This category of award is for travel in relation to sports events. Usually it produces a good crop of possibilities. For 2021 it turned out to be even easier to judge than in 2020.
I had only one sport related trip in 2021, and that was to Newcastle-upon-Tyne (in England) for a rugby game – the local Rugby League Championship team against TO XIII from Toulouse, in the last league game of the 2021 season.
This might appear slightly eccentric, but I was at the 1972-73 French Rugby League cup final in Toulouse, when TO XIII won.
I know, I know. Humour me.
TO XIII has been promoted to the Superleague for the 2022 season, and that may open up a few travel possibilities for me. Salford, Wakefield, Wigan or Castleford are on offer if I want to see a TO XIII away game. What a mouthwatering prospect.
I would prefer to be going to see them play in Toulouse, of course, and a Ryanair flight to a city which used to be home is a much more appealing prospect than a 4-5 hour drive to Huddersfield or Warrington. At the time of writing this I could be vaccinated all over like a pin cushion and still not be entitled to enter France.
Hopefully that will change before the season is too old.
My outing to Newcastle was strange. The more lax pandemic restrictions in England at that time (September) as compared with Scotland made it feel like a risky adventure. I knew the match itself would be very safe, with a small crowd in a medium sized arena. I drove there rather than taking the train, again as a risk reduction preference. The train is quicker and cheaper between where I live in Fife (Scotland) and Newcastle.
I chose the Hilton Doubletree at the Airport in preference to a city centre hotel – Newcastle is a party town at weekends, pandemic or not, and I wanted to be well away from that. I had room service rather than going out for dinner.
I took a chance on the hotel restaurant for breakfast in the morning, going down as soon as it opened up. It felt safe enough when quiet, but the absence of masks and distancing still felt weird – and stupid, to be quite honest.
Is it possible to make an award when you have just one contender? I think not.
ⓒ iain taylor, 2022
Toulouse, in November 2019, was one of my last trips before the pandemic. I liked the city. On the the other hand, my Auld Granny used to say: “That boy’ll like aught”. In retrospect, of course, it seems like Paradise, now that I can’t travel without masks and vaccine certificates and PCR tests.