“Stu. Laurent is coming.”

“Good for him. Who’s the lucky girl/boy/goat?”

“No. Muppet. He is coming on camino.”

I dropped the telephone.

I had last seen Laurent in Bayonne, during the Rugby World Cup. As is a hooker’s wont, the Black Duck had gone slightly off on a tangent. Completely on track, Basque hookers can be a handful, off on a tangent, nobody else was going to go near him.

The Front Row code was invoked and the two props were sent to see if a course adjustment might be possible.

“Here’s the plan Stu. We have a few beers, then over dinner we tell him to get a job, stop smoking and drink less.”

“Brilliant. So, pint in hand we tell a Basque nutcase to stop drinking?”

“Got it in one!”

Smith is nothing, if not the eternal optimist.


I am nothing, if not easily led.

The Basque having been severely admonished by Drunk and Drunker, all retired to bed, promising to meet to watch France – Ireland the next day.

Ireland rather put the sword to the French, and we felt that this, combined with the eloquence and persuasive oratory of the previous night explained a rather muted hooker. As he slunk off, Stu and I ordered a celebratory carafe of almost undrinkable Cote de Rhone. (Almost, I said.)

Several hours later Stu’s phone beeped. And beeped. And beeped.

We slept.

“He’s had a heart attack.” Stu intoned.

“No, I’m fine.” I responded.

“No, the Duck is in hospital.”


Not exactly the outcome we were looking for.

He assures us that he is feeling much better now.

How bad could it be?