There was a fella at home with notions. He was going to big rugby matches in Dublin. He was even talking about taking up the game, having been reared on the hairy bacon of Gaelic football.
Yes, he was moving up in the world, making his way into politer society, leaving the backwoods of rural Leitrim behind him for the Burlo in Dublin 4 of an international afternoon.
One night, after a local gah match played in the usual conditions of muck, obscurity and agrarian violence, he declared to his drinking mates he was looking forward to the upcoming Ireland v England game in London. In fact, he was going. And he wanted to know if we were going too. "Any of yiz heading to Twickers?" he asked. Except he hadn't quite managed to master the more refined kind of accent that would pass muster in the social circles to which he was gravitating. One word gave the game away: Twickers. It just didn't sound wholly convincing, coming from a fella who spent more time walking around in wellingtons than in Dubarry deck shoes.
This was back in the 1980s, when rugby was such a stranger down in the boondocks that many people still pronounced it 'rubby'. And when many of the same people, if they knew that Twickenham existed at all, were more likely to call it 'Twickingham'. And here was a fella, not a wet week following the sport, already abbreviating it to 'Twickers', as if he'd gone to Gonzaga College rather than the local tech.
To crown the comedic moment, it came out as "Twickersh". Our aspirant member of the bourgeoisie had not at this early stage of his social journey learned to erase the 'sh' sound, that giveaway verbal tic which brands us as culchies wherever we go. If there's a suitable 's', we just can't help shticking a 'h' beside it, no matter how augusht the company we are in.
He wasn't in very august company that night but, needless to say, when our hero toddled off, there was much mirth enjoyed at his all-too-transparent vanity. For a finish, he made his way over to Twickersh alright and was back on his tractor by Monday.
These days Twickenham isn't quite the sporting equivalent of Buckingham Palace anymore. We are all middle class now, apparently. Paddy's money is as good as the next man's, whether it's in shterling or euro, in London town or in Dublin.
Back in the 1980s and '90s it was hard enough to beat England in Lansdowne Road, never mind away from home. Since then a generation of Irish players has managed to chisel a few bricks from the fortress, thereby weakening its aura of supremacy to some degree. Wins at Twickenham in 2004, 2006, 2010 and 2018 have normalised the possibility of doing it again, or should have at any rate. "The fear factor of going there isn't as big as what it used to be," said Conor Murray at a press conference on Wednesday.
Mind you, Murray was on the team that got their asses handed to them there last August in the World Cup warm-up game that served notice of the disappointments that were to come in Japan. And of course England also turned Ireland over in Dublin some six months earlier, at the start of a year that culminated with them reaching the World Cup final.
So it could be that we are now in a cycle of the old rivalry that will see England on top for a couple of years. Ireland with a new head coach and changed coaching staff are supposed to be in a period of transition while England have retained Eddie Jones in their top job. But Jones' recent public pronouncements have once again reinforced the impression that the Aussie is basically a bit of a bluffer. England are vulnerable today and Jones is the main reason why.
As for Ireland, the transition hasn't started yet, at least not in the playing roster. Andy Farrell is currently sticking with the old dogs for the hard road and it is probably a sound policy for the specific circumstances that await them today. Twickenham still looks and sounds frightfully intimidating in the minutes before kick-off when the home supporters are in full voice. It remains an awesome venue in those moments - and for a lot longer too, if those white shirts begin sweeping in waves towards the opposition try line.
They look imperious when this scenario starts unfolding, if not downright imperial - and that's just the crowd. When Ireland fetched up there two years ago looking to clinch the Grand Slam, James Haskell offered a few interesting observations on the vexed question of his country's complicated rugby relationships. None of the other countries wanted to see them win, said the veteran forward, because of England's long history of "empire building". It wasn't his fault, he argued quite reasonably, it had all taken place in the long ago. "But that's what happens when you used to run the world."
Anyway, Ireland did leave Twickenham with the Grand Slam that day, though we doubt it had much to do with the old empire angst. They were just better coached, more confident and more organised.
Even so, it is difficult not to pick up the echoes of an older order when this magnificent cathedral is reverberating to the sound of affluent England in its cups. But affluent Ireland likes to party there too, and the team has given them a few good excuses to do exactly that over the last decade. It has become a tad more homely despite its pedigree and scale.
For better or worse, we are most of us a little more Twickers these days, and a little less Kilburn and Cricklewood.
Sunday Indo Sport