6th February 2011. Good result for the England XV in the opening match of the Six Nations on Friday night in a hyped-up Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. A very physical, aggressive and confrontational match with the Welsh was not helped IMHO by all the hype that went on before the game. I must admit to an intense dislike for all that pre-match hoop-la that we get these days. I think the worst two offenders for it are Wales and Scotland. On Friday night, we had complete overkill - with a Welsh male voice choir, sheets of flame that would do an oil rig proud, all the dry ice 'smoke' and lights at the players tunnel, Tom Jones hits belting out on the sound system, military goats et al.. To me it's all so unnecessary. I don't need to be pumped up artificially by all this nonsense. Don't mention warbling sopranos singing the anthems either.. aaagghh!
It's the same in Scotland - a lone piper standing up on the roof somewhere, more fireworks, smoke and mirrors, overflights by the RAF, and then that awful maudling "Flower of Scotland" - great when sung by the Corries before a crowd of 'folkies' - but, at the risk of annoying those north of the border, as a national anthem it leaves a lot to be desired - "And send them homeward, tae think again.." - in your dreams. What's needed is the rambunctious "Scotland the Brave.." Sing something rousing that lifts the spirits - not some dreary folk song cocking an eye to the past. Accept no substitutes. Here's a clip that captures all that's best about Scotland.. makes me shiver listening to it even now..
In the interests of balance (been watching too much BBC) I have to say, and it might be viewed as heresy in some quarters, but "God Save the Queen" wouldn't inspire me to crush a paper cup.. Needless to say, the ones that get my vote are the Marseillaise, Fratelli d'Italia, Land of my Fathers (Wales) and both of the Irish ones.
As I made my way down to the river early yesterday morning it was marginally less cold than it's been over the last few weeks - I hope we've seen the last of that cold spell. I went out in an VIII set up for rowing (ie, with one oar). It was one of those strange sorties that comes along every now and again when, with a club crew who have rowed together before, it didn't seem to matter what exercise we did or corrective action we took, the boat remained chronically unstable, without any of us being able to put a finger on what was going wrong. It made for an uncomfortable sortie. Did 12km (running total: 418km)