Sunday 25th November 2017: Aviva Premiership Round 9: Bath Rugby v Harlequins at the Recreation Ground, Bath: Result – Bath Rugby 38 Harlequins 14 (Bath 5 points including four-try bonus point, Harlequins 0): League positions – Bath Rugby 3rd on 29 points, Harlequins 8th on 20 points.
As I was spending the weekend in the country with friends, with the primary source of rugby entertainment anticipated to be the live TV coverage of the England v Samoa match at Twickenham (kick-off 3.00pm) and then Wales v New Zealand at the Principality Stadium (kick off 5.30pm) – combined with the fact that Quins’ away game at Bath (kick off 12.30pm) was not being televised – your author’s familiarity with Quins’ fortunes yesterday was confined to listening to the BBC local radio commentary of the first half whilst sipping our pre-lunch gin & tonics.
In consequence, before being called to the lunch table, I was already aware – via the fact that Bath Rugby had already notched their four-try bonus point within 20 minutes (Paul Grant after 1, Freddie Burns after 9, Elliott Stooke after 12 and Matt Banahan on 18) and were leading by the comfortable margin of 29-7 at half-time – that it was a lost cause.
What I can report to Rust readers is that our hostess’s boeuf bourguignon served with mashed potato and cabbage was not only absolutely delicious, especially washed down with a bottle of Sainburys’ best ‘Taste the Difference’ Rioja, but soon had the very welcome side-effect of banishing all symptoms of anger, frustration, concern, anxiety and depression that might otherwise have been prompted by the autumn’s slow descent of the men in quartered-colours towards the Premiership’s league table relegation dog-fight zone.
When watching major rugby televised events at home or in company, there is nothing quite so calculated to set up the average fan for the coming spectacle as a well-cooked casserole or stew, preferably accompanied by two veg.
My particular favourites are (in no order of preference) Irish stew, Lancashire hot pot, boeuf bourguignon or – if you want to venture towards the exotic – perhaps a lamb tagine, Hungarian goulash or black bean soup with chorizo and braised chicken.
I don’t mind whether they’re served at the dining table on plates, or just shoved in front of the assembled menfolk (already assembled in their allotted places within a semi-circle of arm chairs and sofas facing a 80 inch television backed by quadrophonic Bose speakers) in bowls on mini-trays, accompanied by large wedges of baguette smothered in salted butter.
When it comes to the ritual of television sports-watching on a Saturday afternoon, anticipation is a vital component.
With stews or heavy-duty nourishing soups, there is nothing to match the delight of coming down to breakfast on the morning in question in the knowledge that the advance preparation has all been done (by someone else) and that the house slow-pressure-cooker had duly been switched on, as per schedule, at 0500 hours by someone who had been specifically deputed to get up that early precisely for that purpose.
Just to be able to flit around the ground floor of a house, getting a slight whiff of the aromas coming from the kitchen getting stronger by the hour, and/or ambling through said nerve centre on some little errand or another and being able to ‘register’ from the control panel on the cooker that the concoction our company will be consuming not long before kick-off is already 2 hours 48 minutes into its eight-hour slog to the dining table would provide any human being possessed of an IQ over 50 with a rare glow of confidence that all is well with the world despite the ongoing vicissitudes of Brexit, President Trump and rampant global climate change.
Thus it was yesterday for me.
The only slight variation from the straight and narrow was the chef’s announcement (as our boeuf bourguignon reached the table prior to serving) that the carrots she would normally have added to the pot had not been.
Instead, on her personal whim, they had been arranged on the grass at the far end of the garden for the benefit of the rabbits know to live in that vicinity who might be having a hard time of it recently given that there had been two degrees of frost overnight. A smattering of mock outrage and joshing remarks followed from those assembled.
I am happy to record here that after two helpings of the main course plus my share of two bottles of Rioja – and then the arrival of numerous mince pies, together with brandy butter, double cream and superior vanilla ice cream at half-time during the England v Samoa match – the remainder of my waking hours yesterday were spent in relaxed, not to say satisfied, mode.