Ok, so I haven’t posted on here in quite a while, and that probably means that you’re all expecting a long update about what I’ve been up to these past few months. Hopefully I will get around to doing that in the next few days, but I’ve been inspired to post today for a another reason. You see, yesterday I did something I’d been meaning to do for a little while and hadn’t got around to yet – I popped into Waterstone’s and bought a book. The reason for buying this book goes back a little while, back to before my move to Cambridge and into full-time training for ordained ministry, back to when I lived in a leafy suburb where London rolls into Surrey and did a normal weekday job that left Saturdays generally free for other activities.
You see, once upon a time not all that long ago I didn’t just watch rugby, I played rugby. Well, when I say “play” I probably mean “ran around looking like I might have at least a slight clue what I was doing and generally failing miserably”! I first learnt to play while at school, and I enjoyed it immensely, though I was never the best kid in the school at sports (though I loved playing sports, especially team sports, and I was ok enough to represent my school in a few, including cricket, rugby and badminton). But then, apart from a year playing when I was at university in the US, I stopped playing for quite a few years. That all changed when I moved to the southern edge of London. I started wondering whether I might take the sport up again. And then I had a chance meeting with a fellow politico who, in his late thirties, had just taken up the sport, apparently as an attempt to stave off a mid-life crisis! He told me about this great friendly club that he was playing at and encouraged me to come along. I did so, and for the next few seasons I never looked back (unlike my erstwhile team-mates, who were regularly looking behind them to where I had once again thrown a bad pass from the middle of a mangle of large blokes wriggling around in the mud and attempting to thump one another without the ref seeing, or from the base of a scrum that was rapidly moving, from my point of view, backwards and was at risk of smashing my hands to pieces!) And, you see, it is just this kind of low-league, lowest-common-denomenator, playing for the sheer thrill of making a good pass kind of rugby that this book I bought yesterday is about. It really is a great book, and I highly recommend you go here (once you’ve finished reading this) and buy it.
And I mean that. It really is a great book. And that’s not just because I’m in it! Yes, you see, the book is written by that very same politico, who persuaded me to give in, buy a new pair of boots, and pop along to Warlingham Rugby Club, “The Mighty Warl”, who really are a great club. The same politico who for 3 seasons was my team captain in the 4th XV – who at one point held the grand title of the “Third Worst Team in Surrey” but later took on the mantle of “The Mighty 4s”, and who won their league the year after I left (I don’t think the two things are anything more than coincidental, although anything’s possible!) I genuinely mean it when I say it was a great privilege to play alongside all those guys who made the frequently changing line-up of the Warly 4s – the only thing that caused a tinge of regret the year I had a season ticket to the Rec to watch my beloved Bath Rugby play was the reduction it made in my availability (a reduction my erstwhile captain was probably celebrating!), and I am not ashamed to say I was close to tears as I walked away from the club after my last match with them.
If one thing comes out of the book, other than the wave of nostalgia and a reminder that one thing I need to do when I arrive in Saltash is make contact with the local rugby club, it is the importance of encouraging folk to get involved in local sports clubs rather than simply signing up to some gym membership they’ll probably use twice and then carry on paying for for the next 3 years! At this point I make a special encouragement to consider rugby, a sport that, at the lower levels at least, really is suitable for people of all shapes and sizes. But if it really isn’t your thing, then ok, fine, but another something will be so get out there and join in, you really won’t regret it! Oh, and you really won’t regret buying and reading Steven’s book either, although ordering it from Amazon may be a less embarrassing route to doing so than wandering into your local bookstore and asking whether they’ve got a copy of “My Life as a Hooker”!