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God’s Own Game

We’re lucky in our rugby club.  It’s a community with a lovely atmosphere and a great history: one of the founder clubs of the Welsh Rugby Union, cherished in our own minds for our pre-child twenties’ great days and better evenings in the company of rugby folk.

The kit is unashamedly traditional: hooped socks in the finest tradition, and at least half of the shirt is Oxford dark blue (we forgive the new universities the Cantabridgian light blue stripes that its other founder bequeathed).

The coaches are kind, true sportsmen in the best sense with an emphasis on enjoyment and the hand-shaking comradeship that Under Sevens learn for a lifetime in the finest sport of all.

Ours is one of the most beautiful grounds anywhere in the world.  When clear Sunday mornings are suffused with that wonderful autumn light , when the dew shimmers silver on the grass and the spires of our cathedral reach up through the cloudless blue haze at the treeline, there is no finer place on earth to be alive.

We were early.  When Dad’s a referee, however retired, old habits die hard.  Too early even for a revitalising Bacon Sandwich, the sporting preparation of champions. So the U7 Player of the Week and Dad we went for a walk, along the pitchside and through the copse of ancient trees to the cathedral close.  The wonderful golden stonework was in sharp relief through the early sunshine as we rugby-clad gentlemen enjoyed the sound that came from inside the cathedral of the Faithful engaged in their celebration of Wales’s [second] established religion.  The organ, a magnificent instrument played, I suspect, by my good friend and splendid organist David, was giving a Psalm some gusto.  As the birds sang and a plagal cadence approached, it was a scene from great literature of all that is wonderful about these sceptred isles.

And then, of course, we got to discussion.

We reflected on the bells, two of which are bequeathed by my great-great aunts.   We dispatched with a discussion of bombing and conflict the memorial to the landmine of 1941, that did so much damage.  So far, so good. And then we went on to the great achitectural-theological question that defines so much of the established church.  It begins with Dad Cruickshank deciding to delve into the sacred mysteries of church nomenclature.  Big mistake, for it turns out that the cock is not just important to the gallic rugby fraternity.  It has deeply Anglican significance, I was informed.

“How do you know it’s a cathedral?  Is it something to do with the Bishop and his palace?”

“Nope.  It’s from the pointy bit on top of the tower, Dad.”

“The spire?”

“Yes.  That’s how you know it’s a ‘thedral.”

“But lots of churches have spires.  How does this one tell you it’s a cathedral?”

“Because it’s got a chicken on the top.”

Amen.  Final whistle.  Case closed. Go in peace.

Personal views of a wordsmithing, sartorialist, horn-playing, state school Oxonian dad, rugby ref, recovering politico, and fan of vintage tailoring, Ralph Lauren style, and sharp writing.

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