Sunday, 30 March 2014

Coming of age

This weekend two significant events coincided - a visit to Hong Kong by my brother Tom and the legendary Hong Kong Sevens.   As a life-long rugby fan and long-time rugby player, Tom couldn't believe his luck when he discovered his business trip to Hong Kong coincided with the Sevens.  In his words "If Carlsberg did business trips......".  However, the realisation that his travels fell while the tournament was on presented his ill-prepared sister with a major issue.  The challenge of securing two tickets for the Saturday.  Fortunately the Hainan Rendez-Vous Boat Show in China clashed with the Sevens so I was able to relieve one of David's colleagues of a ticket, and a very kind friend decided to go sailing on Saturday instead of visiting the rugby, so I was able to acquire a second ticket.

The next task was to source outfits.  I had been advised that everyone dresses up at the Sevens and you feel slightly out of place if you aren't part of the fancy dress brigade.  After a few beers on his first night in Hong Kong, Tom had requested that he go as a matador.  I duly searched Pottinger Street (a street full of fancy dress stalls in Central) for a matador and a bull outfit, with notable success.

However, Tom forgot he had demanded a matador outfit and instead insisted that he went to find our outfits himself.  Being the trusting soul that I am, I banked on my brother finding us creative and fun costumes we could wear with pride around Hong Kong Stadium.  Imagine my disappointment when he turned up with these inappropriate and offensive masks.

Offensive masks

On Saturday morning we were ready and raring to go and donning (what we deemed to be) the least objectionable masks - we set-off for the stadium as Colonel Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein.

Gaddafi and Saddam do the Hong Kong Sevens

As a Hong Kong Sevens virgin, I was unsure of what to expect but it quickly became clear that the Sevens was a massive, fancy-dress piss-up with an on-going stream of rugby as a minor distraction.  The atmosphere was fantastic, and the range and creativity of the outfits, coming a close second to my favourite music festival - Bestival.   I had been advised that the South Stand was the place to be.  For over-18's only, the South Stand is, without a doubt, where the party is at.  However, I had a depressing 'coming of age' moment, when I realised that at the age of 42, I no longer have the desire, inclination, tolerance or stamina to party with the masses.  Instead, we met up with more 'mature' friends and positioned ourselves under cover in the West Stand.  We were very grateful for the cover when at 11.30am the sky went absolutely pitch black and we were hit with torrential rain.  We watched, feeling slightly smug, as the South Stand revellers dashed for cover under the stand or reached desperately for plastic ponchos and umbrellas.  We were able to stay put and watch the poor Scotland team battle it out against the United States and the elements.

Amber rainstorm

As the day progressed, a different side to the Sevens emerged.  The tournament also appears to double up as the key event in the early-teen international school kids' calendar to experience their first binge drinking session.  Throughout the afternoon, the ladies toilets started to overflow with scantily clad, wobbling, slurring, hair-flicking young girls, alternating between screeching rubbish at each other and vomiting.  Their parents probably too busy necking champagne in the corporate boxes to consider what their precious little darlings were up to.  It brought back memories of 'booze-ups' at Sherborne and made me feel nostalgic and old all in one.

Throughout the day I combined people-watching, with rugby-watching.  The South Stand did look a lot of fun and fleetingly I wanted to be part of it.  I wished I had visited the Sevens with my fellow Wasps Ladies rugby team mates when I was in my early twenties.  I know we would have blended in perfectly and had the time of our lives.  Yesterday made me realise that those days are behind me now.    I am far more comfortable observing from a distance - and any time I felt a pang of remorse, I reminded myself of the insecurity and angst that accompanied those hard partying years.  Despite finally 'coming of age' at the Hong Kong Sevens, I enjoyed every second of the day and fully intend to go next year, when once more I will be positioned with the 'grown-ups' in the West Stand.

Hanging out in the West Stand at the Hong Kong Sevens

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