Meant to tweet this yesterday, for what should have been Ray Gravell's 70th birthday. Got waylaid by my own daughter's 6th birthday party though, so am sharing it now

It's the tale of when my gran met Ray, and is probably the most quintessentially Welsh thing ever

It was 2007, during the Rugby World Cup. This was after the Wales V Japan game in Cardiff. Dad, at the time, was in events management, and had a big fancy do happening at the Angel hotel, with a lot of former Wales players attending. Including Ray Gravell.

It was my first time meeting Grav in person. For the record, a lovelier human you could scarcely hope to meet. The embodiment of everything positive about Wales and the Welsh. He was our perfect ambassador. So that was nice.

However, a big part of this day was that it was part of my Nan's birthday treat.

This is Nana Phyllis. My Dad's mum. You know all the ridiculous tales of my Dad's antics I've shared? He inherited that from his mother, I promise you.

Nana Phyllis passed some years ago, but she was, in many ways, the quintessential 'Welsh Mam'. Loving, gregarious, often ridiculous, but good lord, do NOT cross her. Brooked absolutely no nonsense, and I don't think she was familiar with 'tact'.

For instance, when she (rightly) suspected my granddad was cheating on her, she didn't go down the 'tearful confrontation' route. Instead, she hid in the back seat of his car, and when he picked up his mistress, she jumped out and started fighting both of them.

So, yeah

So yeah, a very 'storied' individual, was Nanna Phyllis.

She lived in Betws, just north of Bridgend, her whole life. She was also OBSESSED with sport. Watched it every waking moment if she could. And, being Welsh, Rugby was her favourite by some margin.

But, because of the whole 'divorced cleaning lady trying to raise 6 kids' thing, she'd never actually seen a rugby game live. So, for her 60th, Dad sorted her tickets for the Wales V Japan match in the Stadium. Which, as you can imagine, she was very pleased about.

And after the game (which Wales won, thankfully), we went back to the hotel do, and Dad introduced Nan, his mother, to all the former international players there.

Which included Ray Gravell.

Grav was one of my Nan's heroes. The Welshest guy ever, who played for Wales, was on Welsh sports shows all the time, and part of the team that BEAT THE ALL BLACKS? How could she not love him.

She genuinely said that, to his face.

If memory serves, it went like this.

Dad: "Hey, Grav, over here. Come say hi to my mother."

Grav: "Hello, Mrs Burne-"


[Hugging ensues]

Yeah, subtlety wasn't Nan's thing either

Nice enough story in its own right. But the next bit is much better.

Grav also did a bit of acting in his later years. One of his roles was 'Berwyn' in Sarah Sugarman's 1996 short film 'Valley girls'…

I knew this because it was filmed partly in California, and partly in Pontycymer, my home village. The film crew used the pub I lived in as a base of operations for a fortnight. Was an odd childhood experience.

Grav was in the film. He played the son of the lead character, played by Wendy Morgan, the Welsh cleaning-lady-turned-actor who sadly passed in 2019…

I knew Wendy reasonably well, she was from my valley, it was a tiny community. That's how it goes.

Wendy and Ray apparently became good friends over the course of filming. They swapped stories all the time. Ray about his rugby experiences, obviously, and Wendy about her own adventures

A lot of Wendy's tales included her even more ridiculous and outgoing best friend...

Basically, Wendy Phillips told Ray Gravell loads of hilarious stories about what her best friend got up to. And that friend was my Nan. Who had just declared that she loved him. Before he knew her name.

So, this happened.

Grav: "Sorry luv, I didn't hear your name"

Nan: "Ha! It's Phyllis"

Grav: "Oh. My mate Wendy had a friend Phyllis. From Betws. Do you know her?"

Nan: "Wendy Phillips? That's me, I'm her friend Phyllis".

Grav: "..."


[Hugging ensues]

So yeah, Nan was thrilled to meet one of her all time heroes. Turned out he knew of her, and the feeling was entirely mutual.

Only in #Wales.


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