So it was that the Silent One’s eyes lit up in the wake of the uninspiring 19-5 win Western Province recorded over the Lions in their Currie Cup semifinal at Newlands.
“There were simply too many errors by both sides for the semi ever to rise to any great heights,” remarked one of the members of the assembled gathering. “It was a match that lost its way.”
It was the rider which caught the attention of the Silent One and he ruminated for a moment before deigning to speak. “I am fully aware,” he eventually said, “that there is little to link pigeon racing with rugby union. For a start the pigeons don’t have to contest those interminable scrums. But pigeon racing is indeed a sport, and one centred on pure speed of wing.
“When I was a youngster in a town called Calne in south western England – a town I might add built on pig farming and the curing of bacon the old Wiltshire way – there was an old fellow who, to save embarrassment, even across the years, we will call George, who was a pigeon fancier as big as any in the town.
“Anyway, George had a chance to enter a race from London. So he packed the finest of his birds into a basket and off he went to first display them and later release them as race entrants. Which he duly did.
“But not being familiar with London – it was his first trip to the capital city – he got a little lost and no doubt a couple of pints added to the confusion. Mindful of time ticking away, George rushed to the ticket office at the station he had located and in a broad Wiltshire accent asked for a ticket to Calne, and was hastened on his way by a gruff Cockney warning that the train was about to leave the platform. George and his now empty basket scuttled off, jumped aboard as the guard was blowing his whistle and waving his flag, to find himself next to the buffet car. A few more pints seemed appropriate and he then settled in a seat and closed his eyes.
“He woke up at a station where the name looked familiar through sleepy eyes, he and his empty basket detrained to find that he had no idea where he was and everyone seemed to speak a dialect foreign to the Wiltshire ear. To cut the story short, he did what anyone would in the circumstances, he sought out a police station and told them his dilemma. They patiently explained that he had arrived in Colne, a Lancashire town in the northwest and a long way from Calne.
“They gave me a bed in the cells and brought tea and a bacon buttie in the mornin’. But I can tell you see, the bacon weren’t like the bacon back home in Calne,” George later recalled, having again settled in the preferred seat at his local, a “pint from the brook” before him.
George, news of his predicament having preceded him through the police network, finally arrived home to find half the town waiting for him. “It was almost like a mayoral reception,” said the Silent One. “and certainly gave fresh meaning to getting lost along the way”.