And so to Wales, where I spent a rainy Saturday...
..oh wait, no I didn't. Just as well? This is, after all, about life in London. And Wales is not London. It's like a whole different country (well, I suppose it is really, in a cute way, with its own language and everything. Very realistic 'own country' set up, all bilingual road signs and funny accents).
So anyway, I was in Cardiff on Saturday, the part of Cardiff that resides in London generally and hangs out in Haymarket specifically. I was there to watch the rugby, and had kind of anticipated a Kiwi crowd, as the fine establishment we were meeting in (ahem, Sports Cafe, that is - my tongue has taken to the inside of my cheek most firmly for the duration of this post) is right next to New Zealand House.
First lesson. Just because something is next to something Kiwi, doesn't mean it will be like Kiwis, or Kiwi related things. This seems a pretty basic lesson really, and an embarrassing, foreign - oooh, oooh, dare I say it - kind of American assumption for me to make. Like Australia, or the Pacific Ocean. They're both next to New Zealand but they're not a lot like it really. Not entirely dissimilar, but...
...and so it was with Little Cardiff on Saturday. A bit like New Zealand but not really. Wales and New Zealand have their commonalities - both little countries that are quite proud of their 'own country' status and flaunt it with bilingual road signs, while the rest of the world looks on in a fond, proud parent, 'aren't they cute' kind of way and makes fun of their predilection with sheep, but there are some very important differences, some of which you may not be fully aware. I certainly wasn't before my sojourn to Haymarket.
I arrived late, although before kick-off and the haka even (whoo me!) so I was a little flustered and didn't entirely take it all in. I was aware that the bar was surprisingly full (surprising, because I still expected all the crowd to be NZers and quite frankly, there's not that many of us) but didn't really look at the patrons too closely, except to see if they were my friends. Most weren't, but some were, and upon settling into a cosy nook, pressed up against a railing in a twisted manner, with a glass of cider, I took the opportunity to scan the faces and attire of those around me (as one can't be expected to pay attention to an entire game of rugby, especially when the All Blacks just aren't doing all that much).
And what I saw was...shine. I was highly confused by the large group of girls at the table just in front of us and over a little. It was like being at a mirror ball conference, with added glitter. I really, genuinely thought they were lost initially, then hypothesised that they were on the pull (Sports Cafe when the rugby and the football were on - it would have been a brilliant plan) but then the Welsh team did something that could have been something, only the All Blacks moved a little in a nonchalant manner and it turned out to be nothing, and they opened their mouths and the penny dropped - they were Welsh. And then I looked around the bar, and as a million tiny pieces of sparkle twinkled in front of me, temporarily blinding me, I realised pretty much the whole bar was Welsh. Proximity to New Zealand House meant nothing.
If it had been another two countries, or another game, like (ugh) football, it could have been a recipe for disaster - but luckily New Zealanders and Welsh people are two pretty amiable races. Even when they're annoyed, as we were when the loud, shiny Welsh girls encroached upon our space unashamedly, causing us to twist up into ever more painful positions to see the screen, but being ever so nice about it, as they were to us, despite the fact that we got in their way too, our rugby team played a pretty shockingly lazy game and won anyway, and neither of the girls in our group was wearing any bling, or hair glitter.
Yup, these shiny girls were pretty obnoxious, but we dealt. I couldn't quite get over their shininess though, or the amount they drank - truly phenomenal amounts. My favourite moment of the extra-rugby entertainment was when one girl came back from the bar with not one, not two, but three drinks for each member of their party (to avoid the queues that had formed while she painstakingly ordered them, one presumes) and was so, um, merry, that she couldn't stand up straight while she distributed them - but while she swayed around on her high, high, so inappropriate for 5:30 in the afternoon heels, her hair didn't move at all. That's impressive, on so many levels.
My favourite bit of the in-game action was when I turned my attention to the screen, after twisting my head around into a highly uncomfortable contortion to see it, and due to lighting/cameras/the screen itself/something, noted that the Welsh shiny thing was on screen too. Their white uniforms gleamed and sparkled off the bald head of one of their players, making him look like he had rubbed the top of his head generously with zinc before going to play under the overcast, dark, night time sky. Beautiful stuff (not literally, obviously). I was very very excited about my discovery about the shiny Welsh, and now have a minor fixation with finding more shiny Welsh people/things and hearing their stories. A fixation that will last until I wake up tomorrow morning probably, when I will have forgotten all about it and will return to my normal default status of thinking mainly about myself.
Oh, there were other good things in the game too. Daniel Carter did lots of awesome stuff and we won, even though generally we weren't awesome. More awesome than the Welsh though (since 1953 - that's older than my Dad, hahaha Welsh!), and that was awesome enough.