Saturday, March 17, 2007

England vs France - 11th March 2007

Back when time forgot, Ian and I were at a rugby dinner in KL hosted by Austin Healey, the ex-England international. During the evening they had an auction for a hospitality trip to Twickenham to watch England against France in the 6 Nations.

It all sounded great but our glasses were empty so we let them get on with it while we tried to get a waiter's attention. It took ages and much gesticulation, we were a bit frustrated (not to mention thirsty). When the waiter eventually came, you can imagine our surprise when he turned out not to be a waiter at all but was the auction guy asking for our credit card and congratulating us on winning the bid!!!!! Oops! (A bit of poetic license here - but who am I to spoil a good story by the facts).

We arrived in England, got to the hotel and went straight out for a 10k run around Hyde Park - an excellent way to get the body going after a long plane ride.

Later we met up with one of Ian's police buddies who is one of the principle fire arms instructors for the police force (and special forces). He took us to one of the Police firing ranges and unleashed us on the firing range with some serious hardware.

First off with a MP5 SMG and then a Glock 9mm pistol. We shot off about 250 rounds - it was awesome - thank you John.

Then it was off to the theatre to watch Mamma Mia. Interestingly the tickets were no where to be found and we had to blag our way in. A bit stressful but we made it (in fact the tickets got delivered to Ian's room the day after!!!). The show was excellent and afterwards we met up with Ian's buddies John and Steve in the evening and also my buddies Andy Brown and Sean Murtagh. It was really great to see them. A few beers were downed and old times reminisced.

The next morning was shopping day and also Chris and India came up from deepest darkest Kent to catch up. It was great to see them and we also met up with Ed, one of our old sailing buddies from college. Lots of shopping and a big lunch later Ian and I were left to our beer drinking exploits - we're obviously getting old though as we ended up having an early night (we justified it as preparation for the big day tomorrow).

We arrived at Twickers with plenty of time to spare, we got our passes and dived into the souvenir shop (which was huge). I thought Ian might not leave anything for anyone else and eventually I dragged him away – after all there was Guinness and Champagne to be drunk.

True to form we were first to our table and Ian introduced me to the delights of Black Velvet (Guinness and Champagne cocktail).

The rest of the table eventually arrived including Austin Healey. You can only imagine the surprise on our faces when two of our table members turned out to be French (they'd won the auction from Austin's Hong Kong dinner). Oo ere we thought, France were the favourites to win and there were a couple of Fenchies here to rub our noses in it! As it turned out they were great company (and England had a surprise or two on the pitch as it turned out).

The weather was amazing, not a cloud in the sky and Fortress Twickenham has an electric atmosphere. The players came out, we sang the national anthem and the game was on. I've never known 40 minutes pass so quickly and we went in at half time a few points behind but looking strong and the better team.

During the second half England really started to play with some flare, whereas the French looked flat and out of sorts. Two awesome tries later and a few kicked points, the victory was ours! Icing on the cake (I'd expected a French win). Icing on the icing on the cake was that I won the table sweep-stake for predicting the time of the first try. 55 quid - thank you ladies an goodnight!

Back to the Players Lounge and it was buzzing. Mike Catt the England captain and three players came by for a Q&A session. Very cool.

Just as he was leaving Mike begged me for a photo with him, he said it was for his Mum so how could I refuse.

The rest of the evening became a little hazy and there seemed to be no end of Frenchies around - I have to say what a good spirited, friendly crowd they were - every last one of them to a man.

Big respect guys.

The next day we somehow dragged ourselves out of bed and to the airport. We had arranged to spend a couple of days in Dublin as neither Ian nor I had ever been to Ireland. We met up with a buddy of Ian's, Mike McAndrew who looked after us royally.

We stayed in an area called Temple Bar which is the hub of Dublin night life. An early night was had and an early morning (very chilly) run was embarked upon. Ian abandoned ship after a couple of kilometres as it was very cold and he was running in his best tropical running kit. I managed to keep at it for 12-13k and got back very invigorated.

Later we took a bus tour around Dublin and one of the stops inevitably was the Guinness Brewery - fascinating.

A few Guinness were had and the rest of the tour completed with a warm glow in our bellies.

Not much else to report. The next day we flew back to London, then Malaysia. AN OUTSTANDING TRIP!!!