How a Rucky Encounter With the U of F Women’s Rugby Team Rescued My Fading “Irish Celebration”

It certainly was a time for celebrating – Friday, 11/18/16 and I received notice in today’s mail that my application for Foreign Birth Registration has been approved and I am now an Irish Citizen. (As of 11/3/16, to be exact).

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Big deal, you say?

Why, yes.Yes it is!

Several years ago I set out to document my personal twig on the Harding family tree. Much of the “planting” and pruning had already been done by my daughter, Laura, but the  finer details of my immediate ancestors have always been a challenge in our limb of the tree. I set out to fill in as many details as I could, not having the foggiest notion of where to begin. I did not realize until a good while later that the Irish government was still offering citizenship to children and grand-children of Irish immigrants, with proper documentation. I’ll spare you all the details of a process that took months and a year or two to assemble that information. The notice of successful culmination was indeed cause for some kind of celebration. As to what kind, I had no idea and was not much engaged in thinking about it.

The Proposition.

That evening, out of nowhere, my wife announced, “I have a proposition for you”.

My ears perked right up.

“A proposition?”

“Or a suggestion”, she continued cautiously, seeming to sense I might be expecting something other that what she intended. ” An idea, proposal, what ever you want to call it. Something to celebrate you new citizenship”

“Such as,???”… says I…

“Tomorrow’s Saturday, we have nothing special to do, how would you like to have lunch at an Irish pub?”

“O.K., but I’m not up to speed on Irish pubs around here.” (No, really, I’m not), and my wife’s expertise in on-line scouting often leaves much to be desired.

“That’s OK. I found one, sounds good, only 6 or 8 miles from here.” She told me the name but it did not register with me. Rather than stare into a gift horse’s mouth before closing the deal, I said fine. Let’s do it. Probably have TV’s all over the place and we can keep an eye on the college football games.

The fantasy.

Against my own familiar cautions of not expecting so much that disappointment ensues, I imagined walking into a welcoming place of happy Irish folk and wanna-be’s, and me casually sitting myself at the bar, engaging the publican himself in friendly chit-chat and tossing out the reason for my being there today. I would proudly wear my souvenir Cork City rugby shirt, even though it’s a bit warm for Florida, but heck, I need to wear it more than just St. Patrick’s Day. Maybe he would be from the same Cork City or county as my grand-father. What a coincidence. Perhaps warrant an extra, free pint or a little heavier pour of the good stuff, don’t ya know. Let the good times roll; Guinness and some lively craic; [pronounced crack,(“Craic is a Gaelic word, with no exact English translation. The closest you get is “fun.” There’s the expression “ceoil agus craic,” meaning “music and fun,””]  with a round or two of “Danny Boy”, or “The Wild Colonial Boy”. I had to mentally stop short of picturing them carrying me out to the car, sober of course, singing “It’s a long way to Tipperary.”

“So,”, wife burst my bubble, “what time to you want to leave?”

Fearing a verbal land-mine and relying on years of navigating “time and best routes to take” questions, I suggested, “whatever you think is best – I don’t know exactly where this pub is so we should time it for a little before one o’clock and avoid the early rush lunch crowd and the later after-noon football gawkers.”

“Exactly what I was thinking,” she said. “Sounds good”. (picture here a kind of mental high-five for me.)

The Step Into Reality

I’ve been to enough eating/drinking places to have developed a sense of what lies ahead, and it is usually accurate. Said Pub was easier to find than anticipated and proved to be less than encouraging than my phantasmal pub-encounter. Hmmm, said I to me…quite a large place, even has out-door setting, able to handle large crowds. With only 3 cars in the parking lot, I secretly hoped scores upon scores of lads and lassies were on their way to celebrate with us.

Upon opening the door, still imagining a cavern of fun and rollicking songs, a woman’s voice called out from fifty feet away – “Sit wherever you like. I’ll be right with you.” The shout did not disturb the other 3 folks in the room, one at each length of the u-shaped bar; one glued to a TV, a young woman glued to her I-phone, and a tatted up young fellow who seemed to be glued to the edge of boredom and oblivion. Not a fiddle or a tin whistle to be heard anywhere.

We explored the tantalizing possibilities; to left of the bar was a small seating area and beyond that the huge out-door, not-yet-serving patio section. Neither was enticing and I had fleeting visions of having to leap over from my meal and catch the tattooed-one from falling off his stool.

To the right was a very large room with dozens of long tables, room for a hundred or more but not a customer in sight.

We gazed around in a 360 degree option scan. Let’s sit here. OK.                                              Bar tender/now  waitress appeared. Can we get the Gator’s or Nole’s game on this TV? Hmmm, she said – nope, not on this side. On the other side of the wall you can. OK says we, its a start.

Now we are right back to where we came in, just inside the doorway with nothing between us and the TV game except the entry way, but by now I’m figuring that that will not be an obstruction. If there are no warm welcoming crowds of Irish persons here to greet us, at least we can enjoy a good football game – maybe even the Irish of Notre Dame!

The Soup Gets Stirred

We gave the bartender/waitress our orders and since it was my day to celebrate I asked for a shot of Jameson’s with a little ice. I commented later to my wife that I think I was served a fifth of Jameson’s, as in one fifth whiskey and four fifths water, in a one ounce glass.

Now its about half past one o’clock and another, like us, elderly couple arrived and stood there, gazing from side to side. Knowing the situation and being of good cheer, we both offered that there was only one person on duty, who was waitress and bartender and she must be absent on very important hospitality missions. Please sit anywhere, she’ll be right with you, we said cheerily, feeling like publicans ourselves. They looked a little stunned but walked into the room with the not-so tune-able TV and waited…appearing to be skeptical of the soundness of our advice.

We now have our food and drink and are enjoying portions of the game. Time for celebrating is waning and its getting closer to two o’clock. My huge party crowd seems to have peaked at 7, or eight if you throw in the Serving Staff. As my gaze wandered ever so casually toward the front door, I could see bunches of people milling around, waiting to come in. My little Irish heart shouted, come in, join my fun, …..please.

Sure enough four or five young women in t-shirts and shorts  came in and did the “where the heck is everybody” stare. Denise and I are by now very familiar with the format and instructed them, “Sit anywhere, there’s only a waitress/bartender and she will be right with you” thing. “Try that big room right there… TV’s lousy but there are plenty  of tables. No, we’re not the owners but go ahead anyway. Enjoy!!

Now the crowd at the door is moving inside and I can see beyond the open door more and more groups of 6 or 7, athletic looking and fittingly dressed, young women are pressing into the pub. I can no longer count the number of celebration attendees. I should have sold tickets. What a day!

By now our waitress is bounding around, grabbing menu’s trying to keep up with all the people whom we have recommended be seated in the other room as well as a growing crowd, standing right near our table discussing what is to be done next. It seems the besought waitress has warned them that Saturday’s kitchen staff only comes in at 3 pm and all she can guarantee for the next 50 minutes will be sandwiches.

Correcting The Seasoning

By this time, beside immensely enjoying myself that so many people have come to join my celebration, and nursing my celebratory Guinness since the busy one arm paper hanger posing as Pub staff may never be able to fill a second one, an unknown gentleman has struck up a conversation with me and explained that these are women from the University of Florida Rugby team and he either has something to do with the team or his daughter was in the crowd of thirty or forty who seemed to be reaching critical mass of hunger about now and making plans to go somewhere else before returning here by three pm. I never did figure out who he was.

As he and I exchanged pleasantries about being fathers of UF women, his more currently a student than mine, while I had the distinct advantage, here at least, of having a second daughter who was a rival Florida State Seminole graduate and we did indeed survive both college and sibling rivalry, and isn’t that something. My attention wandered to the interesting T-shirts worn by a number of these ladies that proclaimed the challenges of Women’s Rugby at the University of Florida.

Now I’m neither a great fan nor well acquainted with rules of play, but I am intrigued by the way in which a match plays out, the lack of padding or other American style football head-bashing gear, the way the game can easily change leads and the over-all athleticism required to be a good player. My wife and I had stumbled upon last year’s World Championship match between Australia and New Zealand while surfing the TV listings, and thoroughly enjoyed watching the play.

Like any sport, it does have its own language of course. My scant knowledge already included the meaning of “scrum”, and “try”,  and a few other terms, but I did not remember the meaning of the word “ruck”. [As per the internet:  ruck is a phase of play where one or more players from each team, who are on their feet, in physical contact, close around the ball on the ground. Open play has ended. Players are rucking when they are in a ruck and using their feet to try to win or keep possession of the ball, without being guilty of foul play.]

Back to the t-shirts at hand. These shirts had the catchy wording on the back – (yes, Fred H, on the back.) that stated: “80 Minutes, 15 Positions, No Protection, Wanna Ruck?” that immediately made me wonder what constituted a ruck, and who was responsible for this eye-catching display. {I’m a big fan of the quirky and imaginative use of the English language}, and at that very minute, not three feet away, stood a young lady wearing one of these shirts.

Excuse me, I said, can you tell me where I can get one of those shirts? .Thinking that surely someone I know would like one, as they are off the field T shirts and not uniform shirts.” Yes, she said, they will be available soon on the ‘net. I designed them myself.” What a wonderful coincidence I should ask the very creator about the origin of these shirts. “Great, imaginative job, I said. Let me shake your hand I said, but dared not ask the meaning of “ruck”, as I was thinking that this young lady might be concerned about my strange interest in her shirts. Just to show I was a Rugby aficionado, I twisted in my chair to show her my genuine Cork rugby shirt and the under fabric hook on the back of the color is printed, “Live for Rugby”. How authentic I feel today. It has to be good citizen-celebration Karma.

Thanks she said, as they began herding out the door to bide time elsewhere.

Better Than a Leprechaun’s Pot O’Gold

I was soon left alone to ponder this amazing celebration until my wife returned from the Ladies Room and I attempted to wow her with the wonderful and informative outcome of my new Irish citizenship celebration. She was somewhat nonplussed and wondered if I remembered how to get home.  Yet, as we strode back to the car I felt a  better that the day was ending so well, that “rucking” would forever be in my vocabulary, and that I had worn my genuine Irish, Cork rugby shirt to the right place at the right time.

Ready to ruck, baby! 

Disclaimer: I have no official connection with UF Women’s Rugby, no FSU Women’s Rugby but congratulate them all for doing their part to publicize the sport and women’s place in a world where their courage and daring and so very much needed.

I feel a need to add this link to their efforts at uniform fund raising and I’m sure your favorite school is probably in need of similar benefit.  For further info see


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Richard D

Retired psychotherapist and Adjunct University prof. Remaking my path as I go and inviting any and all path-walkers to share meditation thoughts, personal art works, music interests and just plain fun observations of life's passing moments This path goes anywhere and everywhere, open to all possibilities. Hopefully a step beyond FB, Twtr, etc. An opportunity for family, friends, coworkers, friends we've yet to meet to come together in an effort of friendly enrichment. Walkers of all paths are welcome. Please join us. RDH.

4 thoughts on “How a Rucky Encounter With the U of F Women’s Rugby Team Rescued My Fading “Irish Celebration””

  1. Ah laddie, you have now thrown down the proverbial gauntlet and I feel forced to claim my own heritage. Tomorrow on the top of the mornin’ I shall begin the process of acquiring German citizenship. Once acquired, I shall immediately — as is our national pastime — invade and conquer your tiny nation and annex it as a colony of my Vaterland. But you will soon rejoice over that fortunate turn of events because not only is our beer 🍻 infinitely more varied and flavorable, but so is our food. Your Irish palate will be amazed!

    Auf Wiedersehn,

    Fritz Ludwig

    … and by the way, as I learned from your behavior on Harvard Square some three score years ago, I was unaware that the t-shirts of college girls even had backs.

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 1 person

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