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Tour Information: 2003 Tour to Cardiff



The Mini's Cardiff Tour, Easter 2003

Trecco Beach Party
By John Tipler

Following on from their forays to foreign climes the past two years (Rouen and Hilversum), the Norwich Minis elected to go abroad again for 2003, this time crossing the border into deepest Wales. Destination for the two white coaches was Trecco Bay Holiday Park, a vast caravan site near Bridgend on the South Wales coast.

As the coaches crossed the awesome Severn Bridge that spans the Welsh border, players and parents chorused that well-known paean to futile love, My Delilah. Tom Jones, eat your heart out. Spirited renditions of more familiar rugger classics (Sweet Chariot, Zulu Warrior, Yogi Bear) heralded our approach to the site, and efforts were made to compose a Mini's anthem for the occasion.

 
03-tour6.jpg

After misrouting more than a few times due to our drivers' deficiency in map reading skills (and an apparent colour blindness at red traffic lights), we rolled into Trecco Bay on the Friday evening. Most just ditched their luggage without unpacking and made for the spacious Conservatory bar to soak up the rays of the evening sunshine (it sets later in the west) and indeed, soak up some of the local beer. (Mrs Lloyd evidently preferred to do this by means of her velvet trousers.)

First highlight of the evening was the arrival of Tony Hadley's brother Adrian and his partner. Adrian, a former Welsh international player, rugby league star and now chairman of Bridgend rugby club, arranged for us to see a couple of local derbies at the Millennium stadium, and brought a stack of 'Give us a try, Bridgend' placards to take with us. Cheers, Adrian!

 

One of our party suggested that, from the appearance of fellow caravanners, we could be amongst residents of the less salubrious districts of Norwich. No surprise, then, when a fight erupted outside the Conservatory bar, and the swift arrival of three police cars indicated that trouble was anticipated. However, the arrival of emergency vehicles outside the Conservatory bar on the second night - fire engines this time - was down to our lot. A couple of Under-12s were busy thrusting the contents of an ice bucket down each other's shirts with sufficient force as to break the glass of a fire alarm. First we knew of this was when the kareoke fell silent and a swathe of people began to leave the building. Having a pretty good idea what had caused it, we sat tight. The arrival of a contingent of butch Welsh firemen in full kit caused more than a few of our ladies' tongues to loll and eyeballs to bulge. Made their evening, in fact.

Trecco beach (remember Martha and the Muffins' hit from the late-'70s?) was ignored by most, the seedy allure of the bright lights on site taking precedence, although a few early-morning fresh-air enthusiasts were seen clambering amongst the rocks and sand dunes and the litter-strewn tide-line.

The matches

Our first games were on the Saturday morning, playing St Joseph's on Blackweir public park in the outskirts of Cardiff. In the teeth of a bitterly cold wind, all our sides put on a brave show against well-drilled opposition. It was clear from the outset that differences in the rules between Wales and England at Mini's level would make it difficult for our players. These included uncontested scrums for the Under-11s, a full pitch for the Under-12s and, most significantly, referees who seemed disinclined to pull their players up for offsides and high tackles. Nevertheless, without exception, the Norwich Minis acquitted themselves extremely well and, in several cases, were unfortunate to loose out.

 

After the St Joe's game we were entertained at their premises, (more like a working mens' club,) a short drive from the ground, where the local Brain's bitter and the Guinness flowed freely. They laid on a decent buffet lunch as well, and it looks like there'll be a return match next year. In which case, they can play to our rules!

In spite of predictable late nights and uncontrolled Easter Egg consumption, spirits were high. However, the Sunday morning games were a different matter, in so far as the level of violence was ratcheted up a couple of notches. The opposition was St Albans, a club based in another suburb of Cardiff. And again, their refs didn't seem disposed to penalise hand-offs, elbows out, high tackles and punching, not to mention the offsides that sprang from loose binding in the uncontested scrums. The Under-11s game was more reminiscent of a rugby league match. But the last straw was their thugish derision of our players if any of them got hurt. Our guys rose to the occasion, resisting the temptation (just) to descend to their level, but there were those who wanted to get back on the busses and not hang around. A few drinks restored our good humour though, and although lunch left something to be desired, they redeemed themselves with their cabaret-style singing and presented us with an impressive Welsh dragon trophy.

Match of the Day

On the Saturday afternoon, those of us not tempted by the shopping in Cardiff City centre advanced on the Millennium stadium in full song and took our seats for the semi-finals of the Principality Cup. First game was between Bridgend and Newport, and at first it looked as though 'our' side had it in the bag. Newport got into gear though, and eased past Adrian Hadley's squad to victory. We were meant to be supporting Cardiff in the second game of the afternoon, but it was difficult not to admire the Llanelli boys as their backs put on an extremely slick display of handling to trounce the local side. Nice to see some international faces in action, like Scott Quinell and Stephen Jones. A lot of up-field kicking makes no sense in terms of possession and territorial advantage but, impressively, Jones showed how it should be done.

Afterwards we noticed how the old Cardiff Arms Park is still there, its stands used somewhat bizarrely as a buttress for the Millenium stadium right next door.

High Spirits

Despite the fact that our six- and eight-berth caravans were scattered over the site, everyone kept together pretty much in the evenings, which meant that, socially, this was probably the best Minis tour yet. The usual kitty arrangements meant that one was seldom far from a full pint glass all weekend. The concrete pseudo Wild West architecture of the site's bars, cafes and amusement arcades was an appropriate setting for the climax (whoops!) of the tour, when everyone got dolled up as cowboys and indians.

 

The kids (and not a few parents) were armed to the teeth, sporting a variety of six-shooters, rifles and bows-and-arrows. We took over one of the restaurants for the evening, and energetic gun battles raged before and after the evening meal, subsiding only when the attractions of the nearby fruit machines and dodgems took over.

During the course of the weekend, the tour marshals kept a vigilant eye out for petty misdemeanours, most common of which was the failure to produce a baby's dummy on demand during spot checks - most people had them hung around their necks for the duration (and it was interesting to note how many sucked them, too). Penalty points stacked up as the days went by. But it was Alfie's dad, Mr Tipler, who emerged the surprised culprit of having the most points accrued. It seemed he'd been so incensed by the violence displayed by the opposition on the field that his vernacular was in free-fall, and for this he was shopped by several Minis. The penalty meant that Tipler and that other serial transgressor, Lynn Lloyd, were obliged to perform a duet, singing My Delilah to the masses gathered at the Wild West dinner. Luckily the presentations of awards to star players lifted the tone of the proceedings back to a higher level.

Well organised

The whole trip was organised by Martin Anderton, with the benefit of input from Tony Hadley's local knowledge. Everything went extremely smoothly and was a credit to Martin's organisational and entrepreneurial skills. There was only one glitch, and that was to do with the driver of coach number one, who was replaced on the return journey when passengers mutinied, quite justifiably, when he appeared to nod off at the wheel on the M4 motorway.

It's also important to mention the roles of the individual team coaches who sustained morale on the field, and the Norwich Chairman doing the honours behind the clubhouse microphones afterwards. Not forgetting John Alton-Jones, stalwart purveyor of the bacon sandwich and who acted as master of ceremonies on the coach and on site, as well as being a major sponsor for the Minis. We maintained a club identity throughout by wearing the Tour shirts (as well as the dummies) and it was, without doubt, a great success. Roll on next year, and we'll have that Mini's anthem ready to go by then!



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