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“Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.”

John Stuart Mill

I have manfully resisted (with but a few exceptions) making any commentary on the grim farce that is being played out in the old country in the matter of the leaving (or otherwise) of the European Union. The reasons for my reticence will – I feel sure – be obvious to many. Quite aside from any other consideration it is hard in the extreme to know what one could possibly write about this farrago (which quandary does not, sadly, seem to stop many of the more rabid online commentators).

If it weren’t all so damnably serious it would be quite good fun watching the Tory party twisting in the breeze as they try to hold together the fractious coalition of extremists of all hues that is their core constituency. Unfortunately the matter is serious – and thus no fun at all.

Yesterday’s ‘deal’ – which will apparently enable negotiations to move on to the next phase (trade talks) in the long, long process – was such an extraordinary piece of work, however, that my breath was quite taken away. I cannot decide whether it is a work of utter genius or just more stupid than can possibly be imagined. Without going too far into the nuts and bolts of the whole ghastly business, much of the recent debate has concerned the impossibility of maintaining a soft (ie – no controls) boarder post-Brexit between Northern Ireland (part of the UK) and the Republic of Ireland (very much a member of the EU). The rebarbative Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland  (who are currently keeping the Tories in power as a result of a desperately poor post-election decision by the PM) scuppered the first attempt at an agreement on the very reasonable grounds that they didn’t want a ‘boarder’ between themselves and the UK either.

The essential paradox at the heart of the ‘interesting‘ compromise that was eventually agreed was summed up by online commentator, Andrew80, thus:

“That agreement in plain text:

  1. We’re leaving the EU single market and the customs union.
  2. There will be no hard border between NI and Ireland.
  3. To avoid that, we’ll come up with something clever.
  4. Failing that, we will stay in the single market and the customs union.”

The devil is – as ever – in the detail and the detail here will be decided at a later stage in the process… or not! This classic fudge – essentially kicking the can as far down the road as is possible – seems to have achieved the impossible and united all shades in… in what no-one quite seems to know! According to a range of commentators of all complexions the agreement is a vindication of their position. Others – again of all hues – are apoplectic with rage at this ‘betrayal’.

I guess that for Theresa May this counts as a ‘result‘!

You literally could not make this stuff up…

 

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Image by Tony Hisgett on Wikimedia Commons“The music is in the air. Take as much as you want.”

Edward Elgar

It is highly likely that a fair proportion of the English expat community of Victoria were unknowingly gathered together in one place on Monday evening last.

The Kickass Canada Girl and I were amongst those attending the Royal Theatre for a concert by the Victoria Symphony Orchestra (the first such that I have experienced) featuring a programme which included works by Ralph Vaughan-Williams and Edward Elgar.

In musical terms one cannot get much more ‘English’ than this and the Brits appeared to have turned out in force!

Though I have long been a fan of Vaughan-Williams I was not previously familiar with the F Minor Tuba Concerto – the which work was featured on Monday. In common with most other commentators I do not find the bass tuba particularly suited to being featured as a solo instrument, but the orchestral passages in the piece are marked by the composer’s familiar elegant phrasing and it proved to be most enjoyable as a whole.

Now – I grew up listening to Elgar. As would seem to be the case for many others I came first to the Enigma Variations, falling in love with the Nimrod and sensing that it somehow encapsulates much that is good at the heart of the English pastoral. I discovered the E Minor Cello Concerto somewhat later but the work has grown to have a profound effect on me. The piece – Elgar’s last major work – was composed shortly after the end of the Great War (during which he had written very little) and has been described as a lament for a lost world. To me – and clearly to many others – its elegiac and melancholy mood captures to perfection the sense of tragic loss both of a generation and of the innocence of the ‘golden summer’ that preceded that catastrophic conflict.

The last time I head the Cello Concerto played live was at a concert at one of the schools at which I worked. The cello soloist (still a schoolboy at the time) was Tim Lowe – now a highly respected international performer. His rendition of the work moved me to tears, as did that of English cellist Raphael Wallfisch on Monday last. Wallfisch’s reading is maybe a little more clear-eyed and less sentimental, but the power of the work over those of us who are susceptible (Englishmen mayhap?) is undeniable.

Mind you – the Nimrod also has me blubbing uncontrollably as well. I’m not entirely sure what to make of this, except that Elgar clearly tapped into something that speaks eloquently to at least some of us who hail from from that blessed plot.

The first time that one hears a ‘new’ orchestra is always a somewhat nervy experience. I am delighted to report that the Victoria Symphony – under its new director, Christian Kluxen – gave an entirely admirable performance. I very much look forward to hearing them again.

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Image by Acuration on Wikimedia CommonsIn my last post I enthused about Peter Parker’s 1986 book – “The Old Lie” – the subject of which is the generation of young men who left England’s public schools to fight – and in many cases to die – in what became known in its immediate aftermath as ‘The Great War‘.

Parker’s thesis is that in great part the nation’s apparent excess of enthusiasm to go to war in Europe in the early part of the twentieth century arose from illusions whose roots lay the attitudes emanating from England’s great public schools. To understand why this should be the case he chooses (as might we also) to look back into the nineteenth century to determine how it was that these schools came to embody the ethos and ideals whence such notions arose.

Of the drivers for the widespread reform of the public schools that was effected during the nineteenth century two in particular are pertinent:

The first such was the influence on these schools of Thomas Arnold – head master of Rugby School from 1824 to 1841. Arnold’s avowed aim – of producing a “school of Christian gentlemen” – was to be achieved by the inculcation of his values of piety, discipline and high-mindedness into an elite coterie of upper school boys (Arnold has frequently been credited with the invention of the prefectorial system) who would then act as his instrument in shaping the younger boys, for whom Arnold personally had little time. So successful was this approach that as the ex-members of his Rugby elites spread out into the world (along with acolytes amongst the Rugby masters who subsequently applied for posts elsewhere) other schools rapidly adopted Arnold’s aims and methods.

The second driver was the Victorian policy of expansionism. As the Empire grew so did the need for the ‘right sort of chap‘ to enter the nation’s service in the administration of its far-flung territories. This (along with a slowly increasing militarism in the public schools which eventually found an echo in the extension of the Officers’ Training Corp (OTC) thereto) led to the espousal of values that promoted both a local and national patriotism – for house, school and country (in that order!).

It is perhaps in the nature of such establishments that these new values (new at least to the public schools!) were quickly subsumed in the mystique and self-mythologising which has long been their stock in trade – much of it based on Classical virtues and ideals (remembering of course that for the longest time such schools taught little other than the classics!). For the young adults in the sixth forms of these schools the notions of ‘good form’,’ playing the game’, ‘keeping a stiff upper lip’ and so forth became the mark of the man. By the time the continent slid inexorably into the cataclysm that was the First World War a generation of such young Christian gentlemen were eager to put their new-found values – and themselves – to the test… in the service of their (house, school and) country (still in that order!).

To understand how it was that influence of these developments within elite institutions spilled over into the outside world – touching those for whom an education at such an establishment was never an option – it must be remembered that the social structure of nineteenth century Britain was utterly hierarchical. Those in positions of influence and power still came largely from the upper classes that the public schools had been created to serve. Young boys of middle and working classes were encouraged to follow the example of their ‘betters; with the public school ideal being promoted as the quintessence. ‘The ‘school novel’ became a successful and popular genre and glowing articles in periodicals aimed at young men espoused the values and virtues of public school heroes much as did later ‘comics’ with sportsmen, explorers and astronauts.

The social hierarchy naturally extended into the armed forces. Officers came from privileged backgrounds – enlisted men did not. Though there might be a germ of truth in the widely held critique of the British infantry as being “Lions led by donkeys” (sent to their deaths by incompetent and indifferent leaders) and it is certainly true that some of those in positions of command did remain safely many miles behind the front lines, this was certainly not the case for the junior officers who led men on the ground.

Parker makes the chilling point that whereas the mortality rate for all Britons involved in the conflict was a little under 12%, for public school educated officers it was more than 17%. The eager young subalterns (armed only with a service revolver and wearing a distinctive uniform) leading their troops over the top presented all to easy a target for the German snipers, who were well aware that without the leadership of their officers the British infantry was literally headless.

At this remove we can but study the histories; or perhaps more appropriately to read the poetry, written by the young men themselves once disillusionment set in as the conflict progressed and the extent of the lie became apparent.

Many of these young men, however, went to their tragic deaths with no opportunity to gain such enlightenment.

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Image by Roger McLassus from Wikimedia CommonsI have recently finished reading Peter Parker’s 1987 book, ‘The Old Lie‘ – which is helpfully subtitled ‘The Great War and the Public School Ethos‘. I came to it – as happens with many of the tomes to which I am drawn – through a reference in another book, though I can no longer recall the details of that volume nor the context in which it referred to Peter Parker’s book.

For those perhaps unfamiliar – should such there yet be – the title refers to Wilfred Owen’s first world war poem, ‘Dulce et Decorum Est‘ – which ends:

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori
.”

The Latin quote which Owen brands ‘The old lie‘ is by the Roman poet, Horace, and translates thus:

It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country

It is necessary also to understand that the public schools of the subtitle are those of England and Wales, which are pretty much the antithesis of public schools anywhere else in the world. As Wikipedia informs us:

A public school in England and Wales is an older, student selective, fee-paying independent secondary school which caters primarily for children aged between 11 or 13 and 18. The term “public” should not be misunderstood to mean that these are public sector schools: they are in fact private sector. Traditionally, public schools were all-male boarding schools, although most now allow day pupils, and many have become either partially or fully co-educational.

Public schools emerged from charity schools established to educate poor scholars, the term “public” being used to indicate that access to them was not restricted on the basis of religion, occupation, or home location, and that they were subject to public management or control,in contrast to private schools which were run for the personal profit of the proprietors.

The Clarendon Commission of 1861 – a Royal Commission set up to investigate the state of the nine leading public schools in England – concerned itself with seven boarding schools (Eton, Charterhouse, Harrow, Rugby, Shrewsbury, Westminster and Winchester) and two day schools (St Paul’s and Merchant Taylors’). The ‘Public Schools Yearbook’ was published for the first time in 1889 – listing 30 schools – and by 1902 the publication further included all schools that were members of the Head Masters’ Conference (HMC).

Given that to obtain a commission in the armed forces at the turn of the twentieth century it was necessary to be wealthy, to be well educated and to come from the ‘right’ background it is little surprise that the great majority of the junior officers in the service at the start of the war had been educated in these schools. As the war progressed many more of them joined up directly from school and, even when the numbers required for the ever swelling force argued a widening of the constituency, this was achieved by offering ‘temporary’ commissions (for the duration of the war only) to those from the middle classes with grammar and independent school backgrounds.

The eagerness with which many Britons rushed to war in 1914 is widely recognised, and perhaps none were keener than those who had recently left – or were about to leave – England’s public schools. Even as the war progressed and the full horror of modern mechanical warfare became apparent there was no shortage of young men who believed that this moment in history was just that for which they had been born, raised and educated.

Just why these young men should have been so intoxicated by this zeal to serve and even, perchance, to die for their country is the subject of Peter Parker’s book. I will delve further there-into in a subsequent post.

My particular interest in this subject? I spent greater part of the last two decades working for two of the schools listed above and have many colleagues and friends who gave their service to the others.

 

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Image from Wikimedia Commons“We have wasted History like a bunch of drunks shooting dice back in the men’s crapper of the local bar.”

Charles Bukowski

I watched again the other night Cambridge University Professor David Reynolds’ fascinating documentary for the BBC on Winston Churchill’s long struggle during 1942 and 1943 to promote his preferred campaign in North Africa – and thence up through Italy and the Mediterranean islands to attack what he called ‘Hitler’s soft under-belly’ – in the face of constant and increasing pressure from the Americans and the Russians to open a second front on the European mainland by effecting a landing in France.

Professor Reynolds provides an excellent summary of the reasons for Churchill’s resistance, long beyond the point at which it must have been clear to him that the Overlord landings were not only inevitable but – in the face of the Soviet advances in Eastern Europe – increasingly vital should the British hope for any say in the shaping of post-war Europe.

Under political pressure in the UK as a result of the military disasters of 1941 and 1942 – the which had led to two votes of confidence in parliament – Churchill (and the country) was greatly in need of a victory. With his understandable fear of another catastrophic stalemate in the fields of France and the low countries (or of an attempted landing ending in disaster) having its roots in his experiences of the first war, Churchill took the view that any such success was more likely to be found in Africa than on the European mainland.

Churchill’s thinking was further informed by considerations that were of little consequence to the Americans or the Russians – those of empire. He saw maintaining control of the Mediterranean and of Egypt as vital to the continuance of British interests in India and in the colonies to the east. Professor Reynold’s documentary (along with Max Hastings 2010 book on Churchill’s war, the which I also read of late) brought home to me anew Churchill’s growing realisation – during the closing years of the war – that Britain’s position in the world order had been diminished irrevocably by the need to rely on intervention by the American and Soviet superpowers to save Europe. Even so, his sentimental attachment to the notion of a ‘special relationship’ with the US prevented him from recognising that the price to be paid for this salvation would be the ultimate surrender of the British empire.

The Second World War and the half century (and more) of world-wide chaos that followed have been so widely documented and discussed that it is difficult to reconcile what we now know and understand of the period – and of the vast change in Britain’s place in the world – with some of the shrill voices that are to be heard from Britannia in these troubled times. It is difficult enough to observe the resurgence of nationalism across a continent that has good cause to fear exactly that, without also having to listen to those voices that seem almost to be calling for a return to the mythical days of yore.

As Churchill knew all too well in his twilight years – those days are long, long gone!

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Image from Pixabay“I’m not in control of my muse. My muse does all the work.”

Ray Bradbury

I have in anterior posts (of which this is but the most recent instance) attempted to shed some light on that most mysterious and wonderful process by which creative acts such as writing and composing are effected.

I say ‘attempted’ – of course – because beyond simply reporting anecdotally my own experiences I am no more able to explain the phenomenon than is anyone else. Should you doubt that any such examination is more than likely to fall short you might care to Google the phrase “How does the creative process work?“. You will discover – as did I – that the first page of results alone contains the following ‘definitive’ responses:

  • The four stages of creativity” – preparation, incubation, illumination, verification – (apparently!)
  • The five stages of the creative process” – preparation, incubation, insight, evaluation, elaboration – (some crossover at least)
  • The creative process – six working phasesinspiration, clarification, distillation, perspiration, evaluation, and incubation – (hmmm!)
  • The ten stages of the creative process” – the hunch, talk about it, the sponge, build, confusion, just step away, the love sandwich(!), the premature breakthrough, revisit your notes, know when you’re done – (blimey! That’s…er… different!)

I stopped at this point for what are probably pretty obvious reasons.

And yet… and yet… None of these earnest theses comes close to elucidating an experience that I seem to encounter with increasing frequency – one in which I start out with a firm idea in my mind only to find that the act of creation takes on a life of its own and I end up with something almost entirely antithetical to that which I had originally intended. At the risk of boring the gentle reader I should like to share the latest such instance.

I am currently working on a couple of songs that are intended to complete a brief collection whose inspiration – or motivation, should you prefer – has been my recent exodus from the country of my birth. I had been making good progress on one such of these with the notion in the back of my head that it might turn out to be a gently whimsical look at the love of the island life – the which is of course shared both by many Brits and by those who live on Vancouver Island or in the Gulf Islands.

When it came time to concentrate on the lyric I turned – as is my habit – to the InterWebNet to pursue some lines of research of relevance to the subject. A busy day of chasing leads suggested that the following (amongst others) might be significant:

  • Shakespeare – ‘Richard II’,’The Tempest’
  • Tennyson – ‘Ulysses’
  • Rabbie Burns – ‘To a Louse’
  • Churchill – ‘The Island Race’

An article by Open University senior lecturer, Nigel Clark, entitled ‘An Island Race?‘ – chimed with my initial intention of focusing on the creative tension implicit in living on an island surrounded by the seas – the which afford both a powerful means of defence from attack but simultaneously the path by which such a nation might venture forth to explore (and mayhap  to ‘conquer’) the rest of the world.

It was another article, however – “Is England too Good for the English?“, by Oxford University’s Austen Saunders – that changed the tenor of my song. Saunders exploration of the illustrious ‘John of Gaunt’ speech from ‘Richard II’ majors on John’s view that the English – as a result of Richard’s politicking and fiscal mismanagement – are no longer worthy of the “other Eden” that is ‘England’ itself. It is impossible not to recognise an immense resonance between this somewhat melancholy conclusion and the state in which the United Kingdom finds itself today. The song that eventually emerged from my subconscious thus turned out to be a lament for this sorry state of affairs rather than the amiable whimsy that I had intended.

Should the gentle reader be one of those who does not view the current situation in which Great Britain – and in particular, England – finds itself to be as dire as I have described – then I wish you well.

I hope that you still feel the same way in five year’s time…

 

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Image by MykReeve on Wikimedia CommonsThe weekend just passed saw the occasion of the one hundred and sixty third University Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge on the Tideway in London. Long having been a follower of the event (at which for entirely spurious reasons I always cheer for Oxford) this year’s late start – determined naturally by the tides – meant that I was able to watch the BBC coverage of the race live from the other side of the world. It was a good tight race which Oxford deservedly won, but they were pushed all the way by the heavier Cambridge crew.

I must confess to a twinge of nostalgia whilst viewing the race. The school by which I was employed immediately prior to retirement lies on the banks of the Thames on the Surrey side of the boat race course. Reference thereto is made habitually during the BBC race commentary, particularly in years in which some alumnus of the establishment is himself taking part in the contest.

The TV coverage this time around afforded a fleeting glance of the ongoing building works at the School, showing it already to have been transformed from the place that I knew to somewhere considerably more remote. Such things are – of course – ever thus…

The best way to watch the Boat Race – by the by – is probably by staying at home and following the TV coverage. An event that takes place at reasonably high speed over a four mile course gives little opportunity for involvement on the part of the spectators who are actually present – and unless they have had the foresight to have provided themselves with some means of following the commentary (by radio or on the InterWebNet) they stand little chance of knowing what transpires whilst the competitors are out of their sight.

Those of good fortune might find themselves invited to a gathering in one of the buildings that flank the river. Should the hosts have provided large screen TVs, a copious supply of ‘Harry Champers‘ and what Canadians call ‘Appies‘, one can amuse oneself by getting gently plastered whilst following the build up to the main event – rush out onto the balcony to watch the eights fly past – then back in again to see how it all turns out in the end.

My best viewing experience – however – came about back in the late 80s through having a dear friend whose sister was that year the cox of the Oxford boat. My friend – being a lady of ferociously single mind – determined that we would watch the race from beyond the finish line – in the boathouse at which the Oxford crew would disembark after the event. She swept past the security proclaiming that she was the cox’s sister and we camp-followers stumbled along behind crying “We’re with her…!”. We watched on the big screen as our friend’s equally ferocious sister bullied the Cambridge cox out of the race before rushing down to the foreshore to cheer crew and cox as they landed in triumph.

Happy days!

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Image from Pixabay…say nowt!

Way back in the mists of time – around the midpoint of the 1990s – I was invited by a supplier to attend a grand gala charity dinner somewhere in the centre of England. The guest of honour at this sizable gathering was a very senior male member of the royal family who has something of a reputation for speaking his mind! Jolly good value he was too.

As it happened the event coincided exactly with the semi-final of a major football tournament; though not being a follower of the sport I don’t recall which. The major surprise on this occasion was that England was one of the combatants. I will hazard that the other was Germany. To the consternation of many of the male guests at the gala event the match started at around the same time as did the dinner.

For a period the Master of Ceremonies – who was keeping everybody informed as to the evening’s proceedings – also regularly briefed those assembled with progress reports on the match, leading to a huge cheer when England scored a goal. A while later – however – after announcing that the opposition had equalized all such reporting ceased abruptly, to the consternation of many of those present who started to fidget nervously. Word went around that the royal personage had let it be known that he did not want to hear reports of England losing to the Germans!

The event proceeded much as would be expected until some time later when I looked around the grand ballroom in which it was being held and realised – to my surprise – that I was one of the very few males still in the room, the which seemed now to be populated solely by members of the fairer sex. A short while later there was a loud groan from some distance outside and a crowd of dejected dinner-jacketed alpha-males trudged back into the hall. It turned out that a large screen TV had been installed in the kitchens so that the chefs might watch the game and all those who just couldn’t survive without knowing the score had slipped out to join them.

It also transpired, of course, that England had – as usual – contrived to lose on penalties!

Now – you may be wondering why I have chosen this particular moment to share this ancient anecdote. Well – I promised a few weeks back that I would not be giving a running commentary on Scotland’s progress in this year’s Six Nations championship. In homage to the Duke it is safe to say that if Scotland are losing you will almost certainly hear nothing about it from me.

If – on the other hand – they are winning, as they did yesterday at Murrayfield for the first time in a decade against the Welsh… then mighty congratulations are in order, a wee glass of good cheer may be raised and radio silence might be broken so that I can pass on my congratulations to my countrymen and all concerned.

Of course, things may then go quiet again for a while…

 

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Dea Flower Plant Nature Purple Thistle

OK – I promise that I am not going to keep up a running commentary for the next six weeks regarding Scotland’s progress in the Six Nations, but I really couldn’t let this opening weekend pass without raising just the tiniest cheer…

For those who don’t follow such things my last post – by way of introduction to the 2017 tournament – included the following in reference to Scotland’s opening match against the much fancied Irish at Murrayfield:

“Can they beat the dynamic Irish in the tournament’s opening game tomorrow? The head says ‘no‘, but the heart says ‘yeeeeeeesssss!’.”

There would have been times not so very long ago when – having played a blinder in the first half to lead 21 – 8 at the break and then having been on the wrong end of the inevitable Irish fightback – the Scots would have succumbed as brave losers by a few points at the finish. That they did not do so here but instead ran out 27 – 22 winners says much about their character, but also a great deal about the excellent work done by both coaching staff and players over the past couple of seasons.

Needless to say – for this week at least – the heart is very happy!

Next week – the French in Paris – and there cannot be a Scot alive (of any decent vintage!) whose pulse does not quicken at the distant memory of (soon to be national coach) Gregor Townshend’s back of the hand pass that put Gavin Hastings in for the last minute try that unexpectedly beat the French in Paris in 1995. Yes – that was a long time ago… about time for a recap methinks!

Elsewhere – the English did what great sides do all over the world. They played a distinctly average game against the French but even when they were behind entering the home straight somehow we all knew that they would find a way to win – as they duly did. Those who gripe about such things should recall that even the 2003 World Cup winning side occasionally survived similarly poor matches.

In Rome the Italians kept in touch with the Welsh until the last quarter before running out of steam. I’m not convinced that we discovered much about the Welsh in 2017 that we did not already know.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidIn Victoria, playing in really pretty atrocious conditions, the Canadians sadly handled the weather rather less well than did the Argentinians – to whom such conditions must be much less familiar. The match was all square at half time – 3 points apiece – but in the second half the Canadian game disintegrated somewhat as the Argentinians realised that if they persevered with their handling game sooner or later something would stick – which is pretty much what happened. Canada face Chile next Saturday – again at Westhills – and at the moment it doesn’t look as though the weather is going to improve much. Let us hope that the Canadian game does.

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Image from Pixabay“Rugby is great. The players don’t wear helmets or padding; they just beat the living daylights out of each other and then go for a beer. I love that.”

Joe Theismann

Hurrah! It is time once again for the start of the Six Nations rugby tournament. I say again – hurrah!

Now – for those of you who grumble that rugger is a minority sport played only by ex-colonial nations and is thus widely ignored by the greater part of the world, here (courtesy of the BBC website) is a most interesting statistic:

“The 123rd edition of the Six Nations, which begins on Saturday, is set to be watched by the highest average attendance per match of any tournament in world sport.”

Astonishing – no? Here are the relevant details:

Best-attended sports events

Event Average attendance per match
Six Nations 72,000
NFL (American football) 64,800
Fifa World Cup (football) 53,592
Rugby World Cup (rugby union) 51,621
Euro 2012 (football) 46,481

 

The figures apparently come from UEFA’s ‘European Club Footballing Landscape Report‘.

As to the tournament itself – expectations are, as ever, sky high. England – having gone undefeated throughout 2016 – would be championship favourites were it not for the fact the the Irish are also looking spectacular at the moment. In the autumn internationals the latter took the scalp of each of the vaunted Southern Hemisphere sides – including a famous and record breaking win against the All Blacks in Chicago. The fact that the ABs got their own back a couple of weeks later in Dublin and that the Irish only just scraped home against the Australians (who were soundly beaten by England) only goes to show just how close the outcome is likely to be. There is already much talk of the final game of the tournament – England/Ireland in Dublin in six weeks time – being the championship decider.

The Welsh managed also to win all of their autumn internationals whilst yet looking distinctly out of sorts. Always too early to write them off, of course, but there are worrying signs concerning their adaptability and current form. The Italians – having looked outclassed over the last couple of seasons – are under new (Irish) management. It may be far too soon to expect a complete turnaround but it is certainly worth keeping a close eye on their first game this Sunday against the Welsh.

The English host the French at home tomorrow – the latter continuing to blow sufficiently hot and cold that it is still impossible to know which side will turn up on the day. The English should have too much for them, though the opening matches are always difficult.

The Scots look a different side to those of recent years. Vern Cotter has worked wonders and hands them over to Glasgow’s Gregor Townshend (a true Scottish legend) after the Six Nations in good shape. Can they beat the dynamic Irish in the tournament’s opening game tomorrow? The head says ‘no‘, but the heart says ‘yeeeeeeesssss!’.

The coming rugby weekend is not confined to Europe alone but stretches all the way around the globe, seeing on this side of the pond the first weekend of the America’s Rugby Championship. Canada host the Argentina XV tomorrow evening at the Westhills stadium in Langford. Canada’s last year has been decidedly mixed in rugger terms (disregarding the wonderful womens’ Sevens squad of course) and Argentina should be too strong for them. Home advantage may play a part in the outcome, however, as may the weather… it has today been snowing determinedly across Greater Victoria, which may well result in a gritty old game tomorrow. We will be there!

So – go Scotland! Go England! Go Canada!

Plenty to cheer about there…

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