Colin Charvis played his last game of rugby for Swansea RFC 15 years ago this month, yet his standing in the city remains startlingly high, with complete strangers approaching him in the street to talk to him and occasionally shake his hand.
Cut to Swansea Enterprise Park and the ex-Wales and Lions forward is heading for a coffee and an interview with your correspondent. In the car park of the coffee shop where the chat is due to take place, a middle-aged man in a blue coat comes on to Charvis to tell him he had once been his favourite player and when his daughter owned her first cat the man had been allowed to choose the name.
âI called it âCharvisâ,â he says, proudly.
Charvis, the man not the aforementioned cat, adopts an awed and delighted expression and the pair shake hands before going their separate ways.
It was ever thus in Swansea for Charvis.
People recognise him and seem to like him.
He may have been viewed as prickly by some in the media during his playing days, but that was never the case among the wider public on the eastern side of the Loughor. In his adopted city they like what he did for their rugby team and they like the friendly demeanour he exudes as he goes about the city.
He turns up for the interview 20 minutes earlier than planned, driving a black van that evokes memories of the A-Team of 1980s TV fame. We are outside Colin Charvis Flooring, the thriving carpet and general flooring business he has established at Horizon Park in Swansea.
Dressed all in dark clothes save for a high-vis sleeveless jacket, he is in work mode and asks if the interview can be done and dusted in an hour because he has some outstanding business to attend to. âHow many hours a week do you work?â I ask.
âI put in a good 60 hours,â he replies.
âBut I have other ventures which take up my time.
âThose outside rugby might work long hours in their 20s. But sports people who are starting new careers have to do it in their mid-30s.
âI basically needed reprogramming.
âBut I like what Iâm doing.
âIâm up early and walking the dog by 6am each day. Iâm then in the office an hour later and most of the good work is done before the phone goes crazy at nine oâclock.
âThen itâs about managing the commercial projects and talking to my domestic customers and keeping the ship running straight.â
Born in Sutton Coldfield, he adds: âRunning a business in Swansea, you feel you are part of the fabric of the city. It would feel alien to live elsewhere. You walk through the city or along the beach â wherever it is, you feel part of this place.â
We enter the coffee shop and it is seriously busy. People stare at Charvis but he seems oblivious of the attention. In fairness, most do their looking discreetly, aside from a young lad who seems to regard the 6ft 3in, 16st 7lb ex-Wales captain as if he has just arrived from another planet. A grown-up eventually diverts the boyâs attention.
I ask Charvis what he misses most about playing rugby. âThe thing you miss the most is the camaraderie and brotherhood of the team,â he says.
âWhen you spend so much time in each otherâs company, and are reliant on one another, it is very difficult to replicate after you finish.
âIâm not sure thereâs any workplace in the world outside of sport and maybe the military where youâll find that level of camaraderie.â
Charvis is now 45. Able to play across the back row, the mobile and athletic forward was quick around the field and powerful with it, an all-weather forward who could hold his own in a tight or open game.
He had a reputation for being his own man off the pitch but when he took the field he was a team player.
Once he was sent off playing for Swansea in a Heineken Cup game with Stade Francais. The All Whites managed to hold on for a famous victory, not least because all concerned wanted to do so for their blindside flanker.
After that encounter, the-man of-the-match Arwel Thomas said: âCharv has been so brilliant for us this season, we couldnât lose the game.
âHeâd have felt bad about it had we lost. We couldnât let that happen.â
Some Whites fans of a certain age insist that that when they saw Charvisâs name in the matchday programme they felt anything was possible. This writer saw him play for the first time back in 1995, when Swansea won the Worthington Welsh Sevens at Cardiff Arms Park. Charvis was ridiculously impressive that day.
He was easy going with the press in those early years with Swansea, too â one to one interviews were never a problem â but the longer his career wore on the more wary he became, with relations hitting subterranean depths during his time as Wales captain after a newspaper printed a picture of him with a smile on his face in the dug-out after he was substituted 20 minutes from the end of a defeat by Italy.
Shortly afterwards he was voted the second most hated man in Wales, sandwiched between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden.
No one ever really nailed what happened that day in Rome.
So, 15 years on, is there an explanation? âI came off the field and our hooker that day, Mefin Davies, said to me: âWell played, fellaâ,â says Charvis.
âI gave him a polite smile.
âWhat a certain newspaper (he blames the Western Mail) then decided to make of the episode was absolutely disgraceful.
âIf anything could make you prickly, it was what they wrote.”
He continues: âWhen youâre young you are fairly flattered by media attention and the media love the up-and-coming.
âAs things progress and sometimes the finger gets pointed at you, you just become cynical.
âThatâs essentially the road I went down.
âYou start off wanting to speak your mind and wanting to be honest, but once you get burned you clam up and become prickly.
âTowards the end Iâd become quite prickly.â
All that old hostility is then leavened by a surprise admission, albeit one that is not without qualification.
âI quite like the media,â he says.
âThey provide the pantomime backdrop to the performance.â
Charvis was in situ at Swansea when Gavin Henson arrived at the club in 2000, a time when the Whites played hard on and off the field. Henson was later critical of Charvis in the book he put together as a youngster, calling him a difficult character and saying he never really got on with him during their time together at St Helenâs.
What is Charvisâs take on his former team-mate?
âWhen Gavin first started playing for Swansea, with his silver hair, we all thought: âThis kidâs going to be amazingâ,â says Charvis.
âBut itâs almost like once every three or four years you see something amazing from him.
âWe saw it in a Wales jersey in 2005, then we didnât see it for a while.
âWeâve seen it in odd games for all the clubs heâs worn shirts for.
âIf he had ever managed to be consistent in the way he played and the way he behaved, heâd be looking at a century of caps.
âBut he hasnât been.
âI canât explain why.â
Charvis never played for the Ospreys, with no agreement for a contract proving forthcoming between him and the regionâs board in 2003. Instead, he headed for France to play in the second division for Tarbes, before joining Newcastle Falcons and finishing his playing days with the Dragons.
He still keeps an eye on the professional scene but says comparisons between the Whites and the Ospreys are futile.
âTheyâre different animals,â he says.
âThe game has changed on and off the field and whereas Whites supporters could go into the bar and chat with players after a match, that doesnât happen in the professional era.
âIt can be tough to build a support base.
âSwansea, too, had a huge history.
âI suppose what the Ospreys really need to do is conquer Europe.
âYou hope they will achieve success because that is the way to generate support.â
Time is ticking on and a call comes in on Charvisâ mobile phone, reminding him there is still work to be done that afternoon. He has long ago finished the medium-sized mocha he had to drink and eaten the slice of shortbread he had to go with it. My black coffee has gone, too.
But there are questions left in my notepad.
Favourite-ever player? âTony Clement,â he says, thinking Iâd asked for his favourite Swansea player. âHe was amazing, on and off the field.
âIn the changing spot I had at the Millennium Stadium, there was a picture of Clem on the wall.
âIâd watched him play before I joined Swansea and admired him, so it was then a privilege to be part of the same team.
âHe suffered a number of horrific injuries but repeatedly came back. He always had time for people and his passion for what he was doing were outstanding.
âAnd, underpinning it all, he had talent to back it up.â
What was Scott Gibbs like as a team-mate? âScott once described me as an enigma and Iâd say the same straight back at him,â laughs Charvis.
âAs a person heâs a tough nut to crack, but once you become a mate heâs loyal and someone whose friendship you value. I travelled over to South Africa for his wedding.
âHe means a lot to me.â
Favourite coach? âI couldnât choose between Steve Hansen and Graham Henry,â adds Charvis.
âIf you want a clever coach thatâs Henry, a guy who could get inside your head.
âHansen got my heart more.â
Charvis has cycled for charity and dabbled in white-collar boxing in recent years, fighting Freddie Tuilagi. It transpires he won, but the information has to be prised out of him. âThe actual fighting wasnât the highlight,â he says. âThe highlight was all the training with a guy named Chris Ware. I have a new respect for boxers.â
Boxing, of course, is about rolling with the punches and evading them if possible.
Charvis took a few heavy metaphorical hits over the years and dished them out as well, but whatâs done is done.
âI forged some great friendships as a player and a lot of them still endure,â he says.
âThere were highs and lows and things that will always stick with you.â
(Image: AP Photo/Cobus Bodenstein)
We talk as we drive back to his shop, about those ups and downs, his outburst against senior-player drop-outs after Walesâs tour of South Africa in 1998 â âI was a young upstart and maybe I shouldnât have said what I did, but I was angry and felt Wales deserved betterâ â and about how he and other ex-Whites players relish their occasional meet-ups.
Once he would say the bare minimum at press conferences, leaving his words hanging in the air.
These days heâs more than happy to talk.
The wheel has turned full circle.
It usually does.