If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again

The pub did a roaring trade last Saturday, thanks to the culmination of the Six Nations rugby tournament.

Many of those lured in at midday to watch Italy’s 52-11 pasting by England – a team desperately trying to overwhelm Ireland’s huge points difference – stayed put for Wales’ 51-3 humiliation of Scotland. Then it got really interesting… With England needing France to draw with or beat Ireland if they were to win the championship, there were no neutral supporters in this quiet corner of England.

Usually I’d root for any home nation battling against the French, but for once I found myself in a crowd almost entirely backing les bleus.

The cheering in the dying moments was deafening as the French appeared to win the game with a late try, but when the referee and TV adjudicator finally ruled that there’d been a forward pass and the game ended 20-22 in favour of Ireland, the loudest voice in the pub was that of the landlady – she’s Irish, of course. Needless to say the party went on late into the night.

Having overindulged I certainly wasn’t in any hurry for a beer on Sunday lunchtime, so settled for a refreshing gin and tonic instead.

“Get it while you can,” the landlord said, as he passed me my drink. He then explained that juniper berries, used to flavour gin, are becoming scarce as a fungal disease, Phytophthora austrocedrae, is infecting the bushes in Scotland where much of the crop hails from. With ageing bushes, many over 100 years old, failing to produce many seeds, and rabbits chewing up the few young plants, juniper’s decline has been almost as dramatic as the Scottish rugby team’s after Stuart Hogg was sent off against Wales.

“Oh well,” I sighed. “If I can’t have another G&T, I’ll try a drink inspired by the Scottish rugby team instead – a Scotch on the rocks.”

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