Monday, March 01, 2010

Cup Final

The UK seems to be obsessed with 'football'. Not the American version you understand, but what the Americans would call soccer.
In fact, there are three versions of 'football' in the UK. There's soccer (a game for hooligans played by hooligans), rugby league (a game for hooligans played by gentlemen) and rugby union (a game for gentlemen played by gentlemen). The latter two bear some similarity to US football without the heavy (sissy-like) cladding.
As a child, all boys in North Wales were encouraged to be soccer player/fans. Personally, I could never understand why. Standing there in shorts, a thin shirt, braving a freezing wind and rain coming off the Irish Sea was beyond me. And that was Summer.
I digress. A couple of weeks ago, America enjoyed the Super Bowl. This is a national event, to be enjoyed by all. This year I missed it, as it was played in the middle of the night to appease the Californians (I blame Mrs. Pelosi, but then I would!). However, a smart BBC TV presenter (there are some) asked an American commentator to describe what it means to watch the Super Bowl in the US as compared to the Cup Final (soccer) over here. The commentator gave a very good description of the 'day' of Super Bowl. I miss that, but hope to be part of it next year after moving in September this year!
Now, time to explain the Cup Final. Any team who can muster 11 able-bodied men can apply to play soccer in a rounds elimination contest for the Cup Final. The emerging two teams are usually two from the Premier League (or Division One as it was called in the old days).
I hope, dear reader, that you are keeping up with this. It reminded me of Cup Final day over here when I was a child. I especially remember Cup Final Day, in 1953. My father (the local Minister) and I duly went to Uncle Non's house. He was known as Uncle Non - but his name was Owen - but he was no relation of mine, although he was thus called by every young lad in the village. He was however related to my best friend Billy. Uncle Non had a TV (perhaps 9 inches - a large one for those days) in his house but an outside lavvy. (There were only 4 TVs in the whole village - population 1,800 - at that time, but some homes had progressed to inside 'toilets' by then, and one's social standing was determined by the 'convenience' being indoors or outdoors. But one's own TV added stature to one's standing in the community.) Uncle Non had fought in both World Wars, and he was a stickler for protocol.
Twenty or so rampant males were crammed into Uncle Non's parlor. Young boys like myself and Billy sat on the floor in front of the TV. A distant cousin of Billy's was also in attendance. He was a little 'odd' - he did come from Blaenau Ffestiniog after all, but perhaps it was because he spoke a strange dialect - BF was five miles away after all.
The smoking effects from the adults meant that I was regularly admonished for coughing. Uncle Non always wore a black suit, white shirt, sensible tie, and a silk scarf for the Cup Final (protocol).
We all stood for the 'Community Singing' section before the game. It has to be said, that the Welsh and singing go hand in hand (think Tom Jones, Bryn Terfel, Paul Potts, or even myself at a push). This was Uncle Non's finest moment. He always sang with gusto (in between the coughing and sometimes off-key). I think I learnt the words of 'Abide With Me' before I learnt anything else in English. After the singing, beer was handed round, which my father refused being the Minister. Bad language was also forbidden by him. I have no idea who played or won - the commentary was in English, but who cared? There was much glee! Auntie Non brought in cakes at half-time. I think they were called 'butterfly cakes'. They were a small cup of sponge, with cream, and 'slices' of sponge supported in the cream. Tea or lemonade was available for the non-drinkers. Us young 'uns devoured the cakes and the lemonade! Uncle Non's daughter - a rather feisty 23 year old as I recall would keep the men supplied with beer. Nain - grandmother in Welsh, pronounced like 'nine' in English - (Uncle Non's mother-in-law) would pop in now and again to ask what was going on. I sympathised with her, as I also had no idea what the rules of the game were. She usually retired to the lavvy to read her newspaper, thus causing a 'blockage' for the men.
Happy days.
Here endeth today's lesson.