There, that got your attention, didn’t it?
Okay, hands up – there’s nothing about a wardrobe in this blog, but it sounded good. This blog is about two totally contrasting issues – my new book, Saving Dave, and the selection for the British & Irish Lions tour party to South Africa.
I thought I’d combine them in case you’re fed up of reading about Dave, or rugby doesn’t float your canoe.
Let’s start with Dave.
What inspired me to write Saving Dave?
Next week I have an interview with Hannah Murray.
Hannah hosts a programme called The Book Show on Radio Talk Europe, and last interviewed me back in October 2019, when Losing The Plot was published.
While she didn’t get as excited as I would have liked about Losing The Plot, the fifteen minute interview drifted onto the subject of my next project – Saving Dave – and this did float her boat, hence the invitation to a further interview.
One of the areas I’m sure to be quizzed on, is where did the idea for Dave come from?
If you don’t already know this, let me share it with you.
Jake, my first child, was born in 1987. He died six years ago, aged 27, and although such a short life would normally elicit a wailing and gnashing of teeth, in Jake’s case his passing was a celebration of a life ‘well-lived’; a life that touched a great many people in a great many ways.
Now I’m not going to go into details about Jake’s disabilities – or how those disabilities came about – but let’s just say that his ailments were very much the same as Dave’s. In short, he was blind – or was believed to have been blind – he suffered from quadriplegia, and had a very, very limited ability to communicate. And if Jake placed his arm against a hot radiator, it would remain placed against a hot radiator, no matter what damage was inflicted. As a consequence, he was never left in his wheelchair anywhere near hot radiators.
However, Jake did have some good fortune. His mother – my ex-wife – was one of the most caring people I’ve ever known and he could not have had anyone better to love him, support him and fight his corner. She is as far removed as night from day to Gill, Dave’s mother. Dave’s father, Roger … well, I’ll let you make your own mind about him, but I am not ginger and I do not gamble!
And neither did Jake have obnoxious ginger twin siblings (aka the ginger twats) who made his life as miserable as possible on every occasion.
But I always wondered what Jake could understand. Maybe nothing … maybe a little, and maybe even so much more than we – his family – and the experts, concluded he could understand. And hence the idea for a book relating to locked-in syndrome began to take shape.
I also sometimes speculate how Jake’s life might have been, had he not had to play the duff hand that fate had dealt him. He proved he was a survivor, thwarting expert medical opinion by living many years longer than predicted. He would maybe have had the same negative positivity that I applied to Dave, and which many readers have told me they found engaging. He would have been dogged, dependable, and loyal to his friends and loved ones, and probably a success at whatever he applied himself to.
Writing Saving Dave was highly enjoyable and perhaps even a little cathartic for me.
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
So that’s Dave … now on to the Lions.
Right, amigos … here is my thinking on the Lions.
Firstly, I consider this to be (potentially) the weakest Lions’ squad to have left these shores in living memory. That said, if anyone if going to transform what to me appears to be a lack lustre outfit, Gatland is the bloke to do it.
Before I move to the players, I also consider that Gregor Townsend should not be on the plane. In my view, Scotland’s transformation has been in spite of him, and not because of him. I would have taken Mike Catt, Stuart Lancaster and probably O’Connell, the latter for inspiration as much as anything else. Oh … I wouldn’t have taken that ugly Welsh ginger-slash-bald kicking gnome either.
So to the players.
Of course, the key question is why is Sexton not even in the squad? Don’t get it. One minute you win World Player of the Year and the next you’re not even in steerage.
Another notable omission is Ford. Now, I’m not a fan of Ford, but without Sexton the choices at 10 are very limited. Russell’s selection will have the South Africans rubbing their hands; he may be mercurial but he is also flawed and prone to run up his own posterior, and one bad game and Gatland will revert to Farrell – who, by the way, I wouldn’t even have had on the plane either. That will present zero problems for the Saffers to solve.
So to my lists. I’ve divided these into 4 categories: 1) good surprise selections 2) bad selections 3) good omissions 4) bad (or, in Sexton’s case, ridiculous omissions). Those selected who do not fall into any of these categories have escaped both my wrath and my salutations.
1) Good Surprise Selections:
Hamish Watson, Sam Simmonds, Iain Henderson (BTW, there are only 8 Irish players on the squad – 1 Ulsterman!)
2) Bad Selections:
Jonny Hill, Jack Conan, Duhan van der Merwe, Chris Harris (who the hell is he?), Louis Rees-Zammit (he’ll get shredded by the little Japanesey looking chap with the scrum cap who plays on the wing), Eliot Daly (okay, he’s in for his kicking, but apart from that he’s useless), and Anthony Watson (lacks game time and will be a wilting flower on this stage). Courtney Lawes (past it and gives away too many penalties, which will actually be Itoje’s job). Finally, I don’t get Bundee Aki’s inclusion. Is he there for his drinking/banging the Triple Crown like a drum ability?
3) Good Omissions:
Fatty Vunipole (I could break from the scrum faster than him … well almost), Jonny May (he’s the only one who believes his own bullshit), both Youngs bothers and Danny Careless.
4) Bad (or, in Sexton’s case, ridiculous omissions).
Sexton, of course. he’s the Clapton of world rugby. Am I missing something? Did he declare himself unavailable for the tour or call Gatland a fat Kiwi tosser? James Ryan. CJ Stander. I know he’s going “home” but he is a classic example of what this squad is missing – balls. Van der Flier – ditto.
As to captaincy, I’m not an AJ fan – he’s no WJ McBride/Paul O’Connell nor even a Martin Johnson, but his appointment had an air of inevitability to it. In my view he’s well past his sell-by date, but good luck to him. Sexton would have been a better choice.
Overall: way, way too many England players (who remember won the home nations “wooden spoon”), too many Sheep Botherers, too many Jocks and not enough of the Rugby Master Race included.
A dire tour awaits them, unless Gatland can weave some magic. Good luck!