Friday, 21 February 2014

Sacré Rouge!

Wales 27 France 6

Both Wales and France had a lot to prove in their meeting at the Millennium Stadium in Caerdydd earlier this evening. Wales had played pretty terribly against Ireland two weeks ago, when they were well and truly beaten and gave little to hope for in their remaining games of the championship. France beat Italy, but unconvincingly, playing well for little more than 15 of the ninety minutes.

Still, I honestly didn't think that Wales would be able to improve sufficiently to offer much of a challenge to even a relatively poor France.

Was I mistaken!

France was basically outplayed for the whole of the ninety minutes. Even during France's best attacking moments, just about all of which came in the second half, Wales put up a sterling and effective defence, disrupting the French and often leading to indiscipline.

The Welsh lineout was better than it has been so far in the series, the passing was better, the scrummaging was shocking on both sides, but that's more to do with modern scrum laws than anything else.

Now if only Wales would learn not to kick unnecessarily, thereby giving the ball to the opposition in good running positions, and if they continue to play decent rugby, they might even have a chance of a decent final position in the championship: four wins out of five is a good possibility now and that might be enough to take the championship yet again—much will depend on how other teams perform (I don't look forward to England beating Ireland, but at this stage I wouldn't mind if Ireland loses!).

As for France: sortez la guillotine! French players must learn to accept the decisions of the match officials: this is not soccer, so you do not argue with the referee or linesmen, nor do you disdainfully applaud the referee for sending sinbinning you. Not just yellow cards, but red cards should have been shown.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Duw, Duw!

Ireland 26 Wales 3

The commentator on France 2 lauded the praises of the Welsh national anthem, but still insisted on referring to it by its colonialist name of Land of My Fathers. That was just the beginning of a lot worse to come.

You have to wonder why the Welsh team bothered to travel to Ireland, unless they were looking forward to the après-match célidh, if there is such a thing.

Really, there was only one team in the whole game and that most certainly wasn’t Wales. The few Welsh attempts at attack faded to nothing; the Welsh kicked, but why was a mystery and they then either missed touch, or got the ball kicked back with advantage, or both; they lacked discipline, giving away silly penalties; they knocked the ball forward (it seemed more times than they had chance to pass the thing!), they were lousy in the lineout… Well, you get the picture. Wales was quite simply terrible. Wales had one decent pass at a try and that was correctly disallowed, which was just as well, as just a couple of minutes before Ireland had been denied a line-out on the Welsh line and, given the Irish packs magnificent mauling performance, that would have been a certain try for Ireland.

Well done Ireland. You played well and gave the Welsh plenty to think about.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Way to go, David!

Here's a news story you might have missed. And that's a pity, for it is a story of courage, common-sense, and utter love.

The story concerns a couple from Friesland in The Netherlands. David Postma and his wife, Willemke, had been married for 61 years. David was 86 years old and Willemke 84. Willemke had been suffering with her health for several years and in November she had to be taken to hospital and it looked as if she would then have to go into a care-home. Although David had been in relatively good health up until then, he too, felt that he had had enough of life. They therefore decided together to put an end to their lives and chose a date in January to do so, informing their children of their decision.

January was chosen so that they could spend a final Christmas and New Year together with all the family.

According to Dutch law, David and Willemke could not ask for help from their doctors, as they were not in the unbearable and hopeless medical situation that Dutch law requires for this. David, however, used the Internet to search for a solution, and this he found in an organization called De Einder. With their help David was able to complete all the necessary formalities, and locate the products needed to prepare the potion. He took care of everything, even returning letters that arrived during the last few weeks, marking them "deceased" and stopping any subscriptions that were still active.

David and Willemke made no secret of their intentions and both family and friends were informed of the chosen date, so that there was plenty of time for good-byes. Christmas was a very pleasant occasion, with the whole family getting together in one of their son's houses. Old photos were passed around, together with plenty of memories, some tears, but also a lot of joy, remembering the happy times.

On the final day, a Saturday, the family gathered again, this time at David and Willemke's house. Willemke's favourite accordion music was playing and there was some dancing. Willemke remarked how nice it was to be able to dance out of life. David prepared two pots of yoghurt and the plan was that he and Willemke would each eat a pot while lying on their bed. This is what happened, too, and as each felt the effects of the potion, they waved a final goodbye to their family members.

David had prepared the notice of death for publication in the local newspaper. He even composed a poem to be included in it. The last line read, "Wy ferlitte no tefreden dit ierdse bestean, it wie ús tiid, wy gean." (Contented, we leave this earthly existence, it is our time, we are going.)

David and Willemke, you're a wonderful example. I wish all the best to the family members that supported you in your courageous action.

You can read a Dutch newspaper report here.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Mama Mia, Mon Dieu!

Ah, the dark days when football dominated the sports headlines are over and we are back into the glorious season of the Rugby Union RBS Six Nations Championship. Rugby Union, really the only sport that merits the name sport and light years away from the namby-pambyism of the soccer-pitch.

Anyway, yesterday the 2014 season of the Chamionship kicked off to an excellent start with two very good games.

Wales, the current holders of the Championship, had the honour to host the first match against Italy, played in Caerdydd, and this was followed across the Channel in Paris, where France hosted the team from England.

Four teams and three decent anthems to get the season going: Wales's rather sentimental, but stirring Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (introduced by the French commentator on France 2 as Land of My Fathers for some peculiar reason: if a Frenchman is going to give a title in a foreign language, he can just as well use the language of the song as English, surely?); the Italian anthem, which, let's be honest, bears more resemblance to an opera in two parts than to an anthem, but is wonderful; and then the superb battle-cry of La Marseillaise. Three wonderful, powerful numbers, bellowed out by players, staff and supporters alike and in stark contrast to the call to a mythical being to look after an old woman (God Save The Queen), as sung (if one can use that term) by the English.

Both matches offered some pretty good rugby, with Italy showing still more improvement and giving Wales a good run for their money, even if Wales was never in any real danger. Wales came through well and showed plenty of promise for the rest of the championship, but more work is required and indiscipline (get rid of prop Paul James) can't be tolerated.

The final score of Wales 25 Italy 17 was a fair reflection of the play.

France scared England with a try almost from kick-off and continued to scare England throughout the first half. England came back well in the second half, but Gallic guts won the day and the last ten minutes were all for France, who bravely won an excellent match with a final score of France 26 England 24.

It might be helpful to mention something about the national flags. An English supporter in Paris was frantically waving a Union Flag (commonly called a Jack); the plonker was wrong on two counts: firstly, it is not the flag of England, but that of the United Kingdom (the red cross of Saint George is the English flag); secondly, the flag was flying upside-down. Normally, flying a flag upside down signifies a call for help, so perhaps, given the result, this was deliberate…