I am Welsh. Sort of. I was actually born in England, to an English mother and a sort of Indian father. My father was born in India, but moved to the UK when he was four years old. He grew up in England but moved to Wales when he was eighteen to go to university and never really left (except once, briefly, around when I was born). I’m not sure what nationality he considers himself to be but I don’t think he’d be unhappy to be considered Welsh. My mum, I think, considers herself to still be English, despite having lived in Wales for almost as long as my dad (they went to the same Welsh university but my dad got there a couple of years earlier), but she’s an English person who is fond of Wales. Both my sisters were born in Wales and definitely identify as Welsh. Which brings us back to me. I was, as I say, born in England, but I really only lived there for six weeks, before my parents returned to live in Wales. So I’m Welsh more than I am anything else.
None of this matters of course. I set very little store by nationality really. And I obviously have links to both England and India. And my wife is English. And I now live in England. And to a lot of people who don’t live in the UK, it would be hard to make a distinction between being Welsh or being English anyway. But there is a difference. And it becomes abundantly clear when it comes to sport. And in particular the sport of rugby.
Regular readers will know that I am something of an armchair rugby fan (by which I mean I enjoy the sport of rugby from the comfort of my armchair rather than being a fan of a sport called ‘armchair rugby’. Although if that sport did exist, I feel I might be quite good at it). To be more specific, I am a fan of the sport called rugby union rather than the sport called rugby league. To explain the difference between the two different kinds of rugby would be as difficult as explaining the difference between being Welsh and being English. It’s hard to do and yet the differences are all too clear to those who are familiar with the two sports.
Anyway, if you are a fan of rugby union, then the months of February and March are quite a big deal, because that is when the Six Nations Tournament takes place. The six nations in question are Wales, England, Scotland, Ireland, France and Italy. This in itself is confusing because some people may consider Wales, England, Scotland and a bit of Ireland to be one nation, which they are when it comes to some sports, but not others. Certainly Ireland is rarely considered just one nation, given that the Northern bit is part of the UK and the southern bit is not (and consequently still part of the European Union, which is a whole different headache post-Brexit). Anyway, for the purposes of rugby union, Ireland is just one nation and Wales, England and Scotland are all individual nations too. And they all play each other every year. And everyone beats Italy every year. But generally it’s harder to predict who will win the other games and most teams are capable of beating each other. Which makes it quite a fun tournament to watch. Wales, in particular, have been successful for the most part since 2005. They were pretty rubbish before that, for most of my life, but apparently they were quite exceptional before I was born. And rugby is a massive thing in Wales. When the national team does well, everyone is happy. When they do less well, everyone is less happy.
Match days in Cardiff used to be one of my favourite things. I haven’t been since Little Proclaims was born, but I used to regularly make the trip down to catch up with my friends and enjoy a few beers while watching the game. And then a few more beers after the game. And eventually a really bad hangover the following morning. But Little Proclaims’ arrival has certainly put a stop to that kind of behaviour. For now. Obviously the worldwide pandemic has put a stop to that kind of behaviour for everyone for the time-being so it’s not like I’m missing out.
A few weeks ago I wrote a post while watching Wales’ opening game of the tournament. I had very low expectations because the Welsh team captured the overall mood of 2020 by being quite rubbish throughout. But Wales had been good in 2019, so there was always a chance they would find some form again. They did beat Ireland but it was far from convincing and Ireland had a player sent off, so my expectations remained low. Then they beat Scotland, but Scotland also had a player sent off and so although Wales were two for two, expectations remained low. Wales had been lucky rather than good. Then yesterday Wales played England.
And they won again. There were some controversial moments, and some people might say Wales were lucky again. But it is incredible good luck to win three international rugby games in a row without being any good, so I’m starting to think that they might be quite good again.
Not that it matters, because when Wales play rugby, I drink beer and shout at the TV. And when they win I cheer loudly and I’m very happy. And Little Proclaims really enjoys it when I shout at the TV and cheer loudly and am very happy. So she joins in too.
Mrs. Proclaims does not join in, less because she is English and more because she has absolutely no interest in televised sport. But she does allow me to shout at the TV whenever there is a game on so she supports the Welsh team in her own way.
Anyway, yesterday Proclaims Towers resounded with the joyful sounds of a large inebriated man and a small energetic child shouting “Come on Wales” over and over again. And then, at the sound of the final whistle there was even more shouting and a bit of dancing. It took a while for either of us to calm down.
Still, I’m not sure that Little Proclaims really understood what was going on and this was confirmed earlier today, when I flicked on the TV and discovered that the BBC was showing a football match. It was Crystal Palace versus Fulham (two teams I have no interest in) and it was a boring nil-nil draw. But even though it was a different sport and an incredibly dull fixture, to Little Proclaims it was people running around on grass in a stadium and it looked and sounded very similar to yesterday’s rugby game that we had both so enjoyed. And Little Proclaims was clearly in the mood for some more of that action, because she looked at the dour game on the TV as if all her Christmases had come at once and shouted at the top of her voice “Come on Wales!”