“Good morning/afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to Rugby. My name is Christine and I will be leading your tour today. Can everyone hear me?”
This is one of the phrases I have been memorising in the last few weeks.
It continues with a mention of the Rugby World Cup, which is being held in this country this year. When you live in the town where the game was invented, things are starting to get a bit frantic.
The town has been awarded the title “Proud Home of the Game” because nearly two hundred years ago (1823 to be precise) a schoolboy called William Webb Ellis, caught the ball and ran with it. The local council is expecting thousands of visitors and a lot of them will want a tour of the sights.
A few weeks ago they advertised for volunteers – I was one of them. I didn’t really want to volunteer, but as a member of the Rugby Local History Research Group, I felt it was my duty to check that they had their facts right. After that I would quietly withdraw – the tours weren’t going to start until September.
I should have stayed well clear. The first training session was about the history of the town. They asked me to give a talk to everyone about it. Well at least I can’t now complain if they get anything wrong. We learnt the routes, we were trained about health & safety (If anyone collapses call 999!) and we were taught how to be a proper guide by Roger, a proper blue badge guide.
Then they started talking about “practice”. Rugby Festival of Culture was coming up. There would be Guided Walks everyday at midday – what good practice. The FoC runs from 26 June to 12 July, details here. We are halfway through and I have done three walks. I have only lost two customers so far – I think the sale at Marks and Spencer was more attractive! For the third walk no-one turned up – apart from four guides.
There are three different walks: Sporting Heritage, Literary Heritage, and General Heritage. If you are in Rugby in the next week, come along to the Library Foyer at noon. They’re free!
Small groups of trainee guides can be seen around the town, telling their friends and relations about William Webb Ellis; discussing whether the Christian name of the Rugby School Headmaster and Archbishop of Canterbury, after whom the Temple Speech Room (opened in 1909 by King Edward VII) was named, was Frederick or William (it was Frederick). How many teams are taking part in this years Rugby World Cup (20) and where are they from? (I’m sure I’ve got it written down somewhere.)
We will have official jackets (we have been told) and official umbrellas.
The whole town is being re-painted. Flower displays are everywhere. New statues spring up overnight.
In September the town will have a FanZone, with giant screens to watch the games. I doubt I’ll be there – I’ll be at home soaking my feet. After all, I can’t back out now. Can I?
“Finally, there are toilet facilities here if anyone needs to use them before we start. Are there any questions before we start the tour?