It’s 8.30pm when I walk in the room, I tread diffidently and my eyes are drawn immediately to the score in black and white in the top left hand corner of the screen: Eng: 3 RSA: 6. Charlie is sitting forward on the sofa, wound up, alert.
“It’s not as bad as you think: South Africa have been lucky.” He says. As way of greeting, I start to say some inanity but something happens on the screen and Charlie twitches in sympathy with his heroes and it quite disconcerts me. I notice he can’t keep his feet still and he runs his hands up and down his thighs as if in preparation to catch the ball. I ask him if he’s like some supper. He glances at me, frowning a little confused – I am disturbing his concentration. He flicks his hand showing me his plate: “I’ve had some.” and there’s a roar from the crowd on the television and his eyes snap back to the screen.
As I walk to the kitchen he calls after me. “I’ve go to get a closer look at the scrum…” then as if remembering what it was he wanted he tersely adds: “put the kettle on!”
I get my supper and listen to his commentary from the sitting room. I am unsure whether it’s for me or for himself. I feel the professionals are making a better job of it but I say nothing. The timing would not be right.
The kettle boils and I call back to him. “What do you want to drink.” There is an almighty long pause and I am just about to shout irritably at him to answer me when he calls: “Lemon & Ginger!”
It crosses my mind that it’s a rather tame drink to be having on such an historic occasion. It should be beer really. However, it’s only him in there. The Boys are too young and in bed while I, well I never think it a good idea to watch. Call me superstitious but if I watch England they’ll lose – you’ll know who to blame then if it all goes pear-shaped.
I am now ensconced upstairs on my computer and trying to work while my ears strain to catch how the match is going.
It’s 8:56 Oh God I can hear the muffled and excited jabbering of the commentator and roar of the crowd from the sitting room downstairs. “OH YES!” Then shouting up at me “Liza! England has scored.” I shout back: “That’s brilliant!” Rather than “I know you berk – I’m listening!”
It’s quiet again – I’ll have to go and watch. I need to know the score. I’ll make myself some tea and sort of loll against the doorpost to catch a glimpse of the action – it’s not really watching….
How can they do that – It’s been disallowed! With half an hour to go England are still in with a chance its’ Eng 6; RSA 9. As I shot through the sitting room not daring to look at the screen I hear the crowd on the telly singing Swing Low Sweet Chariot and I feel that if the team hears that surely their hearts will swell and the at fighting spirit will not be dimmed. Charlie is curled up on the sofas. Tight and small - coiled I’d say. Ready to explode. The tension in the house is beginning to make the cats' uneasy. They’re always the first to vocalise what the rest of us feel.
I’ve get my bar of chocolate and cup of tea. The chocolate as some sort of release. It always calms me and I need a lot of calming. My ears are straining again a whistle has blown nothing much can be going our way as I can hardly hear a thing. Perhaps if I were in South Africa the TV would be alive with something different maybe now their commentators are gabbling in excitement and the crowds are roaring…
No noise, nothing. I can hear them again, no nothing. I will stay where I am though the temptation to dive down the stairs is overwhelming. Have another piece of chocolate. I can hear the commentator reeling off names, the ball is being passed now there’s a scrum and I can see in my minds’ eye a tumult of hard-pressed muscle green and white; thighs and forearms, a squashed English rose.
It’s quiet again from downstairs; the telly warbles in the background but the sound is indistinct. No wait. Oh my god I think they're going to score again! Shite no - its OK I hear them again…do I go down? I’ll have to….
South Africa is leading by 9 points. As I look anxiously across at the telly in the corner Charlie turns to me: “Well, South Africa has had all the luck, England are doing all the running.
“Yeh, but South Africa is winning!” I growl.
“All it will take is one try and that will change everything,” he says – I feel he is just trying to be positive for the sake of it. I don’t feel his heart’s in it. Maybe it’s mine that isn’t. Oh! I so want a fairy tale ending.
I retreat back upstairs…
There’s a build up in tension again – the match seems to have been very close but its looks like South Africa are going to take it. There’s a roar from the crowd, but I can’t hear Charlie. I think, I think it’s all over….
I peer round the corner at the telly and there are the South Africans hugging each other and the English looking sad and tired, stiff upper lips all round. I am proud of them. To come all this way.
“It was a good match?” I ask.
“I think England played much better,” says Charlie meaning much better than South Africa. I love him when he is like this. Proud in defeat. “If we’d been allowed that try it would have been a different game,” he adds
The commentator echoes the sentiment.
I watch the wind down and as I clear up and put the dogs out and I hear Brian Corry being interviewed:
Interviewer: All that heart all that courage…
Brian Corry: Yes, but it’s such a shame that all that heart and all that courage comes to nothing.” His disappointment is palatable.And my last thought is how wrong you are – we was robbed and in another time we’d be celebrating fairy tale ending! I believe in fairy tales…and I can hear the sound of “Another Country” and my heart swells with joy and pride….just you wait next time!