Ruck it and See

Outside it’s 2011, but inside the café Tom’s been keen to show me ever since he discovered it whilst I was running a Cardiff half marathon, it’s 1973. I keep looking up expecting to see the Welsh equivalent of Gene Hunt and Sam Tyler arguing at a table. Either the decor hasn’t been changed in decades or we’ve fallen through a time-space portal where murals, fake teak cladding and sage faux leather are all the rage. The service is old-fashioned too, in a good way; the staff are smart and courteous although I’m amused by a faint air of ‘Grace Brothers’ when one of the waiters makes an aside to his colleague about two disagreeable customers who have given him grief.

We’re here for brunch before the game, Wales v Barbarians. Despite the board outside advertising the ‘All Day Breakfast’, I’ve been told that breakfast is no longer being served, so I opt for the ‘Special Farmhouse Brunch’... sausage, egg, bacon and spaghetti, which sounds like breakfast by any other name to me. A student on the next table, with his parents, is also discovering that the menu means what it says; all the ingredients for a BLT baguette seem to be present, but it’s not on the menu so he can’t order it.

When my ‘Special Farmhouse Brunch’ arrives, it seems to be having an identity crisis until I realise that it’s doing exactly what it promised; two sausages, two rashers of bacon, a perfectly cooked egg and a big dollop of spaghetti bolognaise!! Not the tinned orange stuff I was anticipating at all. Then, because ‘main courses are served with chips and peas’ there’s also a big scoop of peas and a bowl of chips! Tom, in the meantime, is wading through a mixed grill (also with chips and peas) big enough to serve both rugby sides. Actually, it’s all good plain food and the prices reflect the interior so we leave with high happiness levels ready to enjoy the game.

Ah, the game! What an experience, even if Wales did manage, as our previous neighbour always says, to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, yet again, conceding a try in the closing seconds to lose 28-31! We arrive early so we can enjoy a spine-tingling performance from the 1000 voice male choir brought together in honour of 130 years of the Welsh Rugby Union. There are plenty of asides to enjoy too; Jerry Guscott having his TV make up applied just in front of us, some eye-popping spectators - like the petite middle-aged woman in hot-pants and glittery Stetson sedately working her way through five pints (I would have been picking a fight, storming the pitch, or passed out long before then). A volley of flames leaping up from giant gas burners accompany the Welsh team on to the pitch, but first there’s a minute's silence for the four people who lost their lives at the Chevron refinery at Pembroke Dock earlier in the week.

The game itself is fast and free-running with plenty of tries. Gavin Henson, (not as tall as I expected, but, hey, he was surrounded by giants) in his first appearance for his country in two years, makes the pass that sets up a nice try for George North. Mike Phillips is still struggling to find his form, but there’s promise for the future in a powerful performance by Toby Felatu. There have been plenty of rumblings about the state of the game in Wales and the price of tickets, but I had a great time on Saturday so I’m not complaining. All in all, a good day out!

And finally...
Two more images from the garden. A wildflower patch...

And, for Frances, another sunset.


Jenny Beattie said…
Oh I'm terribly jealous of the rugby. There's nothing like a live match and it's been years for me. I don't understand the menu thing; why can't they make a BLT if they have all the ingredients? Perhaps they haven't been trained to do that... It seems a British foible from where I'm standing.
Debs Carr said…
I love a good game of rugby (watching of course, not playing!). You sound like you had a fun time.

Love those pictures. Such a glorious place.
Frances said…
Wow, Chris, what a grand day out you and Tom have had!

The cafe does sound quite the vintage place, and definitely worth a repeat visit, particularly now you know the menu rules and regs.

And what fun to see the match and all the action on and off the field. I imagine that lots of what you observed might eventually get a transformation into some of your novels!

Thank you so very much for the Sunset! I once lived on the top floor of a brownstone house that had a bay window with an unobstructed western view. Seeing gorgeous sunsets was perhaps the best part of living in that apartment.

Flowerpot said…
Sounds like a great day out, Chris. And those pictures are amazing. Happy sigh!
Pondside said…
The Great Dane likes to watch rugby, but it's not a game that I enjoy - but I'd have loved to see the cafe. That brunch is nearly unbelievable and would have the attention of the Canadian Medical Association over here!
Preseli Mags said…
It sounds a great day out! You must tell me where that cafe is - it sounds like fun. I love your description of the rugby match too. (Incidentally young Toby's surname sounded like a familiar word so I put it into Google Translate and it's Welsh for pallets.)
Diane said…
Loved the latest blog although a little bit disapointed as not a word was mentioned about all those rippling well toned muscles and "thunder" thighs - as to the commentary - brilliant - Andrew Cotter had better watch
Fennie said…
I never enjoyed watching rugby much and I seem now to enjoy it less every season, and care less about it too - well, actually, I care about it very deeply when I want to watch a programme and find that BBC2 has been taken over by Scrum 5 and that the programme I want to watch won't now be transmitted until midnight. Then I care a very great deal. Still, I am glad you had a good day out, and I am sure you enjoyed yourself; but if I lived in your idyllic surroundings I should have been inclined to stay there - Jerry Guscott or no Jerry Guscott.
Cara Cooper said…
Beautiful sunset and lovely foxgloves (never been able to grow them myself, annoyingly). Oh dear, you'll be able to tell from this that I just don't 'do' Rugby. Maybe one day I'll learn the rules and it'll be different!
Fred said…
It's still sitting in Sky planner waiting for me to watch it.
T'other half says listening to 'Land of my Fathers' in the old Arms Park was one of the most moving experiences of his life.
Milla said…
"murals, fake teak cladding and sage faux leather are all the rage" and? what's not to like? This could be my house (joke says hurriedly). What IS it with these inflexible menus. The breakfast which "Isn't" but clearly is, the impossible, but totally-should-be-available BLT. Barking!
Chris Stovell said…
Jenny, I don't want to rub it in, but it was terrific being there. Nah, the menu thing doesn't make any sense to me either.

Debs, we had a great time and thanks, as you can see, we think so too.

Frances, Tom's very keen to go back... the spag bol was slightly unnerving so I'll have to remember that for future reference as you say. Yes, I'm afraid no one's safe around me as I'm making mental notes all the time. The views from your former apartment do sound glorious.

Thanks, FP.

Pondside, I'm sure you would have enjoyed the people-watching, there was plenty of that. Your comment about the Canadian Medical Association made me laugh. The restaurant was wrong on so many levels it was right!
Chris Stovell said…
Mags, I will! It has to be experienced to be believed and it's cheap so nothing to lose. Nothing wooden about Toby's performance even if his name does mean pallets - he was on fire!

Diane, too many rippling muscles and thunder thighs to single out any for particular mention, but I had a thoroughly enjoyable day out ;)

Oh, Fennie, first Carmarthen now rugby! I will have to try harder to find something to please you!!

Cara, lovely to see you. Being a rugby fan isn't compulsory, but as a fellow writer I can recommend it for research! We cheated on the foxgloves, they were just here. We're in that lovely stage of discovering what's in the garden.

Fred, I never went to the Arms Park, but hearing the singing at the Millennium Stadium is absolutely thrilling so can get a flavour of what your other half experienced.

Milla, the whole thing was completely barking and wonderful. Half expect it to have disappeared into that portal if we try to find it again. Tom will be very disappointed if it has!

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