A first visit to Twickenham for the Sevens World Series in 2007 was as cold and bleak as the Rugby Football Union's treatment of foreign journalists. You could have fitted the crowd into a woolshed.
Any form of question to organisers was effectively summed up by Little Britain's "computer says no". While the local scribes were tucked up warm behind glass - I envisaged open fires, hot soup and toasted marshmallows - Johnny Foreigner was exposed to a freezing wind, lukewarm tea and cheese and chutney cardboard-textured sandwiches.
Fortunately, the following day I pinched a mate's overcoat, justifying the act as compensation for the previous evening when I had suffered his inebriated rendition of George Michael's Faith, with ukulele.
Mind you, his efforts ranked highly against the RFU's Tom Jones, Freddie Mercury and Frank Sinatra impersonators. It was a bit late for Frank and Freddie, but Tom should've stepped in and done something about discerning who's allowed to emulate his swagger; like getting them to sing Delilah in front of a focus group.
Yesterday at Twickenham was a welcome relief - an uplifting day out and a palpable contrast with that maiden experience.
Any erstwhile RFU stuffiness was eradicated by 77,033 of a possible capacity 82,000 crowd soaking up the occasion. The operation whirred with efficiency and the crowd responded to the sense of occasion. It helps when the sun's out and the realisation dawns that summer is on the way but, judging by the costumes, the patrons had prepared well in advance. A culture has been established.
Costumes are always a curious insight into the human psyche. Astronauts, emperors and Norse gods in polythene stubbie-length shorts were among the choices by men. Even the hungover guy I sat next to on the train, let's call him Clark Kent as he sat clinging to a life raft of Lucozade, had remembered to nab a Superman T-shirt before exiting his flat. Women opted for much face paint, glitter, gold stars and antennae.
Hedonism ruled the day, a treat of living in a democracy.
People were happy, irrespective of the booze, and there were no hooligans, at least as far as these eyes could see.
A gaggle of food stalls at the ground and roadside from the station added a layer of social responsibility. Essentially the tournament operated under a tide of goodwill.
Adults punched beach balls with delight, Brit pop ruled the PA system and, if plastic was your cloth of choice, it was okay to mummify yourself in bubble wrap.
Add to that some observations from the train journey. Otherwise taciturn blokes lowered their inhibitions to a point where they revealed an intimate knowledge of the lyrics to Robbie Williams' Angels, Billy Joel's Uptown Girl and Madonna's Like A Virgin, songs on most days they probably wouldn't even audition in the shower, let alone a rail carriage.
It was a pleasant snapshot of humanity. Kumbaya even got a run, albeit with increasingly ribald adaptations as the journey progressed.
The upshot for World Rugby is that these vignettes demonstrate the role Sevens plays in the global game. Any sport which has Olympic status brings more public interest and subsequently the investment of time and money from sponsors and stakeholders. It's also fun.
This is how rugby sustains an audience from those who don't have time to dedicate week-in, week-out at club level.
The London Sevens, at least on yesterday's evidence, is knocking on the door for membership as one of the core British spring-summer sporting fixtures like the golf Open, Lord's test, Henley rowing regatta, Ascot races, Wimbledon tennis and Silverstone F1.
That can only help sustain and enhance rugby's place in the international marketplace.
Andrew Alderson is at the London Sevens with assistance from New Zealand Rugby.