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Friday, September 11, 2015

Rule the World - Take That

N.B. Not a Take That fan, but had to use a second song as a theme is emerging.

I set off with Geordan Murphy, or at least his book, from Snow Hill station to get down to Marylebone to attend the  #WearTheRose send off for the England Rugby Team with Take That. On arrival, a call of nature meant that I had to dig for change in my purse. The 30 pence I paid to go was well worth it, as the loo had been decorated like a Monopoly Board, with each cubicle having a different token on the door, (hat, dog, car etc.) and in the cubicle, a street card on the wall. (I went in ‘Regent Street’, certainly wouldn’t use ‘Old Kent Road’.) I took photos and jumped on the Tube to go to the O2. I went in my rucksack for some reason and couldn’t find my purse. In a hot and cold sweat, I jumped off the train at Baker Street and went back, not expecting to find it, but it had only been 5 minutes, so maybe I would be lucky. I don’t know whether it was the excitement of seeing something I wasn’t expecting, the dodgy zip on my ruck sack, or just plain carelessness, but as I arrived back at Marylebone, my name was being called over the tannoy. Someone somewhere had been honest and handed my purse, plus money in. (Thank you whoever you are, not only this act had restored my faith in human nature, but it pumped me up for the evening’s events.

On arrival at the O2 Arena, the ‘Make Them Giants’ marketing and posters were everywhere, the success of the #WearTheRose clear to see as white shirts were in the majority, although the occasional Take That fan hadn’t quite got the message. I met my sister and we ate in a Pie Shop – Pie and Mash, what else to eat in the East End? (drinks paid for by O2 Priority – great marketing!)
We took advantage of the Sky Marketing and went into the Sky Backstage, for pre-event drinks. Like ‘Talk Sport’, Sky Sports only really featured Premiership football, not even the different levels , even the International team didn’t get a mention. I wondered if that’s why Premiership Rugby jumped ship?

We entered the Arena early and watched the white shirts slowly come in. A few rows in front of us, a large couple in All Blacks black shirts came in with beers, hotdogs and chips. (I don’t know where they put it!) Suddenly on the other side of the Arena, there was a kerfuffle, as men in suits walked in. The light wasn’t good, but it was the England team and their wives, girlfriends, and in Maku Vunipola’s case, his sister. (Just think of Benjamin Button, he’s a young man with an old face).
Not watching TV, I didn’t know who the camp man with the sequined jacket was. He could have been famous having his own game show to win a holiday in Ibiza, or making losing on the National Lottery fun, I really don’t know, but he got the crowd going with stirring renditions of Sweet Caroline. Of course Swing Low was there, but none of verse or proper actions, which could have been fun, teaching people. I suppose that the event was a family one though.

He left the stage and Vernon Kay, who I know is famous, although not quite sure what for, came on to start the event. It was then that I found out that it was on TV anyway, so the stress of flying down and flying back the next day, could have been on my settee with a cup of tea and a biscuit, PJ’s, slippers, and no bra on.

Laura Wright was first on, and she looked nervous. Having met her, she is an ordinary young lady with an extraordinary voice, so this was another big occasion for her. Next on was a singer that Jools Holland recommended, Andreya Triana, so good enough for me.

 In between each artist, a group of players came on stage. The first group were the front five. The players that determine whether a game will be won, who play with their heart on their sleeve, the ones that always have tears at their national anthems, unlike the cool clinical backs.  There were 5 Sarries players on stage, with the player I predict to have the biggest impact, as he was on no one, other than Sarries’ fans’ radar,Jamie George, falling up the stage. As he is my ‘little’ boy, all 17 stone of him, my heart went out to him. How not to look cool, but then again, the front 5 are rarely considered cool anyway.

Callibro, a boy band opera singers ensemble came on. I was getting frustrated at this point. I never realised how incontinent the public had become, and how desperate they were for food, as there was a constant stream going up and down the stairs, during the acts and even when the players were speaking. £85 to eat and drink – cheaper to watch it on TV, when you can pause and go when you want.

The player interviews were bland, as expected. Teamwork, respect, hard work, excitement. All the things that you would expect from pre-staged questions and answers. The players themselves were taking selfies with each other on stage, no longer club rivals, but members of a new team. One of the highlights for me, was Stuart Lancaster’s speech about the journey the players were on. He went through the various stages. The first and most important, was family. For his first game in charge, he asked every player’s parents to write a letter to their sons, explaining what it meant to them that their son was playing for England. He asked the players to pick 5 people in their lives, to do the same. Stage two was to build the culture, of honesty, trust, team work through hard work and working for each other, demonstrated by the players forgetting their teams and grouping into their new teams – functional areas like the front 5. He then stated that he felt that being English, we have been on the back foot for long enough and it was time to get on the front foot and be proud of being English again. Hurray. Too often being English is seen to be a crime, we’re racist, too arrogant, aloof and a 100 other reasons to be disliked. No one seems to value the good points, the integrity, openness to other cultures – there’s a diaspora in the team that covers at least 5 other cultures. Why won’t our politicians state that? I wanted to run on the pitch and play for him. In 5 minutes he’d showed more leadership than any home grown politician has done for years, more passion about the real values in life and work and what team work can achieve. If only work was like that, with people pulling together with a common vision, teamwork, and values, to share a common goal. England won’t win the World Cup, haven’t quite got the pizzazz in the players, but I believe that it won’t be for the want of trying or working for each other.

The final act of the evening was Take That. At first, I didn’t get the connection. Not an obvious choice for a rugby event, but as they played their set, it became clearer. ‘Greatest Day’ ‘Shine’, ‘Rule the World’, maybe there was a fit. Their final song was ‘Never Forget’ and the players came on to  
sing it with them. I went home buzzing, next week can't come soon enough.


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