Out in the Cold
For the second time this season I planned a long weekend holiday to coincide with a Wings away match, only to see the match called off due to adverse weather - first at Worcester the weekend before Christmas, and now at Merthyr last weekend. Still, it was a good brief holiday, a summary of which follows in lieu of a match report!
We drove down to south Wales on the Wednesday in pleasant sunny conditions and established ourselves in Cardiff as our base for the next few days. Thursday provided a disappointing update on the Cardiff Bay redevelopment, since not a great deal of life seems to have been injected into that area since my last visit five years ago; the city centre remains by far the best proposition, at least in Winter - maybe it's different in summer. So it was that we found ourselves back in the centre on Thursday afternoon; the weather was getting more overcast by the time we turned up at the Millennium Stadium for the stadium tour. This proved to be a worthwhile tour, it being my first visit to the stadium (it was still under construction five years ago). We heard the story of the attempts to break the curse of the "away" dressing room that saw every team using it lose the match for an extended period after the stadium opened until Stoke City finally broke the spell. One of these attempts involved a mural, depicting a horse and a phoenix, that is still on the wall (see right).
Other things that struck me were the hinged supports that can be swung down into position to prop up the upper tiers to counteract the pounding they take from audiences at rock concerts etc; and how the arena looks quite small from pitchside but massive when viewed from the upper tier. And then there is the roof - I was surprised to see it still open, as by now the snow was falling thick and fast and beginning to cover the pitch; I was assured it would remain open until closer to Sunday's league cup final, and only closed if the weather conditions and forecast dictated it.
On to Friday and a drive up the Rhondda valleys. The snowfall in Cardiff had not amounted to a lot in the end, and suggested that our Merthyr game might be OK. But as we drove further up the valleys the snow became thicker and thicker; the non-stop sunshine on Friday was not enough to combat the low temperatures, and although the roads were clear, the verges and fields remained covered. By the time we reached the Heads of the Valleys road and turned east to Merthyr, it was evident that football on the following day would be out of the question.
So on Saturday we again spent our time in Cardiff. Swansea's match had been called off, and the closest I came to football was talking to a shop assistant who lived in Abedare and whose husband obviously was into football as well as the obligatory rugby. She seemed tickled pink that we had travelled down to see a match at their "local" team in Merthyr, and wanted to tell hubby all about it - sadly, none of this secured us a discount on our purchases!
Back at the Lodge and we found the Boro and Bolton fans arriving for the big match the following day. There was a great atmosphere at breakfast on the Sunday morning, with both sets of fans in good humour - unlike what seemed to have happened in Bristol on the Saturday night. Our journey home on Sunday started with a detour to Monmouth so that we could drive down the beautiful Wye Valley, and at about 10:30 the sight of the endless streams of supporters' coaches and cars heading towards Cardiff on the M4 and down the A449 was really quite impressive. We drove most of the way home in bright sunshine, listened to the cup final on the radio, and rued the fact that one lot of snowfall in the midst of otherwise prolonged sunny conditions had cost us our own fixture and landed the Wings with yet another long distance away match on a Tuesday night to add to Dorchester (a disaster we hope will not be repeated) and Stafford coming up next week.
We took a quick stop at the Membury services on the M4 - be warned, this is one of the worst I have experienced, so avoid it if you can!
Finally, my next weekend away is booked for Easter at Weston-super-Mare - so be warned, it could be the third postponement!