There is a rare chance at the moment to get a clear picture of Wales’ true position within the UK now that we are through to the Rugby World Cup semi-finals, the only team from the British Isles left in the competition. The very fact that David Cameron has felt it necessary to declare his support for Wales in tomorrow morning’s clash with France says it all; he adopts the position of a neutral, treats both as a ‘them’ to the default English ‘us’, and bestows his preference like the patronising afterthought of someone who has had to be reminded that Wales is part of “the Union”. Of course, the Prime Minister wouldn’t even be asked the question if it were England v France.
Meanwhile there are no Draig Goch flags and car stickers for sale in the Scunthorpe Asda, unlike the Cross of St George merchandise that floods Wales when England do well in a competition, while the massed ranks of the “British” media have lost interest since England were eliminated, relegating rugby to their sport supplements’ twilight zones and giving Wales dry, aloof analysis instead of the “our boys” jingoism England would get in the same position. Expect no “Wales expects…” rallying calls from the London papers. It’s wonderful to see the squirming discomfort of the English/British (in England these words are interchangeable synonyms) when faced by Wales as an unavoidable entity, the very near country of which they know little, the unpalatable, irritating reminder of an unresolved conflict in which they will always be “the baddies”.
This exposure of the hollow charade of the “United Kingdom” has given the only all-Wales newspaper, the Western Mail, the chance to boost sales by plastering rugby all over its front page day after day while Cardiff, always at its best when it ditches the Brit schtick and is unequivocally Welsh, has Cymrufied for the occasion. A palpable excitement hangs in the autumn air. The Millennium Stadium will be full for a big-screen TV feed and pubs and clubs all over the city are opening early. This is no time to sit at home; this is the time to wallow in the unsurpassable experience of collective Welshness.
I will be down my local at 8.30, draining a Brains as I rub the sleep out of my eyes (but I’m going to give her bacon butties a miss). Drinking alcohol at that time of the morning will be a journey into the unknown for me – I normally make it a rule not to touch a drop before Thought for the Day. Anything could happen. All I know for sure is that I will spend most of the match skulking in the “smoking area” outside, unable to watch more than a few moments of action without getting into trouble for language that would make a scaffolder blanch, and judging the score solely by the noise-levels emanating from within. I predict a Welsh defeat: A) because I always do; B) because it protects me from disappointment; and C) because by betting against myself I win whatever the outcome. So, there will be no need for me to blog next week about Wales in the World Cup final; no, no, that will never happen…