THE recent snow and visit by Cardiff to Blackpool FC (sorry to remind fans) kindled memories of a similar journey in reverse.
In the winter of 1976/77 I was in Oswestry, Shropshire. One of the more exciting pastimes was playing rugby – for a team over the border in Welshpool.
They were a rum bunch of mostly hill farmers. Often we had to drag in spectators to make up a team on chilly Saturday afternoons.
We played on sloping pitches littered with frozen cow-pats. My mentor was a giant Boltonion colleague, Dave Hadfield. He went on to cover rugby league for The Independent but I hadn’t held an odd-shaped ball before.
“Don’t shave or wash before matches,” Dave advised. “You want to look as tough – and revolting – as possible in scrums.”
I was a prop forward, because of my thick forehead.
“Just stay away from the ball,” our tactician the club coach advised me.
I was recalling this the other day as snow fell. We were in the comfort of Blackpool’s oldest inn, The Saddle, though sadly its cheery coal fires remained unlit.
My companion was Train Driver Mick (TDM), a strapping lad from Morecambe who knows a bit about coarse rugby himself.
“The training was murderous,” I recalled. “Our coach made us sprint carrying men on our backs, while bent double trailing a hand through mud.”
“It made you the man you are today, mate,” TDM observed.
“Matches weren’t any better,” I went on. “Dolgellau in Snowdonia was worst, full of inter-bred, wild brutes (and that was just the women). We could barely raise a handful to go there.”
But finest hours for Big Dave and me, as honorary Welshmen, were going to international matches.
That memorable season I drove from England to Cardiff through the Brecon Beacons, where the Gurkhas and SAS do survival training, amid snowdrifts banked up like miners’ homes.
The battened-down neighbourhoods in between were remote and tough but memorable - for their down-to-earth welcome.
“I know!” declared spiky-haired TDM gamely. “I played in a rock group that toured South Wales clubs one ferocious winter.”
He grinned crazily at the memory.
“They had a hard reputation but greeted us royally as we’d braved it – and played Tom Jones’
Delilah, that went down a storm.”
Rightly so and, as harsh weather scours our coast, it’s time to muffle up and show what sturdy stuff we Lancashire folk are made of . . .
For remember, spring is just a month away.
* Visit www.royedmonds- blackpool.com for heart-warming stories by Roy; also Plackitt & Booth, Lytham, The Saddle and Countryfresh, Whitegate Drive.