November 27, 2004
London's Billion Monkey Rugby World Cup celebrations

Just under a year ago, on Monday December 8th 2003, the triumphant England Rugby Union squad paraded the Rugby World Cup which they had won the previous month, against Australia, in Australia.

I found the final almost too painful to watch, and even now I can hardly bear to watch the DVD I now have of it. England should have finished off Australia an hour sooner, but they just couldn't, and in the end only Wilkinson's famous drop kick at the death won it for England.

So for me, the big thrill was not the final itself, but the celebrations in London, which I watched on the telly. This brought two of the things I have most enjoyed looking at during my whole life, the England rugby team in all its many variations, and the great city that is London, ditto, into one grand jamboree.

You can find far better photos, technically speaking, of these celebrations than the ones I took, but here are mine, which I snapped in a technically ridiculous fashion which I am sure was unnecessary, with my newly acquired Canon A70, of the digital TV coverage of the celebrations by the BBC, which I did not (and still do not) have the technology to record properly. (The only telly tapes I have are still of much inferior analogue reception.)

I couldn't even pause the pictures to get them less blurred.

But I love these photos. They capture a moment in the life of my country and my city, and of my own life, in a way which will surely never happen in the same way again, even if England win the next Rugby World Cup and parade that around London also, as is not impossible. For by the time of the next World Cup, I will surely have some means of digitally recording digital TV, and quite possibly I will by then have worked out how to capture such imagery on my computer, with some kind of card thingy or something. This, I feel sure, is what everyone else except me does already.

But for me, the technical bizarreness of it all only all adds to the fun, and it adds even more to the atmosphere of these pics that I think I started snapping away at the telly pretty much on the spur of the moment, having never tried doing this before.

All part of the oddity of them is that it has taken me so very long to finally get around to sticking them up here, the excuse being that it was a year ago. Also, today, at Twickenham this time, an almost brand new England side is playing against Australia.

Anyway, enjoy them, skip in among them, get the picture with one picture and move on, ignore them, scorn them. In short, treat this like any other brand-X blog posting. But for me, these will be a diary entry to treasure.

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As you can see, the Billion Monkeys were out in force, many of us, it turns out, being England rugby players. My favourite Billion Monkey shot being the very first one here (which I'll call 1.1 – first row, first from the left), of Josh Lewsey, seen from above, photoing the Cup itself.

2.2 preserves in photo form all the clobber that surrounded my TV set at the time, and is one I will therefore particularly enjoy. And speaking of irrelevances, I especially struck by an individual I had completely not noticed at the time, namely the little blue guy whose job was to see that the Cup itself came to no harm. See especially 3.2, but he's in others too. What a day he must have had.

3.5 is a classic heroic shot from street level of Richard Hill on the bus, breathing it all in and making sure to savour these magic moments, with Jonny W for once rather spoiling things. And although 4.4 is very blurred, it gets Dallaglio very well, I think.

4.1 is another classic Billion Monkey pose, this time of the guy you have asked to try his best to do one of you with your camera. Jason Leonard is having fun, but he wants to get it right. And 5.1 is another generic Billion Monkey shot, the one where the Billion Monkey fiddles with the nobs in a somewhat puzzled way, with the strap hanging down over his hands. That's scrum half Matt Dawson.

In 5.2 and 5.3 we observe a veritable Billion Monkey Troop in full capture mode. A cameraless Mike Catt looks like he swallowed all the cream in England, but maybe Jason Robinson wishes he'd brought one of these camera thingies with him too, like all the other guys.

And who is that, just about makeable out in 6.1? Why yes, it's Mayor Livingstone! And quite right too. London needed to shake hands with these guys officially, and he was the man to do it. He did it well, not trying to barge in on anything, just making sure to be there, at the side.

There's even an artistic one, 7.5, and 1.4 is in a similar vein, with stuff flying through the air past the bus. And 5.6 is pretty artistic too, of the cup itself in reasonable focus and almost everything else blurred.

And through it all, the dominant personalities of the occasion. Captain Martin Johnson (4.3, 6.2), Head Coach Woodward (perfectly focussed in 4.5, then distracted away from the interviewer in 4.6), and Jonny Wilkinson (7.4 is especially good). And of course there are lots of pics in among it all are of the ecstatic fans, flooding into Oxford Street, Regent Street, and finally Trafalgar Square.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:22 PM
Category: HistoryLondonPhotographyTV