Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Snow, Shovels and Tarpaulin Tsunamis

What did you do last Sunday morning? 

a)  Enjoy a nice relaxing lie in before propping yourself up in bed with a coffee and the Sunday papers? 
b)  Slump on the sofa in a hungover haze and watch the Hollyoaks omnibus? 
c)  Go for a run or get a sweat on at the gym?

I have to be honest and admit that I usually go for option b, although on the rare occasion that I'm feeling all virtuous or if I've overdosed on Cadbury's chocolate buttons, I head to the gym to go and masquerade as a red sweaty tomato for an hour and a half.  Attractive.

I had a slightly unusual Sunday morning last weekend as I did none of these things.  Despite my gym avoidance, by the end of my morning's activities I still ended up working the red sweaty tomato look.  Oh and to make things more attractive than usual, I was wearing a comedy bobble hat at the time.

So what was I up to?  Well, short of pulling on my Wonderwoman knickers over my trousers, I leapt to the aid of the Leeds Carnegie ground staff along with half a dozen or so other willing volunteers to help clear snow from the Headingley Carnegie pitch ahead of the Amlin Challenge Cup game against Bucharesti Oaks.

Due to the snow fall over Leeds, a call went out via the Leeds Carnegie newsletter and message boards to ask for any willing volunteers to help head groundsman Jason Booth and his team shift the snow and ice from the Headingley pitch.  Desperate to leave my Christmas present wrapping nightmare behind me for a few hours, I happily offered by bobble-hatted services to the good cause.  Well, I figured that it would be a good way to get a bit of fresh air, possibly make a few new friends and also to satisfy my inner rugby geek and take the opportunity to walk on the hallowed Headingley Carnegie turf.  That is how I found myself in the middle of the pitch at 10:30am whilst wearing about 500 layers of clothing and my trusty bobble hat.

If I said that clearing the pitch wasn't hard work then I would be lying.  Jason and his team do an absolutely brilliant job, and my three hour snow shovelling session on Sunday really made me appreciate how much work they put in so that games like the one against Bucharesti Oaks last Sunday can go ahead.

A massive eight, yes eight volunteers turned up to help, and we all started off by shovelling snow out of the in-goal areas and dumping it against the advertising hoardings.  This done, we pulled back the frost sheets to reveal the rather surprisingly squelchy mud patches underneath the posts, which immediately answered my question as to why the Leeds players always seem to try and score in the corners.

Assisting the ground staff and the fans in shifting the snow was Leeds Carnegie player Jon Pendlebury, who was sporting a rather interesting pair of saggy tracksuit bottoms.  In fairness, Jon's ensemble was much more flattering than the all white Ghostbusters-style romper suit which one of the groundstaff had decided to wear.  To make matters worse for the wannabe Dan Ackroyd, there was a worryingly large hole gaping around the bum area of his all in one jumpsuit.  Was this down to a severe bout of vindaloo arse or did he just like the cool waft of fresh air ventilation?  Maybe it was the ectoplasm?  Thankfully I never did find out, although Mr Ghostbuster did go missing during the pitch clearing duties, which did make me wonder if his snow-coloured stealth outfit had provided him with the opportunity to sneak off for a crafty fag.

Who ya gonna call? Comedy groundstaff.

Whilst flinging snow in the general direction of the side of the pitch, Mr Pendlebury decided to liven up proceedings by inadvertently showering me with a shovel full of snow.  Well, I say inadvertently but he was definitely stifling a laugh as he apologised.
"I'm sorry," he said smirking.
"Oh you will be," I replied, half joking.
Check out my smack talk, baby.

Both in-goal areas cleared and a coffee break later, we split into two X-factor style teams led by Leeds' Director of Rugby Andy Kiwi and Head Coach and world cup winner Neil Back.  Team Kiwi (along with the girls) was on snow shovelling duty, whilst Team Back (with the boys) started busying themselves with tarpaulin tugging.  It was good to see the coach and director of rugby lending a hand, especially as they managed to keep their white Leeds Carnegie fleeces pristine throughout.  They would definitely win the Daz doorstep challenge.

My new friend Tim was part of Team Back and somehow he managed to trip himself up under a tidal wave of tarpaulin which left him gasping for air and frantically crawling to his feet.  I on the other hand, had a lovely chat with Andy Key and had my rosy red cheeks and stupid hat caught on camera by the pesky roving Sky Sports cameraman.  (Despite the cameraman's total confidence that footage of me and my co-shovellers would appear on the European Rugby Special that night, thankfully there is a God, and my sweaty red tomato look wasn't broadcast to the world.  It's probably in the comedy blooper real though just waiting to be wheeled out one day, much to my delight.)

With all the snow shovelled away we were almost done.  All that was left to do was to help out the slackers of Team Back by removing the last couple of frost sheets from the pitch.  A pair of muddy gloves, a couple of bright red cheeks and 3 and a half hours later the pitch was ready for action having successfully passed the pitch inspection.

All that was left for me to do was to ask one of my snow-banishing chums if they would please take a photo of me looking triumphant on the Headingley Carnegie pitch to show that I was really there.  And looky here, they did just that:

Yes, this is a rather glamorous shot of me in my lovely bobble hat whilst wearing about 500 layers of clothing.

Look at that pitch.  Isn't it lovely?

The snow clearing team did good, and as if to repay us for our efforts, Leeds ran in seven tries to beat Bucharesti Oaks by 47-0. 

The only thing that dampened this most excellent day was that Ceiron Thomas, Leigh Hinton and Richard Welding all left the game early due to injury.  This is a big worry ahead of the resumption of the Guinness Premiership next weekend, and I hope that they're not seriously injured and will be back for Leeds soon. I, on the other hand, I don't think I'll be back on groundsman duty any time in the near future - not with the way my back feels today!  For now I'll just stick to cheering from the South Stand and writing my rugby based musings on here.


  1. You Yorkshirewomen are a tough lot.

    It's great to see the face behind the blog!

    Good on ya for chipping in to help. I'm glad that Leeds was able to make your efforts worthwhile!

  2. That's for that comedy mention. My clumsily tripping up and being dragged under the tsunami was somehow lacking from the version I tell...