When getting older we often paint a nostalgic gloss over the past, forgetting it was more monochrome – or even shady.
It’s a shock, then, to suddenly come face to face with reality again. This was a little how I felt at the weekend when, glancing over the day’s sporting TV, I saw a cup final televised from Ealing Rugby Union Club. The clubhouse, grounds and facilities looked fantastic – not at all what I remembered.
You see, in my 20s I worked in the Borders and played my first rugby for Welshpool – a small but lively market town. On a tour down to London, as part of a trip to watch an international match at Twickenham, I had my proud moment – playing for them in a morning ‘friendly’ against Ealing. I did okay, too!
Later on, after the international, we were invited back to the club for a ‘Gentlemen’s Evening’. In fact, Ealing was entertaining six visiting Welsh teams, including one from a steelworks notorious for dirty play.
Our captain wisely took us first to our hotel for a spruce up and some food, then we were coached to Ealing’s ground.
The clubhouse back then was like a concrete bunker and, in mid-evening, its doors opened to reveal a Wild-West-like scene.
Strippers paraded around a catwalk and had to fight off drunken assailants. The evening menu arrived in the shape of a tossed burger – hitting me in the face.
Our captain, a village policeman, stood on a beer crate and called our party to order – only to be rudely interrupted by a marauding steelworker.
Captain floored him with one punch, explaining, “He makes me ashamed to be Welsh!”
Coming to our coast, I played my last game at Fylde – quickly realising I was out of my league.
Still, I’ve enjoyed life on the sidelines here ever since.
• For Roy’s books visit www.royedmonds-blackpool.com.