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Bordeaux 2005

By Corey Young,2014-05-20 14:46
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Bordeaux 2005

    Bordeaux 2005

Musings from at least four of the „anciens‟ (the French don‟t piss

    about with subtleties) on the Dartfordians‟ November tour to St

    Emilion and Libourne “Bordeaux” will suffice if Geography was never your strongest suit.

So…

From the North they came. To Aquitaine where once Henry Plantagenet

    and Eleanor reigned before their perfidious offspring blew it. Nevertheless

    once ruling it had given all of us a genetic taste for what they do best here;

    in St-Emilion, the Libournais and Pomerol.

Who were we? Fifteen players and 35 specialist coaching staff, dieticians,

    sports psychologists and fitness trainers to test themselves in „Matches

    d‟Anciens du rugby de toute de France‟. Well, something like that because

    there were other far more gruelling tests to be undergone by the Veteran

    Dartfordians of 2005.

For one tourist, it started at Gatwick, the departure point for the southern

    group of ancients, the elite if you like. They comprised the main body of

    the tour as there were only three „Grim up t‟North‟ tourists who made

    their own way to Aquitaine from Leeds-t‟Bradfot airport to meet up for

    lunch and people unknown, unknowable and most unsighted as in

    birdwatching for thirty years and then some.

Gatwick is a shitheap. We all know that but some of us don‟t know what

    it‟s like for those who need nicotine before, during and after any human

    endeavour. Hence “you will know the true meaning of Purgatory if, like me,

    you have ever done time in the oubliette that BAA (Gatwick) passes off as

    its smoker‟s lounge. Devoid of any comforts and populated by weirdos,

    hoodies, drunks and ladies of the early evening, my fellow inmates set me

    musing. „All that this place lacks‟ I thought „is Lee Van Cleef staring with

    those gimlet eyes through the bars to the courtyard where his necktie

    party was being prepared. Old Lee, unlike me,never gave a toss because

    thhe knew (and we didn‟t) that at the 11 hour that baddest of all baddies,

    Eli Wallach, would come hurtling into town, ignite a stick of dynamite from

    his stogie, blow open the jug through which Lee would appear wreathed in

    smoke. Lee would jump on the spare Pinto and the duo would race off

    hootin‟ and hollerin‟ to El Paso where they would down drinkin‟ likker and

    deflower a few Tex-Mex gals every single one of whom answered to the

    names Chiquita or Conchita. Sadly Eli failed to show and it was Gatwick

    after all. Tab finished, release arrived and I and all ascended to a far, far

    better place Departures.

“Eagerly I anticipated meeting encore my erstwhile cohorts, those flaxen

    haired Adonis‟, those teak hewn sons of the Weald with their Grecian deity

    profiles every last one built like a Russian War Memorial and far more

    useful. Not quite, not now, not really, not ever? What I encountered at

    check-in was:

    ? Tony Littler completely „elaphants‟ ( A wise move to meet up with

    Smudger,Todger,Rappers,Bazza and “ Dave Bond” at the hotel the

    night before to save getting up early the next day. They all got to

    bed at 3.00am!!!!)

    ? Dave Phillips was just as noisy as I remember (but he was in

    charge)

    ? Dave Rapley was just as gently benign

    ? Les Howell was just as genial (and noisily so)

    ? Rabbo was just as perplexed

    ? Mick Renno was still grinning; and

    ? Alan Dow looked like a man who had misplaced his drum kit (you

    know the look)

Later on, in St Emilion, having met up with dear Ron and Tony and Joan

    we were having a splendid lunch when the lovely young waitress suddenly

    cried out “Zut alors, c‟est les flics!” or she would have done had she been

    in a 1950s French movie badly dubbed. I followed her stricken look to

    Reception where two black bereted solid citizens were flanking an evil

    looking myopic cove. “Ooh” she continued “‟e look like we say in France

    „un droit petit maison merde‟” as she pointed to the assumed ne‟er do well.

    Did she really? It says a lot about how French was taught and

    comprended en Dartford n‟est-ce pas?

Once the black chapeaux were doffed the wearers‟ identities were

    revealed. The wider and smaller was the strutting midfield maestro Jean-

    Paul Govier and the taller was none other than the denizen of the twilight

    world of the front row, David Sayers. Their dodgy looking captive was in

    fact the bon viveur and self-assumed authority on all matters, young Dave

    Copeland. The brothers Grim up t‟North had arrived.”

What a sight. Incipient piss-artistry, fat lads by the dozen, grey barnets

    the length of the room (or no barnets at all) and heavy duty rabbiting.

    Ron, our leader and official Ancient (as in Pistol) proceeded in less than

    immaculate French to discompose the Reception youth to the point where

    it looked like everyone would have to be moved to get the three

    newcomers into rooms vaguely of their choosing. The youth, however,

    was sterner than he looked and got the job sorted with a minimum of

    moves and, wherever possible, ignoring Ron‟s strictures. We were in, fed

    and ready to spend the afternoon sightseeing in St Emilion which is a

    UNESCO World Heritage Site but then so is Durham.

The centre of St Emilion, all red pantiles, golden stone, rambling streets,

    changing levels and beautiful buildings was suddenly and quite

    unpreparedly host to the fat and balding as the tourists swept in. Not

    quite like Alaric and his Goths but nonetheless with intent. Unfortunately it

    was Remembrance Day and most of the town was shut. This meant two

    things; bars were in short supply and so, bizarrely, were cigarettes. Also

    in short supply were coffins. Quite why, apart from the obvious, Tony

    Littler wanted one was never fully explained yet he was remarkably

    insistent. As it happened the proprieters of a charming little bar in the

    modern style spoke better English than we did and thought that they

could pursuade a friend to make one. These are the sorts of skills you get

    in historic towns in wine country where the art of barrel making is still

    understood. What‟s the real difference between a coffin and a barrel if

    you‟re burying a fat lad? Sadly the artisan was not around, and despite a

    willingness to buy planks from the bricolage and knock one up instanto by

    any number of half inebriated willing hands, the idea became somewhat

    redundant as the principal instigator demonstrated increasing interest in

    consuming the wine and viandes which the bar proprietors had so

    thoughtfully provided. It gets like that when you‟re old and arseholed.

Dinner that first evening was in a lovely chateau complete with big log

    fires and lotion aplenty. Jean le Grenouille is an absolutely first class host

    and that night was no exception. Beef, rare to the point of hot but not

    cooked as it should be and done on a massive open wood-fuelled grill

    and copious red wine were the order of the night. Not exactly what a

    vegetarian might have wanted but then our vegetarian ,Prop Forward Neil

    Hubble was in luck - a vegetable whip round sorted him out. Home made

    entertainment was just right for the event and nothing on this planet

    comes more home-made than Les Howell. A real contender for the tour‟s „Most Embarrassing Hour‟ award. It made you understand exactly why

    Music Hall died.

And so to the Great Day. When actual rugby was to be played. Not before

    a vineyard visit to one of M. Moueix no less - and a little and quite charming interlude, with drink of course and more delightful food, when

    Ron was made an honorary associate (there is a title which he‟ll explain to

    you at great length if you‟re daft enough to ask) of the Jaurade de St-

    Emilion, the district‟s ancient association of wine growers. This is serious

    stuff. When the whole regional economy depends on the grape and its

    processing into some of the best stuff that will ever willingly pass one‟s

    teeth it has to be serious. Dressed in formal red robes members of the

    Jaurade welcomed Ron and his fellow interns including ex French

    internationals to their new status while the rest of us were royally

    entertained.

The coach then got us to Libourne in what can only be described as the

    most depressing weather. Cold, windy and pissing down; it was vile but

    what can you do? The players (you‟ll recall the purpose of the trip at this

    point) captained or at least shouted at by Dave Phillips could not take

    advantage of their accompanying specialists because they had sensibly

    buggered off into the stand to watch from a distance. And it was a

    distance. In the event, and without guidance on the finer points from the

    distant and by now imbibing support staff they played within themselves

    to lose narrowly in their three games including that against „Les Bleus‟.

    The internationals must have been impressed because the touring party

    were invited back to the French team‟s hotel for – you‟ve guessed it – a

    drink. There had been a moment earlier when overuse of the free Ricard

    bar had caused more than one overindulgent soul to wobble. Nevertheless

    an invitation is an invitation and Dartfordians may be a lot of things but

    churlish isn‟t one. Neither is turning down free alcohol.

Fully refreshed, all that was left to do to ensure a perfect tour was to

    accept our invitation to „une agréable soirée‟, behave gracefully and with

    élan when attending it, have drink or two in the hotel bar, sleep which

    wouldn‟t come hard to most – have breakfast and lunch with wine the

    following day and catch the plane home. Piece of piss.

As soirées go the one hosted by Le Bureau des Anciens de l‟Ovale Club du

    Libournais, La Société Générale partenaire du XV de France and La

    Municipalité de Saint Emilion was bloody agréable. No stinting on food nor

    wine, lively entertainment and the type of dance that old gits can still

    remember. Rumour had it that the 600 odd guest had shifted 1200 bottles

    of the region‟s finest and we left relatively early.

In mellow mood we harrassed the hotel‟s sole barman into keeping a

    steady stream of beer coming from his one tap. The service thus being

    somewhat muted it was surprising to find that not everyone had the same

    level of responsibility when treating with their fellow humans. We quote:

“I was delighted to discover late in the evening that Mick (Renno) had lost

    none of his sense of humour or his legerdemain. Sitting at opposite ends

    of a table in the bar, Mick decided that it would be a rattling good wheeze

    to suddenly whip the table towards him. My full packet of hard to come by

    gaspers fell to the floor, my beer flew upwards and then deposited itself

    directly on to the open packet totally destroying every last weed. I went

    into a „… bastard …‟ number; Mick merely grinned and said “Once you‟ve

    got it, you don‟t lose it” and then mizzled off. No beer bought, no fags

    borrowed as replacements.” Then again you do know that touring

    standards were not exactly invented in the Royal College of Heralds.

Finally we believe that no record of this tour, however inadequate and

    God knows this one is, would be complete without proper awards being

    made. We therefore recommend the following for honours:

    ? The Vivienne Westwood Award for Best Dressed to Tony Littler for

    being a vision alternately in pale green and beige chamois when

    he wasn‟t calling for Huey;

    ? The Routemaster Bus Award for Best Barroom Tan to Alan Dow

    whose nose reached new symphonies of puce as the weekend went

    on;

    ? The Artful Dodger Award for Faithful Kitty Collecting to Ron Bird

    there‟s none better at squeezing out the last drop and ?;

    ? The Michael Barrymore Award for Embarrassing Entertainment to

    Les Howell for his Friday show, „Songs my mother should never

    have taught me‟;

    ? The Enron Award for Blatant Confidence Trickery to Dave Phillips

    for flogging polyester ties as silk. “Trust me. My life”;

    ? The Mastermind Award to Omar Karabadak for forgetting his boots.

    It was after all a rugby tour and there was a squad who knew who

    they were;

    ? The Network Rail Award for punctuality jointly to Tony Littler and

    Alan Dow. Huey again;

    ? The David Sharkey Award for Charm to Dave Driscoll for always

    wanting to do what everyone else didn‟t.

    ? The Bletchley Award for Most Enigmatic to Fred Bassett, seldom

    seen but always there.

    ? The Aladdin‟s Lamp Award for Ubiquity to Rabbo for appearing

    where no one would or could ever guess.

Finally, finally we all would like to thank our hosts, Christian and Raymond

    and all the others who made our stay such a pleasure. We will return.

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