Rugby tonight, in the centre of the city. Bouyant Welsh fans riding the train down from the head of the valleys late afternoon. A diversion on the way home early evening takes you on foot through the pedestrianized shopping precinct and past the Millennium Stadium. Fans dining and drinking, milling, congregating on the streets. From the balcony of a pub a band pumps trad jazz into the air. There’s a buzz of excitement.
Suddently a high-visibility-jacketed policeman comes jogging down the centreline of the road, gesturing for congregants to move aside. He’s big, thickly wrapped in protective clobber. Something about the sight of a running policeman commands attention. Behind him at a fast trot, two imposing chestnut horses side by side, metalled hooves clattering skittishly on the asphalt. Even from the safety of the sidewalk you feel the urge to get quickly out of the way. Then two more giant horses. All ridden by helmeted policewomen. Then comes the English team coach which turns down the ramp into the underground parking lot beneath the stadium.
As it turns out, Welsh hearts are broken tonight. England wins. Before kickoff you have the anthems on via tinny transistor radio in the kitchen. As stirred as ever by the sound of Land of my Fathers, full in the throats of most of the 75,000 people in the stadium.
A muffled booming
from the chimney, the gale