Under the counter

Click to follow
The Independent Online
"The Season" is under way, and, according to my Veuve Clicquot guide to "The Season" (a smart little freebie which just fits in a mini Filofax), May goes something like this: the Royal Caledonian Ball, Grosvenor House Hotel; the 2000 Guineas, Newmarket; the Badminton Horse Trials; Glyndebourne; and the Chelsea Flower Show. But there is a vital omission, which, nestling in between Newmarket and Badminton, is an annual must for me. Royal Ascot (17-20 June) is small beer compared to this event. You want hats? Well, get tickets now for next year's rugby league showpiece, the Silk Cut Challenge Cup final at Wembley.

A summary of rugby league for the uninitiated: two teams sort of lunge at each other trying to get the ball, then one guy runs very fast and throws himself head first into a corner (four points), then, another guy tries to kick it through two white posts (additional two points if successful). As with all events of The Season, you don't just go to watch the game - it's more of an all-over body experience.

First you need to know who you are supporting. As I was going with Wilbur, Fergal, John and Sue - all fierce Wiganites - we couldn't support St Helens (arch rival) so it had to be the Bradford Bulls, which meant chanting "Come on ye Bu-ulls," rather than "Come on ye Saints," and cheering for the ones in red, black and yellow. The Bulls supporters also had the best outfits. The ladies' hats were spectacular, bull-horn helmets and red wigs, complemented by Bulls kit shirts and, for the really dedicated, a full make-over: facial team colours, pounds 4, from the face-painting stand outside the ground. But it is the variety of dresses worn that make this event so outstanding. A party in front of me were immaculately dressed in white tulle tutus, silver tiaras and white fishnet tights. I only hope that the tutus had popper-fastening gussets as, by the amount of lager they were consuming, the lads wearing them were going to have trouble at half time.

You can make yourself look exceptionally ugly if you go the whole hog, or even the whole bull. One teenage girl had not only painted her entire face, but had dyed her hair red, black and yellow as well. Yet a trip to watch the Bulls can be made with relatively subtle accessorising - a Bulls horns hairband or a big sponge wavy hand are discreet options.

Entertainment is big at rugby league. On my first year there we had Cliff Richard singing to kick things off. This year it was someone we thought was Diana Ross (again), but were told by the 13-year-old in our party that this was someone "new" in the charts. For real entertainment, you can't beat the life-size Bullman mascot. Forget an Andrex pup, I want a Bradford Bull I can have to stay.

Get Bullish: For her, Bulls shell suit, pounds 60, velvet hat with horns, pounds 15.99; for him, stadium jacket, pounds 59.99, replica kit shirt, pounds 39.50; for me, cuddly Bradford Bullman, pounds 19. Bradford Bulls merchandise from 'The Bull Pen', Bradford Burger King, 01274 721011. Tickets to '98 final, around pounds 27, from participating clubs