Sunday, 18 March 2012

GRAND SLAM: SPOT OF TIME

There are in our existence spots of time,
That with distinct pre-eminence retain
A renovating virtue, whence–depressed
By false opinion and contentious thought,
Or aught of heavier or more deadly weight,
In trivial occupations, and the round
Of ordinary intercourse–our minds
Are nourished and invisibly repaired;
A virtue, by which pleasure is enhanced,
That penetrates, enables us to mount,
When high, more high, and lifts us up when fallen.

William Wordsworth

I wasn't fallen, but there was undoubtedly something renovating about that last 90 seconds yesterday, when a choir 70,000 strong were singing Max Boyce's 'Hymns and Arias' as Wales went through the phases towards full time and yet another Grand Slam.  The paradox of the choir is that it makes you fully yourself alive while being a small part of something else.  We were all doing the same thing and we were all being ourselves.  And that noise and that outpouring, all that pride and praise, in  90 seconds turned those on the field from mere mortals to beings little short of gods.  This was a great Grand Slam immeasurably better than 2005 and 2008, perhaps because it followed the heartbreak of the World Cup (and that wasn't about losing to France, it was about losing the opportunity to beat New Zealand in the Final).  At the end Dan Lydiate was interviewed on the pitch.  There he was on the big screen.  No-one could hear a word he was saying - not a word - but we saw him looking at us with that boyish, innocent face, looking around at the crowd, grinning and wondering, Me?  He was immense, player of the championship, but who on the Welsh team wasn't?  It was a terrific match, hard and tight and no quarter give.  Dusautoir - what a player - was everywhere, Halfpenny was nerveless (what a thing to see that long kick, and think, THAT'S how you do it!), the French defence as good as the English was against them or the Irish against Wales.  Damn nearly as good as the Welsh defence itself.  the whole thing was absolutely bloody marvellous.  It made me feel young again, just for a spot of time.

O pleasant exercise of hope and joy!
For mighty were the auxiliars which then stood
Upon our side, us who were strong in love!
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very Heaven! O times,
In which the meagre, stale, forbidding ways               
Of custom, law, and statute, took at once
The attraction of a country in romance!


Two more points: The French supporters were wonderful, full of voice and song and spirit and immensely generous, with the exception of one lone idiot voice in that quiet crowd as we remembered Mervyn Davies.  And a shot of Gerald Davies, tears in his eyes, remembering, no doubt, his old friend, and their own peerless triumphs.


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