Archive for the ‘Scotland’ Category

The Cambridges

Just a quick note to congratulate the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their new arrival, who is to be called Prince George and instantly became the most eligible man in the world because he will be our future King.

I’m sure he will like living in North Wales as much as William and Katherine do.


Gatland celebratingA quick note to congratulate the British and Irish Lions on their first series win in sixteen years. Bring on New Zealand in four years time!

It has been a great tour and particular praise should go to Warren Gatland who has taken a fair bit of stick for some of his selections, however one doesn’t hear much criticism of any of that after the win.

Guarding the trophy

Congratulations too for the captain of the team Sam Warburton, who you can see a picture of here on his way home. I think the snap shows how much the win meant to him.

With so many Welshmen in the squad it bodes well for the next few years for my team too. I am particularly looking forward to seeing the next six nations tournament when I get home and then on to the World Cup in 2015.

Lions-surfing-on-bondi-beachAfter such a successful tour I don’t really want to pick holes in the preparation of Gatland’s coaching team, but had to mention an obvious flaw I have spotted in their training.

I have seen clear evidence of the Lions team going surfing before the first test and further evidence of them satisfying their wave crave before the third test, but no evidence of any surfing before the second test which they lost. I’m just saying…


WP_20130706_007It is the main event and the whole of the rugby world is looking towards Sydney. There are lions shirts everywhere, in fact so much so you wonder if there are going to be any Australia fans at the game.

Two of my school friends are separately in town and I’m trying to meet up with them before the match because I know how much carnage there will be after the final whistle. Sadly I don’t manage to meet up with Neil, but randomly bump into Emma at a pub on The Rocks before heading to the stadium. We haven’t seen each other since we were teenagers but recognise each other instantly, and catch up over a drink. 

WP_20130706_051Later on I meet up with my section of the lions support and we head towards the ANZ stadium where the atmosphere is building nicely. Chris had secured some great seats for us and after a few beers the game kicked off.

The lions are doing well but an Australia score late in the first half means things are far from certain whilst we discuss the connotations over a half time beer. However in the second half a team made up largely of Welshmen beats the Wallabies into submission and the game ends in a record victory for the lions. 

Lions carnage 1The carnival atmosphere had started for the lions fans some time before the final whistle, with every Aussie fan leaving early getting a round of “Cheerio, cheerio, cheerio!” from 30,000 rowdy Brits in the stadium.

It was one of the things I was really hoping to see on my own tour and our own festivities continued well into the night. As you can see things got a bit messy, and I cannot explain why my friend’s wife is sticking her fingers up my nose, whilst I proudly hold the hat I had liberated from one of the fans of our vanquished foes. The rest is a bit of a blur…



Classic Vs LegendsIn the build up to the deciding test match, a game between Australia and the British and Irish lions was played at the North Sydney Oval close to where I am based. It was an older and fatter version of the main event this week, with the Aussie team being led by David Campese

I persuaded Adam and Romy to come along to the game in a bid to increase the rugby banter in the house in the build up to the final game of the tour.

WP_20130704_001The game also allowed me the opportunity to catch up with an old flatmate from university, who is out here for the whole tour and visiting family.

Firthy and I were very much in opposite camps during the dark days of Welsh rugby when record losses were an all too frequent occurrence and Will Carling’s England were reaching World Cup finals, all of which meant I had to suffer dogs’ abuse for years. As a consequence it was good to catch up over a few beers and be cheering the same side for once. That the test team for Saturday had already been announced with so many Welsh players in the team was pennies from heaven for me too.

Lions FansAs for the match itself, it immediately became apparent to Adam and Romy that the result was somewhat irrelevant. It was largely another excuse for the lions fans to wear their shirts and sample a few more of the local beverages.

Campo tried a few goose steps much to everyone’s enjoyment and the lions team won the game but the moment of the match was Australia’s try in the corner right in front of us. The Aussie flanker who didn’t look like he had run for anything more than a bus in years had to try and make it down the entire length of the pitch after an unexpected interception. Bless him, he looked like he was running in treacle by the time he reached the try line, but just about managed to stumble over the line in slow motion like a falling tree to score to much applause and laughter from the huge crowd who had turned out for the game.


george-north-folau-carryI am going to be brief here because the result is a long time passed. Well played Australia. It was another nail biter that could have gone the other way, but it didn’t so congratulations to them.

However for the rest of my days my recollection of this game will be of George North who should have been in the process of being tackled deciding that he would simply pick up the tackler rather deal with being hindered by him, and just run with him as well as the ball.

I’ve never seen anything like it in all the years I’ve been watching rugby. Just Awesome! Here is a clip if you would like to see for yourself: 



Me and RickI have been in Sydney for about 10 days and am delighted to hear from one of my old neighbours in the flats I used to live in back in London. Rick is a Kiwi who works in the oil business and is now based in Singapore.

However he is in town for a couple of nights on business and we take the opportunity to catch up over a few beers.

Lions vs RebelsWe meet up in a rugby club that is located right in the heart of the city. There is not a rugby pitch in sight, but the atmosphere there for the game between the Lions and the Melbourne Rebels is like any rugby club in the world.

We are joined by one of Rick’s colleagues James and have a great laugh watching the game, whilst reminiscing about motorcycle trips across Europe to Austria with the rest of our ‘chapter’ Dom and Adam, who join in the fun back in London via the internet. A great night.



It is somewhat ironic that Adam and Rosanna’ household is as uninterested in the lions tour as I am enthusiastic about it. As a consequence I go out to watch the game with some ex-pat surfing friends of mine from back in the UK.

Chris is another old flat mate of mine from back in London and I have surfed with Ben many times in the UK. We are joined by Saul who also lives locally.


All are now living in the Sydney area, and we bump into countless others because there is an army of lions fans who are all out in Manly, where we are watching the game.

We have opted for The Steyne Hotel and the bar is packed so there is a fantastic atmosphere. It also appears that Brits outnumber the Aussies because a lions’ score always gets a bigger cheer than a Wallabies one. 

NailbiterThe game itself was a nail-biter going down to the last kick of the game where had Kurtley Beale not slipped over there is every chance that Australia would have won the game. However he did, and they didn’t. Unlucky!!!! 1-0 Lions, lions, lions!!!!

Things get a bit chaotic towards the end of the evening when one of our party who shall remain nameless gets shown the door. Although it brings an end to our evening I am quite impressed by the approach to booze in Australia. If you have had enough they stop serving you and you are asked to leave. There are sobriety checks on every door to stop you moving your grief to somewhere else too. There was a time when the landlord did the same in the UK but we seem to have lost that somewhere down the line. Shame.

You can’t by alcohol to take home anywhere other than a pub or an off license either. I haven’t seen one drunken brawl anywhere in Oz yet. I will leave you all to make the connection yourselves, because I was too drunk by the end of the night to make it myself!


Marlborough Sounds 1

I stump up the cash for another ferry crossing back to North Island. Marlborough sound really is pretty but it isn’t anywhere close enough to justifying why it is $300 to take a campervan across.

My credit card takes the hit and I try to forget about it as soon as possible.

British & Irish Lions 2013I arrive in Wellington and find a campervan park right on the waterfront where I stop for the night. I get settled in and then head straight out into the city to see on of the lions tour matches.

It is so long ago now that I can’t even remember who they were playing, but given I missed much of the game due to getting my time differences wrong that is not surprising. I caught the last five minutes of what was a rout and there is nothing much to report on the game itself.

AnimationI did however make some new friends in the bar which had plenty of ex-pats in it enjoying a night out. I got adopted by a table of computer animators who were all originally from the UK but now based here and working for Peter Jackson and the other movie companies based in the area on post production work.

It is more than a bit parky at the moment and we a freezing as we go on a bit of a pub crawl but it is a fun night for me despite missing most of the game.


Darien_Gap_MapThe Darien Gap is the informal title given to the break in the highway which would otherwise run from Alaska to Chile. It gets its name from Darien, which is the largest and eastern most province in Panama, but also includes the northern extremes of neighbouring Colombia. It is what stopped me driving on towards South America

It is a vast area of rugged, sparsely populated, jungle covered terrain, which is second only to the Amazon in scale and within it’s confines are the huge Darien National Park and a self governing indigenous area.

Darien ColonyEuropeans first visited The Darien in the early 1500s. However people from my own shores arrived in 1696 when 2500 Scots tried to establish a trading colony. Many of the settlers died from disease, and those that didn’t had everything destroyed by Spanish soliers a few years later.  So much of Scotland’s wealth was invested in the colony, and subsequently lost, that Scotland was nearly bankrupted and effectively lost its status as an indepent nation as a result of the fiasco.

I know how they must of felt because all my own best laid plans are starting to look more than a little shaky because I can’t off-load the car. I have now significantly dropped the price to get rid of it, because it will be impacting on my later plans in a big way if I allow things to drag on much longer. A cheap selling price is not ideal but the financial implications of the potential delays, the time itself and the administrative overhead of any changes needed, will be far more costly for me in terms of this trip.

Darien KidsDrastic times call for drastic measures and I spotted this place a few doors down from my hostel yesterday. ( I have decided that if I do not sell by lunchtime on Monday I will walk into their offices and hand over the keys. That would be outrageously generous of me but I really have had enough of feeding the local mosquito population and just sitting around for days on end. We did something similar on the Sahara Surf trip, so it wouldn’t be the end of the world and a lot of good would come from it, not least me leaving!


Warburton CaptainCongratulations to all those selected to be a part of this year’s tour of Australia, and especially so to Sam Warburton for being asked to captain the British and Irish Lions.

It makes him the first Welshman to be captain of the team since 1977. I can’t wait to get out to New Zealand and Australia where I can enjoy all of the tour later in my travels without having to get up early to do so. I will be seeing them play at least one game in the flesh too.

British & Irish Lions 2013Being good enough to play for the team which only tours every four years and is made up of the best of the best of the home nations rugby sides, is the absolute pinancle of any player’s career if you are from the UK.

For that reason I think the press should be making more of the fact that anybody has made the team, rather than running the story with the headline that Jesus Wilkinson is not going because he didn’t feel up to it.

It is pretty insulting to everybody who does want to go down there and will be putting absolutely everything on the line for games which they may only get one opportunity to play in during their career. I can only offer my utmost support to anybody who has been selected.

The test match I saw with Genevieve and Clem in South Africa four years ago still remains the most brutal game of rugby I have ever seen. I’m looking forward to the same level of commitment this time around and no quarter being given by either side. However I can admit to wanting the Lions to win the series a tad more than I should, due to the two Aussies who abandoned me in the desert in Mexico.