allowed all such thefts to be justified so? Crusts we can spare but theft is a crime that cannot be condoned.’   He turned to the servants. ‘Put him in a cell and tomorrow we will hand him over to the Manor for judgement.’
     ‘No, please,’ gasped the man, ‘Cadwallader will have my hands. My family will starve.’
     ‘Then pray to God and hope Cadwallader is lenient,’ said the Abbot.
     ‘Father, please have mercy,’ begged the man.
     ‘The Lord will have mercy,’ said the Abbot and nodded toward the servants. The two men dragged the prisoner along the corridor before throwing him in a room and locking the door.
     ‘Thank you for your diligence,’ said the Abbot. ‘See if there is warm soup as a reward.’
     ‘Thank you, Father,’ murmured the men and disappeared from the dark passageway.
     ‘A sad testament to these troubled times,’ said the Abbot and continued to the end of the corridor before stopping before a locked door. ‘What you are about to witness, remains in this room,’ he said and turned a large key in the lock.
     Thomas and Garyn followed him into the cell and waited in the dark as the door was locked behind them. The Abbot took his candle and lit three more around the room. At first they struggled to see anything in the gloom but as their eyes adjusted, they could see the shape of a man lying on a cot facing the far wall. He was dressed in the type of winter cloak favoured by the Monks.
     The Abbot walked across the room. He reached forward and shook the man gently by the shoulders. Immediately the man jumped in fright and scrambled to the back of the cot, pulling his hood across his face.
     ‘Be calm,’ said the Abbot. ‘These men are friends.’ He turned to the blacksmith. ‘This man was brought here a few days ago,’ he said, ‘and as you will soon see, he is in need of your particular skills. I assume you have your tools?’
     The blacksmith removed the bag from over his shoulder.
     ‘I do,’ said Thomas, ‘but see no task.’
     The Abbot turned to the prisoner.
     ‘Please stand up,’ he said.
     After a few moments, the man struggled to his feet and stood before them with his head bowed, the deep hood covering his features.
     ‘I am going to undo your cloak,’ said the Abbot. ‘We mean you no harm. Do you understand?’
     The man nodded. The Abbot reached out to undo the ties around the man’s shoulders and stood back as the cloak fell to the floor.
     Thomas and Garyn stared in disbelief. The man was nothing more than skin and bone and every rib could be seen through his parchment-thin flesh. His black hair fell in a tangled mess around his shoulders and a matted beard fell to his chest. Around his neck he wore the iron collar of a slave with similar bands around his waist and ankles. His hands were restrained in cuffs and all were connected to each other by several short chains, restricting his movement to an absolute minimum. His face was heavily pitted from some sort of disease and they could see the unmistakable scars of the whip across his torso. Despite his appalling condition and the restrictive physical constraints, there was one more thing that kept father and son staring at him in astonishment. His skin was as black as the darkest night.
----
     ‘Who is he?’ asked Thomas eventually.
     ‘He is a from the holy land,’ said the Abbot. ‘And has been sent to us by our brothers engaged on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.’
     ‘Since when has the order condoned slavery?’ asked Thomas.
     ‘We don’t,’ said the Abbot. ‘and that is why we asked you here. Our brothers saved his life and I would free him from his chains.’
     ‘But why send him here?’ Surely it would have been easier to free him in his own lands.’
      ‘That is not your concern,’ said the Abbot. ‘All I need you to do is release his chains. Our tools barely mark the surface. Do you think you can do it?’
     Thomas approached the man, who took a step backward in fear.
     ‘Does he speak?’ asked Thomas.
     ‘Not that I know of,’ said Father William. ‘Though he seems to understand most of what I say.’
     ‘What is your name?’ asked Thomas facing the man but he remained silent. ‘I need to look at your chains,’ continued Thomas. ‘I won’t hurt you.’ He stepped closer and put his hands up to the collar, feeling the quality before examining the chains and the bands around the hands and feet. Thomas stepped back.            ‘The chains will be straight forward,’ he said, ‘but the collars are of quality steel. They will take time.’
     ‘Take all the time you need,’ said the Abbot. ‘Enemy or not, no man will wear the yolk of slavery within these walls.’
     ‘Do you think it is safe to release him?’ asked Thomas.
     ‘He is as weak as a new-born,’ said the Monk. ‘You are quite safe.’
     ‘There are some other tools that I will need,’ said Thomas, ‘but I have enough to be getting on with for today.’
     ‘Then I will leave you to it,’ said the Abbot. ‘The door will be locked from the outside but attended at all times. Just knock when you are ready.’ He left the room and they listened as the key turned in the lock.
     ‘Replace your robe,’ said Thomas, turning to the prisoner and pointing at the garment.
     The man bent, lifted the cloak up to his shoulders but due to the chains connecting his shackles to his waist he was unable to tie the cords. Garyn stepped forward and tied the knot for him.
     ‘Sit,’ said Thomas pointing at the cot. As the man dropped to the cot, Thomas pulled up a chair and sat before him, staring into his piercing eyes.
     ‘Look,’ said Thomas eventually. ‘I don’t know why you are here but like the Father says, it is none of my business. I am an honest man, here to do an honest day’s work. I mean you no harm and would like to think you will return that sentiment.’ He fell silent, staring at the man, wondering if he had understood anything at all.
     ‘Garyn, bring me another chair,’ said Thomas eventually, ‘I think in this case, actions speak louder than words.’ When the chair was in place, Thomas leaned forward and lifted one of the prisoners’ feet onto the chair, revealing the clasp around his ankle.
     ‘The task will need the benefit of the small anvil,’ said Thomas examining the clasps, ‘but at least we can give him some mobility. Hand me the large file and the tongs.’
     Garyn opened the sack and retrieved the tools.
     ‘Hold these fast,’ said Thomas, clasping a link of the chain in the jaws of the tongs and placing it on the chair.
     Garyn did as he was told and as soon as the chain was secured, Thomas set about it with the sharp edge of the file, slowly cutting into the link. It took a long time and father and son exchanged places many times before Thomas called a halt.
     ‘That should be enough,’ he said, ‘bring me the spike and the two hammers.’ He placed one hammer on the stone floor and balanced the blunt end of the spike on the flat side of the hammer head. ‘Hold the spike still,’ said Thomas and lowered the cut link over the pointed end of the spike. Using the other hammer, he drove the link down onto the bar, forcing the link apart. Within moments the link opened enough to allow the next link through the gap and the first leg was released.
     ‘There you go,’ said Thomas wiping the sweat from his brow, ‘the first of many.’
     They sat against the wall and Thomas unwrapped a cloth containing the remains of the bread and cheese from Elena. As they ate their meal, they watched as the prisoner stretched his leg and scratched at the scars where the chains had chafed for so long. Garyn stood up and walked over to stand before him.
     ‘Careful, boy,’ said Thomas.
     Garyn broke his piece of cheese in half along with the bread and offered it to the prisoner. The man stared at him for a few moments but didn’t move.
     ‘Take it,’ said Garyn.
     The man slowly pushed his chained hands through the front of the cloak and accepted the food.
     Thomas watched as the two shared the meal in silence. Eventually he too stood and walked over with the flask of wine Elena had prepared.
     ‘Drink,’ he said. ‘I have had enough.’
     For the remainder of the day they worked on the rest of the chains and on one occasion, sent for the Abbot to ask if the prisoner could be taken to the forge but the request was denied, despite being assured the process would be much quicker.
     ‘He stays here,’ the Abbot had replied. ‘We will pay you well for your time.’ After that, Thomas and Garyn focussed on the task in hand and by the time night fell, all the prisoner’s chains were removed.
     ‘That’s enough for one day,’ said Thomas. ‘Tomorrow we will bring a brazier and the small anvil. The collar will have to be softened before being worked but it won’t be easy. We will have to protect the skin from the heat.’
     Garyn packed away the tools and walked to the door. Behind them the man watched them leave but as the door was unlocked, they heard him speak for the first time.
     ‘Wait,’ he said and both men spun around in surprise.

     ‘Masun,’ he said. ‘My name is Masun.’

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The Lions Trip. Diary of a Ponty boy on tour.

Day 1 – AUSTRALIA BABY!


G'day from Down under

Finally got here after a flight of ten million hours.

Unpacked in a very small and not very nice room before zooming across the city to meet Lewis Moody (Part of the tour package). Despite my pre-conceptions he is actually a nice guy. Also shook hands with John Taylor stood at the bar next to me. 

Went to see the Manic street preachers. (Travelled halfway around the world to see a band who lives 30 miles away) They were Brilliant. 

Me and Tony's name pulled out of a hat to play 7s rugby alongside Lewis Moody. (Obviously in our Lions shirts) Opposite team will be led by another legend, (possibly Campese) I should last about a minute and reckon I have 1 big tackle left in me so if I can flatten Campese, then that will be it. Who'd have thunk it? Kevin Ashman running out for the lions in Australia. (well, walking slowly but you get my drift) 
It may be on the telly, (probably casualty.)

Weather is warm, beer is cold (and bloody expensive)
Haven’t seen a Kangaroo yet.

Right I'm going back to bed, us athletes need our rest. Log in tomorrow for an update. (injuries and hangover permitting)

Talk tomorrow


See ya Cobbers.
----

Day 2 – My debut for the Lions


G'day from Down under


Up at sparrows fart this morning and went to the Gym..........Well, when I say I went ‘to’ the gym, what I mean is, I went ‘through’ the gym. The pool is on the other side. 

The place was dark and silent, (everyone else was still in bed) It was quite spooky actually. I am sure the machines were whispering as I passed. (Nothing here for the likes of you, fat boy, move along) 
Anyway, got to the pool. I have to say I wasn’t that impressed, it was about 5m x 4m. More of a chlorinated puddle than a pond. However, a pool is a pool and as I was on my own, I gave a huge shout of 'lions' and gave my ‘bestest’ bomb into the water.....

Lesson 1-When doing your ‘bestest’ bomb, try to remember to remove spectacles first or you will spend the next ten minutes walking around said pool trying to find them with your feet. Lucky I was on my own. 

Anyway, a thousand lengths later I returned to the room and got ready for the big day. No, not the lions, me flattening Campese.....

He didn’t show. Someone must have told him Kevin ‘The Terminator’ Ashman was going to kick his arse and he stayed whimpering under his covers. 

Anyway, eventually I ran out wearing my Lions kit to the roar of thousands. (one man and his dog) This was it, the pinnacle of my rugby career, my swan song, the chance to say thank you to my adoring fans and retire in a blaze of glory.

The game was fast and loose so I won’t bore you with the details but it went something like this.

Game was tied 4 – 4 with seconds left. I intercepted on the wing and knew this was my chance. The sound from the crowd fell away, all I could hear was the blood rushing through my veins and my heart hammering in my chest. I looked at the line and the covering defenders racing toward me. 

I could do it, this was my chance. 

I raced down the wing, handing off their flanker in the process. The winger came racing in, but misjudged it and a quick sidestep had him sprawling in the mud. Ten yards left and the full back had me in his sights. 

I dug deep, urging the tired leg muscles to remember what they were once capable of. I chipped the ball over his head and with an astonishing burst of speed, caught my kick and raced to the corner to dive in and score the winning try, wagging my finger at the scrum half a-la George North. The crowd went mad, and even the dog was barking. I had done it, Lions 5 – Convicts 4.

Now, there is another version of this story. All spurious lies, I hasten to add and it doesn’t really warrant my time. However, I will give it a little attention.

Some Fat bloke is out on the wing drawing breath from Merthyr.
Ball somehow bounces into his hands and he looks at it in horror. (Fat Bloke was a prop when he played so hardly ever saw the ball)
Line is beckoning, team mates are pointing and shouting encouragement
Said fat bloke, waddles down the touch line toward the try line
Defence trots over (they had plenty of time) and wait for Fat bloke to arrive
Fat bloke still thinks he can make it and summons the muscle memory to drive forward.
Muscle memory says ‘piss off Fat Bloke, we retired years ago’
Fat bloke falls over his own feet ten metres before the line, crowd starts laughing and dog turns away in shame…..

I prefer the first version.

Anyway, we won the game 5 – 4 so all ended well. All had our pictures done with Lewis Moody, except me, (they allowed me to have mine done with the dog.)

What about the other game I hear you ask. (I must see the doctor about these voices in my head) -- Nothing to say about that, except they should have had fat bloke on the bench. Gutted.

So, going back to the pool in a few minutes. (If I can walk.) My body is in bits and I think I have broken a finger in my hand. Not through playing rugby, but from falling over drunk. But that’s another story….

Still no Kangaroos yet, but early days.

Catch you tomorrow.

See Ya Cobbers.
----

Day 3 – The Spa and me


G'day from Down under

Got up at dark o’clock again feeling like I had done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson. (Bloody rugby, what a STUPID idea that was)
I don’t usually get up this early at home but Tony snores like a f***king steam train and after the alcohol induced coma wears off, I lie awake in the darkness planning ways to kill him.

Anyway, off to the Spa. Passed through the Gym and those machines were at it again. Winking their red lights at me, giggling amongst themselves. 

‘Here he comes, do you think he will use us today?’
“Nah, he’s past help, that one. On your way, fat bloke’

I’ll show them. I’m the guy who rides from Beddau to Cardiff bay once a year. Tomorrow, I will show them there’s still life in the old guy yet. I will OWN your ass, Bike Machine.
Anyway, into the pool and with a cry of Banzai, did my ‘bestest’ bomb……..

Now what I will say is this, when giving your ‘bestest’ bomb, it may be prudent to remember that the depth of water is actually very important……as my right buttock will now testify.

Limped to the Jacuzzi and got in. Bloody hell it was hot. I’m not kidding, you could boil eggs in that water. Anyway, I sat there pressing all the buttons but couldn’t get it to work. I was like a confused gorilla in a forest pond. Bubble-less. How on earth do you make bubbles in a Jacuzzi? I know of one method but couldn’t risk that in case I followed through.

Anyway, by now a couple from Abercynon had come into the Spa and looked at me stupid.

‘It doesn’t work,’ I said.
‘Have you turned it on?’ she said, pointing at a massive green button across the other side of the pool.

WTF ?

What a stupid place to put the on button. I had to get out, waddle around the pool, switch it on and then run back to get in…..Every five minutes FFS.

So, went back to the tent (we call it that now because it looks like someone is camping in there, kit everywhere. The maid hasn’t cleaned it since we got here and now just opens the door to throw clean towels in)

As it’s Sunday, we decide to be good and take in some culture.

Me – ‘Tony, wake up, it’s Sunday. Do you want to go to church?’
Tony, mumbling into his pillow. – ‘Is that the name of a pub?’

Says it all really

Eventually we go out and look around the shops. I need a new cheap camera as mine is gone. (sorry Jan) It may be somewhere back in the tent but I don’t think so. 

Tony reckons he’s going to buy a roll of bubble wrap as I am constantly falling over. I think Australian gravity is different to ours and I have spent most of my time seeing Melbourne from pavement level. On Saturday, my fall was spectacular, Graham gave me 8.5 for style, Tony gave me 9.5 for artistic interpretation but reckons a small fishing village in the South China sea was washed away by the resulting aftershock.

Anyway, took a free bus tour round the city and have to say I was not impressed. The city was nice enough but the commentary was awful and the bus was overfull.

Bus driver – ‘On your right you will see the Cultural centre’

Will I F**k. All I can see is the fat arse of a thirty stone woman complete with bum bag and body odour. She’s not only blocking our view but the whole bloody horizon. Too many people mun. 

Throughout the tour he was bigging up the smallest thing so we got off. I can’t stand people pissing down my back and telling me its raining.

Good news on the injury front. I don’t think my finger is broken. Either that or the buttock pain is cancelling it out.

Going on a boat tour tomorrow (with a bar of course) and going up Melbourne’s tallest building to see the city from the southern hemisphere’s highest viewing platform. Apparently, the top ten floors on the outside are plated with gold leaf. WTF is that all about?

That’s me for today. Time to go back to the tent and the subtle aromas of socks, farts and cheap aftershave. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s home to us. 

Oh, still no news on the Kangaroo front. Getting concerned now.

See ya Cobbers
----


Day 4 – The Fridge


G’day from down under

Woke up at stupid O’clock again. Or should I say, got woken up by two warthogs fighting in the tent. At least that’s what I thought it was, but it turned out to be Tony Snoring again.

The man has to die…it’s as simple as that. The only thing is, when I make my move, it has to be quick and effective. He’s a big bugger and if I mess it up he’s gonna kick my arse from here to Sydney.

Anyway, climbed over the mess in the tent and made my way to the Spa. The Gym machines were waiting but this time I wasn’t afraid, I was ready. I strode into the gym and jumped on that bike like John Wayne mounting his horse,

With a shout of Yee-Hah Mother F**ker I rode the guts out of that bike. No more would a machine mock me with his flashing lights. I was in charge, I was the master.

So after about two minutes I jumped off and sauntered into the pool area, feeling very pleased with myself. I threw my towel onto the chair, went up to the swimming puddle,  (I refuse to call it a pool anymore) checked  I was alone, outstretched my arms and legs, and fell forward into the water.

WHAT A BELLY FLOP! (I couldn’t risk a bomb for reasons previously discussed)
It was class, water flew everywhere.

I swam the usual thousand lengths (It is a VERY small pool) and then went to the gorilla pond, and cooked nicely while staring at the rowing machine.

‘Your turn tomorrow matey.’

Finally I went back to the tent to wake up warthog man, and after spending half an hour convincing him it wasn’t natural for anyone to drink at 7 am, we went out into the city and up the Eureka tower. (Google it, I’m too knackered to explain) 
The Eureka Tower

The lift travelled 88 floors in 38 seconds. I can’t even count that fast.  I’m not kidding you, it was amazing, By the time it got to the top I had jet lag, The view was spectacular, Melbourne is one big city
I took some piccies but am ashamed to say I needed the loo......and not number ones!

I did the deed but am now fixated with the thought of that jobbie dropping 88 floors. I think it’s still falling now.
Parsley seeing the sights

Anyway, enough about that, on to the river cruise. Two hours of my life I will never get back. Really guys, Melbourne is nice enough but you have to get guides who can speak English and not f**king Koala.

I’m not being horrible here because Australia  is lovely but put a local on a tannoy and the circuitry rips up their words and put them back together in a different order. It must do, I just can’t understand a f**king thing.

Oh, a quick message to my burglar friends in England. Get your arses over to Wales asap because let me tell you this, there can’t be anyone there! Everyone in Wales is over here. Squilliions of them.

Now, that many countrymen may sound a good thing but it’s not. I want to interact and exchange our cultures, I really do but it is impossible, everyone is Welsh,

Let me explain.

You would imagine a conversation would go something like this

Good morning.
Good morning, Welcome to Australia
Thank you. Great to be here.
What part of Britain are you from?
Wales, on the west coast.
I hear Wales is a beautiful place.
Oh yes, it is.
I must visit someday.
Yes you must.
Have a nice day
You too Goodbye
Have a nice day cobber

That’s how it should be. The reality is that all conversations go something like this

Orrite butt
Orrite butt
Where ewe from en?
Aber Cwm boi, innit.
Tidy
Aye
Tara
See Ewe

Now, for those who are not blessed with Welshness, this is EXACTLY the same conversation, but between 2 Taffs. Not only can’t I find any bloody kangaroos, there’s not many Ozzies either and those I can find speak f**king Koala.

So, we Came back and guess what, The tent has been cleaned. It is a room once more. Wooohooo! I don’t know who did it but there was a tearful house maid down in the foyer being comforted by the manager. I assume it was her.

Anyway, time to get ready to go out. I’m a bit afraid to turn around because I just saw Tony in his socks  and boxers playing air guitar to ‘down down, deeper and down’ by status quo,

My eyes are bleeding.

Enough for now, the pubs are open. (What am I saying? They’re always open)

I promise I won’t get too drunk, Jan. (Oh, and I’ve bought a new camera to replace the one I lost. Is that alright for your prezzie?)

One last thing. Josh and Katie, if you are reading this, phone your dad and say goodbye because if he snores tonight, he’s getting the f**king fridge in his face.


See Ya, Cobbers
----

Day 5 – Big Brother is watching

G'day from down under

Got up so early this morning I swear I passed myself coming in the night before.

Went up to my favourite place, the Spa as this was going to be my last day before Sydney and I  wanted to make an impression. Crawled into the gym and sat on the rowing machine but felt really rough. That last pint a few hours ago must have been off, I’m sure the previous 12 were fine.

Despite my best intentions, I couldn’t do it so just sat on that rowing machine and drifted.

Eventually fell into the swimming puddle and floated around for a bit but something was different. There was a new sign….DANGER – No diving!


WTF?...No diving? That pool is so small that if I dived in I would land on the other side, bone dry in a crumpled heap, missing the water altogether.

But it got me thinking. Why was it there? It wasn’t there yesterday. Could it have been put there especially because of my superb belly flop? Nah, couldn’t be. I was always on my own so nobody saw it.

Anyway, I got into my Gorilla pond and sat amongst the chlorine bubbles, adding a few of my own when all became clear. Up in the corner was a small CCTV camera.

The Gorilla Pond.

My jaw dropped. The last few days had been totally filmed on CCTV. I had visions of all the hotel staff sitting in front of the monitors, eating popcorn, drinking stubbies (That’s Koala for bottled beer) and watching the latest TV hit, ‘Fat bloke in a Gym.’

They probably sold tickets out in Melbourne and the queue was around the block waiting to see the Idiot Taff making a fool of himself.

I was flummoxed. I was obviously being watched and the sign was specifically for me. I had to get out but didn’t want to look like a teenage girl doing the walk of shame early in the morning. No, I wanted to go with style so I went over to the sign, pointed at it, smiled at the camera and did a spread eagled belly flop into the puddle.

I got out quickly, gave the camera the middle finger and legged it to the room before security arrived. Mission accomplished.

Goodbye Spa, it’s been fun.

The Swimming Puddle


So it’s off to the airport and a flight to Sydney. The hotel is throwing a staff party, the bar is being re-stocked and Tony has now been designated my carer. I think he has applied for a grant from Ponty council.

The Sun is shining, spirits are high and everyone is upbeat about the coming game.

As I write this, we are sitting in Melbourne airport waiting for the flight. We just heard a distant rumble and Tony thinks it is thunder but I’m not so sure.

I reckon it’s that jobbie hitting the ground floor back in Melbourne


See Ya Cobbers
----

Day 6 - SYDNEY BABY!

G'day from down under.



What a lovely city.

Melbourne, you were okay, but Sydney kicks you further into touch than Leigh Half-penny with a following wind.

Hotel is stupendous. Really up market. I keep expecting to be thrown out for lowering the tone but no, we are here and intend to enjoy it to the full.

Our room is the same size as Cardiff and has 3 phones, One between the beds, one on the writing desk and one next to the toilet pan. Yesterday Tony phoned me from the bog and asked if I would go in and wipe his a*se. Cheeky git.

I’m not kidding you, the bathroom is so far away, you need to take a packed lunch.

This is class. The only thing is, the luxury comes at a price. English breakfast is 38 dollars, internet is 12 dollars AN HOUR ! and if you fancy a steak they want the soul of your first born child. I’m not kidding you, it is mad.


The Spa is brilliant, the pool is much better and the whole thing is superb quality with more marble than the Taj Mahal.

Had a good night’s sleep last night. Tony didn’t snore. In fact he was deathly silent. I genuinely thought he was dead but didn’t care. I needed the sleep.

Got up at a reasonable time, feeling like I had did ten rounds with Audley Harrison

IE…..I felt great, with no pain whatsoever.

Went for my daily dip and it was very civilised. No bombs, no belly flops and even the fitness machines were sympathetic. I sat in the sunken Jacuzzi relaxing and then I saw it….The sign…. NUDE BATHING IS ALLOWED IN THE SPA!

Yup, that’s right…….IS allowed!

Now, you have to understand, this hotel is full of beautiful Shielas and if one of those decided to make use of this concession then who am I to complain?

It would be very rude of me and though obviously I would be embarrassed, I would have to let them carry on if only out of politeness. Anyway, I waited patiently for one to come along but nothing. Not one.

What a wasted 14 hours that was.


Had a long day yesterday and didn’t get back for our siesta until late so overslept and woke at about 7. We were knackered so decided to stay in.

The conversation went something like this.

I’m knackered
Me too
I’m not going out
Me neither
It would be good to have a night off
Absolutely
So, we’ll stay in then
Yes

Pause

Perhaps just the one?
Yeah, one wouldn’t hurt!

So much for that idea!

It’s not me Jan, It’s Tony. He’s a bad influence. He dragged me kicking and screaming to PJ’s, the Irish bar at the bottom of the hotel. What a fab bar. Proper beer, full pints in a real glass and prices that don’t make you break down and cry. Oh, and the pub is full of Taffies. What’s not to like?

Several sherbets later and I stumbled back to the room in a drunken haze. Now, you have to understand I’m not doing this for enjoyment, oh no, it’s for medicinal purposes. Before I came away I had a medical appointment about the old waterworks and the doctor told me I had to drink at least 3 litres of fluid a day.

Doc…You would be proud of me.

So, going down the harbour today. We are going to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge. My legs are begging me to cancel, my knees are already crying, and my lungs are doing press ups in readiness. My liver however is grateful for the day off. ...I think it’s going shopping.

We can’t have a drink because they breathalyse you before the climb so it had better be bloody worth it. I am determined to do this one, even if it means walking up on my lips.

Assuming we are successful, when we descend we will crawl over to the opera house to take some piccies. Perhaps I can bribe a guard to let me belt out Delilah from one of the stages. I doubt it though, these people are not easily bribed. I asked the cabin steward on the flight from Canberra if he could put all the English at the front of the plane so the Welsh boys could be cushioned if we crash. As he was an Ozzie, he actually thought it was a good idea but said the Captain wouldn’t allow it.

So we are going out in a bit. Tony is wearing shorts and my eyes are bleeding again. I’m not sure  Sydney is ready for them. The last time I saw legs like that they were hanging over a nest. 

I haven’t fallen over yet (though did get jammed in the lift doors)

So Sydney has started well and I think it is going to be a good few days. 

Let’s just hope they have some Skippys (That’s Koala for Kangaroos)


See Ya Cobbers.

----
Day 7 – The Jet wash

G'day from down under


Whoa – Day Seven already. Where is the time going? 

The days are disappearing as fast as an Irishman’s name from a team sheet.

(sorry, couldn’t resist)

Woke up this morning and took my usual  trip up to the Spa. The place is beautiful but the pool water is bloody freezing. Not a good look when you’re wearing budgie smugglers.

I really should take my glasses up with me. My eyesight isn’t good and though they kindly supply all sorts of toiletries in little squeezy bottles, the writing is so bloody small, so far I have showered with conditioner, skin cream and body lotion.

Still not as bad as back home, though when I washed my hair in Veet. My youngest daughter almost collapsed with laughter when she found out. (For my overseas friends, Veet is hair removal cream.)

Still no naked Shielas in the Spa so after a few hours, decided to go back and have my shower back in the room. I let it run for a bit to get the temperature right then got in and turned up the pressure.

Now, let me explain. There is a lot of trouble around the world right now and in places, the police use water cannon to disperse the crowds, right? You know, those machines that blast water out so fast they send adults sprawling across the street. Well, guess what, we have one of those in our bathroom…..

I was pinned against the back wall like a bloody starfish. My face was  glued sideways against tiles with one eye staring wildly into the storm. If I was able to breathe I would have screamed for help.

WTF – I know you like to do things bigger and better, Australia but COME ON! There was more power there than the Rolls Royce engines on our plane. I hooked my finger nails in the grout lines and dragged my sorry arse out of there, my body battered like a dough ball in the local pizza hut. (I hate pizza, BTW, food of the devil)

Got dressed and went down for Breakfast.
Breakfast is good here though never had chicken sausages before. They were ok, tasted like…um…chicken.

They give us little vouchers to redeem in the restaurant for breakfast so we can’t go back for more. You can tell the Welshmen in the restaurant, their plates are piled so high they have their own micro climate.

To be fair, £38 dollars for breakfast is ridiculous. If I had to pay that much on a daily basis I would drag my bloody bed down there and sleep by the toast machine.

Talking of which, why do those roller toast machines only ever have 2 outcomes. Still white but slightly warmed or blacker than a debt collector’s soul. Whatever happened to golden brown?

So,  it’s BRIDGE DAY BABY!



I Put on my blue shorts and baby pink Polo shirt

(Jan, when I get back, we REALLY need to talk about my clothes.)

I kept telling myself that only real men can wear pink and went down the harbour to stare that mother right in the face. You don’t scare me, bridge, I’ve climbed higher breakfasts.

We queued up like all the other nutters paying 230 dollars for the challenge.
(Back in the hotel I could have got a packet of crisps for that)

Surprisingly we passed the breathalyzer and with more safety equipment attached than you could shake a stick at, set out to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge.




Guess what, despite the whingeing of my knees earlier, I got it done like a boss. (And before some smart arse tries to be funny, no it didn’t bend under the weight so FO.)

Anyway, I was up that sweetie like a rat up a drainpipe with no dramas. Well, when I say no dramas, there were none for me. Tony came down with a cut knee, bruised head and whiplash. (Don’t worry Mrs L, he is fine now)  It’s his own fault for being so bloody lanky. Made my day it did.


By the time we came down, we were Hank Marvin and desperate to get to our favourite restaurant, the one with the good prices, cold beer and steaks bigger than the Millennium Stadium. We smashed our way through the tourists like Jamie Roberts at his best. If Gatland had been watching there’d be another 2 names on that sheet.

(To be fair, the team sheet already looks like a roll call from Rorkes drift.)

Anyway, we barged our way through. There were 2  Aberdeen Angus steaks out there with our names on them.




Still no news on the lost camera so I guess it’s gone. If anyone in Melbourne finds it and wants to send it back, please delete pictures 17  to 231. The world is not ready for those yet.

Quiet night tonight and everyone seems shocked at the team selection. Obviously the welsh are ecstatic but what a gamble. Mr Gatland. Fair play you have Kahunas the size of rugby balls.

So, Gotta go. I have a breakfast to build and I need to ask the management to install another phone in the room. Hopefully on the far wall of the bloody shower.

Back tomorrow and may have some news on the Skippy front

See ya Cobbers


PS - Jan, can you fly out on Saturday night? I need you to pack my case.

----

Day 8 – The Lack of Kangaroos

G’day from down under

Another beautiful day in Sydney

The main talk is about that team selection but to be honest, most of the negativity seems to be coming from the UK. Most of those I have talked to out here reckon Cement-head (Gatland) made the right call, especially re O’driscoll. It is a very strong back line to be fair.

Anyway, decided to go to Manly Harbour today so up at Sparrows fart again to get ready. Not using the Spa as I have picked up a cough and the chlorine won’t help. Tony went up though, (Since I mentioned the possibility of naked Shielas, he has suddenly become a fitness freak. He was up there so long this morning, when he came down he had a beard.)

Anyway, I decided to have my shower  in the bathroom instead of the Spa but wasn’t in the mood to be blasted by the water cannon so I carefully pointed the shower directly downward and waited for the water to become the right temperature before stepping under.

Now, as I said yesterday, The Ozzies don’t do anything by halves. Toasters provide toast either luke warm or black as charcoal,  Showers are the same, two settings only. Morning dew on a lamb’s eyelash is one, water cannon is the other. Despite this I thought there must be a middle setting so slowly eased the lever forward for more pressure but you guessed it, BAM – The perfect storm.

The deluge hit my head like a sledgehammer. I gripped the shower pipe as it tried to bash my brains in and stood under that deluge like superman, taunting it with my manliness. Bring it on, shower, this bathroom belongs to me now.

Eventually I turned off the rainstorm, bent over and picked up my skin from around my ankles.

Anyway, we went down for breakfast and made our way to the food carousel. We were famished. It was going to be a long day so needed to have a hearty breakfast.

Now hearty is one thing but I swear Tony was doing laps. Mind you, I saw the head waiter looking at my plate nervously as I piled on the food. He had every need to be concerned, by the time I was done, this beauty would need bloody planning permission.

Finally we headed out for the island of Manly with a full belly and a rucksack full of chicken sausages but before we caught the ferry we popped in to a souvenir shop.

There was a shelf there with prezzies made from Kangaroo skin. Purses, wallets, back scratchers and covered notebooks. That sort of thing, but then I saw something that made me stop in my tracks.

Let me share the sign with you

‘Money bag – Made from genuine Kangaroo Scrotum.’

WTF – A kangaroo’s ball bag!

The poor F**kers.

And there was more.

‘Kangaroo scrotum bottle openers complete with internal plastic balls.’
‘Lighter pouch with genuine scrotum carrying pouch.’
‘Kangaroo Scrotum corkscrew.’

You sick b**stards

FFS- Mun.  No wonder I can’t find any kangaroos, they’re all hiding in the mountains with both hands over their bloody  Nads.



Anyway, went on to Manly with tears in my eyes.

Wasn’t that impressed to be honest.

The beach looked nice enough and there were some big waves to be fair and at first it looked lovely but then we saw another sign.

Due to potential overflow of the storm drains we cannot guarantee this water is safe to bathe in after heavy rain.’

That was understandable I suppose but after that was the killer punchline. It said…

‘We can’t guarantee it at other times either.’

FFS – Mun

Sailed back to Sydney and made our way over to Darling Harbour for lunch. Spotted a  steak house with a lunchtime special on so dived in there to have a cheap lunch. Steak was okay, and fairly cheap…….However, by the time we were done, the Beer came in at 64 dollars. So much for that bloody idea.


Tony’s snoring has got better. He’s got it down to 200 decibels now. I sleep at night with earphones on blasting out ZZ Top at full volume. In comparison, it’s like a lullaby. Last night I managed almost a minute.

Let me tell you something else about Tony. That man can fall asleep in a second. Anywhere, anytime, he just nods off. He has already nodded off mid conversation and I swear he was sleeping as we  walked back up George street after dinner. He also knows every bloody song ever invented, I kid you not. I swear he was singing along to the Didgereedoo player down on Sydney docks.



So, big night last night. Put on our glad rags and blasted out some quo and AC/DC before heading out into the city to meet friends. 

I can’t remember much expect to say it was mad. Found a rugby club and it was packed to the rafters with nutty Brits. The singing was immense but the Welsh boys nailed it. The Close harmony from a hundred drunken voices was a joy to behold.
It was so good, I think we had a row of castrated kangaroos at the back singing alto.

We are in bits this morning. I can’t speak and Tony has eyes like a bulldog’s bollocks. When we go out, I’m going to buy him a pair of Kangaroo sacks to put them in.

We are contemplating going to Bondi beach but I don’t know if I can make it. Ankles are aching, calves are hurting, knees are knackered and my head is holding auditions for the Cozy  Powell tribute tour.

Right going to get ready. One more day and then it’s the big one. If I can just get my failing body through today it will all be over. 

I think I need some duct tape.

See ya cobbers
----


Day 9 – MATCH DAY BABY!

G’day from down under

We actually made it intact. Well sort of intact. Body is in bits and liver has been beaten into submission but despite that, we are here at last. The big one. This is why we travelled halfway across the planet, to see 23 players put their body on the line, representing their nations in the game that we love.

Quiet day yesterday, went down to Bondi Beach.

Summary?

Barry island with waves.

Don’t get me wrong, Australia is lovely but I think I was expecting too much.

Anyway, out last night and after suffering the first few pints with grimaces, settled down into a rhythm.

What a night!

Met up with a bunch of police from Cardiff and got rat-arsed with them. Remember in an earlier post I said all the English burglars should go to Wales? Well, they definitely should because most of the coppers are also out here. Has the severn bridge  been closed or what?.

For some obscure I was re christened Cee-lo (apparently I look like Cee-Lo green) Tony was called 5 seasons for being so drunk he thought there were 5 seasons in  a year. If I recall, the others were Football Echo, Gandalf, Right said Fred, and Dribbles. (Don’t ask)

There’s a bit of a theme developing about names as the previous evening I was called Kevin ‘Not the Voice’ Ashman due to me losing my voice. What a terrible name for a Welshman.

Still, they may have called me  ‘Not the voice’ But they couldn't call me  ‘Not the dancer,’ Oh no. After the tenth pint or so that dance floor beckoned like a pie shop to a fat chick. (More about pies later)

That dance floor was mine, baby. Snake hips Ashman was back, much to the delight of my adoring fans. I’m telling you, I cut shapes on that dance floor that haven’t been invented yet. 

Finished up in a rugby club early hours before staggering home with a ‘Pie face’ supper. (A pie with a smiley on it) The shops are everywhere out here and Tony was determined to try one or ten before we came home.

I tell you what, if we brought one home it would still be bloody hot. It was stupid. We got back to the hotel (about half a mile away) and the bloody things were still too hot to eat.

I had ordered a steak pie but I think what I actually had was Lava.

Add burnt tongue to list of injuries

Bad hangovers this morning but went out to buy presents. Really funny seeing all the shops full of red shirts desperately trying to buy the missus something nice. (So we can come again innit)

Remember that rugby game I played in? Well, I’ve found the video link. Have a peek. My game winning break is at 2.06 on the far side of the pitch.


Autographs are now on sale.

Another thing, remember yesterday’s blog about Kangaroos ball bags. In case you don’t believe me, take a look. 



So, had lunch and just winding up to get back on it. Going down the bar at 2, being picked up at 5, Kick off is at 8, Celebration /Commiseration/goodbye party is at 11.

Hold on to your hats folks, this could get messy

See Ya Cobbers

PS – Jan, I’ve put all my dirty socks and pants in two carrier bags for you. Is that alright?

----

Day 10 – The Final day

G’day from down under

Well, that’s it then.

It’s over. What a roller coaster ride.

You  couldn’t have written the script. After all the pressure, the boys came good and Cement-head’s selection was proved correct. The Stadium atmosphere was electric and the day was everything I dreamed of.  As in fact, was the whole trip.

We awoke to some disturbing news this morning when it emerged that Adam Jones, Corbisiero and Richard Hibbard had been arrested for indecent assault but the panic soon eased when Robbie Deans said his front row didn’t want to press charges.

I got a bit caught out yesterday on the bus when I needed a wee but the bus didn’t have a toilet. The driver couldn’t stop but said there was a container up on the rack I could use.

What, from here?

‘No,’ he said ‘take the container up to the back seat but be discreet.’ I looked on the rack and saw his flask……I was tempted but no………I got the empty water bottle instead.

When we got to the stadium, there were no bins so I had to carry the bottle around for a while.

All I will say is there were a lot of thirsty Australians outside the stadium and we will leave it at that

Anyway, game was superb.

Back to the hotel bar but I have never seen anything like it. I’m sure they were stacked three deep. It was mad.

So, back to reality this morning and getting packed to go home.

I’ve found a present for Jan. It’s a really nice body care set consisting of four small squeezy bottles containing shampoo, body lotion, conditioner and shower gel. What’s even better is that it comes with a little round soap wrapped in paper and a shower cap. Tidy mun.

(The shower gel has some missing Jan but I’ll top it up from Aldi’s when  get home)

So, what are my thoughts?

Toe is bruised from hitting it on door stop
Ankles are swollen
Calf is strapped in Tubi grip
Knees are knackered
Buttock is bruised
Liver is in a coma
Kidneys are exhausted
Tongue is burnt
I have a chest infection
Credit Card is on life support

Apart from that, everything is fine

Would I do it again?

Yes I would.

Australia is a lovely place though I  have to say, their marketing team should be on a bonus. It didn’t quite live up to my expectations but perhaps that was just me. The next time I come I want to see less bars and more of the country.

Australia, we were ships that passed in the night. I had a fling with Melbourne and a love affair with Sydney but my heart lies with a small green country ten thousand miles away. It’s not you, it’s me. Our paths will cross again I am sure, but until then I am going back to my first love, the land of my fathers.

Best Memory – Obviously the result
Worst Memory – I don’t think there are any really. Life is too short.

On a more reflective note, I feel incredibly lucky and privileged to have been able to come on this trip and I know many would love to have come along. I have met some fantastic people and made a lot of memories which is what life is all about.

For those who couldn’t be here for whatever reason, I hope this blog has gone a little way to share some of the experiences and that one day, you too can experience the laughter and the camaraderie experienced on a trip such as this. (Even the English supporters are nice once you put them in a red shirt)

So, before we go, I’m may nip up to the Gorilla pond for one last dip and then start our trip home.

So this is goodbye. Australia, look after yourself and  keep in touch.

Oh, by the way, I still don’t believe there are any bloody Kangaroos down here but if there are, catch three of them and if they still have their bollocks. ……put them in your front row.

Problem solved.

See Ya Cobbers  --  It’s been emotional