Sunday 19 November 2006

Goodbye to the Shoreditch Sharks RFC

Sunday 7.45am and I get up and get ready to drive over to Shoreditch Park. My boys are playing Away to Ealing RFC this morning and I need to make sure they’re all there by 10am to get ready for an 11am kick-off. It’s going to be tough: they’re a well-established club whose top team plays in London 1 against the likes of London Scottish. But it’s taken me two years to get this fixture into the diary and I’m happy that this will be the last game I take the boys to.

By 9.40, with only six boys, I’m forced to call Stuart to cancel. I’m apologetic and embarrassed. I’m also disappointed and angry that the communication and organisation within the club has started to crumble. For some reason, the updated fixtures list that was circulated did not have this game on it. Crappy way to end two years of dedication, getting up early on Sunday mornings to share a passion with some other peoples’ children.

To make the most of the situation, Tom Nicholson, who’s going to be a great replacement for me, and I decided we’d do a mini training session with the boys we had. At around 10.15 some more lads turned up thinking it was only training today. In the end, it was quite a good session. Some defensive drills, some attacking, finished off, at the request of the boys, with some high intensity fitness work. Meanwhile I took a couple of the boys off to coach them kicking.

After about 10 minutes of this, Tom called us back over to join the group. Charlie, who’d joined us when the club started up with no previous rugby experience and had made it into the Middlesex U14Bs, thanked me for my efforts with the boys and presented me with a replica shirt of the Pumas. It was touching.

I was then attacked by the biggest lads, including the inappropriately-named Junior, who’s a massive presence at 6ft4, as well as Joe, probably 6ft1 and spends his life body-building. I thought I did ok. I was wrestled to the ground and pounded. The rib I think I might have broken in the game I played last week seriously ached for the rest of the day. Even walking hurt. Did I say, ‘it was touching’?

I wish the club all the best in the year (or more) that I’m away.

I drove home, had lunch with Perrine, who’d got up at 11.30 to go for a run, then we caught the bus to Holland Park to enjoy the last of the sunshine. A typical winter’s day. Cold, clear and crisp. If there is something that I will miss in London, it will probably be the light in the winter time. The evening was rounded-off ice-skating at the National History Museum.

So passed one of the last Sundays in London: packing away the rugby coaching and saying our goodbyes to parts of the city we don’t usually visit.