Friday, July 10, 2009

Old South Wales welcomes New South Wales

This Wednesday marked the start of an "Ashes" summer. Back in 1882, the touring Australian cricket team beat England for the first time at the famous Oval cricket ground in London. A satirical obituary published in a British newspaper lamented the death of English cricket "which died at the Oval on 29th August 1882". It concluded "the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia". Ever since then, whenever England play Australia in a test match series, they play for the Ashes.

For the past few days I've gotten to work and tuned into BBC internet radio to get live coverage of the first Ashes test match of the summer (for my American readers, a cricket test match has 2 innings per side and is played over 5 days - it's a tiny bit like baseball only good - and without all the spitting). The match looks like it's going to end in a draw, but the big part for me is that it's being played at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff (the Welsh capital) - the first time that a test match has ever been held in Wales.

I tuned in this morning and Jonathan Agnew (one of the commentators on the BBC's Test Match Special) was interviewing Max Boyce - a Welsh folk singer and comedian. I have some of his cds and have seen him in concert several times. I think he's hilarious, maybe because I identify where he's coming from - steeped in the humor of the working class Welsh valleys. His work and music is part of the folklore of Welsh rugby and the communities that revolved around the old South Wales coal industry. Well he was certainly in fine form this morning and had the commentary box (and me) in stitches with his stories and antics.

I remember running the Trail Twister 60k in Bryan, Texas last year. I was going through a bit of a low point around mile 30 when a Max Boyce album came up on my ipod. Well I got so engrossed in his songs and stories I started reminiscing about everything I missed from home. Before I knew it I was at the finish line.

It was kind of the same way this morning.

On top of that, I've been following the Tour de France this week. Having read Lance Armstrong's book earlier this year, I have a greater understanding of the event and it's been a good one to watch. Britain's Mark Cavendish has won a few sections and currently holds the green jersey. That along with the drama of Armstrong's comeback has made for compulsive viewing.

And finally, here's one for both Americans and Brits to celebrate. Unpopular and complaining tourists we may be, but the French are much worse!!!

PS. no sign of baby yet - we're still in a holding pattern. Not sure what I'm going to run on the weekend, but whatever it is I'll be sticking close to home. Maybe I'll have a buzz around Stratford and Scenic.

PPS. Wishing good luck to Sharpie, Moogy, Joe, and all the others currently running the Hardrock 100. Rather you than me :-)


Anonymous said...

It is not good publicity at all for Cardiff or Wales. It will only strengthen the opinion in countries far and wide that Wales is simply a region of 'England'. Cardiff's USP is that it is the capital of Wales, if people consider it simply as another small English city, why will they bother coming again. We should have our own Welsh International Cricket Team. That WOULD be superb news for the Swalec Stadium, Cardiff and Wales, and would generate a lot more income in the long run than the odd game between two foreign countries!

Mark said...

Interesting viewpoint, though I disagree. Wales will never have its own test-playing cricket team - we're just not big (or good) enough. But the more events are staged in Cardiff - be it FA cup finals or test matches - the more people are attracted to Wales. Each test match venue has its own atmosphere, and Cardiff's USP is the culture and legendary friendliness of the Welsh people.

On the evidence of the last few days, it's certainly not the cricket!!!