Latest posts by Martin Moodie (see all)
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I’ve arrived in Singapore, en route to Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud, godzone, Cartersville, McCaw country – also known as New Zealand.
There’s a certain sporting event being played with an egg-shaped ball down there that has consumed the interest of the nation’s 48 million inhabitants (4 million people and 44 million extremely knowledgeable sheep). In fact New Zealand is the only country in the world where the sheep debate the selection of the national rugby team in the fields at night (their current favourite is apparently a man called Dagg, for reasons only locals will understand) and bleat endlessly if their favourite players are omitted.
To describe rugby as a religion in New Zealand would be a gross understatement. This is extreme fundamentalism. When I grew up there long ago, anyone wanting to play soccer (football) had their sexuality questioned (that was long before the days of the now-glorious All Whites who went through the last FIFA World Cup unbeaten yet, like the Irish Olympics swimmer, never got out of the pool).
Rugby defines New Zealand. It IS New Zealand. New Zealand IS rugby. As a life-long All Blacks fan (is there any other kind?), I travel homeward to the World Cup with all the zeal of a religious group on their way to Mecca.
I shall bow at the altar of national coach Graham Henry; I will pray each night for redemption after 24 years of World Cup disappointment; I will give alms generously to keep Dan Carter and Richie McCaw safe from the predatory attentions of brutal South African and Australian scavengers. I will vow to forgo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc for the rest of my life if only, if only, if only the All Blacks win the Cup. Ok, I lied on the last one…
Oh the yearning for success. As John Cleese once wrote, “It’s not the disappointment, it’s the hope I can’t cope with.” Those words burn deep into the soul of every All Blacks supporter. But this year is different. I feel it in my old bones. The Cup is not only coming home, but this time it’s staying.
First though, it was time to catch up with good industry friends in Singapore. After a great flight over on the Singapore Airlines A380 (featuring an excellent inflight duty free magazine, published by concessionaire DFASS), I arrived at Changi Terminal 3, one of my favourite airports.
The Arrivals duty free shops (DFS for liquor & tobacco, Nuance-Watson Singapore for perfumes & cosmetics) are an example to the whole industry, and I did my best for DFS’s average transaction value with an investment in the first two of many bottles of Cloudy Bay that will be consumed over the next month (thanks to the gracious Ms Ng, pictured below, who served me with much charm and grace and did her best to get me also to spend my beer allowance).
Last night took the form of a pre-World Cup party, courtesy of the warm hospitality of Sunil Tuli (King Power Group HK Travel Retail & Duty Free Managing Director, and APTRA President) and his lovely wife (and fellow All Blacks devotee) Shikha.
[Left to right: Peter Sant, Sunil Tuli, Jenny Sant, Cassius Tuli, Shikha Tuli, Art Miller, Karuna Tuli, Karan Tuli, Martin Moodie, Eleen Holland, Jonathan ‘Chaps’ Holland, Nancy Miller]
On hand too with their respective partners were Jonathan ‘Chaps’ Holland who has a bewildering, illogical but absolute conviction that England will win the World Cup; Peter Sant of Rémy Cointreau who would probably like to support England too but in the cause of corporate survival opts for France; and Art Miller of Revlon who is thoroughly confused by rugby’s lack of time outs and helmets . But the wisest sage of all proved to be the Tuli’s boxer Cassius (below), President of the Dogs’ Asia Pacific Travel Rugby Association (DAPTRA), who asked about England’s prospects, simply replied “Ruff”.
[Cassius Tuli: England only have a ruff chance]
[Beauties and the beast: Shikha Tuli, Eleen Holland, Martin Moodie, Nancy Miller and Jenny Sant]
[Scrum time: Peter Sant, Jonathan Holland and Art Miller form a multi-national front row]
Several warm toasts (some with foie gras) were proposed, notably to the recovering Doug Newhouse back in England, and to the spirit of travel retail friendship.
Now, with my mascot ‘Kiwi McCaw’ (pictured below) to keep me company, it’s onwards to the Land of the Long Cloudy Bay, sorry, Long White Cloud, for the greatest tournament on earth.
See you in New Zealand.