Last night I attended the launch party for the Union Cup, which was held at Bristol’s science museum, @Bristol, an extraordinary venue which I must visit again and report on in detail. The party was a fascinating experience. There were around 500 people present, of whom only 4 were women. Almost all of the men were gay, and very few looked anything like the mincing stereotype that the national media still trots out whenever gay issues get mentioned. Kudos is due to Peter Williams, the Chair of Gloucestershire Rugby Football Union, who made the opening speech, stressing rugby’s support of the tournament and its commitment to inclusivity.
The tournament got underway today with a ceremonial first kick by Ian Boulton, the Chair of South Gloucestershire Council, and the equivalent of the mayor for the region in which the Stoke Gifford sports campus is located. WISE Campus is home to Bristol Academy and boasts the only purpose-built ladies’ soccer stadium in the country. There’s even a little statue of a vixen with a football at the entrance to the ground. It also has three rugby pitches, and we used them all.
As might be expected, the standard of rugby varied enormously. Some teams were very professional, while others had never played a competitive match before. All of the teams, however, were out to do their best, and there was no shortage of aggression. In the very first game a Newcastle Ravens player left the field with a dislocated shoulder (rough lot, those Bisons). I saw several other shoulder injuries during the day; a Bisons player limped off with an ankle injury, and I heard rumor of a broken arm. Pride of place in the tough guy stakes goes to Matt, the fly half for Manchester Village Spartans, who took a boot to the face in his first game. After a quick trip to hospital for some stitches just above his eyebrows, he was back in action for game two.
There was plenty of needle too. In the first five minutes of their game against Cardiff Lions, the London Steelers were twice penalized for foul play, including a vicious clothesline tackle that left the Welsh player flat out on the field for a couple of minutes. Later on the referee stopped the game for five minutes while he gave the teams a good talking to and got them to calm down.
The conditions made play difficult at times. The wind was very strong and several times I saw players kick the ball only to see it blown back over their heads. Although there were some competent kickers, not once did I see a penalty attempt at goal. Everyone tried to keep the ball in hand, but the cold temperatures and occasional fierce rain squalls made that difficult too. We are all hoping for better weather tomorrow.
There was, of course, plenty of excellent rugby, and a nail-biting finish to the day. The teams in the 15-a-side tournament had been divided into four groups. Each team played three matches, mostly in-group, with points being scored according to a system of 4 for a win, 2 for a draw, plus bonus points for 4 tries and losing by 7 or less. At the end of the day all of the teams were combined into a single table. London, Dublin and Manchester qualified for the final being unbeaten in their groups, but there was a three-way tie for fourth place and a tense wait while Dave Aird, the tournament director, counted up points scored for and against in matches. In the end Newcastle Ravens just pipped Cardiff Lions, with Northampton Outlaws, in their first ever competition, finishing a very creditable sixth.
In the 10-a-side content Dublin and Montpelier were clearly the form teams. The French team is unbeaten, and will be expecting to vanquish the Irish again tomorrow. My new best friends, the Lisbon Dark Horses, will be delighted with a win over Birmingham Bulls.
As with rugby sevens, the tournament will feature additional playoff games for lesser trophies. Cardiff and Northampton will be joined in the Plate contest by the London 2nd XV and the Amsterdam Lowlanders. The Bowl will be fought over by Stockholm Berserkers, Brussels Straffe Ketten, Edinburgh Thebans and Lyons Rebelyons. The Spoon match will be between Berlin Bruisers and Bristol Bisons.
Although the Bisons lost all three matches, they can count themselves somewhat unlucky. They were not expected to beat Newcastle, but the Northampton Outlaws were very much the surprise team of the tournament. They had never played a competitive game before, and came within a whisker of making the finals. Bristol’s third game was against an experienced Amsterdam side that had only narrowly lost to Brussels.
Much as it pains me to admit it, I am fairly sure that London will come away with the cup again tomorrow. However, Dublin and Manchester are both fine sides. The Irish have come to Bristol with the firm intention of winning both tournaments, and have a group play record as good as London’s, but Manchester had to play a game against Newcastle. The Spartans have a proud tradition in gay rugby, having hosted the world’s first ever such match in 1995. They’ll be determined to make the final again.
Whatever happens, we can be guaranteed a lot of exciting rugby. Bristol’s Mayor, George Ferguson, will be joining us at the ground for the finals. I’ll be doing live commentary, alongside my new friend, Paul Davis, who runs BCFM’s sports show. We’ll also be doing the sports show live from the ground, covering all the day’s action (including the test cricket and the Monaco Grand Prix), and previewing Sunday’s Woman’s FA Cup Final. You can follow all of the action over the Internet via the BCFM website.
Since the ceaseless 'making' of his world extended from my father's youth into his old age, The History of Middle-earth is in some sense also a record of his life, a form of biography, if of a very unusual kind. He had travelled a long road. He bequeathed to me a massive legacy of writings that made possible the tracing of that road, in as I hope its true sequence, and the unearthing of the deep foundations that led ultimately to the true end of his great history, when the white ship departed from the Grey Havens.So I have come to the end of The History of Middle-earth, with this volume. The first two-thirds are about the composition of the appendices of LotR; the rest brings together some short essays, mostly unfinished. Two of these are rather interesting. "The Shibboleth of Fëanor" looks at how the original 'þ' became 's' in Quenya but remained 'þ' in Sindarin, as in the name Sindacollo, the Quenya version of Thingol; Sindarin itself is a Quenya word, the Sindarin calling themselves the Egladhrim. There is also an intriguing late set of thoughts on the true identity of Glorfindel, who appears in quite different contexts in both LotR and the fall of Gondolin; one fascinating possibility is that he actually was killed in the First Age but allowed to return from the Halls of Mandos to accompany Gandalf on his mission, which would explain why the Nazgûl are particularly perturbed by him.
"Honestly," Nettie said, shaking her head again. "The lies people tell themselves and call it the truth."These wee Puffin Doctor Who ebooks are having a good run right now. Here we have the celebrated Patrick Ness, delivering a very solid tale of two marginal teenagers in wartime Maine, finding themselves dealing with a peculiar fad for truth-telling gadgets which turn out to be alien tech, with a mysterious celery-wearing stranger and his scandalously dressed companion all mixed up with it as well. This is the first of the books in this series which is not told from the tight narrative viewpoint of Doctor or companion, and all the better for it.
Short listed for this year's Hugos, this is another in Talbot's alternate history of Grandville, where most people are anthropomorphised animals and England is only now recovering from two hundred years of French rule after defeat at Waterloo. As well as taking us to the dark heart of political conspiracy, with overtones of Tintin (and also, frankly, Dangermouse), Talbot reflects art history too in his distorted gaze; the character here illustrated is one Jackson Pollo, and he refers in an afterword to the CIA's funding of Abstract Expressionism. It's a witty, absurd and also rather bleak story. I will find it tough to choose between this and Saucer Country for the Hugo.
Telling history through things is what museums are for.This brilliant book accompanies the brilliant series of podcasts which I listened to a couple of years ago. It is the same hundred objects from the British museum's collection, but this time in dead tree format. The individual talks, which were 11-14 minutes on the radio, are down to 5-7 pages here, so I think quite substantially cut; but what we get in return is pictures of the actual objects, which radio cannot give. Actually in most cases I felt I actually had got a fairly good impression of the objects' appearance from listening to the audio version, but there were a couple where the picture does make a big difference - the sexually explicit Warren Cup, and the extraordinarily detailed mechanical galleon of Augsburg. Anyway, it is all very nicely done (though I did notice as I browsed the maps at the end that none of the objects is from, er, Ireland).
21/52 for the group T189 alphabet challenge
The set theme was: K is for Kinetic
This shot was taken by tossing my mobile phone in a darkened room. To prevent damage, I ensured that it would fall on the bed, which was covered with a soft blanket.
I'd quite like to try this again with some coloured lights in order to get a more colourful image.