The day when England lost to Wales

United States 2005

Brian and I spent the day walking around town. We visited the beautiful Union Station, Forest Park, and the very European Central West End. Forest Park was the site of the 1904 World’s Fair (which no St Louisan will let you forget), and is absolutely huge. We spent hours and hours walking around. Most of the buildings built there for the fair have long since vanished: they were a beautiful collection of baroque, neo-classical, and Victorian buildings, but made out of plaster of paris to save money; hence they didn’t stand the tests of time. However a few stone-built buildings are left, including the Art Museum and the History Museum and Jefferson Monument, so we had a look around them. There was also The Muny (open-air theatre), the science centre (where we went into space), the city zoo, and others; you could easily spend a week in the park without once crossing your footsteps.

We were sitting outside the Jewel Box (a botanical greenhouse with flat roofs which were the laughing stock of St Louis until a hailstorm destroyed almost all other non-metal roofed greenhouses in the city a few decades ago) when we got some bad news: England had suffered defeat to Wales in their first Six Nations match. It was Wales’s first win in Cardiff since 1993. Boy, am I glad I no longer live in Cardiff; that night would be a painful one for the English there. But, I got a little nostalgic, so Brian took me a little Welsh pub called Llewelyn ap Gruffydd in the Central West End to drown my sorrows.

It was a lovely little pub in a beautiful neighbourhood that still clings to its French roots, and fortunately no-one seemed to know about the day’s sporting misery, so I supped on a pint of London’s Pride (my dad’s favourite drink) and thought of England. Well, Scotland actually, since that’s where I live, but they’d lost a close match to France, so I felt my adopted nation’s pain.

That night I met a group of Brian’s friends collectively known as the Cunninghams. It’s far too complicated to write about them in any comprehensible way, so I’ll sum up: bunch of mentlers. One night they were hungry, so they drove four hours to Memphis, Tennessee to buy chilli. Once they’d eaten it, they drove back again. This was also the night I found out that drinking five pints and then drving home is not really frowned upon in the States — not really frowned upon at all. At least not by those driving and those needing a life home; the little naive Englishman desperately trying to get his seat-belt to work while struggling to remember if there were many dents on the car was doing a lot of frowning. That night, in the Soulard district of town, two motorcyclists were killed while driving home from a Mardi Gras celebration.