Saturday Jan 18th
The rain was coming in sideways off the mountain, not untypical for the Welsh valleys in any month but in January it brought with it freezing gusts and hail. The wind whistled as it chilled the bones of the few brave souls stood huddled on the bank that bordered the old rugby field. The sky was a dark slate grey, heavy with clouds promising more rain.
The players themselves were producing enough steam to power one of the famous locomotives that until recently had still dragged coal from the pits and delivered it to the docks in Cardiff, some 25 miles to the south.
On the pitch a scrum had formed, soaked players heaving to gain possession of the ball. From the back of the scrum, a big red headed man broke clear into space, carrying the ball like a pill under one arm. A shout went up from what was left of the crowd and a teenage boy screamed “Go on Wyn boy.”
The man with the ball, wearing what used to be a navy blue rugby shirt until it encountered the mud of a valleys Saturday afternoon, dipped a shoulder and smashed into the opposition fly half sending him flying and hardly halting the driving run of the big man.
“Yes Wyn, have the fucker” yelled the teenager, to the general amusement of the old codgers standing around under umbrellas and clad in the standard Welsh Valley attire for watching rugby. Big scarves and flat caps were everywhere. The trend for replica jerseys being worn, even by overweight fifty year olds was still two decades away.
On the field the big man had been tackled and a ruck had ensued, the blue team throwing bodies in to try and retain possession. The ball suddenly appeared from between a large prop forwards legs and in his haste to distribute quickly the scrum half, a young looking blond haired man, fumbled the pick-up, knocking the ball on.
A shrill blast from the referee’s whistle brought play to a halt.
“Knock on by Cym a Beri, scrum to Treharris.”
As the players formed once again to restart the game, up on the steep bank a man turned to his friend.
“C’mon Dai, let’s go up the club, this is shit mun. They are dropping the ball more than they are carrying it, they’ve been playing nearly 60 minutes and it’s only 3-0 to Cym. I’ve watched better curling matches on the telly and at least I’m fucking warm then.”
The other, a tall wiry dark haired man in his late 20s shrugged and thought: at least we’ll beat the crowd at the bar – but I hope the DCI doesn’t score the winning try and I miss it! I’ll never hear the end of that.
They turned and walked out of the ground for the quarter of a mile walk back to the rugby club.
Thirty minutes later the two men were well into their second pint, the club was still relatively quiet, but there were a few tables of supporters scattered around, mainly moaning and trying to warm up and a few more sensible regulars who decided the game wasn’t for them and instead have been watching the racing on TV interspersed with quick visits to the bookies next door. The four bar staff had little to do and were chatting amiably. Dai was leaning on the bar flirting with one of them, a lovely dark haired girl of about 20, whilst he drank.
“C’mon Beth, just one drink, we could go to Pontypridd after work and maybe get a curry.” Dai was playing out a line he seemed to have tried before.
“Dai mun, don’t keep on” she said wearily. “You know my old man would go mental if I started seeing a copper. You’re a nice bloke and not too ugly, but I can’t.” Beth smiled at him, he was actually a fairly good looking bloke, tall, slim, dark hair and grey eyes, and not the sort who knew it.
“We don’t have to tell him, do we?” said Dai hopefully.
Beth threw back her hair and laughed, it’s a laugh that made the old men in the bar turn their heads toward her and wish they were 40 years younger. She was stunningly pretty with a great figure and clothes that showed it off. “In this valley Dai? Don’t be so daft, you know that if a dog farts in Ponty they can smell it in Tredowel five minutes later and what happens then, the next time my old man gets pissed and starts a fight? Are you going to nick him?”
“Not really my area, nicking drunk and disorderlies Beth” Dai said apologetically.
“Ok Mr Bigshot detective, I’ll tell you what, when Wyn Griffiths gets back from the match we’ll ask him what he thinks about his DS dating the daughter of Tyrone Reynolds shall we?”
Dai shrugged, smiled and walked back to where his mate from the rugby was sitting.
“Struck out again with young Beth again then Dai?”
“Fuck off Steve.”
In the corner of the bar an old man sat quietly, sipping a pint and staring into space. His seat was a bench along the wall and above him were photographs of the Cym a Beri team from the last four decades.
Beth left the bar to collect glasses and she paused when she passed his table.
“You ok Tom?” she asked.
Tom looked up, slightly glassy eyed. “Aye love, I’m fine as paint.”
“OK, can I get you another beer? Albright isn’t it?” Beth asked.
“Yes please Sue, and a whisky chaser” He replied.
“It’s Beth Tom, Sue was my mother.” Beth looked around sadly as she said this.
“Oh,” Tom looked slightly confused “Are you sure you aren’t Sue, you look just like her.”
“Pretty sure Tom love, I’ll get you those drinks.”
Just then the doors of the club burst open and the first of the rugby players charged in. There were pints already lined up on the bar in anticipation of their arrival and the men immediately formed up in a line taking a pint each and downing them seemingly in one swallow. There was a big cheer as the last man with beer in his glass had to empty the contents over his own head.
The bar was full now as both teams, subs, coaches and hangers on mixed freely with each other. Beer was being consumed fast and there was shouting, singing and lots of laughter, usually at someone’s expense.
Wyn Griffiths, the big built ginger number 8, left the throng of teammates and opposition and walked over to where DC David (Dai) Morgan and his mate Steve were sitting.
“Afternoon Dai” said Wyn “I hope you saw my last minute try to win the game”? “I’ll need that story retold in the station on Monday.”
Dai looked crestfallen at this but Wyn just slapped him on the back and laughed. “Just kidding butt, we won 3-0 and I never got anywhere near their line – what a shit game, I saw you two duck out with half an hour to go, wish I could have come with you to be honest” Wyn continued, “The girls are going to call us down for food in a minute, but if you fancy it we could have a couple of pints after?”
“Cheers boss that would be good” Said Dai, glancing at Steve.
“Your gay friend is welcome too” Said Wyn grinning.
“I’m not gay” whispered Steve.
“I don’t give a shit whether you are queer or quaint” laughed Wyn “as long as you’re good at the boat race, we’re going to have a massive one later, twenty men a side.”
With that he turned and walked back into the crowd of players, put his arm around the opposition fly half who he had smashed to the ground less than an hour earlier – C’mon butt, let’s have a pint” he said.
An hour later, the players were all in the downstairs bar, where volunteer wives and girlfriends were serving up Steak and Kidney Pie, Chips and Peas to the teams, referee, touch judges and anyone else who could blag a meal ticket, it was noisy with singing shouting and banter all of which could be heard from the now mostly empty upstairs bar.
Steve and Dai were chatting about their schooldays in the local grammar school and how shit it was that it was now a comprehensive.
Beth was talking to the other bar staff and occasionally glancing over to old Tom, who was still on his own in the corner of the bar but who now had three young lads she didn’t know sitting on the table near him.
Suddenly one of the young lads jumped from his seat. “Oh, you dirty old fucker” he yelled.
There was a kerfuffle and the three youngsters started shouting and pushing Tom.
Beth ran out from behind the bar yelling for them to stop and pulled one of them away, to reveal Tom standing by his table with his trousers open and his penis in one hand.
“He got up and started pissing on our table” yelled the lad who had been pulled away by Beth.
Dai made his way over to the melee. “Oh fuck, what are you up to Tom? Steve,” Dai yelled “Get your arse over here, we need to get Tom home.”
“I’m orright” shouted Tom “just needed a piss that’s all, get me another pint Sue will you?”
“I’m gonna fucking kill him” screamed the biggest of the three lads, “he pissed on my new trainers.”
Dai waved his warrant card in the lad’s face, “sit down or fuck off, your choice but if you touch him you’ll be spending the night in the cells.”
The lad mumbled something that might have been to do with pigs, but he stalked off to the bathroom resignedly as his mates sat back down.
Dai and Steve helped old Tom to put his penis away and persuaded him to put his coat on. Dai turned to Beth. “We’ll take him home, it’s the sheltered housing up on Bronwyllen Street right?”
“Yes, one of the ground floor flats. Number 16 I think” she replied “thank you Dai” she said smiling.
Dai grinned as she turned away.
“She still isn’t going to shag you butt” whispered Steve as they half walked and half carried Tom out of the club.
The freezing January rain hit them like ice as they left the club. Thank fuck it isn’t far, thought Dai as they crossed the road, propping Tom up as they walked. The valley streets were grey and cold and the lines of terraced houses were all lit up as families enjoyed their evening meal and diet of Saturday night TV. Dai felt jealous of them as they trudged past in the miserable conditions.
Five minutes later they were at the door of the sheltered housing, a large sign saying “Heddwch a Llonyddwch (Peace and Tranquillity)” stood over it. They managed to find Tom’s key in his pocket and took him inside where there was no one at the shabby reception desk. They were lucky first time and Tom did indeed live in number 16. Dai took responsibility for helping Tom inside the flat and ensured he was comfortable before leaving, locking the door and putting the keys back through Tom’s letterbox.
“Let’s get back to the club, my boss owes us some beer” said Dai.
“Sounds good” replied Steve “Do you think that was just the drink, with that old fella?”
“Nah, Tom’s been going dooly ally for a while,” said Dai “It’s just a matter of time before he has to go into a home, it’s such a shame, he was a great player in his day, according to my dad. Still that kids face when he pissed on his daps was fucking funny.”