Looking through my wardrobe, I discovered a brown paper parcel tied up with string (If, like me you could not guess its contents, the fact that it was wrapped in brown paper and tied with string should give you a hint as to its age) knowing that brown paper and string disappeared from earth along with the dinosaurs who knew how to wrap a parcel, sometime in the very early 60s.
Intrigued by the parcel, and admiring the craftsmanship of every folded corner and carefully tied knot and twist of the yellowing string, I proceeded to untie the string wrapping it around my fingers and placing it carefully to one side, recalling my gran doing the same thing, my father on the other hand would put the string in his pocket, he always carries a piece of string in his pocket, even to this day, (he celebrated his 90th birthday in January.)
Prompts the question; how long is a piece of string?
Answer: 90 years long.
On opening the parcel I was greeted by a very old friend who had stuck to me through thick and thin, mud and rain, snow and ice, now showing the same traces of age as myself, going a little thinner, faded, and now having as many creases as surface area would allow.
My old rugby shirt, preserved in time, back to join me once more, or would it? The passage of Time, Food and Beer, on both the shirt and myself was more than obvious. Would we still fit together skin to skin? there was only one way to find out. Stopping for a moment to consider, as one does when an old school friend tries to contact you on Friends Reunited pondering whether it is best to forget the idea of getting in touch and just remember things as they were so as to avoid any embarrassment or disappointment.
There was only one solution to this question, off came my top, standing ceremoniously, in ritualistic fashion with the red and white hooped shirt spread across the bed in front of me, no 5 staring back at me, waiting to be transformed from this flat shapeless form into the fine physique it once enjoyed, gripping the bottom of the shirt with my thumbs tucked inside I proceeded to gather the shirt into a ring to slip over my head, once inside,eyes closed, the shirt transformed into a time machine, whisking me back to the changing room, at the bottom of that muddy lane, the freezing cold floor and showers the mixture of aromas, winter greens liniment, dubbing, wet socks, sweat, smoke coming from the open fire in the bar area of the club.
Opening my eyes I now pulled the shirt over my head, Relief at least that still fitted, Now to maneuver my arms into the sleeves (did I mention it was an old shirt) being careful not to put too much strain on this old-timers already stretched seams, sliding my arms through gently until my hands popped out of the cuffs, relief they still fitted, gripping the bottom of the shirt which was still in a rucked up state across my chest I decided to go for it and pulled with all my might to bring the bottom of the shirt to its rightful resting place, feeling proud that at least it was on and now had form, it felt great, or was I looking at it with my time machine vision, turning to the mirror, for that “mirror, mirror” on the wall moment we all like to take part in, I saw before me not a transformation, but more of a shape-shift, what was once a red and white hooped rugby shirt now resembled a barbers pole, the shirt had developed what can only be described as a beer belly, taking one last look and appraisal of the still proud shirt, I decided that the distorted shape was the result of being enclosed in the brown paper for all those years and too much tension applied to the knots in the string, after all it never looked like that when I last wore it 42 years ago!
The origins of the rugby shirt or jersey as it was Known then, date back to 1839 At Rugby School, the School House team of 1839 was the first side to adopt a uniform. All their players wore red velvet caps during a match that Queen Adelaide, is thought to have watched.
These velvet caps, together with white trousers and jerseys, became accepted for players ‘following up’ although each wore his own favorite colors and carried a personal motto on his shirt (equivalent to today’s Tee-shirt slogan). I bet it wasn’t “rugby players do it with odd shaped balls”
With the fast approaching Rugby World cup my wardrobe will be seeing a new addition, after a visit to the rugby Store, my old friend will nonetheless have the honour of watching the games with me just hanging around together, unless he can get back in shape in time?