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:

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Max Boyce – The Scottish Trip

Have a great weekend, whatever the score, boys.

More soon.

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The Election Section #4

Ok, so time for some impartiality. Every song so far has been anti-Tory, so let’s see what we can find that is a) pro-Con (which seems a contradiction in terms, but never mind), and b) a decent tune.

Hmmm….

Er…….

Nope.

I’ve drawn a blank on that one. I wonder if we should read anything into that……?

Let’s skip along.

The Lib Dems. Ah yes, we have a song which perfectly describes the public perception of them:

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Lush – Hypocrite

Okay, I may as well be honest. All of the rest of the posts will be anti-Tory, so we may as well squeeze the rest of the parties in now.

SNP? Here you go:

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The Proclaimers – Letter From America

You don’t need me to tell you what its about…

Plaid Cymru? Have this:

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The Alarm – A New South Wales

I genuinely love that record. I think it’s the male voice choir. You can’t argue (well you can if you like, but you’re wrong and lalalala I’m not listening)¬†but there’s something about¬†a Welsh Male Voice Choir (note the capitals) which means I love this¬†(and for that matter this)¬†more even than I love this. (And I love¬†this¬†quite a lot indeed too). I Can’t Explain.

Mike Peters from The Alarm (usually said in the same breathy tones as JimKerrfromSimpleMinds) has long since been a vocal activist in Welsh politicism and for me, this record is bang on the money – for the time it was written, back in the 80s. Since then, South Wales – and Cardiff in particular – has been regenerated beyond belief. Folks tend to be a lil sniffy about visiting Wales, but I would urge you to do so: it’s one of the most fantastic, beautiful¬†places I ever visited, let alone lived in.¬†Cardiff, wonderful as it is, is just the hub. A mere stone’s throw away¬†are such beauty spots as the Brecon Beacons and The Gower and …ohhh…so much more…..

Ahem. I appear to have come over all Rhod Gilbert in those “Come to Wales” adverts.

Ah, feck it.

As someone who lived in Wales for 20 years and loved (almost) every minute of it, I can maybe do better than that.¬†I’m going to get all adopted-Welsh on your butt. There is no finer sound for getting you all tingly and setting your hairs on end than¬†hearing¬†the crowd at the Millenium Stadium (or Cardiff Arms Park, back in the day)¬†than this: Wembley 1999

The crowd don’t seem particularly engaged, do they? Trust me, by the end they were singing, alright.

Those two old looking geezers in the line up (not dressed in uniform) are Tom Jones, who’ll you’ll recognise and need no introduction to, and Max Boyce, who you might not recognise and will need an introduction to. Reader: Max. Max:¬†Reader.

Max Boyce was, frankly, massive in the late 70s and early 80s, coming up as he did from the folk circuit in the same way that Billy Connolly and Jasper Carrott did around the same time. Billy and Jasper are touted as the fore-fathers of alternative comedy, doing observational stuff which didn’t involve mother-in-laws, wives being really fat, or black people called Chalky.

The very odd thing is that Max seems to have been air-brushed out of the¬†accepted populist history of comedy around this time, and I can’t help but wonder if Max hadn’t been Welsh whether he’d have got such a rough deal¬†in the annals (double n, innuendo seekers move along) of history.

I think it’s about time that was put¬†right.

Even though his act was predominantly about Welsh Rugby – or rather, about Welsh men and their rugby¬†(and affectionately, cheekily,¬†anti-English in a way that only a rugby fan could get away with),¬†Max still managed to find favour with many outside of Wales. The even odder thing is that the fact he was popular¬†outside of Wales never seemed to be appreciated or understood¬†by those inside Wales. When I lived in Cardiff, my friends were often gobsmacked that I knew the words to Hymns and Arias and¬†Sospan Fach¬†(not 100% accurately I’ll admit, but still, I had a go…)

I have to concede, I had a leg-up here. On Saturday afternoons when I was a kid, we’d have to drive over and visit the grand parents. I believe I’ve mentioned this before, so I won’t bore you with it again. Suffice to say, Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash were the staple diet of the car’s cassette player, but Max Boyce got a fair look in too. My dad owned copies of “Live at Treorchy” and “We All Had Doctor’s Papers” and they would be played as much as anything else. (My great grandmother,¬†deposited in the car on one such occasion, announced “I have no idea what he is saying, but I’m sure it’s quite rude!”. And yes, she did sound like Lady Bracknell)¬†My dad even burned¬†copies of both these albums for a former flat mate of mine, so desperate was he to prove his non-existent Welsh links.

I met Max once. I was working in Boots the Chemist on Queen Street in Cardiff and I spotted him and hovered around the tills when he got served. He went to one of the prettier, younger ladies who did the till stuff, then looked up at him:

“It’s you, isn’t it?” she said

“Erm…yes…” Max Boyce said, modestly.

“It’s Max, isn’t it?” she said

“Yes, yes I am” said Max Boyce, modestly.

“Max….Bygraves!!” she exclaimed

“Am I fuck!!” said Max Boyce, angrily. “He’s in his fucking 80s!” said Max Boyce not very happily.

So anyway, from those two albums, I give you these:

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and

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But, in an effort to drag this back to something vaguely political, Max wasn’t just about the funnies. Listen to Rhonnda Grey which, to these Anglicised ears, is sadder¬†and more¬†poignant than “A New South Wales”, and paints a picture of the Merthyr, Pontypridd and Caerphilly area I remember from when I first moved there oh so many years ago. Sad and beautiful, see?

Ok so moving on, who’s next?

The Green Party. This seems appropriate:

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Swedish House Mafia feat. John Martin – Save The World

UKIP. Oh, just fuck off, will you? I’m not even going to grace you with a song. We all know what you are.

More utterly biased stuff soon.