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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

You really got me - The Kinks

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.

The morning was all administration - how to pick up a box, report an accident, read a data sheet, bump into a space using a space code (put furniture into a room with a room number) and plan to bump out again.

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.

Our afternoon was spent unloading another lorry and a van, and breaking down pallets to put everything into a container. This wouldn't have been necessary, only Villa play the Bluenoses on Tuesday. Police Leave cancelled the ground was in lock down, with security on every door. WE counter stuff off and we counted it into the container. The we started to furnish the rooms that we could. "Where's the Clocks?" came the question, "Back of the container on the left," came the reply. "Where's the flip charts?" came the question, "Back of the container on the left,"came the reply. Mmmm. Think we should have planned that one a little more. Luckily we still have three days to get everything ready for the Captain's Run on Friday.

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.

From there a couple of speeches by the alikadoos, and eventually the bit everyone was waiting for started. Led by Paul O Connell, the team came on stage one by one to receive their participation medal and caps. At this stage, their 'honours' were read out. Many of these players had played on Lions tours and I had cheered for them, including, delivering my pipe dream, a Lions tour victory.

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.

The Mayor of Burton spoke about the origins of Burton, when an Irish nun St Modena turned water into Pale Ale bitter - I think that was her miracle, but up until the mid 2000s was the mainstay of the local economy, sadly replaced by low skilled warehouse jobs that blight the Midlands. He presented Paul with an engraved tankard and a bottle of stout. I was disappointed at the choice of beer. The Irish are bloody good at stout you know. Burton is brilliant at pale ale - its in the water don't you know, St Modwena lived to 125 so it must have been good! and we should have let the boys try that.

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.

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