Up and down the country for the next month there will be a dawn chorus of sleepy Welsh voices saying ”Oi love, wherebyto is that little fella delivering the milk at 4 in the morning, whistling Bread of Heaven? Whenbyhow is your nightie on the front gate? And whatbywhere has the cat got a limp and hiding under the sofa?”
It’s Rugby World Cup time: yes it’s ridiculously early in the morning, yes it’s ITV, and no, watching the highlights is not an effective substitute for getting up at dawn’s crack and doing a job for ewer country.
Optimism Gnome has been waiting a long time for this. Since the dark days in Nantes when his own countrymen beat him into a pasty pulp after the Fiji game, he has been preparing. He was there in the dark days in Poland, creeping around the barracks at night whispering in the ears of the boys “you do not need an ale: ale bad”. He was there in a crevasse in Alaska with Richard Parks saying “believe Richard. Believe”. He was in bed with Dai Greene in Daegu singing Van Halen’s ‘Jump’. He was not there at Wembley when Robert Earnshaw was ballooning a sitter into Heathrow’s flight path, and for that he is truly sorry – he was instead in New Zealand biting the hell out of Bakkies Botha’s achilles.
But now he’s back in Wales, and for the next month his mission is to visit every home in the land on match day, driving his little milk float, delivering your wakey milky to your doorstep and with his enchanting whistle, summoning everyone to the battle-front in pubs and living rooms throughout the land for anthems and bacon rolls and swearing, and if you really must, a pint. Optimism Gnome will also send your wife back to bed for a recovery snooze and make sure the cat stays out of your way. He loves you, and only wants to help.
Some say his toadstool house at night looks like Toby Faletau’s head. Some say he’s Shane Williams’ dad – or at least the bloke who told Mary she was being blessed with a child. Some say his weekend in Tenby with Shirley Bassey in 1967 is the reason there’s a Kylie Minogue. Some say his ‘special additive’ to your milk would breach at least a dozen areas of the Food Safety Act (1990). All we know is, when the whistles blow for the Welsh to leave the trenches and charge like rabid loons in service of their country, he provides the ready-brek glow of invincibility that makes it all seem like a really good idea. However, he takes no responsibility for the incredible hulk come-down when you wake up in a hedge in only your pants with hazy recollections of sing-songs, cider and a girl from Bridgend who looked like Graham Price – then you’re on your own.
Optimism Gnome is up bright and early, there’s a red dragon being hoisted up a flag-pole and a big noisy trumpet blowing off like a Magners fart. There’s a job to be done here; there’s brothers out in foreign lands behind enemy lines needing some back up, and you’re it. Yes, you.
Opty-Gnome uses and recommends Salbutomol Inhalers for panic attacks and episodes of excitement-induced hyperventilation. £7.40 on prescription or £29.99 +p&p from the WRU website for one with ‘breathe like a dragon’ written on it in marker pen.