Then the French came to Wales!

01 Apr 2018

Friday 16 March started as a very sad day for me personally and the thought of meeting and hosting seven French rugby supporting IPA members and their friends in the evening did not fill me with joy.

However, promises must be kept and at 6pm I sat outside the famous ‘City Arms’ opposite the Principality Stadium in Cardiff city centre wearing my IPA polo shirt and sipping on a pint of frothing finest Brains Bitter. Suddenly I was enveloped by a group of obvious Frenchmen – they all wore black berets and were chattering loudly in French :) The shortest of the group whose face was hidden underneath a large black beard that seemed to form part of the beret, grasped my hand in a bear-like grip and with a wonderful beam on his face shouted ‘Ah Denis, I am Emmanuel. Ello’!welshhostfrench

So that was my introduction to the fabulous Emmanuel Ormaux and his friends from Chaux-la-Lotière in France (at least I think that’s what the French Travel Form said). I quickly became convinced that they were all mad, but in a rather superb way.

Into the already crowded bar we all went and I very quickly realised that apart from the fact that I could not speak a word of French, neither could they speak a word of English. ‘Wonderful’ thought I, how on earth are we going to get along for two or three hours? But the genius of modern science prevailed by way of a Google Translator App :)
First things first, liberal quantities of the fine Welsh ales were ordered, although I again found out very quickly they had already surprisingly taken enough ale to float the British Navy in another local bar. However, the traditional Welsh toast of ‘Iachy Da’ had to be taken, which in itself was absolutely hilarious at the various pronunciations, none of which I shall even attempt to relate.

Then to the all-important exchange of memorabilia. Region 4 and Section UK Pennants, pin badges, note pads and pens were all handed over to Emmanuel in exchange for badges etc. from himself. They each also received a genuine WRU (Welsh Rugby Union) pencil, which I suggested they could use to write the final Welsh winning score at the end of the match. All accepted with great huffing, puffing and hilarity.

The bar by now was heaving, and suddenly someone in the crowd of Welsh supporters started singing ‘Calon Lan’ (‘A pure heart’), a really wonderful Welsh hymn. The emotion in our bar was overwhelming, especially when the French supporters then followed on and started to sing the famous ‘La Marseillaise’, not as a challenge or to outdo the Welsh singers, but to compliment the obvious friendship that had arisen between everyone in the two small linked bars. I had said earlier that the day had not started well for me, but by the time we had reached this point in the evening my eyes were full of tears and any foreboding I had earlier dreaded had by now long disappeared. Of course the tears could simply have been for the sadness I felt for these Frenchmen who honestly thought that they would be winning the rugby match the following day. ‘Oh dear, how sad, never mind’ (as we say down here in the Principality).

But all good things come to an end and by now the desire for the local ale was being replaced by French demands for food – Indian curry style. So acting as the local tourist guide, I escorted my still singing charges to a top quality restaurant.

I never really interpreted exactly what branch of policing Emmanuel was in as such, but I think it was CID. But in addition to that he apparently also has a second job as the company owner and highly respected purveyor of top quality French wine, cheese and local meats. His friends all confirmed that he is not only a seller of fine wines, but also involved in their production through a local vineyard – the website showed the bottles on sale at £159 each. Emmanuel has invited the South Wales Branch to visit his local IPA area where the members will provide us with the finest hospitality and samples from the vineyard. Well it would be rude not to now, wouldn’t it?

International Friendship ruled supreme once again.

Denis Hunt, Region 4 (Wales) - IPA UK