The first week of February means one thing to this red-trousered fellow; the start of Europe’s superb Six Nations rugby tournament.
The nascent part of this annual festival – played by England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and France – gives one an opportunity to drink and graze all day, long before upstanding members of society find appropriate.
Those opening rounds of rugby are tests for a modern man’s body. Essentially we believe we are back at university, even going as far as to believe that England have a chance of winning. It is perfectly normal to watch the early kick off (about 2pm) with a full English and a screwdriver, then end the day coupling a warm beer with a post curry kebab.
The less we discuss the Sunday morning, the better though we retain something in reserve for the weekends when the third game is on that afternoon. And now we face the challenge of periodic Friday evening matches, there are new challenges to plan for.
I prefer to begin a Six Nations Saturday morning with a long scalding shower, like a long hot repentance of self flagellation. The steam and boiling water are able partners in a reawakening process. An invigorating mint shower gel is a fabulous, leaving the showered feeling like Mike Tindall on a night out with a hareem of dwarfs.
The day’s uniform is simple. Collared rugby shirt – a tatty 2003, or earlier, England shirt or an old school shirt – better still with holes and rips. Plain chinos (perhaps a green or cobalt blue) or, if one must, blue jeans. Jazzy socks – I feel that, in honour of the egg chasers, multi-coloured hooped ones will suffice. Finally a pair of suede loafers will complete the ensemble.
Papers. Eggs. Bacon.
Add to that list a pot of coffee and hot toast, liberally garnished with butter, and breakfast is done. Over breakfast devour the Racing Post and be sure to put your bets on for the day early – it would be a travesty to forget to put a bet on a horse that romps in at 12-1!
This year the coverage is split between two houses – the BBC and the commercial channel ITV which provided excellent coverage of the World Cup. There are two safe pairs of hands guiding the viewer through the sporting feast. ITV has opted for the bespectacled Mark Pougatch, whilst ‘auntie’ has once again chosen the inimitable John Inverdale. Poogers and Invers will be surrounded by the European rugby royalty.
The pundits are peculiar lot. Herringbone jackets hide steroid induced biceps for some (yes Mr.Lorenzo Bruno Nero “Lawrence” Dallaglio, I am talking about you) while others will attempt to squeeze their 20 inch necks into smart suits and ties. The vast majority of these terrifying bent nosed and swollen lipped chaps have faces that belie their expensive educations. The others are Welsh.
For the naive viewer a note of caution…never listen to Jonathan ‘Jiffy’ Davies.
Back to the key challenges of match day; where to watch if you are not one of the few blessed with a ticket. If, like many unwise souls, you trot down to the local pub to sing ‘swing low’ with fellow inebriated newts – good luck to you. You will not see or hear any rugby but you will have marvellous day in a packed pub.
I will shrewdly set up station in my flat. The rest of Fulham can dance a merry jig and forget the game on Sunday! A case of lager and an open door is imperative; equally the victuals should be inspired by what a prop forward would eat.
Cocktail sausages, scotch eggs, and a bag of Doritos are high on the agenda. Perhaps cheese grilled nachos? The remit should be that the food must be dunkable. The beer fridge must be assembled in a deeply disciplined cycle – one out and a fresh one to the back of the fridge.
One should endeavour to shy away from anything Scottish all day (sadly this does include whisky, dear reader), with the exception of the evening curry
Once firmly drunk and full to the gills with unhealthy grub I like to totter down to the pub and join the rest of the revellers, unless England lose…and it’s a lonely night in muttering to oneself about what could have been.
God cry Harrry!!