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It’s 00.13. 2ndof July. It’s the only good news story of the week.  I’m here waiting to read about Wales. This is the biggest sports story in the last thirty years as Wales power into the semi-final… no last minute drama, they win 3.1 against a team ranked at 2 in the world. Rankings and predictions. I sing in the pub (the castle in Llansteffan) someone kisses the screen but I’m not that much of a fanatic, (there’s still two games to go). And we win, we win, we win, win.


At twenty minutes past twelve only the Daily Mirror have put it on line, followed by Reuters. It is ten to 1 by the time the Telegraph chip in. The rest are sleeping, drinking, writing, didn’t expect Wales to win but we are where we are. It’s now 00.24 hope the rest are catching up.  Nick don’t cash in, buy a ticket,


 


 

The dream for Wales fans is one that we just cannot wake up from it seems. And who would want to wake up anyway? It would only be to an incredibly intoxicated headache.


 

(Author Nick Fisk with Cardiff, Swansea and Wales International Andy Legg (from Neath) just before the Russia game at Toulouse airport)

 

While most other people in the country are still giving themselves sore heads from arguing over the Brexit vote, for Wales fans only celebratory beer is causing minor miseries. And it’s not just the Welsh success that fans are raising glasses to, it’s the fact that England went out to the biggest minnows in the entire pond.

 

Having myself returned from France following arguably the greatest game of the tournament so far, Wales’ win against Russia (at least in terms of shift put in by the dominant side), it is actually slightly surreal being a Wales fan and not being based in the tournament’s host country. Back home, for a large part of the time, things are quiet, with people only turning out in force for the games themselves, and even then, there is the sense of, hang on, what are we doing here – shouldn’t we be in France?!

In an article in this past Saturday’s Western Mail, Siberia-based Parthian author Michael Oliver-Semenov reflects upon the bizarre turns his life took before the publication of his book of poetry, The Elephant's Foot. Five years ago it would have surprised the people around him, and most of all himself, to learn that he would end up in Russia as a writer, a husband and a father, as well as a part-time English teacher at a local kindergarten—but he is absolutely “chuffed” to have arrived at this point. Not a keen student of poetry in school—“Poetry made no sense and all poets were either dead or boring”—poetry seemed to him the domain of old people; “soppy sonnet stuff we were force-fed”. A less –than-glittering high school record shows that geography and English back then were already his saving grace. The books divides its focus between Britain and Russia and has a remarkable autobiographical streak that describes life as a student, a worker, and a father. There is a central theme of personal and universal survival, of overcoming various difficulties or traumas both physical and psychological. “I didn’t want to write poems no one would understand or no one I grew up with would be able to relate to,” says Oliver-Semenov.

Nick Fisk, author of The Blues are Back in Town, was our man in France this week following Wales who were better at staying in Europe than the rest of us.

 

An alarm clock and my father aided me in negotiating the first potential hazard of the adventure, the early start of 5am and a departure from Cardiff airport. After a brief meet at Toulouse airport with the legend Andy Legg who took my offer of a Blues Are Back in Town in return for a quick selfie, Fisk then had to negotiate a more problematic obstacle: poor planning. 

 

I had hoped I would easily meet up with Bastien who, via airbnb, was putting me up for the night, but of course no. Despite assurance from my phone operators, I had no signal on my mobile and had foolishly not stored details in paper form as to where I would be staying.

Mao Oliver-Semenov writing for Wales Arts Review on his debut poetry collection The Elephant's Foot, out now: