This post should have been posted closer to Saturday, September 1, 2012.
While I was staying with my mother, my daughter and her family came to Cardiff to see us there. On the afternoon of their arrival, Emma, Peter, the children and I (minus Great-Grandma) took a guided tour of the Millenium Stadium on Westgate Street, stomping ground of the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and the venue for football matches, car races, pop concerts and the like. The surface of the ground inside the stadium is modified accordingly, pallets of turf being brought in, for example, for the ball games. It takes three weeks for the grass to settle in and grow over the cracks between the pallets. Amazing. I'd had no idea.
The stadium can hold a crowd of over 70,000, with boxes at exorbitant prices for VIPs or rich people. We stepped into one overlooking the stadium where a table was laid for a formal dinner. One of our tour group found himself sitting in the Queen's seat in the stands, that had wider armrests than the others.
The tour had begun behind the souvenir shop (filled with items coloured red, mostly dragons); we were then shepherded into a small theatre to watch a 10 minute BBC documentary about the history and merits of the stadium, which confirmed our suspicions that rugby is not so much a sport as a religion in these parts. A recorded pep talk was broadcast in the home team's changing rooms as well, so that we could get a sense of the awe and drama of big match days. The coach's speech had the ring of Shakespeare's Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more ... and if not proclaimed by an actor, by someone who should have been––Remember, boys, that although we come in here as individuals, we go out as a team!––and we were led along the corridors, via the press conference room, to do just that, to a recording of deafening cheers from the crowd, my grandson Alexander pretending all the way that he was wearing one of those numbered, red shirts. New team members inherit the shirts of their predecessors, apparently. After playing in an international match, they are awarded souvenir caps. We got to see the cup itself, too, the Holy Grail of Welsh rugby.