Roger Evan's Wonderful World of Ludlow RFC
  1. Roger's Thoughts
  2. Letters to Roger
Roger Evan's Wonderful World of Ludlow RFC
  1. Roger's Thoughts
  2. Letters to Roger
Roger Evan's Wonderful World of Ludlow RFC 1 of 2

1. Roger's Thoughts

Reflections from Roger Evans on issues and people at Ludlow RFC.


Beneath the Black is Dairy

WOW! So that was a Lions tour. I don't remember a previous tour creating such interest and anticipation. Some time today I will delete all the recordings of the tour that I have made. What I won't delete is a recording of a programme, Beneath the Black. This was a memorable programme and is well worth watching again for several reasons.

Firstly the Haka. We in this country could easily be forgiven for thinking the Haka was just a ruse to piss the opposition off before an international match. The programme showed us how deeply it is embedded in New Zealand culture.

The standout spectacle for me was the sight of 2 school teams squaring up to each other before a keenly contested local derby, and doing the Haka at each other as they lay down the challenge, and behind each team were several hundred of their school fellows doing perfect Hakas as well.

The Haka has caught the imagination of the world as never before, we even had a Haka performed at Bishops Castle carnival by a ladies keep fit class. Its a tradition that should be respected.

I shall always remember the piece about the time when Beauden Barrett took the rugby world cup back to his rural community for them to see. His father is a dairy farmer (all the best people connected with rugby are) and we saw him fill the world cup with milk direct from his huge milk tank and drink a toast from it.

We were told the story about the large scale migration that took place in the 50s of South Sea islanders to New Zealand. Initially they were treated a bit like 2nd class citizens, a bit like Welsh supporters are still treated in Ludlow today. It was their prowess on the rugby field that sped up their integration into society. It was led by people like Bryan Williams who spoke at Ludlow such a short while ago. He is one of the great All Blacks of all time and still runs a local club that turns out over 50 teams! It is the grandchildren of those original immigrants that are now making New Zealand such formidable opposition.

There are people that are saying that Lions tours don't have a place in the modern professional era. This tour has proved that the Lions is a brand. It is an enduring brand and you get rid of enduring brands at your peril.

The next tour is to South Africa in 4 years time. I expect that there are plans being made even now. I just hope that Stuart Barnes is chosen as coach. There would be 2 advantages. He clearly thinks he knows more about rugby than anyone else and if he were coach we would be spared his patronising commentary.


Oh to be a lion! It is inevitable that people of my age make comparisons to rugby now and when they played. I don't think I do envy, but I wish we had had competitive rugby every week. The only competitive rugby we had was the Shrewsbury floodlight cup in the Autumn and another cup at Newport in the Spring.

I never liked the Newport cup because it was a long way, they didn't have lights so it was a 6 o'clock kick off and because of that we could never get a strong team there. I never liked losing but I used to drive home thinking thank goodness we don't have to go there again next week.

The floodlight cup was ok. I remember we got to the final one year. This was at a time when Shrewsbury had 1st class aspirations and Bridgnorth had a really strong team. We got to the final courtesy of the place kicking of the late Bernard Hadley who played in the 2nd row. This was in the days before tees and the ball was kicked at the point with the toe of your boot. Alas Bernard got a bit carried away with his success and bought new boots for the final. He didn't land a kick all night, but no matter, after that he was always known as Bernie the Boot.

Today's Ludlow players have competitive games every week but they don't have tours and I often wonder if they have as much fun. The ultimate in achievement for the modern rugby player is to become a Lion. Lions are judged on their performance on the field. The nearest I got to being a Lion was going on tour to Italy with Ludlow. We went twice to Valpollicella, is that how they spell it,I cant remember anything that happened on the field but I can remember lots off it. I was quite excited about going. I had an old man working for me who had fought with the commandos right up through Italy in the war. He taught me a phrase in Italian before we went.

"Whats it mean ,Jack?" we asked.
"I can't remember but we used to say it all the time".

I tried it a few times when we got there but they didn't seem to like it.

When we were climbing up into the air at Gatwick I was sitting next to Keith Phasey who is a scaffolder. He said he was only insured up to 60 feet. We were to stay as guests in the various homes of our hosts. They say life is a lottery, this was the ultimate lottery. We were standing in a group and were allocated somewhere to stay. Some ended up in flats 30 miles away some ended up in villas. I was standing at the back of the group, standing at the back has always served me well in life, I was standing next to the late David Payne. As we watched some team mates climbed into the back of scruffy Fiat vans, some got into limousines.

"What do you reckon to this Payner?"
" Not much".

About 200 yards away there was a small hotel and we drifted away to that I don't think they saw us go. David and I didn't wait next time we went to Italy, we went straight to the hotel.

Writing this now seems ungracious, people offer you hospitality to the best they have, but staying in luxury has its drawbacks. 3 of them were billeted in a luxury apartment but the 3 had to sleep in 1 double bed. One night the 1 in the middle was violently sick. He was so sick the 3 of them had to spend the last night in the hotel with us.

We went to Venice both trips. On the 2nd trip we had a drinking day and I remember Andy Hamer lying on his back on the cobbles of the piazza and we used his nose as a sundial. I remember the most delicious sparkling red wine and how most of the toilets were just holes in the floor and we had to plan our day around the use of a proper one.

When we got back I asked Jack if he was sure he couldn't remember what that phrase in Italian meant,"They didn't seem to like it".

He smiled and said, "Come out with your hands up".


A bit rusty
There are 3 events that mark the passage of the club year. There's the financial year that I know very little about. There's the AGM which marks the formal end of the club year and the start of the new one. And there's the annual dinner. Of the three I have always preferred the dinner. The dinner is usually more fun. I have been to dinners in the Feathers, the Angel, and in the marquee that we owned. Everyone used to wear shirt and tie, but not everyone does now. Its the players that set an example now!

When I first turned up at Ludlow in the 60s it was tradition to have the dinner early in December on a Friday night and it was a part of that tradition that we always played Newport away the next day. How stupid was that? Newport, in those days had a style of rugby that was not for the faint-hearted. It was not a place for the faint-hearted that had a hangover and was suffering from lack of sleep. I don't ever remember winning one of those matches. I tried to get it changed and eventually we moved to the date in May we have now. For many years I organised the speaker for the dinner and Ludlow acquired a reputation for being a nice dinner and place to go. Dinner speakers talk to each other and that has been a big factor in attracting so many big names to our club.

It was surely a factor in our ability to getting this years speaker, Garin Jenkins to come at short notice. I know he has been before but he would not have bothered if he had not already known that we treat our speakers with respect and give them a fair hearing. Garin spoke at some length about the Welsh victory over England at Wembley that he had played in. Being reminded of that defeat always pisses off England supporters, which is always a good thing. Everything in life is relative so if you want to see really pissed off you should have seen Gerald Actons road rage in a gridlocked multi-story car park after the game. Wales played all their "home" games at Wembley whilst the Millenium stadium was being built. This was the last game, it was a beautiful day and it felt a bit special. As Garin said England were always the better team but they never scored enough points to get "away" from Wales. [bit like the World Cup]. We had Max Boyce on the pitch to entertain us before the game and Tom Jones came on to sing Delilah. At half time I went to the loo and was standing there doing what half the population do. Although it was the usual crush in there I became aware of an unusual sort of crowding. I looked over my shoulder and saw 2 huge men in black suits, black shirts and ties, a uniform that said "minder". I looked around to see who they were looking after. Next to me, doing what I was, was Tom Jones. Well you have to don't you? I had a good look. It was about the same size as mine. But mine had more rust on it.


It's Up hill but not a struggle
There is a small part of me that is glad that the 6 Nations is over. We can all go back to being friends again. The only competitive issue that lingers on is the composition of the Lions squad that is to be announced this month.I have a jaundiced view of all this. I can understand the players wanting to be Lions. Those selected often play the best rugby of their lives,and why wouldn't they? But history tells us that some players never play as well again and some take 2 or 3 seasons to get some form back. As an example Richard Hibbard was the outstanding hooker on the last Lions tour yet has been in the international wilderness since, he has shown good form for Gloucester this season and I doubt if there is a hooker playing better.
Jamie Roberts has been a shadow of what he once was. From a purely selfish point of view I hope that the Lions select about 30 English players, then I would have more to look forward to next season!

And so to more important matters. Last Saturday I went to see the first team play at Cannock. I went with Messrs Wallace. Early into the journey I asked Laurie what Ludlow needed to do to get promoted. It took him from Craven Arms to Telford to explain. He had lost me before we got to Diddlebury. A precis of what he said would be that it would be quite handy to win our last 3 games each with a bonus point.

Cannock have a good setup, nice clubhouse and several pitches. There were more Ludlow supporters than those of the home team. Gerald asked the barman where all the Cannock supporters were, he said "playing for the seconds" which kept Gerald quiet, always a good thing.

There is a fair slope on their pitch, so it was always going to be a game of 2 halves (most games have 2 halves - Ed) and it always looked as if the winners would be the team that did best on the downhill. That was us in the first half and we got to half time leading by 50 points to nil. Probably the most telling score was the try Ludlow scored uphill right after the break.

I don't think these high scoring games always tell the full story. The other teams in our league all know that our backs are very fast and elusive and so they target our forwards and try to deny our backs the ball.
To my mind the biggest improvement in our team this year has been within the personnel and the organisation of the forwards. Its Presidents day on Saturday when we entertain Clee Hill, a must win. We need a big crowd of supporters. See you there. Kick off 3pm.


Will Sparrow Delivers a message through a mouthful of crisps!
I went to the committee meeting on Monday night. I admit that I was a bit irritated by Gerald Acton's triumphalism about the England win against Scotland. His assertion that all the elusive runners were now English jarred a bit. But I rarely stay irritated for long. Scotland clearly ran up the white flag after 5 minutes, its just that England didn't see it. Anyway, there were 4 of us who saw every Welsh game, home and away for 10 years in the 70s, [it was 5 nations then] so I have had my place in the sun, others now have theirs. Its a lesson you can learn from Peter Brereton whose attitude after a loss is an example to us all.

Truth be told, apart from all the tribal rivalry, I have seen most Welsh games over the years but the best memories are of the occasion rather than the match. I do have a clear memory of a game in Dublin where we lost by about 50 points one Sunday afternoon but I also remember the stormy weather, flying was not for the faint hearted. It was so windy that if the pilot happened to get the plane roughly in line with the runway, he would drop it down, even if you were still 30 feet up in the air.

Its France v Wales this weekend so here's another memory (My wife says I've got more to remember than I have to look forward to). We went to Paris one year, we always went on Thursday lest we should suffer from jetlag. We were wandering around the city on the Friday and found ourselves on the Left Bank. At 1 o'clock our thoughts turned to food and drink. There were lots of restaurants about but Gerald insisted we find a typical Left Bank establishment. "This one any good Gerald?" "No, I want you all to experience the ambience of a typical establishment of the area." Several other places were rejected in this quest and it was now gone 2 o'clock. And then he found it "This is what I've been looking for." We piled into this place, jockeying for good seats and when we were settled, looked about us in order to soak up the atmosphere. The walls were lined with sombreros, he had, after all that searching chosen a Mexican restaurant.

Back to the committee meeting. I found myself sitting next to Will Sparrow. I don't know Will very well but he had a packet of crisps with him. We were a bit squashed in and the crisps were well within my reach. Did he offer me one? Did he hell! But even more remarkable than that, the other side of Will was Gerald. I thought that Will is going to learn the hard way that you don't put food where Gerald can reach it. But he didn't take one, which completely threw me.

Will has a message for you all. On the 25th of March the 1st team play Burntwood at home. This is likely to be the most important game of the season and if you support Ludlow then is the time to do it. Will says your vocal support makes a big difference. See you there.

Laurie the Goalie
I have been very quiet of late. I have been licking my 6 Nations wounds. Perhaps that's what the breaks are for, for the players to recover from their bruises and for supporters to gird their loins and get over their disappointments. The England juggernaut grinds on and those of us who support others have only the spectacle of England players asking the referee for guidance to comfort us.

Down at the Linney the 1st team were back to winning ways with a victory over Telford. But there's a lot more to it than that. It was the day when we invite our sponsors to lunch and apart from saying thank-you its important as a part of that thank-you for us to show that we are in good fettle and for them to see that we are playing good rugby, and that element of our income is important to us and well spent. We have had our special meeting and the committee were given the go-ahead for improvements that you have all been told about.

Just as important on the agenda were the elevation of Glyn Nash and Laurie Wallace to life membership. Were there ever stalwarts of the club who were more deserving. I have very clear memories of both of them arriving. Laurie turned up to training one night. He was wearing a green top of the sort much favoured by goal keepers of a certain vintage. We were still training at the cricket ground. We did some running around fitness work in the gathering gloom, woe betide you if you took your studs too near to the cricket square,(we still had capital punishment in Ludlow). When it became completely dark we did some drills,,line outs and scrums and such. The only light we had was the light that shone out of the cricket pavilion windows, Current players please note. We moved to lineout practise and for obvious reasons Laurie was put in the middle. There was no such thing as lifting, the first ball came in and Laurie leapt up and punched the ball, goalkeeper like into the night sky!

I can never put dates onto events but I remember I was organising an Easter tour one year, Easter tours, remember them? On the Wednesday night before we were due to go, the phone rang.

"My name is Dennis Nash, your club is going away for Easter and my son Glyn says he is going."
"Thats right Mr Nash"
"What I want to know is he is only 16 and who is going to look after him?"
"I will, Mr Nash"

And I looked after him for years and now he is looking after me. Which if you think about it, is how things should work. Now I think about it I only saw Glyn on tour when we were playing rugby. That's another one I got away with. I leave you with this thought, Godfrey Bray has a lot of hair for a man of his age. Do you think its a wig or just hair extensions?


England certain to win 6 Nations (just like the last 18 years)
When I left Lydbury North on Saturday it was a bright sunny day. It was so bright and sunny that I nearly didn't put my thermal combinations on. These are a bit like John Wayne wears but I can assure you that they are not pink (Yes they are - ed). Sometime on my journey I became aware that the sun had gone in and the road was very wet. I have the only debenture seat at Ludlow. I dread to think how much it has cost me over the years. The people tasked with running our club are well off the pace if they expect to sell any more debenture seats, the sun was out but my seat was in the shade, and it was freezing.

What did cross my mind was how many spectators were there on a cold wet day. I didn't do a count but there were probably more than 60 there. It just proves that the rugby is so well worth watching this season. Ludlow scored over 50 points again but someone said to me after the game that they hadn't really got going. Over the weekend I have seen successive soccer managers on TV, say that their team played well or badly, they very rarely give credit to their opposition. Our opposition, Handsworth, stuck to their task well, and I can remember 3 very good tries they put together. Everything changes this week with the arrival of the 6 Nations. I am quite surprised that this hasn't been cancelled. Every newspaper I read yesterday said that England had already won it, but they said that about the last World Cup, and we all know what happened then! We will all go from being Ludlow supporters and we will
devolve into our various tribal factions. I have been going to support Wales since I was at school and the pre-match banter with the supporters of other nations is a part of the scene. So I will start it off, get my retaliation in first. We all know that England rugby has 10 times the players and 10 times the money of other nations, that is why their supporters always assume they will win. But that can't be much fun. If you take it for granted you will win, there can only be the disappointment that comes if you lose. Other nations just hope to do well. Sometimes they do well and if they do they are
delighted. England go into this 6 nations on a bit of a roll, but bubbles always burst, you just have to be patient.

Who is the club's best driver?
The day had started out so well. There had been an invitation from Saturdays opponents, Edwardians, for four from Ludlow to join them for their President's Day lunch. I had put my name forward but had not expected to be chosen. Surprise, surprise I was. It must have been due to some sort of computer error. Thus I found myself in the car with the President, the Chairman and the Treasurer. I have no hesitation in saying that this was higher up the social ladder of life than I ever expected to go. Height that I don't ever expect to scale again. We went in Peter England's car. Peter is a better driver than Andy Wright, Andy drove my car to Eccleshall last season. I had to go to TNT on the Monday to get a new set of tyres. Most of the rubber on mine had been left around Telford's roundabouts.

We had to make a small diversion to a pub to deliver 2 barrels of beer. I don't know if the pub actually needed any beer or if it was just a ruse by Peter to make us think he was a hard worker. I still remain to be convinced on that! It didn't take us far out of our way and Peter seemed to know his way about. Just when we were 5 minutes from our destination we get a phone call to say the game is off. My heart sinks but we are still invited to lunch, so my heart goes back up again. What a nice set up they have and what nice people. We had a superb lunch, with choices and second helpings. I was a bit embarrassed by the size of what Andy called "just have a bit more" but hopefully our hosts didn't notice. We had a raffle that was so big it took about 20 minutes. I thought the game could have been played but that is easy to say because when a decision had to be made there is no way they knew what the weather would do for the rest of the day. We had managed to stop the players before they had gone too far, but we hadn't stopped Laurie and Andrew Wallace who had made the long journey, and Maurice Acton who hadn't come so far. It turned out a good day. 2 places to my right was a man from Ebbw Vale and 2 places to my left was a lady from Dublin, which seems to be what rugby is all about. Don't forget the Special meeting at the club on the 30th.

In which a puppy gets interested
The Christmas, New Year break contrived to take out 2 Linney Saturdays and I really missed them. There was plenty of rugby to watch on TV but that's not the same as real rugby. A feature of televised rugby has been the confetti of cards distributed. It can only be a matter of time before we see a match start as 15 a side and finish 7 a side.

There's been 2 rugby players staying with us over the holidays, my grandsons. The eldest works hard on the farm, the younger one is, as far as I can see, studying to go on mastermind. His specialist subject, the tv programme Friends. There was a bustle about them at 10 o'clock one morning. This caught my attention because the elder one gets up early but the other is a mid day sort of person. "Whats going on?" I want to know. "We are taking some furniture down to the skip for Laurie" I let them get on with it, privately I think they ought to take Laurie to the skip and leave the furniture where it is.

I did see some live rugby over the holiday, Bishops Castle were playing Clun. I don't know their players that well but for Clun I think you could say Knighton. The game was played in various thicknesses of fog and when the grandson limped off that was enough. Those grandsons have more injuries in a season than me and their dad had in our playing lifetimes. I blame that sticky tape they put on the outside of their limbs. If they have some on their arms or legs they wear short sleeved shirts or shorts whichever is appropriate.

We have a new puppy and we took him to see his first rugby match and he found it very interesting, but not as interesting as when the wind changed and he could smell the barbecue.

And so we get down to the Linney. There's the usual pre-match banter about who is to put up the scores. Wynne Jones volunteers, a big mistake. As the score approached 3 figures he was really struggling. Good job he had 2 sons there to help him. The score on the clubhouse said 110 to 0 but it could be any number. The referee probably knew but I don't think the Jones family did. It didn't feel as one sided as it sounds, our visitors, Eccleshall, tackled well to the end and played in good spirit. It takes a good team to score 100 points its so easy to lapse into white line fever and individual ambition takes over. If they persist in these very high scores you could see an appearance of Gerald Acton from the subs bench for the last 2 minutes. There was supposed to be a special meeting tonight but its been postponed due to a technical glitch. I have been telling them for a long time that these emails wont catch on but no one listens.

December 2016

Sexy Christmas Advice
I remember being very disappointed when Clee Hill rugby club was formed. It was not that I bore them any ill will but rather that we were sort of losing so many good friends, friends that had hitherto been such an important part of the Ludlow club. I went to Clee Hill on Saturday, it was my first visit, and I was very impressed. I was particularly impressed with the excellent 1st team pitch. A lot of Ludlow support had found their way there, there's little to beat a local derby between local players.

The grandsons are home from uni for Christmas so I watched the first half of the 2nds game. Their arrival signals an important difference in my own status in the scheme of things. They set up base in our house and their presence means a step down for me in life's priorities. I have to make a special effort to keep my clothes clean as I know that nothing of mine will get washed until they have gone back to college. They wear more clothes every day than I have altogether.

But its not all bad. The standard of catering takes a huge step up. They get their food before I get mine so in effect I get their scraps, but those scraps are of a higher standard than I am used to. I was a bit worried just where I would fit in to all this with regard to the new puppy, and it is fairly clear that he sits higher in the pecking order than me. But you just have to be patient in life, his toiletry is not of the best, he disgraces himself on a regular basis, then I get his scraps as well as my own.

I don't think there's rugby next Saturday as its Christmas Eve. You might think that that leaves me nothing to look forward to. But I will go to the pub. There's usually good kissing to be had on Christmas Eve. Have a really good one.

All I want for it to not be Christmas
There's catching up to do. If we go back just over 2 weeks I was off to Cardiff to see the last Welsh Autumn international. Wales needed a win against South Africa, which they achieved but they seemed to make hard work of it, as is their recent way. Wales were at least another try the better team but it didn't feel or look like that. To put it in some sort of context, and everything in life is relative, the South Africa team were the poorest I can remember seeing.

But as I look back at the day out there is one thing that made a lasting impression on me. We went in a 16 reg BMW! On the way back I noticed that the driver didn't need to dip his headlights when another car approached it was done automatically. But that's not the half of it. If we caught up with another car the lights still didn't have to be dipped, instead the lights contrived to put the car in front into a comforting pool of shadow whilst you were following it. No idea how this worked, don't need to, but it was very impressive.

It just so happens that I go to a discussion group. Its called Farmers night in the Powis Arms in Lydbury North. Its every Thursday night, they call it Thirsty Thursday. You have to have a very good story to make an impression there. Whatever you tell them there is always someone who has seen bigger or better. If, for example you told them that Elvis Presley was alive and well, living in Craven Arms, worked for the Post Office, and delivered your mail every day, one of them would say that the Beetles, including John Lennon, drove their dustcart. So I told them about the BMW headlights and had their full attention, none of them had heard of anything like it. My credibility is sky high, and it needed that sort of boost.

Moving on from that, this is a difficult time of year for me, I don't like Christmas. Its a farmers view that is probably blighted by the fact that Christmas means more work. The irony is,and life is full of ironies, that now I can't work I wish I could! Christmas just keeps coming at you. If Bing Crosby came on our yard singing White Christmas he would soon be in our slurry pit, never to be seen again,(like a lot of things that end up in our slurry pit) In no particular order, there's Christmas trees that I don't like. Ours goes up on the 1st of December and I wont be able to see out of the window for 6 weeks. We have a new terrier pup and I thought he would destroy the tree, he destroys everything else, but thus far he has ignored it, but there is still time for him to do that. There is the club Christmas lunch to go to. I hoped that there would only be a few there and this would be the last one but there was close to 100 there and everyone except me seemed to enjoy it. I was on the chairman's table which completely threw me, its not the sort of thing that suits my image as a man of the people. For some reason it was half time before I got out to watch the rugby and Ludlow were well ahead by then.They are playing so well this year, particularly the forwards, that promotion is a real possibility. It's Clee Hill next week away, wonder how much Christmas spirit will be about.

November 2016

The diabolical state of International Rugby...if you're Welsh
Its a funny thing, this rugby.When last season finished I really missed my Saturday afternoons at the club, so the new season begins and just when you are enjoying watching Ludlow rugby again, they have all these Autumn internationals that take you elsewhere. I thought that the smartest thing I had done lately was not going to see Wales v Australia. Wales were dire, what had happened to the team that had played well against New Zealand earlier in the year. I went to see Wales play Argentina and that was one of the worst games I had seen for some time. In fact the best thing I saw that day was the red wine in Jamie Olivers. But worse is to come, against Japan Wales were dire and then some. I go to see Wales play South Africa next week and it has become a form of masochism, And in a way that sums up supporting international rugby, you have to endure the highs and lows, you have to learn to take your medicine.

There are few things that stir the emotions more than international rugby results. Some people can cope with it better than others. I know England supporters that were so upset at the Welsh victory in the World Cup that it was 4 hours before they could speak, and even then it was only to order a pizza.

International rugby is a funny thing as well. They waste countless minutes setting and resetting scrums and when eventually they have it right, the scrum half feeds the ball to his own side. Whats all that about? I will tell you what its about. The hookers don't strike for the ball anymore. If the scrumhalf didn't feed the ball it would just sit there in the middle of the tunnel, and you often see that happen. Why do they call them hookers, why don't they call them throwers?

Rugby has changed a lot over the years and for me the best innovation has got to be the widespread use of gum-shields. When I was playing, it was only having a gum-shield in his mouth that would keep Jim Peters quiet. I still have a recording of Wales v England in the World Cup. On wet gloomy days I watch it again. Cheers me up no end. Roger Evans

October 2016

Peter's Trousers and a Shameless Plug
On Saturday last we held our vice presidents lunch. Vice presidents are the backbone of the club. Most vice presidents have a long history of club involvement, as players, office holders and supporters, they are always there to offer advice, most of their advice is given free and most of it is given to the referee on match days. There were a lot of new vice presidents there on Saturday, who I didn't know, they are particularly welcome as they are a recognisable sign of the club's intention to be an important part of the Ludlow and South Shropshire community. And they tend to bring ladies down with them.

Our guests were Willenhall Rugby Club, some of their committee joined us for lunch and that made the gathering complete.
Although Ludlow won and scored 50 points doing so, there was almost a sense of disappointment in the air probably because the rugby did not quite reach the heights of that played the previous week. I thought that it was a sort of stop-start sort of game, and our visitors competed well for long periods of the game and scored 2 good tries of their own.

I am not sure how many sat down for lunch, 80ish I would guess, and when the clubhouse is laid out as it was it does look good. For the keen observer there are undercurrents of social tension present beneath all the conviviality. It is a truism of life that when you are out, men all want to look the same and ladies all want to look different. Thank goodness Peter England's red trousers have not made a second appearance, lets hope that they presently reside in a charity shop somewhere, preferably a shop some distance away. If that particular fashion had caught on the next thing we knew all the golfers would be wearing their Rupert Bear golfing trousers. Then there are ties. Some wear them and some don't. The really important club officials wear ties but those on the Left wing of the committee don't. I spotted one bow tie and a cravat as well. Bob Flemons was wearing a tie and he won £400 in the 100 club draw so maybe that is something I should consider in the future.

Then there is kissing. I've always liked kissing. But that has its social agenda as well. If you live anywhere near the centre of Ludlow you kiss alternate cheeks and make suitable MMM noises at the same time. I have watched this practise carefully and the actual lips rarely make any contact. So what's the point of that? I don't do any cheek stuff and I don't do any MMMing. I always go for the lips, lips can tell you a lot.

The big social question of the day? How did Philip Norton get on the top table? Is he making a bid for fame? Being involved at the club is a bit like working on a farm. You probably start off as a young player hoping to make the first team, you do and you get important roles off the field as well. Then it is the natural order of things that you stop playing and you get pushed out of your other roles as well. When you work on a farm you start off as the boy and you get all the crap jobs, then you are the boss for a bit and then you get pushed out and you go back to doing the crap jobs. My life is a bit like that, but then as far as I can see there's only me has a debenture seat at the Linney. These jottings were brought to you by Roger Evans, whose latest book "50 bales of Hay" would make an ideal Christmas present and is available in all good bookshops. And ordinary book shops as well.

What's the difference between tractors and golf?
It was never my intention that these musings should constitute some sort of match report but some of the rugby played by the 1st team on Saturday was some of the best I have ever seen at the Linney. Some of the tries that were scored were quite remarkable. If you don't go down regularly it is well worth a visit. Our players were so much quicker in thought and deed and their skill levels were so much higher than those of there opponents. I was sitting near some of the Harbourne supporters and heard one of them comment that we had players that made their quickest players look slow. Of course a 78 to 5 victory is not without its issues. It seems to be a bit of a challenge to operate the scoreboard. Some people are vertically challenged just to reach up to change the numbers. Some people are arithmetically challenged once the score goes past 30 they seem to lose all confidence. Some people even go to watch the game from the side of the pitch to avoid being asked to do the scores. Perhaps while these dry pitches persist and high scoring rugby continues we should award 1 point for all scores. It would be easier to operate and the results would be the same. It was good to see the 2nd team out to play Bishops Castle and good that they had enough players to lend a few to the visitors. From a personal point of view it was a pleasant change not to have my afternoon spoilt by people talking about golf. Golf is a bit like dominoes, the people who play it can't stop talking about it after the game. The only plus for golf over dominoes is that you don't have all that noise as they shuffle the dominoes after each game. In turn golf and dominoes are both a bit like tractor driving. The tractor drivers in the pub on Saturday nights can't stop talking about it either. We hear about every turn of the wheel and every gear-change. I am sure they use more diesel in their minds on Saturday nights than they use all week. Next Saturday it is the vice presidents lunch. If you are not down for that I suggest you get your name down. The rugby is well worth watching.

Value for Money
I must confess that when the rugby season last finished my Saturday afternoons seemed very empty. Going down to watch the rugby can easily become an important part of your life. But the new season is well under way you can't always get down to all the games, but the sort of rugby the 1st team are playing at present makes it all well worth while. The new season glossy brochure turns up and its important that we all recognise the different contributions that are made by a range of people and organisations that all play a part in the running of the club. Where would we be without Julie running the bar, where would we be without our sponsors? Those sponsors are in the brochure so if you need any of the services or goods they offer, why not support them, they support your club. Lots of players are sponsored individually and its quite easy to think that our club is all about those lucky enough to play for the 1st team, but its not, the club is about everyone, whatever their contribution. In my own small way I have sought to emphasise this by sponsoring 2nd team captain James Ellis this season in recognition of what the 2nd team captain contributes to the club and just how important it is to have someone in that role. With hindsight I was a bit hasty doing that. With hindsight I should have sponsored Darren Jukes. If I had sponsored Darren I would have had better value for my money. I would have had more kilos of rugby player.

Ludlow Trousers
Sorry but am a week behind with this, but have been to Ireland for a week with a study tour from the pub in the village. Something memorable always happens when you are in Ireland. A few years ago, when I was even more important than I think I am now I used to fly to Cork regularly on business. I always used the cheapest flights I could find and 1 day I went with a small airline that only had 2 planes, and they were Dakotas. When I returned to Cork airport I couldn't find the check-in desk. Eventually I approached the Aer Lingus desk. There was a stunning blonde sitting there, I showed her my ticket and asked if I could check in with her. "Sure you can, and haven't I been sitting here all my life just waiting for you to turn up". I remember her so well, wonder if she remembers me...

Something similar happened when I checked in to a 4 star hotel at a place called Mullingar last week. The young, pretty receptionist, she was brunette but at my age I m not too fussy, gave me the registration form to sign. She watched me sign it, she snatched it off me, held it up to read it and cried out,"Got you, your mine now for the rest of your life." I told her I didnt have any problem with that. (Just for your reassurance the club checked this story out and the lady in question is now getting the help she clearly needs - Ludlow RFC) Last time I was down at the club was last Saturday on the occasion of the Chairman's lunch. Two things struck me. To see the clubhouse full reminded me for some reason of the very first social event I ever attended at Ludlow Rugby Club. It was a Christmas party and we held it in the cricket pavilion which we used to rent for our changing rooms. In those days that is where we changed and socialised, it wasn't perfect but we were very glad to have it. We couldn't play home games at the start and end of the season because there would be a clash as our respective seasons overlapped. To play rugby we walked up the road to play on the school pitches, you cant play there now because someones parked a swimming pool on it.[ its quite important to remember your origins lest you get too full of yourselves with what we now have].

Anyway,Jim Peters and I decided to have a Christmas party in the cricket pavilion and our respective wives turned out to help us with decorations. We didn't have a lot to work with. We festooned the rafters with cricket nets and hung balloons on them. We ended up with a sort of pub effect. The sort of pub you might see at the seaside. The sort of pub that hasn't seen a real fisherman for 100 years. Not that it mattered because I remember we had a really good party. We weren't really looking for a pub effect but the nets covered up the ceiling! Now I also remember that we had to play all those away fixtures in Birmingham. This wasn't very handy but it was ok for fixture secretary Godfrey Bray, who was living and courting there at the time.(Remember courting?)

I said that there were 2 things that struck me last Saturday. Peter England has some new trousers. Not just any old trousers. They are red ones. Red trousers have a sort of social cachet to them. I don't really know what cachet means but it seems to fit nicely into the sentence. They are mostly worn by persons of a certain social level. I m sure I have glimpsed our president wearing some. After the financial blip the club suffered a few seasons ago, Peter England, as treasurer is one of the best things that have happened to this club recently, but I don't know what to think about his red trousers or where they will take him. They will probably take him to drinking in lounge bars, you never found anybody in a lounge bar who would help you to cart bales. I Shan't be going to watch the team play at Handsworth. I've still got jet lag.

September 2016

Prop Posers, Telford and an Advert
I was reflecting on what I wrote last time about when an opposition prop was injured and you might get a real poser moved to prop and you could give him a hard time. Life does not always provide such bounty. Most time the opposition would have no scruples at all about putting some young, eager to please newcomer in at prop; Someone who had no idea what he was being let in for and probably weighed 10 stones. These were often hard afternoons because you not only had to keep your side of the scrum up but you had to help him to keep his side up as well, lest it should collapse and he should be hurt. Which is not what we're about. I wanted to clear that up because as you know I am a really kind person and I didn't want you to think otherwise.

Ludlow played Eccleshall on Saturday. I didn't go so I cant tell you anything about it. I was signing copies of my new book in Bishops Castle at the Michaelmas fair and trying to raise funds for the air ambulance at the same time. My new book is available at all good bookshops and at those not so good as well. The 2 preceding sentences are what is known as an advert. Truth be told I wasn't much looking forward to going anyway. Last year was my first ever to Eccleshall, and I don't have good memories. First and foremost it is where Alex Wallace sustained a knee injury that still sees him on the sidelines. It seems a long time ago now but I bet it seems a very long time to him. Secondly I made the big mistake of letting Andy Wright drive my car there. If there is one thing in life I have learned it is that Telford was carefully designed so that people got lost there. Therefore I have this golden rule that if you drive through Telford you never go off the M54. A friend of mine went off the motorway 10 years ago and hasn't been seen since. Andy Wright has no such inhibitions. He drove through all those roundabouts with a carefree abandon, at very high speed. His confidence suggested a prior knowledge. Perhaps he once had a milk round there. My car wasn't best pleased either. Its not used to such unsympathetic driving and was sulking for days afterwards. I think Ludlow won, but you will need to look elsewhere to be sure.

How Things Have Changed
NO 1. We had to call off our first game of the season, against Edwardians in the cup. One of the reasons was that we were short of front row forwards. When I played prop, it was a sort of given that your other team mates thought you were slightly mad, who in their right mind would willingly put their head down in there? For my part I loved it, I loved the confrontation, I loved the trial of strength. I found it hard going when I was learning the trade but think I progressed to being quite good at it. If ever you found yourself in open play and you dropped a pass the cry would go up, "What do you expect from a bloody prop".

But there was another aspect to it. We didn't have substitutes and we didn't have uncontested scrums, so if a prop went off injured, someone had to take their place. (I don't ever remember going off injured, injuries are mostly for lesser mortals, for people who play in the three-quarters and the like).There was always a shortage of players prepared to take a prop's place, whilst the discussion was going on the other players would develop a sudden fascination with something no one else could see on the far horizon.

If the opposition had to find a prop to go against me I would run my eye over them and probably hope they would choose the back row forward that was a bit of a poser, and if they did I would give him a hard time, which he probably had coming to him, and serve him right for playing with his shirt collar turned up. Now props are the most important players on the field. If you don't have props you don't have a proper game, props are restored to their rightful place in rugby and in life itself, which is their due.

NO 2. With our pitches at the Linney turned into a car park for the day because of the Food Festival, our first "home" game of the season was held at Luctonians, and we thank them for their cooperation. What a transformation, when I first played at Lucton we had to change in the village hall and walk through the village to the field in our kit. Over the years I became good friends with Lucton stalwart Richard Hall. I remember him telling me that one year when he was captain he was really struggling for players, so he used to make his cowman play to make up the numbers. For his part the cowman was no good and didn't want to play anyway. So Richard had to pay him overtime for the hours he played. Professional rugby came around here before it became popular everywhere else.

When I first played there they only had one pitch. Today the pitches seem to stretch from Kingsland to Brecon. I was brought up not to believe anything I heard and only half of what I see. It could be that all those pitches are some sort of virtual reality illusion. And they've got a grandstand. Pity they built it facing the wrong way. It was facing the pitch where Luctonians were playing Stourbridge. Behind the stand Ludlow were playing and winning a hard fought game against Cleobury Mortimer which was well supported on both sides. As a Cleobury supporter said to me, "It doesn't really matter what league you are in, its a job to beat a local derby when the players are all local boys". How true.

August 2016

Here we go again
I went down to the Linney on Thursday last to see the first game of the season versus Newtown. I got there just before kick off and couldn't believe how many cars were already there. The only explanation I could think of was that every player now has 3 cars each.

I can remember that last seasons matches were often marred by wet gloomy weather but you don't expect the same conditions in August, but that's what we had. When you get older you spend a lot of time wishing you still played rugby, when you see the hard early season pitches you are glad you don't. With age come eyesight issues and I spent the first 10 minutes of the game thinking Ludlow had a nice lot of new players then someone told me that it was in fact Newtown in the red shirts and Ludlow were at the other end in blue!

I could do something about seeing more of the game. I could move from my vantage point by the clubhouse to stand on the touchline by the hedge. But you have to think about that. That area of the touchline is populated by coaches and managers and people who know a lot more about rugby than me, I could well be out of my depth. The only person who goes down there who knows nothing about rugby is Laurie Wallace and he's only hanging about hoping for a game.

Peter Bayliss uses the word, populated quite a lot, he's often populating spreadsheets, whatever that means.

It was an interesting game, Newtown were clearly the better team to start but Ludlow were on top at the end. All credit to Newtown for getting a full squad and so many supporters there for a 7 o'clock kick off, it can't have been that easy.

I quite enjoyed my evening out, Ludlow town band were rehearsing in the clubhouse, and I knew some of the tunes. We had the Dambusters March and then one I know well, the theme from the Magnificent 7. I told Andy Wright that and he said, "No it's not, it's The ride of the Valkyries by Wagner." Even at his age he hasn't worked out that no one likes a smartarse. We all know it's the magnificent 7 by Yul Brynner, this Wagner fellow clearly plagiarised it. Chairman Andy tells me that the club is in use every day of the week, apart from the band there is model car racing, fitness classes, mums and babes and the place is really busy which is a good thing and part of a vision to put our club at the heart of the community.

If you live where I do the most important game of the season followed on Saturday against Bishops Castle, without going into any detail, I can rest easy for another 12 months. Bishop Castle were short on numbers, they probably have more farmers than we do but fair play they stuck to their task well and tackled right until the end. There was a real buzz about the place on Saturday we put on our Team GB event doing taster sessions designed to encourage young people to take up sport. There were bouncy castles and lots of children which is always good to see. I fancied going on a bouncy castle but they make you take your shoes off and I couldn't remember which socks I had on. I asked Julie to go on the bouncy castle with me but she said no. At least that's what I think she said.


The first sighting of Aliens in Shropshire
An important part of my life is debriefing my grandsons, Rhys and Tomos, about what is going on in their lives.So Tomos tells me that on Boxing Day he played rugby in a team that was a mix of Ludlow players and players from Tenbury, against a team from Lucton. That brought back some memories! In the late 1960s Ludlow didn't have enough players for a 2nd team. The 1st team was quite settled, it was a good team, but they never trained, so it was quite difficult for a newcomer to get a game. I was a newcomer. But for very obvious reasons it was useful for there to be players that could be called on at times of injury or unavailability. Tenbury were in a very similar position so it was decided that together the two clubs would put out a team on a regular basis that would consist of players from both clubs. This team was to be called the Aliens. I have always thought that if you never played for the Aliens you weren't really a proper rugby player. The opportunities for things to go wrong were endless. It was decided that Ludlow would supply eight players one week and Tenbury eight the following week. Trouble was no one could ever remember whose turn it was to supply the eight. I played for the Aliens for two seasons and we never had more than 14 players, and those were the good weeks. It was in the days when we had to buy our own shirts and should some players have a shirt in good nick of another colour, well that's what they wore. So if it was our week to supply eight, there might be five in red shirts and three in any colour you can think of. Tenbury were much the same, they might have four in green and three in various. To see us all together brought new meaning to Alexander's Ragtime band. The only time I can remember a lot of players wearing the same colour was if the opposition were wearing red or green. Away games were particularly challenging, especially if we planned to meet some where on the way. Remember these were pre mobile phone days. We were never really sure where we were to meet, there was no captain to organise things. We never arrived on time. If we did meet up the 1st thing we all did was count the Tenbury players, this was usually by bad language and a collective groan.What else do I remember? I remember a Tenbury player who took himself off and signed as a professional for Leigh rugby league club. He signed for £1400, which doesn't sound much, but a new mini was only £400. He was quite successful and I often saw him on TV. For all the reasons I mention, this couldn't continue. The next year Ludlow decided they had to have a regular 2nd team. A nice young lad called Sam Hornsby was asked to lead it. He went on to become a 1st team stalwart and a club legend. PS that was the year we started buying shirts for all players, so the 1st team were all playing in the same colour as well.


Christmas Poultry Joke
If I had to choose a word to describe yesterday 19th December down at the Linney, the word that would come most readily to mind would be remarkable. It was sadly remarkable that for the 3rd week running the rugby had to be played in such wet conditions. Wynne Jones reported, proudly, that during the previous week he had acquired two new grandchildren, remarkable. When in due course those grand children appear at the club I only hope that for their sake he is wearing a different pullover! The clubhouse was full for Christmas lunch and the atmosphere was really good. When "they" say that Christmas comes but once a year I cant help thinking that its a good job. Once a year is often enough to have to see all those Christmas jumpers. I thought Lyn Davies had the best one, but then again I think everything in life is relative, and it was not too difficult to have the best jumper. The match was the first league game ever against Clee Hill and it was so good to welcome so many old friends back to the Linney. Clee Hill members had taken a table at the lunch, the first time our opponents had ever done so. For everyone the day was marred by the serious pelvic injury suffered by a Clee Hill player, Adam Yarnold. The injury required prolonged treatment on the pitch by paramedics before he could be removed to hospital by ambulance. The match was abandoned and we all of us wish him a speedy recovery. At a guess there were around 300 people present and their concern was very clear to see. We will let you know how Adam Yarnold progresses. To conclude my remarkable theme I would be failing in my duties if I did not refer to Andy Wrights speech at the lunch. He was doing fine until he decided to tell a joke. We have become used to risque bad taste jokes since Gerald Acton has been president. This joke wasn't in bad taste it was just very bad. When you get to my age you tend to think you have seen and heard all that life will throw at you, in fact my wife sums it up by saying that I have more to remember than I have to look forward to, this joke didn't scale new heights, it plunged to new depths. If Mark Carney, the governor of the bank of England told it there would probably be a devaluation of the pound. If David Cameron told it the UK would probably be asked to leave the EEC. A happy Christmas to you all.

The worst part of a final minutes win
Even after several days of bad weather, December 12th stood out as a really horrible day. Nevertheless some people, namely Andy Wright, Peter England, Gerald Acton and Roger Evans were determined to travel to Cannock to support the 1st in an away league fixture. At an appropriate time, one of that number, me, went upstairs to get showered and changed in preparation for the journey. Whilst the shower was warming up I took the opportunity to look out of the window at the weather. As I looked at the relentless cold rain sweeping over the hills, I asked myself the question, "Do I need to be standing out in all that?", the answer came quite quickly, no. Some people are made of sterner stuff, some people, the three remaining heroes, for such they are, went to Cannock. And the foul day continued. Some people were half an hour late, not that that usually matters. But when its the ref it does. So with 10 or so minutes to go, 2 kinds of gloom descended on the ground. Firstly the gloom that you get when Ludlow are losing 17 -10 on a shitty day in shitty conditions, secondly the gloom that you get as it approaches 4 o'clock at this time of year when you have kicked off half an hour late. Some people, our former heroes had had enough of this bad day, and set off home. And then, under the cover of darkness, Ludlow scored a converted try and a penalty and won the game 20-10. So some people went all the way to Cannock to see Ludlow win and got very cold and wet, but didn't see them win. I expect they were quite pissed off about it. But probably not as much as Cannock.

How to score more than 80 points?
What a tremendous day we had at the Linney last Saturday(5th December)! Atrocious weather conditions yet the two Ludlow sides playing at home scored 125 points between them, which included an 80 points to nil league win for the firsts. At one time Robin Spicer who was keeping the scores on the scoreboard was getting quite flustered and I was worried he was going to have one of his turns. So that was a good day, a day that is something of a balance for the inevitable roller coaster of success and failure that is part and parcel of sport. A recompense if you like for some of the disappointments of last season. So that's ok then. Or is it? The second tier of Welsh league rugby, a league where you find the 2nd teams of the 4 Welsh regions together with teams like Neath and Pontypridd are involved in an experiment for the season whereby a try is worth 6 points. Just to see if there is a positive effect on the rugby that is played. If this were universally adopted there could be repercussions for our club and our high scores. We would need to add another screw to the wall where we put up the scores for when we went over 100 points. And the poor old scorer would be so busy that matches would need two half times, just to give him a breather!


What makes a doormat?
What a splendid occasion the vice-presidents lunch was last Saturday. We had an excellent meal and the usual good company including some very welcome new faces that seemed to enjoy themselves.
The only downside was the weather,which to use a technical dairy farming term, was shitty. But that negative was far outweighed outside, we had the first team and the second team both playing at home. There were 39 players changed and ready to play, most of them seemed to come from Lydbury North. If you add to that the players who were unavailable or injured that puts our playing strength at as strong a position as it has been for some time. With junior rugby going from strength to strength things look very good on the playing side.
Things like this don't just happen, it is a tribute to those who run the playing side and the culture of fairness they have engendered. The players for their part clearly enjoy the Ludlow experience and then they bring their mates down, and so it goes on.
The 1st team won 66-5 which was tremendous given the conditions. The seconds lost to Bridgnorth 3rds, who were mostly Bridgnorth 2nds (numeracy was never very good out that way) so well done to them.
Now here's a funny thing, there's a mat in the doorway into the foyer of the clubhouse that says things like TEAMWORK, RESPECT, ENJOYMENT, DISCIPLINE, SPORTSMANSHIP. Which is all very laudable, and then it says ENGLAND RUGBY. Wonder what that's all about? It must be some carpetmaker's error. Still I expect it helps to keep some mud out of the clubhouse, but it would probably do that if we turned it over.
The next clubhouse lunch is the Christmas lunch on the 19th of December. I am really looking forward to that, there will be 2 teams at home again, the 1st team are playing Clee Hill. The next day I slip into my Christmas grumpy mode which is something I have perfected over the years. What few smiles I have will appear upside down.
Spare a thought for 1st team no7 Rob Davies who suffered a bad injury to leg and ankle and is still in hospital today (17th) recovering from an operation to insert a plate in his leg.

The past is a foreign country
Gerald Acton has been one of my closest and dearest friends since we first played rugby together over 40 years ago. Sadly, we don't seem so close any more. Its not that we don't like and respect each other any more, but we have definitely drifted away from the closeness that we once enjoyed.
We still have that original bond, Ludlow Rugby, that we still share, sadly its the relentless march of technology that is driving a wedge between us. Whilst I struggle along doing my self taught best, Gerald has left me miles behind. I feel he has moved on so far, that he is now in a different era and hence the gap that has come between us.
Gerald has never been big on patience and there is no sign of him waiting for me to catch up. As he once famously said, "the trouble with you Roger, is that you are quite happy out there on your silly little farm, and you have just let the world pass you by". It therefore came as some surprise to hear that Gerald, he who never goes anywhere without his ipod or whatever he calls it clutched in his hot little hand, had been to Paris, with his wife for an old friend's birthday.
Not only did Mr technology, Mr information at my fingertips, go to the birthday on the wrong day, he went in the wrong year. What also surprises me is how he found out that he had the date wrong. Have you ever heard Gerald trying to speak French? I have, he speaks English with a French accent. They reckon the TV programme "ello ello" was based on someone overhearing him. He tried to book us into a hotel once, he said "One roomy, two bedy", with a French accent. His most famous faux pas (that's French, Gerald) was when he ordered "fromage du mere" cheese of the sea. in a restaurant. I suspect the waiters are still laughing. But enough of all that, I will continue to stumble along as best I can in the twilight world where I am fairly comfortable.


When we hold our annual dinner the menu always includes a list of the great names, some of them legends. who have attended our dinner in the past. The chance to meet these people, to say hello, is a very special memory to lots of us. In recent years we have had notable visitors at other times as well, and these too are special occasions. We had a special occasion again this week when our guests were Phil Kingsley Jones and All Black legend Bryan Williams. Phil started off as a stand-up comedian, which he is very good at, and concluded with the story of how he had,firstly mentored, then managed, the great Jonah Lomu and that player's health issues. I thought his best joke was the one about the England supporter about to jump off the Severn bridge. Mike Jones and Jim Peters liked that one as well! Bryan Williams was so dignified and so humble about his achievements, he won 113 caps for New Zealand and scored 66 tries. His achievements need some qualification. In his era there were not so many internationals played, caps were much harder to come by. There were no 10 minute cameos from the bench in which earned you another cap. Not that I would have minded a 10 minute cameo from the bench! Its impossible to convert his caps into a sort of modern equivalent but I bet it would be up around the 150 mark. And how nice to see former Moseley and England scrum half Jan Webster with us, he had actually played for England against Bryan Williams. My wife had a couple of friends around last night and I was telling them about Thursday night, they particularly liked the Bryan Williams story about the Duke of Edinburgh's horse farting. Now here's a funny thing, near to where I was sitting was a