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Worried. The French do often surprise us.

SATURDAY IN Auckland for Quarter Final England vs France, having failed to find accommodation in Wellington for our game. Run to stadium early to catch it on big screen and fall down railway bridge steps, breaking heel and almost a leg. Jimmy Choo not good running shoes, I decide.

Find seat, watch Wellington game and cry with joy at Ireland exit, though I empathise with my hero Brian O'Driscoll, playing his last World Cup. Man takes seat to my left before live match. He is dressed as Elvis Presley. "What's your name?" I ask. "Elvis," he says. Of course. Fifty thousand people and I have to get the resident lunatic.

English people in row behind tell me about Royal Caribbean rugby supporters cruise that includes tickets for games, arriving in Auckland in time for the semis, going to the Bay of Islands for Bronze final and back to Auckland for the final, before setting sail for Sydney. I am very tempted but am already on a third mortgage to pay for this.

English very quiet throughout game. When they sing about the sweet chariot coming for to carry them home, I point out that it may be a lot sooner than they think (in fact, I can hear the wheels). Pleasingly, it is.

Allez la France!

Then Great night in Prince's Wharf Euro bar. English ex-pats very generous about Welsh win and tell me I absolutely have to stay for the semi-final against France. I tell them I really can't afford it.

decide SUNDAY Buy ticket for semi-final against France and hand in notice on longstanding rental apartment in Los Angeles to pay for second leg of this trip. There is not one room available in Auckland, so am not sure where I will be sleeping.

Bump into half-a-dozen of the Welsh team in Auckland harbour and resist temptation to ask if I can shack up with them.

MONDAY Inquire about shorter rugby supporters cruise, but at seven days it still feels like a very long time, when there are so many Frenchmen on dry land. Decide to hold fire till semi result.

Meanwhile, manage to find extortionate accommodation till 18th and have to transport the 20 bottles of Heineken I optimistically bought for guests who turned out to be imaginary friends.

Dan Carter replacement Colin Slade declared out of AB side for semi. What is it with the New Zealanders and groin injuries? Nothing to do with me, I promise.

TUESDAY Waste another day debating the pros and cons of the cruise. Worry that my desire to escape hordes of drunken supporters in Cardiff city centre after an international might prove harder at sea. I already hear the sound of splashing red shirts.


Then It's suggested that between games, I take advantage of the many social activities the northern island of this country has to offer.

Contemplate whale watching. Then opt to watch telly instead.

WEDNESDAY Contemplate doing a bungee jump. Then decide to watch telly instead.

THURSDAY Contemplate going white baiting ... You getting the drift? So, it's countdown time. Worried, because long before the Quarters, I said: "The French are going to surprise us." They often do.

FRIDAY I am thinking that by the time you are reading this, one of five things is happening ...

I am packing to fly home * I am packing to board a ship * I am still in Auckland harbour and the bailiffs are taking away the last of my furniture back home * I am doing a Tuilagi and jumping into the harbour, for reasons that are as inexplicable to me as they doubtless were, later, to him * I am wearing a beret, waving a baguette and swearing allegiance to the Foreign Legion.

Everything is possible. I have nothing to lose but my house.

WHAT'S HOT * Stephen Jones, right, who kindly took a picture of me with some of the Welsh team, above, while they were walking through Auckland to cheers of: "Do it for the northern hemisphere!" from despondent English. Felt proud to be Welsh.

* Referee Nigel Owens. Came in for more stick during the week, but for my money he is one of the best. Makes his decision, states his case clearly and sticks to it.

* Hilton Hotel in Prince's Wharf.

Fantastic modern rooms with great views. Also, the Langham, which boasts the best hotel bar - by several miles. Divine Barolo, providing a much welcome break from New Zealand wines.

* Battered sausage on a stick, dipped in red sauce, being sold at the The Cloud - specially constructed, terrific "fanzone" in Auckland to watch games on dozens of big screens. Great atmosphere.

* New Zealand wine. Gosh, there's a lot of it here - understandably, I suppose. But why does most of it have to come from Marlborough? It's as if some hostelries have never even heard of different regions, let alone countries.

* English international Manu Tuilagi, jumping off ferry into Auckland harbour after the team's wine trip to Waiheke Island. Fined pounds 3,000. More impressive if he'd dived into a vat.


* Jaci meets her Welsh heroes in Auckland, from left, James Hook, Adam Jones, Huw Bennett, Shane Williams and Andy Powell
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Oct 15, 2011
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