When, as I do, you live in the shadow of a major national sporting stadium, you end up with usually either one of two opinions towards said sport – either you love it, or you hate it. I still sometimes have trouble figuring out in which category I fall.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy rugby. I don’t follow it as closely as I follow the Arsenal, for instance, but I do try to keep up with things and have been to more rugby than football games in recent memory.
However, when whatever you want to do on a Saturday has to be worked around the presence of 82,000 people who are all wearing silly hats, or dressed like a bee, or are in extreme cases French, then it can be a little tiresome.
That’s not to say I don’t enjoy living where I do. I love it here, and when I’m actually going to a game it’s great to be part of the atmosphere. But you have to get used to keeping track of what games are happening when, lest your simple attempt to go home be thwarted by tens of thousands of people heading in the other direction (obviously far worse when you also have a bike with you). And when most people are offered overtime at work (in central London) they have to check with National Rail to see if there’s any engineering works. I have to check with the RFU to see if I’ll be able to get near my flat.
There are perks, of course. We live close enough to get the concerts for free, albeit with a little more reverb than one would like. And, if you’re lucky, the massive Tesco on our doorstep is literally empty of customers when a match is on (well, okay, there were three other shoppers. Quite a lot considering the car park was full, however).
The main problem I find is the police, who generally assume you’re a fan going to the stadium rather than a resident going home. But once they find out you’re a local they’re usually pretty good (they even let us cycle down ostensibly closed roads two weeks ago).
Still, Holly and I find it’s usually best when an England match is on to either hide in the flat, or go far enough away and try not to come back until everyone has at least made it into the pubs – or when the game is on, when the whole place is like a ghost town.
I only say this because, three hours before kickoff today, I still couldn’t move for people as I tried to get home for work. Still, as I type, I can hear the faint cheers as it all gets underway. If you’re watching the game, enjoy the show.