DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 32 2018
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 8
My wife, Marie and I depart for a UK/Ireland adventure. Cathay check-in staff are very helpful. An ex-Woodville Aussie rules chap is keen for a chat in Qantas Club. He is going to Greece, via Dubai. The female skipper of our flight is a New Zealander.
Jazz great, Don Burrows has turned 90. I saw him and his band play at Rockdale Town Hall in Sydney in 1970. Our nephew, Kieran Ricketts is a talented musician, and plays piano at different venues in Brisbane, as well as retirement homes.
Our daughter, Melanie, who is based in Singapore, turns 39 today.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 9
Marie and I enjoy Bridge Lounge at Hong Kong Airport. Captain (Alex) Cook is our pilot, from Hong Kong to Heathrow, London. Even though we are in business class, the service and food is average. Movies I watch, include Chappaquiddick, Three Billboards Outside Epping, Missouri and American Made. Watch the start of ‘Inferno’, but it is crap. Watch ‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool’ instead. Great views of a large river and pristine countryside near Novosibirsk, Omsk. Last movie is Borg Vs McEnroe, which is better than I thought it would be. I slept for five minutes on the trip.
At Heathrow, we are met by our driver, Rasheed, who takes us to Oxford. An Arsenal fan, he listens to soccer transfer news on the radio, all the way to our destination. But we don’t mind. He is a good driver, and a nice chap. As we cruise into Oxford, he points out a 17-year-old Oxford Town (soccer) junior, walking along the street, Our hotel is quaint. Our first pub stop is ‘The Crown’, where the barmaid refers to me as ‘my lovely’. Evidently Shakespeare and the Beatles enjoyed an ale or two here, but not at the same time. We also enjoy drinks at Chequers, where Andy Robbins is the live artist.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 10
Coffee from trendy Ratio is OK. It is garbage collection day, and there are lots of people sleeping rough, particularly around the Baptist Church. Singapore Noodles at Westgate Shopping Centre, followed by drinks at Head of the River pub, and then a walk along Thames Path. Watch an Asian family make an absolute meal of rowing. They literally went round in circles, but at least they had a go. We follow River Cherwell to Botanic Gardens, and then explore beautiful Magdalen College. ‘Kings Head’ pub is crowded with academic types. ‘Morse’ was one my favorite TV shows, but we haven’t designed our pub visits around it. ‘Express’ newspaper carries a big story, written by Ross Heptonstall, on Toronto Wolfpack Rugby League Club. Dinner (mussels for Marie; Breton chicken moi) at a little brasserie, where the bill includes a 12.5 percent ‘optional’ tip.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 11
A rude Pakistani chaps serves me in a newsagency. Just grunts when I say hello and thank you. We pick up a hire car from Avis, which has shifted to the outskirts, without having notified us that their former site in the town centre (where we were told to do the pick-up) had shut for good. They are full of apologies and the gentleman who looks after us, is efficient and friendly. Before us, he had looked after four American ladies, who were heading to Whitby in Yorkshire, and he did everything for them, except drive the car there. A Sydney couple arrive after us, and her uncle (an Edwards) coached star back, Phil Blake, before he joined Manly-Warringah Rugby League. We drive to Hay-on-Wye, via one drink at a Severn River pub, ‘Red Lion’ at Norton. Marie and I are stunned by how fast cars go, along the narrow road in front of the pub, especially as there is a lot of pedestrian traffic, from the pub, to a riverside beer garden. We also have one drink at Hope and Anchor at Ross on Wye. Kids are playing pool and there is a bloke smoking at the bar.
On our arrival at Hay-on-Wye, in pouring rain, we are shattered by the quality of our accommodation, ‘Half Moon House’. We almost weep. There is a window open on one of the upper floors, with what appears to be hoarded stuff poking out. We were so looking forward to staying here (we had booked for six nights) and it goes to show how photos can lie. The proprietor, Tamara Gordon, a film producer, is attending a music festival in Bristol, and her daughter has left a message asking us to feed her gold fish. After unsuccessfully trying to get a beer at ‘Blue Boar’, we leave. At ‘Kilvert’s’ pub, a Welsh couple get refund for under cooked chips. I mean, how do you get chips wrong!? This is not a great start to Hay. For dinner we have tapas, at a crowded place, which is pretentious. An Austin Powers lookalike (and soundalike) sits near us, with a Sicilian looking lass.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 12
We slept OK, although going to the loo – across a common access walkway – was dangerous in the dark, because there were so many tripping hazards. That’s after you manage to struggle out of the floor level bed. I can’t get hot water in the shower. Marie succeeds. Coffee from ‘Granary’, as ladies prepare craft stalls in Buttery market place. At the tourist office, a lovely lady suggests alternative accommodation (they didn’t have Half Moon House on their books). We opt for ‘Bookend’. Walk across the Wye River to Steam Vintage Rally at Boatside Farm. It is a great experience. Marie loves the fairground (music) organ. Rich Goodwin’s Air show is spectacular. Lots of characters at the rally. On our return to town, we have two drinks at Three Tuns, where our barman (ex-Rotherham) talks up Wye Valley Brewery. We chat about pesticide practises by farmers.
Tamara Gordon arrives from Bristol at 6.15 p.m., with her daughter. She delivers dish washing liquid, tea bags and a sink plug, after we point out those, and other, deficiencies. And, yes. I did feed the gold fish.
Dinner at Indigo Red, where the Indian waiters are having demarcation issues.
Former Great Britain rugby league skipper, Shaun Edwards is to return to the 13 man code, as coach of Wigan, after a long stint coaching in union.
Learn of the passing of former Balmain and North Sydney back, Laurie Moraschi, 75, who played for Griffith Black and Whites in the Riverina, before moving to Sydney. Moraschi and Queenslander, Kevin Yow Yeh were centres for Balmain in the 1966 grand final, which St George won 23-4.
Photo 1: The Crown, Oxford
Photo 2: River Cherwell, Oxford
Photo 3: Magdalen College
Photo 4: Half Moon House, Hay-on-Wye
Photo 5: Half Moon House’s courtyard bbq
Photo 6: Steam rally