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PostPosted: Fri Apr 15, 2016 10:41 am 
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Location: Pak Kok Village
Rugby Rambles on 8-10/4/2016 ~ by Nick the Bookman ~ Thu, April 14, 2016

"Everyone mumbles and bellows and roars in tuneless abandon"

So, we're back again at the Sevens. 41 and counting. Done them all. I might even have been the first person to get Seven's footage onto the tv news. RTV (as it was then). It was 1977 and I'd managed to interview the captains of some of the competing teams. I think Andy Irvine (Scottish int'l) was among them. There was also a 30 minute documentary out that year "Sevens : '77". TVB probably started news coverage about then. I still think it's a pity that TVB don't still have the rights. They showed all the other rounds as well. But it's all there for me if I go hyper-digital and I'm still aimless analogue. But, I can still have fun...

I don't have a ticket for the Sevens this year. Matt, a new arrival on Lamma, is going Friday night to the Stadium with his wife Shelby. I think he's got permission to hang with the homies on Saturday/Sunday in the South Stand. His first time experience, it'll be a blast. We meet off the ferry and I say I'm going to check out Chater Garden's big screen. Save the Stadium for the weekend. It's a great little (in comparison) viewing site. Astro-turf. A few stalls for food and drink. You can bring your own. The screen. Trees. Six trillion dollar business edifices jutting skyward. Nice bolster to lean on. Crowds behind and fore. The trams pass by. It's the world's best tiki/sports bar in the open air in Central. I manage to get the commentary into English by asking the staff very nicely and they are very obliging. Sit down next to a lovely family of three. Mum Alison. Son Oliver. Stuart the dad. They looked after me very well during the 3-4 hours of televisual thrills. Did I mention their almost identical patchwork, quilted, riotously designed shirts and skirts? Makes Hawaiian shirts look monochromatic.

So, some good games to see. HK flatter to deceive. Going down 12-5 to a strong and determined German team making their 21st Century debut. They were last here in 1992. The final match sees England surge out of the blocks to overrun South Africa. They were never behind and the final score was 14-21 to England. Dan Norton (who'll score a couple of good trys tomorrow) is here on his third visit. He is a speedster. Twilight coming and whatever building was the former Furama (next to the HK Club) is pulsing and blobbing. Acid smears of wisps, curls and tendrils are crawling around the side of the building. It's the nightly laser show. There's about five rows of people down on the grass enjoying the final matches. I chat to two lovely young ladies on my right. After a while they ask if I was at the recent SIP. I say yes. They laugh, hit the mobile phones and pull up the photos of us at SIP. I think they were in the story. I tell them that if they signed my book then, they would be in the story and where they can find the story now. Just before departing, I see Brian O'Driscoll dotting the eyes of the dragon in the stadium...

This is great news. He's back in HK. and fortuitously, I have managed to get a copy of his autobiography "The Test". Actually co-authored with Alan English. I guess he did all the heavy typing and stuff. Got the book from The Million Words Charity bookshelf outside the Bar and Grill. Thanks, and I doubled my donation fee for this one. So, tomorrow which is Saturday, I am going to be in the Village across the road from the stadium. It's where the recently retired super sevens stars and other greats of the game gather and converse and imbibe a lot of beer. Or not. Anyway, Brian and his book are on a collision course that will intersect somewhere within the compound. It's overcast but not rainy. Characters are connecting. I see the Nacho Libre wrestlers walking around and when they pass I offer them seats at the table. They are Martin and Simon. One Welsh and one English. They're based in Bangkok and this is their first Sevens. They're wondering how much the touts (who are always out) are asking for a two-day ticket or even one for Sunday. More than the face fee I can tell you that much. They remain confident that they'll breach the barricades at some point.

Meanwhile Gavin Hastings has grabbed a microphone and is addressing the crowd. Announcing lucky winners who are conspicuous by their absence. Or they've fainted in shock. After this brief spiel I ask him if Brian is going to be here today and am told. "No, he's had to leave suddenly". Oh, fishfudge. Gavin offers to sign it on Brian's behalf. The Light Bulb Idea Is Born!
Everyone is going to try and sign this book for the absent Brian (well,obviously not everyone, obviously). Enough people did/are doing/will sign this book and he'll just have to wait his turn. I've been reassured (by a Banking official affiliated with the Sevens) that he'll be back next year. So that's alright then. I mean, if you can't trust a banker representative, then Civilization is Catastrophically Climaxing into Chaos. Absolutely.

At this point, I should mention that my late nephew Robert is here for the Party. In his tiny ashy container. He's got his own spot in the book and Martin, or Simon, has taken some photos. I think there should be one with me and Robert in front of the Red Hot Chili Pipers who are doing their first of umpteen sets at the Village. Simon, or Martin, gets some photos of not only Gavin signing the book but also Jason Robinson. The only Englishman in this dimension to score a Rugby World Cup winning try for England. In 2003 - natch. His feat may be equalled, but's still the #1. By the end of the weekend, this wonderfully talented nonet, aka RHCP, will have signed their own page. So will Russians, Italians, Chinese. And more are clamouring still...

On the field, England stumble to a draw with Russia, having done the hard yards earlier. Stuff happens. HK, having been down and out in their battle to gain core status, unexpectedly wallop Spain at the start of the knock out phase. Can't find the result but it was close. They later thump Germany 17-7 to make the final of the World Series Qualifier. I hope the Germans weren't sour krauts about this. Meanwhile, Robin - an old mate from last year's Sevens in the Village - has arrived. He's cyber-connected so Martin can download the photos he's taken to Robin's email or facebook or whatever. Robin, in turn, has sent them on to my email. Where they should be gracing this story. Better connections from asking face-to-face and the job is done.

Sunday is a real downer in terms of raindrops keep falling on my head. On the rest of me. In my bag. I noticed yesterday that overhead coverage is sparse. Well, O.K., it's non-existent. No where to run and hide when the storms inevitably come. But the day starts well. I see Rob (and Peta and Gemma) a former resident cum entertainer on Lamma. We're on opposite sides of the road. He asks am I going to the Sevens? I indicate that I'm going to the Village. He says he has a spare ticket for me. Greatly appreciated gesture. We chat, He goes in and I go in search of beer. Walking back down the path I bump into Paul Zimmerman - one of our saner, competent and friendly LegCo members. I say Paul? Hi, I'm Nick Lovatt. Grea - and he says, yes Nick The Book. From Lamma! (He must have read the HK Magazine story). I tell him that Lena and I both enjoyed the sartorial rightness of his yellow umbrella at the National Day Celebrations. He said it had to be done. Because it was raining a lot of course! (What did you think I meant?) So, emboldened i ask him very nicely if he would sign Brian's book. He does. I take a couple of his cards. They feature him holding a placard in English and Chinese saying "I'm a Hongkonger" and "Register as a Voter" and (this is the important bit): http://www.voteregistration.gov.hk

It's your/our civic duty. I know the fisticuffs are occasionally amusing in LegCo, but it would be fucking nice to get some legislation (like The Budget) passed. Instead of trying out for the free form fisticular combat team to take on their Taiwanese compatriots. Finally, I asked if he would be kind enough to take a photo of us on his mobile and post it to my website. I give him my card to photo. He's also posted it to his Facebook page and Lamma-Gung has linked them all through spells or witchery or fast fingers on the keyboard. Anyway, I'm delighted to be in the photo with you. And welcome to my world as well.

I've decided to stick it out across the road having just completed a successful beer raid on 7-11. And in appreciation of Rob's noble gesture, I have done the same. I gave the ticket away to some sports fan with a sob story and a short wallet who didn't want to do servile penance for a couple of centuries to raise the money to buy a scalped ticket. Besides, I quite like it here. Big screen. With loud commentary. Bouncy cushions. Your own private food and grog is allowed in. Fans of all nationalities and stripes queuing to meet Gavin and Jason and George Gregan? No, he didn't make it over the road. Nor did Serevi this time. But Matt and Shelby (paragraph 2) did get a photo with him inside the stadium. Which he promised to send to me to accompany this story mentioning him. Matt did make all three days across the road. Got adopted by Kiwis who fed him beer all weekend long. I don't even think they were too upset when... well why spoil that eh?

About half an hour after giving the ticket away (in exchange for a few more beers for the boys), I regretted this rash move. Because the rains came. Everything shut down. Everyone huddled in the games area section of the Village. The big screen was off. We lost the New Zealand - Wales match. 19-7 to the Kiwis. And missed most of South Africa whitewashing the USA by 28-0. Who had finished top of their pool. But you soggy Rugby fans did keep signing the book. Valeriya, especially for writing in Russian. She reminded me that we had met at Clockenflap last year. It's a SIP trip repeating. She's friends with Adam Wright and the ravishing Petra whose nuptials are forthcoming. Congrats on that one you two. Anyway, they all signed my Clockenflap story and are in it. Just like they're in this one.

Right. Fiji. The defending HK champions. The reigning World Series Title Holders. Possibly favourites for the Gold medal at Rio. If it happens. How much more needs to go wrong in Brazil before the poncey buffoon Lord Coe decides to cancel the Olympics? Hold them next year. There is precedence. No games from 1912 - 1920 because of WW1. No games between 1936 and 1948 because of WW2. Look at Brazil. The former President is being indicted for fiscal misconduct or bribery. The current one (his protege) is about to be impeached. The military are ready in the wings to run the country again. The country's bank is in mega-scandal trouble. And hardly anything is ready. The marina is a toxic shit hole. If this goes bad, it'll make Hitler's Berlin Games look like a cakewalk of morality.

Sorry, what am I on. Fiji. Fiji. Fiji. Never looked like losing a match during the entire tournament. Except against Kenya in thge Cup QF. They were down 5-10 in the last minute of the second half. The announcer is saying what Fiji should do. Fiji pays no attention and does what it does best. Wins the match with a sauntering break as the announcer is about 5 seconds behind the action. They looked unruffled. Their swagger was the right side of arrogance and they wasted no excess sweat in scoring the tries. 12-10 v. Kenya. A 34-5 trouncing of Australia in the Cup SF. Moving smoothly through the gears. They let New Zealand take an early 7-0 lead in the first half. Tied the score by half time. Two great second half breaks and the title was in the bag. 21-7. They are a class apart. New Zealand had fought a very hard match against South Africa in the Cup SF. Won 12-7 after double overtime. They were buggered. While Fiji picked all local villagers from around Fiji. Because the big stars are in other tournaments around NZ/Australia/South Africa. Or in the Northern hemisphere. Poor old HK came so close. They were 12-0 down to Japan in the WSQ Final. Came back to 12-14. Lost eventually by 24-14. Japan's pace man Lomano Lemeki got a hat trick in the final. He finished overall top scorer in the Tournament. With 8 or 9 tries I believe.

England shrugged of a 14-5 defeat to Australia in the Cup QF. Went through to the Plate. Won 33-0 against Kenya and blanked the USA 19-0 in the Plate Final. Good enough to keep them in seventh place in the Series Table. And the book kept getting signed. I also stuck around for the RHCP's post final concert. They are great. A fine mixture of Lisa-Minelli torch singing caberet-to-vaudeville numbers with their stunning new American female vocalist. There were keyboard driven bagpipe duets. Or triets? Haunting, elegaic, slightly world music in feel. Plus some fine guitar/bass and drums interplay. Flashy chords and solid backbeats. All while the pipers are having a crafty one off stage. I busted out a few of my Dad Dance moves and grooves. Locked tightly in their rhythms. Aware of the metronomic bass and drum time keeping. Flinging my arm in the air every eight beats or so. Meshing as one. A lovely version of "Wild Mountain Thyme" was a highlight. Off the new album. You guys rock and reel. You do the biz. You're great company and you're always shedding members with no loss in professionalism. You keep coming back, Hear that Sevens' musical organisers? You keep 'em coming back. I'll keep coming back to see and hear 'em.

There was just one disappointment for me. The 2016 Entertainer of the Crowds didn't have the balls to break free and visit the Village. He sang good versions of ""Sweet Caroline" and "Delilah". Basically these two tunes are the audio heartbeat of this tournament. Everyone mumbles and bellows and roars in tuneless abandon when they're played. Who was this mystery man? I would have loved to get his autograph. For the book, of course. But, no-o-oo. I'm sorry to say that I didn't get To Hassle The Hoff...

More photos of Nick & VIPs at the Sevens...


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