Tuesday, 1 September 2015
Tonga rugby union team
An enjoyable (and possibly even improving) part of my holiday was spent as a participant in the Cranleigh Choral Week, where we practised chamber music during the day, and the "major work(s)" for public performance at Dorking Halls at the end of the week, each evening.
Sharing the facilities of the boarding school where we were housed and fed was the Tonga National Rugby Team, here to train for the Rugby World Cup. Before I discovered that they played the "other" code, I was eager to prime them with the information that I lived near Huddersfield, where the Rugby League was founded, and that our local team, Batley (of Gallant Youths fame) had just hit the national headlines because its captain had announced he is gay.
However, it turns out to be Rugby Union, so these conversational gambits became inappropriate.
Our choral week relaxes with a talent evening, in which individuals and groups who so choose strut their stuff. The opening, and surprise, item his year was by the Tonga Team, who lined up in their traditional dress and sang, in beautiful harmonies and with solo interjections, several verses of what turned out to be a hymn (at least, it ended in "Amen.")
I gather that a the end of each match they say a prayer:
"We thank the Lord for giving us the strength to get through the match without anyone getting injured badly."
A far cry from our own Rugby Union ethos and its association with ribald and risqué ditties.
People of my age will always associate Tonga with their Queen Salote, one of the hits of our own Queen's Coronation in 1953. She endeared herself to everyone by processing in an open carriage, regardless of the rain. Our West Indian population composed a calypso in her honour which became very popular.
The Tongan team's opening match is against Georgia at 12h00 on Saturday 19th September. If it is televised I hope I shall be able to find a friend with the facilities to watch it. I wish them every success.