I had a relaxing train journey in yesterday, as getting to Birmingham to start work at Aston Villa for the World Cup for the World Cup for 9am would have meant me being in huge queues of traffic, which would have stressed me through the roof. I read a newspaper, a book, and arrived relaxed for the challenge ahead.
We had a tour of Aston Villa (soon to be known as Aston Nilla) starting with a Health and Safety talk in the Police Station. There were two cells, home and away, and monitors for the police to watch for those who cannot watch a game without starting a fight. We were also warned not to take any photos of Villa's internal rooms and post on social media, otherwise, we would be thrown off site, therefore, my photos are somewhat limited.
The ground, being an old one, had many tunnels, back routes, stairs that you can easily get lost in, but providing we find the right space code away we go.
The e-mail promised a bottle of water, which still hadn't come when morning break came at 11am. Tea of Coffee? When you don't like either, it might as well have been cyanide or arsenic). The first vehicle arrived as we were ready for lunch, but we quickly got into work mode, and unloaded it in the rain. The contents were tables, chairs, safety boots, hi-vis jackets, but no water.
Lunch was a cheese sandwich with crisps and a Snickers Duo. With no water it was like eating rubber bands and sandpaper. We called Aston Villa, the RWC staff, did a rain dance, but still no water.
We were told that we would finish at 5pm, but we all had thrown ourselves into it and smashed it by 4pm, including getting rid of the stretch wrap and cardboard, which allowed me to leave early.
I was glad I did, as I then remembered why I gave up travelling on trains. Because by mid-afternoon, they all go badly wrong. The first call was 'the 16.30 to Edinburgh (calling at Derby) is delayed by 45 minutes, as there is a trespasser on the line. Second call: "the 16.49 to Nottingham, calling at Derby disappeared off the board. This train had broken down. Miraculously, they'd found a 5 carriage instead of a 2 carriage train. and it pulled onto the platform. Everyone assumed that this one was the 17.03 to Edinburgh (calling at Derby). I eventually get onto the train with the 100s of others. Three train loads of people onto one train. I was lucky, I had a seat on the luggage rack, most stood. I got back into Burton 10 minutes late, flustered as I was worried that I'd miss the second event of my day: The Official RWC welcome to the Ireland Team.
I had to get changed in my car. That was really difficult, as people kept walking past my car. Still eventually I did it, and walked back to Burton Town Hall, found a seat as close as possible to the team, and then looked down. I only had one sock on!!
It started over 30 minutes late, mainly because the Irish team spent time signing autographs, having selfies with everyone outside. When they entered, there was a rousing welcome that took them by surprise. Things like this don't happen in Burton, and when they do, the locals respond. 400 clapped and cheered the team in. Devon Toner, 6' 10" tall, didn't only have to duck to get through the door, but also duck to get under the balcony on the way in. A school in Coventry started the event off with their version of 'A World In Union' and it was a damn site better than the murdering of the song by Paloma Faith which starts the ITV coverage. The children couldn't wipe the smile off their faces.
Paul O Connell gave a speech, which showed the aura of the man; he has a presence that is difficult to explain. You look up to him, follow him, a gentle giant who grows in stature on the pitch. He was surprised at the level of support in the crowd outside. Perhaps he needed a quiet word. The Midlands, including Burton is full of a diaspora of second, and now third generation Irish who came over in the 50s and 60s to work in the manufacturing, in Burton's case the breweries and Pirelli in particular.
A friend's daughter sang to finish the evening off. A Wonderwall sandwich (I didn't know the song in the middle) that reminded me of the Lions tour.