I was at university with Will Carling, who used to be the captain of the English rugby team, back in the days when it was all amateur and there really wasn’t any money involved, just occasional glory.
Will went out with Iona, my best friend at uni, and we watched his first game for England together. After the game he called us to tell us how amazing the atmosphere was. Iona knew all about rugby, her father had played for Scotland. I knew nothing, but was utterly mesmerised by one of the players; a certain Jeremy Guscott, who ran up and down the pitch with the grace and speed of a leopard. I kept asking Will to introduce me, but he never did. Last week, I finally met him.
He is here in the UAE for nine weeks working for the TV channel OSN, commentating on the Rugby World Cup which is happening in New Zealand at the moment.
We met at a hotel in Dubai, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Twenty years is a long time. OK, he has changed (haven’t we all?) but he is still lovely, if a little more portly than he was in the days he played for England. We talked about rugby, football, golf (his passion nowadays, he plays off 10), kids, tennis, face cream (classic quote, he told me uses cream because “they say black doesn’t crack, but it does), motivation, books and England’s chances in the World Cup.
It was a lovely chat, he is still very cute, but not as devastatingly gorgeous as he used to be. I guess being an ageing sports star must be a bit like being an ageing film star; you look back on pictures of yourself in your prime a la Sunset Boulevard and think about how gorgeous you once were and how you will never be that sexy again. Which is why being a writer is such a good idea. Because, all being well, your books only get better.
Having said all that, I still wouldn’t kick Jeremy off the sofa….
Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2011