Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (83)

Today I am travelling to Libya or Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya as it is more accurately known.

Straight off the bat I want to say that there is something that really concerns me about Libya. No it’s not their history of terrorism or the fact that they are a socialist dictatorship. It’s not even the fact that their flag is entirely green with no other colours or features even though they are the only country to have a completely plain single coloured flag.

It’s the fact that Libya is dry. And not dry like the fact that Libya is mostly a desert and some parts only get rain once every five to ten years. No Libya is dry like a blue light disco is dry. All forms of refreshment with alcohol in them are completely illegal and this law is rigorously enforced by the local police.

Actually after hanging with South Africans for the last few weeks my liver etc could probably do with a holiday with the rest of the body for once. Not like the usual holidays where the body gets some time off but the liver has to do overtime.

Lybia is the 83rd country I have travelled to since I arrived in London just over ten years ago.

Dans le Noir

As part of my birthday weekend celebration Rachel organised a meal at a French restaurant where the room you eat in is completely dark and the waiting staff are all blind. The food was great but the novelty value was excellent.

When you arrive at the restaurant you are asked to put your valuables and anything that might emit light like mobiles and cameras into lockers. Then you are organised into a line with your right arm on the shoulder of the person in front of you and the waiter leads you into the pitch black dining room and navigates you to your table. At the table you have to orientate yourself and those around you to the space around you. We shared a table with a group of random Aussies and before Rachel realised this she called out to the waitress that she thought she was on the wrong table. Once orientated we realised that we were all yelling at each other. Something about losing one sense made us amplify the others to compensate I guess. Eating and drinking was also a challenge as we couldn’t see what we were doing. Of critical importance was organising the distribution of the red and white wine and not mixing them up. The end result was a fair bit of spilled wine and people who wore white shirts feeling silly. At some stage we were delivered additional wine that we didn’t order (and thus didn’t have to pay for) so it all worked out in the end :)

All in all a fun night with good food. The French staff were poorly organised and often rude which just added to the hilarity of the evening.

This is my best photo of the evening.

Dans le Noir

Denmark is awesome

Rachel and I went to Denmark after Xmas to so a spot of sight seeing in the cold Scandinavian air.

We loved Copenhagen and the parts of (Old) Zealand that we visited. Zealand is the area north of Copenhagen and is different to the province in the Netherlands called Zeeland.

One of the things we really liked is the locals seem really honest. All over the city there are loads of bikes that are not locked to anything, In one shocking case a local left a six pack of beer on the back of the bike completely unguarded. There can’t be too many cities in the world where you could do that!

You have to love Copenhagen

They even have several beers called Carl. You can’t fault them for good judgement or taste.

Carl - the taste that refreshes

Lessons from the world cup

The main lessons that all All Blacks supporters must learn are the following

  1. Don’t count your chickens
  2. Don’t count your chickens

I think that is pretty much all of the important things.

Gripe about the quality of the tickets

When we purchased our tickets for the Cup we opted to pay the extra money and get the second best of the four categories available. This led to us getting some great seats and some pretty dismal seats. In some stadiums like Marseilles and Toulouse we had amazing seats. But in Lyon, Edinburgh and Cardiff we were stuffed up behind the goal posts on the lower levels. They were hardly the second best seats available in those stadiums as it is very difficult to understand what is going on in a game of rugby from seats like these. The root of the problem seems to be that some stadiums like Marseilles seem to have a clear understandable hierarchy of good seats and bad seats. Some other stadiums like Cardiff and Edinburgh you can end up sitting almost anywhere regardless of what you pay. My personal conspiracy theory is that this is done by home stadiums to charge away fans a premium price and still give them rubbish seats.

These pictures should show you what I mean. The first one is Marseilles and is pretty good. The last two are Cardiff and Edinburgh and the good seats are all over the place. The order of the seating quality is

  1. Pink (best)
  2. Blue
  3. Green
  4. Orange (worst)

Merseilles seating plan

Murrayfield Edinburgh seating plan

Millenium Stadium Cardiff Seating plan

This is definitely something that should be looked at for future world cups and international tests in general.

Kiwis need some bloody better songs to sing at the rugby

A lot of the time during the semi final ther was so much French singing and general noise that it felt like the game was being played in Pais. Basically the fans need to lift our game in the stands when the All Blacks need more support on the field.

Liverpool has “Never Walk Along”. England had “Swing low”. The French have at least two anthems about blood letting that they all know and sing like there is no tomorrow. These songs fill the stadium with noise and must give a hell of a lift to the players on the field. All we have is “All Blacks, clap clap, clap”?. It’s depressingly slow even compared to dirges like “Never Walk Alone” and “Swing Low and I don’t imagine it provides much emotional support for the players on the field.”

We have loads of great songs as a nation we just need to choose a few to belt out at the rugby. I have decided on the following criteria:

  1. All Kiwis must know all the words – we can work on this
  2. It must be easy to sing
  3. If must be a song where the tune is mostly held in the words
  4. It must be uniquely Kiwi and emotionally motivational

I am open to suggestions.

Russ and I are starting a Facebook group to get some discussion going on this.

Give the Japanese a go

The other Facebook group that we are starting is one backing Japan to host the Rugby World Cup after New Zealand in 2015. They have already hosted a thoroughly successful and much larger football world cup in 2002 and they deserve it. Also I would love to spend 7 weeks in Japan backpacking and getting to know the locals :)

The French have hosted an excellent World Cup

Those of us who have been to all the games agree that the French have thrown the best world cup ever. The stadiums have been sold out even for the games between small teams from far away places. The way the French have throw themselves behind the World Cup and the general atmosphere has been awesome. They even managed to convince the locals not to whistle when opposition goal kickers are taking shots at goal. Add to that the sunny weather in Southern France and the French food, French wine, not to mention the topless beach and it has been a magical few weeks in France.

If the intellectual titans at NZRFU don’t send a delegation to France to look long and hard at how the French organised this world cup then they will have missed a golden opportunity. Mind you these are the same monkeys who when they had a golden opportunity to build a brand new stadium for the World Cup in NZ in 2011 instead managed to secure temporary seating for run down old Eden Park. Not a good omen.

Unanswered questions

  1. Why did we lose to a third rate French side away from home? I am still not sure.
  2. Why do all the French smoke so much? Don’t they know it is bad for you?

That is all I have to say for now.

Bloody Cardiff

The weekend started as usual with a massive party on the way to the game city. This week it was Cardiff. Cam hired a van that could fit 15 people and had enough room to stand in the back. So stand we did playing old school Kiwis classics and singing at the tops of our lungs. As the driver and the only sober person in the van Cam put up with a lot of shit and never complained. Respect.

Cam drove the van and we drove Cam nuts

The party fizzled out on arrival in preparation for a long day partying on Saturday.

Saturday we got up in the usual manner had a plate of grease each and sewed the flags of the teams we had defeated onto our overalls.

Our venue of choice for the Australia v England quarter final was the mighty Cardiff Walkabout which was full to bursting with Kiwis when we arrived.

Reese, Hubbers, Scotty and Scotty's missus

The England v Australia game was a great spectacle with England dominating up front and slowly grinding Australia down. My Australian girlfriend was not at all happy that the whole of the Kiwi contingent in the Walkabout loudly supported England. She saw it as an ANZAC betrayal. As I tried to explain to her at the time, New Zealand have good reason to be afraid of Australia and almost none to be afraid of England. Our quarter final was still six hours away and we were swept up in the drunken euphoria of people who thought their place in world cup history had become that much more certain with the departure of our old nemesis Australia. Needless to say, she didn’t understand.

Hubbers and Rachel

Little did we know that we would suffer the same fate later in the day.

Knocked out by the French – again

There is no denying that Wayne Barnes and the linesmen had a shocker. Not just missing the French forward pass and sending McAlister off, but also in the penalty count in general. Nine penalties to two against you when you do 80% of the attacking just doesn’t make sense. I would love to know what the average number of penalties is per game and how this highly skewed ratio compares to other games. The French also made nearly 200 tackles to our 50. Does this correlate with other games of rugby? Do the defenders under pressure concede more penalties or do the team with all the possession? In the second half we dominated possession and at one stage played 25 consecutive phasesm and still we couldn’t score. The French played with enormous dedication and discipline and the infringements they made were either not noticed or not acted on by the ref. With minutes to go and only 2 points behind the All Blacks were so sure they would get over the line for a try they didn’t take the smart decision to take a drop goal right in front of the French posts. This overconfidence or failure of leadership was the last in a long line of stuff ups that ultimately cost us the game. We were utterly utterly gutted.

We tried to go out for a drink afterwards but no one was in the mood. For once time dragged when we were having rum.

In the aftermath it is disappointing that a small number of Kiwis went overboard with death threats to the ref and other online abuse. It makes us all look bad but hopefully rugby fans from around the world will realise that every country has a few dicks who take it too far to ruin it for everyone.

Romania get spanked in Toulouse

Another sunny weekend in France. Another easy game of rugby where a minnow gets swept aside. The second highlight of the game were the awesome seats we had. The 35,000 seater Stadium de Toulouse was really intimate and we had an amazing view of the game. The first and most amazing highlight was that Grant was sitting next to a quy who looked a lot like Albert Einstein. Grant who is probably the smartest in our group yelled this out to the rest of us somehow not realising that Albert Einstein was probably called Albert Einstein in France as well.

Grant and Albert Einstein

Russ continued his dominance of the pool we are running for each game. Each game we all put in five euros and try to pic the difference between the scores. Phil was the early leader but now it looks like Russ is in charge. Since running a pool often ends up with some of us loudly supporting the other side we have decided not to have any pools on All Black matches during the knock out stages as it might create bad fan karma.

russ claims his winnings

After the game we watched the Wales v Fiji game in a park beside the river that runs through Toulouse. The locals had set up a huge outdoor screen and bars, bbqs etc and it was a fantastic atmosphere. The game was so good I would recommend it to people who have never watched rugby before to get them into the sport. By the end when Fiji scored the winning try there were hundreds of people on their feet cheering for the gutsy Pacific Islanders. The handful of Welsh present must have felt very alone.

The usual partying ensued for the remainder of the weekend.

Glasgow and Edinburgh

This weekend we decided to fly up to Glasgow on Saturday morning and have a night out there and train down to the match in Edinburgh on Sunday morning.

Whilst waiting for our plane at Gatwick we were approached by two security guards who wanted to know why we were wearing orange overalls. They left us alone when we explained that we were idiots from New Zealand who thought it would be fun to dress in bright orange overalls for the entire world cup. Later on we are asked the same question by two police officers armed with machine guns.

The rugby highlight of the weekend was the huge performance minnows Tonga put in against the lacklustre South Africans. Tonga gave the Saffas the shock of a life time and were still in the game at half time. The Saffas brought on all the big guns they were hoping to rest just after the second half and they had an immediate impact. The plucky Tongans never gave up and at the final whistle were just five points short of the greatest rugby upset of all time.

Following the game we toured the city and took in a few of the local bars until 4am. Surprisingly we were only refused entry to one location because of our bright orange overalls. The tour included a stop a Primark where I came up with the idea of a game where we could dress each other in anything we liked for a maximum price of five pounds. I thought this was another brilliant idea of mine until all the rest of the boys headed straight for the women’s department and we all spent the remainder of the afternoon looking like colour blind lunatics from the institute or cross-dressing alcoholics.

Primark gone horribly wrong

The most famous person we ran into this week was Will Mellor from “Two Pints of Larger and a Packet of Crisps”

The boys with Will Mellor from

Sunday morning we took the train to Edinburgh for our biggest match so far. Scotland’s fielded a second string side as they rested their top players for their all important clash with Italy in next weekends final round of the pool competition. The winner of the Scotland/Italy clash will progress to the knock out rounds. The loser will go home in humiliations. Despite racking up 40 points the All Blacks looked rusty with at least two other tries getting dropped and Carter missing half his kicks at goal.

After the game we went to Edinburgh airport for our flight to London. We unexpectedly ran into the All Blacks who we think were flying to Marseilles. I didn’t speak to any of them of course because even though I am 3 years older than the oldest All Black I still feel like an unworthy child around sporting superheroes. It was well cool to see them up close though and the whole airport stopped to stare at them.

Lyon Black

Lyon is a beautiful city in southern France with two wide rivers running through it. At nearly 30 degrees centigrade the weather was absolutely spot on for a touch of outdoor beer drinking and talking about rugby.

Pont Wilson, Lyon

The game was the walk over everyone thought it would be with the All Blacks scoring 11 tries against Portugal, the 22nd ranked team in the world. The atmosphere in the stadium was awesome at the vocal Portuguese fans cheered all the way up to the final whistle. Later on that night we saw loads of them in local bars and they seemed pretty stoked by the days events despite the claims by some reporters that such obvious mismatches have no place in the world cup.

After the game Phil and I were interview by TVNZ. His overly verbose comments on the match were left on the cutting room floor while my more succinct analysis hit the chord with the reporter and were aired on New Zealand television :)

We were also lucky enough to run into New Zealand’s record break number 10 Andrew Merhtens. He was really friendly and posed for photographs but had to dash off as he was helping TV3 with their television coverage.

The team wih the General, ANDREW PHILIP MEHRTENS

Dinner was in a restaurant called carnivores with a couple of Jo’s English friend who live in Lyon. Later that night we ended up in a small bar with a live rock cover band. They were awesome and we moshed so hard most of us would have sore calve muscles well into the following week.

The boys rocking in Lyon

Sunday morning started like a lot of Sunday mornings. Slowly with no loud noises and lots of rehydration.

We walked back to the river to have breakfast on a riverboat only to find the boat closed and a huge farmers market going on. Being the flexible opportunists that we are we bought as much food as out eyes thought we could eat and had a massive picnic by the river.

Later in the day we spent two whole hours renting bikes from the local bike rental scheme. The local government in Lyon have hundreds of computerised cycle racks and thousands of bike spread all over the city. The idea is that anyone can purchase a card from the machine by the bike racks and then swipe the card at any machine and grab a bike. The amount you are charged depends on how long it takes you to get the bike back into another rack. Journeys under thirty minutes are free. We had a few problems using the scheme as it was entirely in French. Also loads of the bikes didn’t work or the machines that isues them didn’t work. There were also long queues so the whole process took us four hours to get four bikes. Once we had the bike we immediately proceeded to push our bikes about a kilometre up the steepest hill in town. As the most vocal advocate of the bike ride and as I had loudly talked up how easy it would be, I copped a lot of flak for getting off my bike 50 meters into the hill climb covered in sweat and ready to collapse. The hard work was worth it to see the beautiful church and for the awesome ride down where I totally made my bike belch thick blue smoke from the breaks.

Amazing rental bike scheme in Lyon

All Blacks 76, Italy 14, French 2 mobiles and a wallet

McDonalds World Cup menu
This is a photo from McDonalds’ special Rugby World Cup menu. I would suggest adding the following menu items. A low calorie bag of hot air for Australia. A very blunt instrument (probably a spoon) for South Africa. Something bland and disappointing for England. A bag of sour grapes for Stephen Jones to eat. A doormat for France after their first performance. And nothing dangerous that the Kiwis might choke on.

We touched down in Marseilles to the amazing news that Argentina had convincingly beaten the hosts France in the opening match. This is shocking news as the team that comes second in the so called pool of death will head to Cardiff to face the All Blacks. France ideally wanted to delay this encounter until Paris for the final where they would have had home ground advantage. Now they are playing for their lives and have to beat Ireland just to have a chance to progress out of the pool.

It took us a couple of hours to clear customs and clear up the booking mess made by our Etap hotel after they gave out rooms out to anyone and everyone who asked for them before we arrived. Thankfully we asked for a room from another couple and all was sorted out.

By the time we caught up with Russ, Russ, Cam and Phil who took an earlier flight they were well smashed. I took a great video of Phil ripping of a locked drinks fridge. There was little chance of getting caught as the French bar owners were drowning their sorrows.

Up at 11 the next day the nine of us decided to walk to the game as it was a very sunny day. Stopped for a beer on the way. When we got to the stadium we settled in and Cam spent forty euros on alcohol free beer for everyone. That was nice of him.

The Italians made an early mistake by ignoring the Haka. The snub must have really ticked off the All Blacks because it only took them 68 seconds to score their first try. Eighty minutes later the Italians had let in 10 more tries and the All Blacks took the game 64 – 14. Allowing the Italians one intercept try and another late one off a poorly judged kick in our own 22. The intercept was the worrying one as it was an intercept by Australia that put us out of the last world cup and we seem to give one away every game these days.

After the game we had a couple of beers (with alcohol) and a meal for the first court session. After only 24 hours on tour we had enough fines to finish off a bottle of Lemoncini between the 9 of us.

The Boys with Brad Butterworth OBE

An all night drinking session followed. Later on in the evening we even met Brad Butterworth OBE the Kiwi yachtsman who won us the Americas cup and then went to work for another syndicate and won it back off us. It didn’t make him very popular at home. He was very approachable and seemed like a good guy.

I went home around one or two and managed to dislocate my thumb on the way. Luckily it popped straight back in. Some of the boys who got in around five were warned by friendly locals that they were drinking with that it was too dangerous for them to stay out. Apparently some of the other locals were looking for a fight with Kiwis and it was no longer safe to be out in Marseilles. We woke the next day to find out that three of our group had been pick-pocketed for mobiles or wallets (although one may have had that done by the local guy she was kissing). Someone also saw a guy on a scooter try to steal a handbag off the passenger seat of a parked car. Marseilles is a nice town but it seems you have to be pretty vigilant or the locals will rob you blind.

If you are travelling to Marseilles make sure you read this guide to spotting pockpocketers first.

On Sunday we had a relaxed start and the boys had a topless swim (when in Rome) with the locals at one of the beaches.

In other rugby news. A lot of the minnow teams made their major league counterparts look decidedly average. Samoa were only down 9-7 after 30 minutes. Ireland barely subdued Namibia 32-17. America made England work for every point of their 28-10 victory. And Canada led Wales 17-9 after 45 minutes.