Roman Holiday-The Game
Up the Tiber and onto the Olympic Stadium for the Italy-England rugby game. En route we meet a couple of German rugby fans-it takes all sorts. We marvel at the size of some of the English fans, bursting like plump salamis out of their patriotic shirts, as my friends would say good Yorkshire lads and lassies.
Italy playing England at rugby is like the USA playing us at Soccer. They are getting better, you admire their pluck and of course the odd result does confuse, but basically it’s a mismatch. Last week a 40-9 mismatch.
But there are scores to be settled. Julius Caesar came in 55BC and Veni Vidi Vici. A people, a first nation, devoted to building stone circles and face painting were humiliated by disciplined, heartless Latin legions. A peace loving environmentally conscious Druid loving folk were forced to build camps, villas with roofs,under floor heating, aqueducts, roads and railways. Whips cracked and truncheons were used as the Morris dancers were forced to cha cha cha. We may have bowed our heads but folk memories run deep and the oral tradition passed on the tales of humiliation and sadness. St Augustine tousling the head of blue eyed,slaves and saying “Not Angles but Angels” did not make up for it. And anyway how suspect was that? So the game is pay back time.
But its in the Olympic stadium,built for the 1960 Olympics. Then in the stands a 13 year old lad watched the great Herb Elliot win his immortal 1500 metre gold. Also in that Olympics he would watch the great African marathon tradition begin with the bare foot Ethiopian Abebe Bikila coming an easy first. For the UK that year there were few golden pickings, Anita Lonsbrough in the swimming and Don Thomson in the 20k walk.
Decades later we would lunch with the woman,the mother in law of Vivien’s cousin, who had been kept out of the Olympic team by Lonsbrough. All her cups and medals still proudly on show 45 years later, could not make up for not going to those Olympics. The nectar of victory you taste as a youngster never leaves you, and the disappointment of not moving to the next level is very much part of the growing up process.. For me triumph at school, district, county and SW Counties led to defeat at the All England Championships. As the belly widens and the breath shortens ,the memories of light footed lads and the golden fields of glory only become brighter. There the sun never sets.
- I asked the first Mrs Thompson if she knew who Herb Elliot was, bright as a button she replied a trumpeter. Herb Albert certainly was. Men may well be from Mars but surely women are from a different constellation.