There’s been a lot in the media over the last few days about the advent of driverless cars and the introduction of these vehicles onto public roads in the UK. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-28551069 The main benefit according to the authorities and motoring organisations is supposed to be keeping to speed limits and reducing accidents. All very laudable I’m sure, but I think you are missing a bit of a trick here guys. Hello? No more designated drivers, no more drinking diet coke all night – or that stupid non- alcoholic beer – I mean what is the fucking point of it anyway? Is anyone really surprised that pubs don’t stock a cellar full of the muck? Rugby players must be over the moon (or maybe under the table) at the idea of being able to have a skinful of Special Brew without worrying about how to get home. Simply set the satnav to ‘Curry Queen’ and hope that someone is still compos mentis enough after a few more Kingfishers to put in your home postcodes (and those for any quiet alley ways for when you inevitably need a waz). No doubt this innovation will seriously piss off the local plods who think they’ve got a quick collar – only to find that you’re being chauffeured by the dead one out of ‘Randall & Hopkirk’. The other brilliant thing will be the driverless coaches for away games – no more trying to sneak a few cases of lager on past the Gestapo behind the wheel. The National Express’ answer to ‘the Ghost of Christmas Past’ won’t be able to speed past pubs, 24 hour McDonalds and public conveniences (aka garage walls) without stopping. All you will have to do is tell the bastard to pull over! Mind you, this may mean that return journeys could last several days or more – now that’s another added bonus that neither of the organisations with the initials AA’ have spotted!
If you’re a fan of England you get used to disappointment – doesn’t matter which sport, we always seem to fall that bit short. We have our moments of course – 1966, 2003, Ashes, Olympics, but we rarely seem to sustain triumph over extended periods – although we are pretty bloody good at cycling at the moment. It’s okay – I mean who wants to be at the top of everything all the time? Well, I do for one – although I’d settle for just being the best at rugby for most of the time. That honour falls to New Zealand who seem to have been at number one for most of my life. Even they have their downs though – winning just two of the seven world cups that have been on offer. I’ve been to New Zealand a few times and they are all totally obsessed with rugby – to the point that they make the Welsh and South Africans look positively indifferent. Not surprisingly therefore, there has been much hand wringing and angst in the land of the long white cloud regarding the national tragedy that ended up with them losing their first ever Commonwealth 7s match and only picking up a silver medal (oh we should have been so unlucky!). The Glasgow 7s was the most watched event of the games in NZ (surprise surprise) and they will have been mortified – the only thing worse would have been if they’d gone down to the Aussies or us! They are now looking to Rio and there is pressure for Gordon Tietjens (the most successful 7s’ coach in history) to include All Blacks in his squad for the Olympics. Guys like SBW, Israel Dagg, Ben Smith and Julian Savea are being mentioned. Sir Gordon has pointed out that 7s is a specialist game that needs adapting from 15s – he has stated that any ABs he adds to the squad will need to be available for the 2016 7s circuit to adjust. This may not be to the liking of Super rugby sides but the lure of a gold medal might actually prevent some big names taking up lucrative contracts in Europe or Japan after next year’s World Cup. Using top players from the full game may not work anyway – as the Aussies found out in Melbourne 2006 when Wendall Sailor, Lote Tuquiri, Chris Latham and Matt Giteau were included. When we played 7s (that’s way back when) it was at each end of the season and there the squad all came from the 1st XV – we did however, play the game differently to most teams – using 6 backs and 1 forward, our opposition usually had 3 or 4 forwards plus speedy blokes. Bush’s strategy (which is a posh word for how we played) was to have 6 fast blokes plus a serious flyer. We fielded a scrum half (Hickey), stand-off (Locks), 2 x centres (Paddy and me), full back (Bush), open side (Kev A) and a wing (Floss). Boney (wing) and Tay (blind side) made up the squad. Paddy and Bush were chunky enough to hold their own in the scrum with Kev whilst I pissed about with the other backs. There’s a couple of sections in here somewhere about 7s if you’ve got fuck all else to do and you’ve missed Bargain Hunt. We played the game differently to how we played 15s – and that gave us an edge. It worked too – and I have a collection of battered tankards, medals and pennants to show for it (or at least I would if I could be arsed to hunt around in the loft). If you watch the 7s’ circus it is easy to see that it has become a specialist game in its own right – we used it to get fit pre-season, to have fun at the end and to collect a load of useless mementos. I bloody loved it, but wouldn’t have sacrificed 15s to play it all the time (too bloody knackering for a start!)
Rich, Silvi, Annalia and Rafa flew home to Oz last night which was quite sad for us. They were going from Heathrow and so we left with plenty of time (we thought) to make check in. The intention was to avoid the tractors, stray cows and local village idiots which frequently frequent what are laughingly called roads down this way. In fact we sailed through Parsnip valley no problem and motored down the M4 to the exit for the airport. Being rush hour we easily navigated into the terminal which was a delightful collection of friendly and helpful people all eager to be of assistance. Not really! What happened? The reality is that it took 45 minutes to drive the 200 yards off the motorway – the considerate drivers coming from the right on the roundabout insisting on blocking the road so that just the one car could get through each change of lights. We had such a laugh at their amusing antics – what a nice bunch! I really do miss all that friendly waving and hand gestures and wish I could join in this fun every day. Maybe I should try and get a job as one of the arseholes who shout at you when you try and find out where to go once you’ve finally parked – which at £10 an hour is a right bargain. Obviously I’d have to work on being a lot more obnoxious as the standard is extremely high – I can’t believe they’d employ just any old twat.
Top coaches in rugby are employing ever more innovative ways to ensure that their players are fit – they have nutritionists, fitness gurus, doctors and a whole range of monitoring programmes. However, I have yet to hear of any of them following the advice of a Tory MP who is convinced that his belief in astrology can be a major help in healthcare – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-28464009 Apparently he is MP for Bosworth, although I suspect he actually represents Barking. I imagine he would suggest that rugby teams only had forwards born under Taurus, Leo or Aries, Sagittarians and Scorpions would be forced to play on the wing with Pisceans and Aquarians coming off the bench in wet weather. Obviously all refs would have to have been born between September 23rd and October 22nd (Libra). No Virgos would be allowed to play on account of them being lying bastards. I can’t myself see Richard Cockerill or Dean Richards trying to recruit Russell Grant to be honest – as neither seem to be the sort to be avid readers of horrorscopes. Just in case you’re wondering how I know so much about the signs of the Zodiac, I read it in the Star! (of course not – I may be a twat but at least I’m not a Tory MP!)
I played in some rugby games where the only support you got was a jock strap, in cup matches where several hundred would turn up and in a 7s tournament at Twickenham before a 70,000 crowd. To be honest it never bothered me much (although I was pretty keen not to make a complete twat of myself at Twickenham) – I played because I loved the game, the camaraderie and the occasional game where I didn’t get injured. As far as I was concerned the main benefit of having someone on the touchline was more that they could drive me to A & E rather than any wildly enthusiastic cheering being involved. However, there’s a baseball team in Korea who are desperately keen to have madly passionate fans egging them on. Trouble is they are not having such a good run of form at the moment, having lost 400 matches over the last 5 years. Understandably the locals have decided there might be something more fun to do – like sticking their heads in buckets of ice water maybe. This team though are nothing (like their scores) if not ingenious and they are filling the once empty stands with robots – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-28484536 These can apparently sing, chant (presumably in Korean) and even do a Mexican wave if they get bored. If this catches on over here there are some teams we played against that might want to boost their support – mind you in the West Country they’d need to teach these mechanical farm hands to talk in a weird accent, drive tractors and learn to gob on the opposition when they were within spitting distance (sic). Maybe they could also use them during the week to pull up turnips. Back in London we played some rather posh old boys teams and the need would be to programme them to come up with stuff like “I say old chap that’s just not cricket” whenever their blokes were getting a good shoe-ing from our forwards. However, the main thing all these androids would need to do is to learn to drive and to navigate to the local hospital!
There’s a ton of rugby on TV today – both semi-finals of the Super 15 are back to back and the Commonwealth 7s kick off in Glasgow later – not the first time that things have kicked off in that city apparently! Normally I’d have fired up the conveyor belt between the sofa and the fridge to deliver an endless supply of pasties and Heineken to ensure I don’t lapse into a coma from malnutrition. Obviously I don’t really have an automatic mechanical device and usually have to rely on Terry to ensure my nutritional well-being. When she politely informs me to “shift my fat arse” and get it myself I find I have to plod to the Smeg to replenish the calories burned in the very necessary need to re-load my plate and stein. It’s a circular process – I know – and it’s a real surprise that I’m porky to me too! The whole point of this dull preamble is simply to explain (and fill the page) that because a) of the rather nice weather, b) it’s the last weekend of the kids and grandkids being here from Oz and c) of Terry insisting that I play in the paddling pool with Annalia – that this Saturday will be different. For once I won’t be sprawled like a beached whale on the sofa being fed endless delicacies by nubile nymphomaniacs who find me sexually irresistible. Half of that previous sentence is not entirely accurate – you’ll have to guess for yourself which bit I made up. I will, in fact, be turning lobster red in the garden whilst Annalia dowses me continuously with buckets of ice cold water and giggles. She never seems to get bored with this game or feel the need for someone else to be the one with the wet head – all the time Silvi, Lell, Rich, Terry and Rafa will find this mildly amusing whilst tucking into my comestibles (well not Rafa, obviously). I’m especially grateful to Lell who thoughtfully bought the pool! On the plus side Rich & Silvi have the wealth of tech knowledge that has completely passed me by and the rugby will be being ‘streamed’ or ‘showered’ or some other stupid wet euphemism onto the i-pad. So, I will after all be able to watch the games – in between being water-boarded that is! I can’t wait – which (for once) isn’t sarcasm – playing with the family is actually more fun. Note – my apologies to Martin Luther for plagiarising his speech in the title (the Civil Rights’ leader not the Catholic priest, obviously – the monk’s public speaking was rubbish!)
John Nic sent me this picture a couple of days ago –
To: David Shute
Cc: John Nicolson
Subject: De Shutes Beer
Biggest brand in Portland, you kept that quiet.
Hope all is well, love to Terri
Hope to catch up soon JOHN
I had to look up Portland – apparently it’s in Oregon. I also tried to look up who owns the brewery on the off chance that I’m related (however distantly) and in the hope of them sending me some cans or money (and preferably both). No such luck, but I did find that they have a large range of beers including a Black Butte (which sounds both rude and racist) and one called Obsidian Stout which I imagine is a special brew for morbidly overweight blokes. My other favourite hobby is (big surprise) rugby and in Oz they have a competition called the Shute Shield! Again I looked it up and this one is named after an Aussie bloke called Robert Elliott Stewart Shute – obviously no relation – he might have been a convict but our lot have never been posh enough to have four names. The poor sod died after he was tackled in a game – he was in the front row (so definitely not related) and was only 23. So no long lost relatives about to thrust a fortune on me sadly – think I’ll just have to Google Neville – see if he mentioned me in any of his books (or preferably his will!)