The Scottish Trip

The Six Nations recommences today, and now that Wales v England has happened, things get a lot easier for me.

See, as an Englishman who lived in Wales for twenty years, my allegiances are always torn when it comes to matches between the two; although it’s almost ten years now since I lived there, I still love the land of valleys and song, and I want them to win every time they play, but I can’t quite stretch that to include when they play England.

For the first few years that I lived in South Wales, I was always terrified of being identified as an Englishman when the two teams faced each other. I really need not have worried, at least not when it came to the rugby crowd; the only time I got any hassle for being English was whilst either watching England play football in a bar (and specifically, the 1996 Euro Semi Final against Germany), or immediately after a Wales v Holland football match when I just happened to be in the vicinity of the stadium. But I can look to one event which made me realise that I wasn’t going to get the living crap beaten out of me by a Welsh rugby fan for having the wrong accent.

In the mid-1990s, I was making excellent use of my degree by working as the manager of a video shop in Cardiff, about five minutes walk away from Cardiff Arms Park; I would invariably work on a Saturday, including match days, and we would watch the crowds flowing past the shop window on the way to and from the stadium.

On one occasion, I was there with Matt, a student who worked the occasional weekend. After the game, the crowds slowly began to drift by, and you could tell who had won by their demeanour and drunkenness. This Saturday, England had won, so I decided to keep a low profile.

One of our regular customers came in, obviously under orders from his other half to pick up a film on his way home to watch that evening. He was a giant of man, mulletted, wearing the Welsh shirt with pride and not a few suspicions stains. He was also quite ridiculously pissed, swaying as he stood trying to focus on the new releases.

Finally he made his selection, wobbled up to the counter at which point Matt piped up: “Been to the game, have we mate?”

The bloke looked at him. “Yerrrr…”

“Perhaps you’d like to discuss the result with this Englishman here?” Matt suggested, gesturing towards me and stepping sharply out of the way.

The drunk guy stared at me, a puzzled look on his face, and I felt my blood turn cold. There was no doubt that even though he was drunk and there was a counter in between us, if he took against me I’d had it.

Instead, he held his hand out. A trap, I thought. If I shake that, he’ll pull me over the counter and cave my head in. His hand remained outstretched and unshaken for what seemed an age. In the end, I could ignore it no longer, and I offered my hand in return.

“Fair play,” he said as we shook hands, “your boys outplayed us.”

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Matt look so disappointed.

Years later, when I had stumbled into the line of work I’m in now, many of the blokes in the office would travel to see some of the away games, specifically the ones against Ireland or Scotland. They would often ask me to join them, but I always declined. By this time I had adopted a policy of feigning indifference to the whole sport; I found that meant I was spared the ribbing that English colleagues got whenever Wales were triumphant.

They would return regaling me of stories drunkenness and singing, not entirely unlike this, which, since many of them will be travelling up to Scotland this weekend, deserves an airing:


Max Boyce – The Scottish Trip

Have a great weekend, whatever the score, boys.

More soon.

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6 thoughts on “The Scottish Trip”

  1. Very funny – Had almost forgotten how good Max Boyce was. Also I do love a story and a song as you know, and this is a good one. As someone who is Scottish but always shared flats with people from England, I feel your pain. Also I really enjoy these stories where someone you are initially highly wary of, counters the stereotype. Gentle giants. (I am by the way a bit smitten by Rag ‘n’ Bone Man at the moment and not someone you would usually relish bumping into on a dark night!)

    May the best team win today.

    1. Max was massive in the 70s, wasn’t he? And so much more than the “just a Welsh rugby comedian” tag which has been unfairly attributed. His much more of a folk act, in the mould as early Billy Connolly and Jasper Carrott in my book. Cracking game so far too, by the way (and I need to hear more of this Rag’n’Bone chap)

      1. Well there we have it – Good game and we seem to be at the top of the table at the moment! Yes can’t think of any comedy persons like Max, Billy and Jasper nowadays, just so identifiable with their part of the country (oh and Dave Allen) – maybe they all have to be a bit more cosmopolitan and international nowadays. Am tempted to share a clip of a brilliant comedy act from my neck of the woods called “Scotland the What” – The language of Aberdeenshire is Doric and if you can understand any of you’d be doing well.

  2. I was never into rugby. All the rugby fans I knew were utter meatheads, wankers who wouldn’t think twice about shoving your head through a window if you looked at them a bit funny. But then I moved to Wales. What a contrast. Here, rugby is a religion. The streets are dead during the Six Nations, especially when it’s Wales v England. The passion the Welsh have for their team, the unadulterated love they have for the game – that’s what won me over. I’m a Wales fan through and through despite being English. My friends here branded me an honorary Welshman, though the occasional one (a certain valley boy) will still call me an English c***, but he’s just winding me up. I give as good as I get!

    My daughter and I went to watch Wales v Ireland at the Millennium Stadium just before the World Cup a couple years ago. A bunch of English blokes were sat behind us. A more obnoxious group of tosspots you couldn’t wish to meet. I whispered to my daughter “Ever wondered why people hate the English so much?” She smiled wryly. She was born in England but considers herself Welsh. I think that day only served to reinforce that.

    I should point out though – the football crowds are a completely different kettle of fish. It’s terrifying if you find yourself amongst that lot…

    1. I kind of had you in mind when I was writing this. Totally agree about the difference in attitudes to rugby in England and Wales, and Cardiff on a match day is place of enormous fun. I never did go to a match there (though I did score a try at The Arms Park…but that’s a story for another day) but once I’d embraced it,some of my happiest nights out in Cardiff were on match day. The Philharmonic on St Mary St was always the bar of choice back in the day; a tiny bar upstairs which would be absolutely rammed. No idea if it’s still there (with the massive redevelopment of Cardiff that’s happened in the past ten years I’d be surprised if it survived), but if you’ve ever seen “Human Traffic”, it’s the bar they all meet up in the day after the night out.

      1. The Philly is still there having recently been sold. Cardiff is a delight on matchday, the atmosphere is terrific. Sadly, the fall of the Welsh team over the past three years has been quite dramatic. I did think Scotland would get the better of us today, especially on recent form. I think Gatland may have run out of ideas, and everyone else has a Southern Hemisphere coach now. Still, it all comes around in cycles and for a while, Wales had the best rugby team in the Northern Hemisphere.

        Let’s just keep our fingers crossed for the Scots next week… 😉

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