That was the week that was

Kidney bean
Kidney beans don’t get high blood pressure.

Bill e Bob left a comment on my last post “PC absolution” saying “Enough of this techno-geekery, where is your devastating review of the rugby? I think in the words of our more aggressive football-supporting brethren, ‘It’s all gone quiet over there'”.

It’s all gone quiet for one special reason: I’ve been so busy this week that I’ve hardly had a moment to sit at my PC and write anything. Which is why I’m now up at 05:30 sitting in front my PC staring at an empty blog post. Honestly, the sacrifices I make for you guys! 😉

So here’s my run-down of the past week:

Sunday – Argentina v Scotland

Having reached the quarter finals in the Rugby World Cup Scotland met Argentina on Sunday. The great thing about being a Scotland rugby fan is that you are always living with a sense of hope. It does wonders for your faith!

The first half wasn’t a particularly pretty game, from a Scotland point-of-view. About an hour into the game (rugby comprises of two halves of 40 minutes each) Argentina were ahead by 19-6.

And then … from somewhere Scotland just shone. They were incredible! I’ve not seen that kind of exciting, dynamic rugby from Scotland for ages — it was a magnificent effort. In places they reminded me of The All Blacks (when they are playing really well, not — guttingly — being knocked out of the RWC). The forwards drove the ball, the backs used the full width of the pitch. I was literally on the edge of my sofa.

And Dan Parks … well, his kicking tactics led to a charge-down and an Argentinian try (which arguably lost Scotland the match), but to give him his dues, during the last 20 minutes of the match I was his biggest fan. I’ve never seen him play so well, he almost couldn’t do anything wrong. He kicked the game of his life in that final quarter: accurately placing the ball exactly where he intended and the team needed him to.

But crucially he didn’t just boot the ball up the park every time he got his hands on it, and that allowed the game to flow and demonstrate what Scotland are capable of.

Frank Hadden (the Scotland coach) is a hero.

Update: Scotland lost, by the way, “Bill e Bob”, 19-13. (See Rugby World Cup website for more details.)

Monday- Working late

This was always going to be a long week. In order to leave work early today (Friday) in order to drive up to Inverness for Mark Strange’s ordination as bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness I knew that I was going to have to put in the ‘overtime’ hours.

Monday I stayed in the office until 19:00. When I got home I got a call from the Christian Fellowship of Healing (Scotland) asking about the progress on their website.

The answer was, unfortunately: no very much.

Tuesday – IVF clinic

That’s what you need first thing on a Tuesday morning: a drive to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee for a 09:00 appointment.

Disappointing news as we learn that Jane’s operation still hasn’t been arranged. In fact the doctor hadn’t even notified the department will carry out the procedure. That’s been two weeks. More unsettled waiting ahead. More tears.

On my way home the police had closed off Church Street (my route home). There was a man standing on the roof of Holy Trinity Church, South Street. He was protesting in a Fathers For Justice stylee. All I could read of his banner was “Full custod…”. I assumed that it said “Full custodial sentence for me please”.

Wednesday – Renal clinic

As if one visit to Ninewells wasn’t nearly enough, I had my renal appointment on Wednesday afternoon.

On one hand the doctor was pleased with my weight loss: I’ve lost over 2 stones so far this year, and my waist size has gone down from (an embarrasing) 44″ to 38″. On the other hand, my blood pressure is still too high — it was 141/101 at the clinic.

So, I’m now resigned to have to go onto blood pressure tablets: perindopril — it’s an ACE inhibitor whose side-effects include reduced blood pressure.

I sat there feeling rather dejected and a bit of a failure. I’ve worked hard on my weight-loss and was really hoping that it would also bring my BP under control.

“Now,” said the nice lady doctor, almost as though she could read my mind, “don’t feel as though you’ve failed. You’ve put in some good, hard work on losing weight: well done!”

I returned to St Andrews and worked until 19:15, and let the news sink in. I walked to the biology car park, where I usually park, and then remembered that I hadn’t parked my car there today.

D’oh!

I’d parked in the nearer car park at the Bute Medical School … so that it wouldn’t be quite as long a walk. It turned out to be an even longer one. But at least I could laugh about it: ha-ha ha-ha ha …. ha!

I came home and rewrote someone’s website. It’s a site that’s comprised of 100% images. No text. No alt attributes. Nuffink! So I recreated it in 100% validating XHTML and CSS. I hope they like it. (Even if they don’t it was good practice, great fun to do, and a good stress reliever.)

Thursday – Not going to see Dream Theater

I began the day with Morning Prayer at Holy Trinity Church, South Street, St Andrews, and caught up with the minister Rory McLeod, with whom I was at St Mary’s College (across the road from Holy Trinity!).

Another productive day at the office. I’m currently working on improving the XHTML/CSS code for the main University website, so that it displays consistently in more browsers (particularly Firefox 1.x, Netscape 7 & 8 and Internet Explorer 5.5).

With my earphones in my head, and my head in some code, I was listening to Dream Theater‘s latest album “Systematic Chaos” when there was a knock on the door.

It was Chris from IT Helpdesk, and his brother, coming to see if I wanted to go see Dream Theater in concert in Glasgow — someone had just pulled out and they were about to leave.

It was a sign!

Actually, it would have been had it been next week. Instead I had to go home and see my parents-in-law, go out for a delicious meal and then come home and fix some code.

I crawled into bed a little after 22:30. That’s the kind of rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle I lead!

Conclusion

It feels like it’s been such a long week. We’ve had our ups and downs, but on the whole it’s been a really good, productive week.

If it’s in your discipline to pray, please remember

  • my Mum (Rosalie) who is attending an eye clinic in Edinburgh today for the her first (of many) monthly treatment for wet macular degeneration. This involves injecting a new drug directly into her eye.
  • Jane — that she gets the date of her operation soon.
  • Mark Strange — that God will bless him and through him will bless the United Diocese of Moray, Ross and Caithness.

Scotland v Italy: post-match round-up

Thumbs up for Chris Paterson; thumbs down for Dan Parks

I’m exhausted having watched the Scotland v Italy game this evening. Exhausted and relieved that Scotland won by the narrowest of margins (18 – 16), and only thanks to Bortolussi failing to slot a 77th minute penalty.

It wasn’t an elegant win, it wasn’t a win that Scotland fans can be particularly proud of except that it was a win, and that’s what counts at the end of the day, and now Scotland are through to the Quarter Finals, facing the winner of Pool D (I’m hoping it will be Argentina) at St Denis on Sunday 7 October.

This is my opinion on Scotland’s play this evening:

  1. Scotland defended well

    I was proud of how Scotland defended, particularly in harsh, wet conditions. Italy are a very physical side and even when Scotland were reduced to 14 men (see point #2) they defended consistently well, and made good advantage of Italy’s ill-discipline. If Scotland can continue to build on their defensive skills all the better, but they also need to improve their kicking game (see point #4).

  2. Scotland gave away too many stupid penalties

    I was disappointed at the stupid penalties that Scotland gave away: holding on in the tackle, coming into the side of a maul, pulling the maul down. In the heat of the moment, under pressure Scotland need to keep the heid and retain their discipline. There were too many points and too much ground lost because of this kind of lapse of discipline.

  3. When given the opportunity the forwards played a good driving game

    When given the opportunity! There were a few passages of play when the forwards were able to move the ball, drop, recycle and create a few good phases of play. But more often than not certain players (see point #4) simply kicked the ball up the field.

    When you’ve got the ball in your possession you have control of the game. As soon as you kick it, especially into open ground and not high enough to allow your own players to get up the field, you open up the possibility of something horrible going wrong. And this evening there were too many examples of this; it was just as well that our defence was so strong.

  4. Dan Parks kicks too often and too inconsistently

    I can’t understand why Dan Parks gets picked to play so consistently, because from my point of view his playing is less than consistent. ‘DP‘ — as he’s unaffectionately known here (or sometimes ‘Dorothy’ if I’m feeling even less generous!) — appears to be a one-trick pony, and his trick is kicking.

    If he is passed the ball he kicks it. Sometimes it finds its mark and Scotland gain ground, but more often it goes straight into the hands of the opposition.

    Now, I know that I was a forward and forwards like running game, but I do understand that sometimes you do need to quickly gain yards by kicking the ball strategically into touch. I just wish, more than anything else in the whole of the Scotland game, that we had a fly-half who could kick consistently and accurately.

    Is it because Parks is an Aussie that we’re afraid to drop him? I’d give the job to Gordon Ross. I really, honestly cannot understand why Parks is playing. Can someone please explain this to me? The commentators keeps saying what a good game he had, and I always think/shout at the telly: “Were you watching the same game?!”

  5. Chris Paterson is the man!

    Now as anyone from the Scottish Borders will know there is a long and affectionate rivalry between Selkirk and Galashiels. I’m from Selkirk; Chris Paterson is from Gala. But let me be the first to say that Chris Paterson is the man, and I’m deeply proud of him. So far in this World Cup he’s slotted 16 out of 16 balls over the posts. Fabulous!

I’ve now got eight days for my nerves to recover until the next match. At the end of the day though: well done Scotland, and it was nice to see my former high school Rector (head teacher) George Jack on the TV in the crowd (he’s now the SRU President).

Commonwealth of rugby

Welsh rugby player flying over the line

It’s been nice to see the colonies playing so well today at the Rugby World Cup. New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Fiji, Wales and Scotland — six out of the eight sides playing today — are all members of the Commonwealth of Nations.

  • New Zealand beat Romania ( 85 – 8 )

    Good effort to Romania who scored eight more points than Scotland did against the All Blacks last weekend.

  • Australia beat Canada ( 37 – 6 )

    Australia’s victory wasn’t quite as decisive as I’d hoped, play was sloppy in places, given that they face England next week. That said they were siding a second team, so resting their main players is probably a good tactic: England must be beaten!

  • Fiji beat Wales ( 38 – 34 )

    I found this an inspiring game to watch. The first half was all about Fiji: what power and a display of some beautiful passages of rugby. The second half was all about Wales, returning from the half-time break by running in three tries.

    But then Fiji powered over to a final try within the last four minutes. I’m not ashamed to say that I had tears in my eyes at the end of this match — sad that Wales would be leaving the World Cup, but delighted for Fiji who played like giants today.

But what of tonight’s game: Scotland v Italy. Scotland need at least a draw to go through to the quarter finals, where they will face the winner of Pool D (is there any doubt that this will be Argentina?). I wait nervously for the match to begin.

Black and Blue

New Zealand vs Scotland

I found it hard to watch the Scotland v New Zealand match today, part of the 2007 Rugby World Cup, which ended with NZ beating Scotland by 40 points to nil.

It wasn’t because I knew that they’d lose, I mean I literally found it hard to watch the match because their jerseys were so similar.

Scotland v New Zealand

Who on earth decided that they should play in those colours?! I found it hard to differentiate the teams, I can only imagine how difficult it was for the match officials to make split-second decisions when their colours were so close. I used to work in a textile mill in Selkirk, and sorting out similar batches of navy and black was incredibly difficult.

Scotland were in their home strip, which is a predominantly navy shirt, with patches of silver-blue hatching, navy shorts and navy socks. New Zealand were in their new away strip which is black and silver-blue, with black shorts and black socks.

I think that New Zealand should have played in their all black strip, and Scotland in their white ‘away’ strip. It would have made watching the game much, much easier.

Result

As for the result, I think Scotland did remarkably well to hold New Zealand to such a low win. Their defence in the second half was tremendous, especially for a second team (many of Scotland’s key players sitting out to prepare for the match against Italy next weekend).

I thought that New Zealand were very disappointing in places: missed and dropped passes, failure to spot otherwise obvious routes through the defence, unnecessary knock-ons. I usually go into a Scotland v NZ game resigned to the fact that Scotland will lose but at least I’ll get to watch some elegant and beautifully executed rugby. It was refreshing not to see that because NZ appeared to be rattled at times by the Scottish defence.

It’s encouraging to see that of the three teams the Kiwis have played so far ours had the lowest points difference:

NZ Score Score Opponent Difference
New Zealand 76 14 Italy 62
New Zealand 108 13 Portugal 95
New Zealand 40 0 Scotland 40

I’m looking forward to Scotland v Italy next weekend at St Etienne on Saturday 29 September. I think I’m right in saying that Scotland need to either win or draw to stay in the competition. We can’t afford to lose.

But before that we have eight more games to enjoy. England v Tonga will be good to watch. You see, that’s what’s so exciting about supporting Scotland at rugby — you get to be passionate about two teams: Scotland and anyone that’s playing England! 😉