Monday, 9 July 2007

Friends Reunited.

Against my better judgement I've just completed a personality test online, which gave the usual sort of bumf about how outgoing I am, so confident and self-possessed, yet private and not very sociable blah blah blah - and yet failed to mention at any point that I'm a raging, fury filled misanthrope. Something that, I would have thought, would be hard to miss. Then again, this test didn't have questions like: "Do you hate mankind and all it stands for?" so how it expects to catch the personality type "Hater of Mankind and All it Stands For" I do not know. A fatal flaw.

It's that time of the month. Can you tell?

Actually, I don't hate mankind in its entirity. My friends remain tolerable creatures, and we've seen quite a lot of them over the last few weeks. However, before I relate all the delightful happenings with The Cheese Board and others, I'd better do a boring rundown of training.

My last run was the 30th of June, which is most remiss of me. I have been swimming and cycling, but I was very concerned I was losing my stamina for running. I did a swim and cycle 'brick' though, which was most invigorating. 400m in a time I remember I was pleased with, but I can't actually remember, and 5 miles on the bike on 'hill' - which basically goes steadily up from about resistance 4 to 20, then back to 18, then finishes on about 14 when you fall off and drown in a pile of sweat. Anyway, I did 5 miles in under 20 minutes which I was content with but have no idea whether it's good or not. Frankly, after the nearly drowning in a pile of sweat thing, I couldn't have cared less.

That was last week, though, and owing to the joys of mates, I haven't actually done any exercise since Wednesday, when I went slightly insane. I was feeling so hyper-energetic that, after my 'brick' I decided I wanted to enjoy the beautiful sunny evening and play a round of golf at Drumoig. This proved to be a very bad idea. I think Arrow must be some kind of golfing muse, because without his presence I proved to be the most embarrassing thing on a golf course since plus fours. Also, Drumoig appears to be full of people who actually know what they're doing, so having to play behind some wildly thrashing bint whose balls whizz off at angles and who then dances round in a club-waving frenzy, obscenities flying like flies off flung shite, must have been something of an unwelcome novelty. It didn't go well, to put it mildly. By the time I reached my last hole I was ready to cast my clubs into the loch and wipe my hands of them forever. However, a glimmer of hope emerged at the very last hole. It was a dog-leg fairway, with a copse and a small loch on the right, while the left side had a much bigger loch. It was also very long. I thought Sod it! I've come this far, it's been terrible, and I feel like just cracking the hell out of one last ball. If I lose it, fair enough. I'm done. So I went to the men's tee, lined it all up, and took a massive swing. Yesssss! I thought, as the driver struck cleanly and the ball went soaring out from the tee.

Alas, just as I was rejoicing, it started to slice. Badly. Off it went, curling round like a fresh laid turd, heading straight for the right hand loch. Bye bye ball, I snarled to myself. Then I shrugged. It wasn't going as far as the loch after all - it was heading for the scrubby copse just before it. Who cares? A lost ball in the water is no different from a lost ball in thistles, thought I.

But what was this!!?? It was dropping faster than I thought. Perhaps it would land just my side of the copse, caught by the fence, and stay in play? It would be in the longer grass just before the fairway, but hell - better that than a dropped shot. I crossed my fingers, held my breath, and watched as the ball dropped ... dropped ...

... and hit the edge of a fence post and bounced five yards down the fairway! It was a peach!

It was also a sign from the gods that my time was up. I would live to fight another day, but now was the moment to call it quits and head home. I went down to where my little ball lay, some 250 yards from the tee, picked it up and put it in my pocket. I then turned and waved to the next group of players who'd emerged at the top, telling them to play through. I was done.

Beat that! I smirked, turning away as the first, elderly bloke lined up his shot. And as I headed away from the hole towards the hotel and a well earned drink, I heard the soft thud of a landing golf ball. I turned just in time to see a little white ball shooting some 75 yards further down the fairway and coming to rest in a perfect position for a chip onto the green.

Rotten bastard.

I can't say I really enjoyed the round, but it's done nothing to dent my enthusiasm. I've definitely caught the golf bug, and will be taking some lessons soon. Watch this space.

Next day, an old friend from university came to stay. He tracked me down on Facebook, and I mentioned he should drop by for a visit next time he was in the vicinity - which he then proceeded to do, bless his cotton socks. He has a very glamorous sounding life, being an opera singer in training and living in Cologne while darting about doing auditions in the UK. The day before he came to us he had an audition in Glasgow for a part in ... er ... I've forgotten. No, wait - it was cover for the part of Pistol, so it's Falstaff. Anyway - he got it, so we went out to celebrate at The Fish Restaurant in St Andrews. Lovely stuff. The whole visit was very easy-going. He didn't mind walking the dogs along West Sands, or sitting and chatting as I watched a bit of Wimbledon, so all in all it was a very lovely visit. Even the weather managed to be half decent. We finished the night off with a glass of Talisker, then retired at a not unreasonable hour as Pistol had to be up and away relatively early for his flight back home.

That was the first bout of sociability. The next was the very welcome arrival on Friday of Ceegar and Meeper, along with bearded collie Poppy who made her presence known by leaping into the pond within 5 minutes of her arrival. We headed off to Tentsmuir to give all the dogs a run on the beach, and ourselves some much needed fresh air. We then went into Dundee and got takeaway from the admirable Rama Thai, which Ceegar had to pay for owing to us leaving both our wallets behind (a cunning plan - a ha ha ha). We munched this down with the unorthodox, but always delicious, accompaniment of champagne, courtesy of our very generous pals, and then a bottle of white for the three laydeez and a bottle of red for Ceegar. We chatted merrily until well past our bed times, then hit the hay.

The next day we went to the farmers' market in St Andrews, then took a walk on West Sands. We were lucky enough to catch some seals bathing very close to shore, in the shallow waters between the end of West Sands and Leuchars air base. Ceegar took several pictures, dallying behind as the rest of us romped with the dogs. They are truly lovely creatures to watch: so playful and graceful in the water. Fisher and I are spoiled rotten by the fact Tentsmuir plays host to a seal colony, so we see lots of them almost every time we take the dogs that far up and have become almost as blasé about them as rabbits! It takes seeing them through someone else's eyes to remind us how lucky we are. (Also, going for a surf on Tiree while a seal swam beside us, watching us with bold curiosity, kind of makes other sightings pale into insignificance!)

After our walk we played the Himalayas (my golf hadn't improved but this was much more fun) and Meeper kicked all our arses. It's such good value for money! 18 holes of semi-crazy putting for the bargain price of £1.50 each. Or was it £2.50? Well, hell, either way it's cheap as chips for a good hour's entertainment. We followed it up with lunch at Ma Bells, then tootled home for the Wimbledon Ladies' Final (Venus Williams won in 2 sets, very emphatically), a nap, then buffalo steaks from the farmers' market for supper. I was feeling horribly sick, however, owing to eating too much during the day, so only had a taste or two of Fisher's steak. I'd never had buffalo before. It's good. It has a richer, bloodier taste to it than beef, and a slightly stronger aftertaste.

Despite afternoon naps for Ceegar, Meeper and Fisher, everyone seemed as tired as I was after supper, and we were all in bed just after midnight. What rockin' young things we are. Still, Fisher and I had to get to Glasgow the next day for lunch with the Cheese Board, and we didn't want to be hungover or too tired to enjoy it.

Next day, we left Ceegar and Meeper to let themselves out and headed to Glasgow in glorious sunshine. We were off for a Cheese Board Only lunch at - no kidding - The Cheese Café. It proved easy enough to find, although it was a long journey for us owing to T in the Park traffic clogging Kincardine and surrounds. We were the last there, and greeted with cheers - which was only excrutiatingly embarassing. Anyway, a merry couple of hours were spent in amiable company, eating rather a lot of cheese and having a giggle. Whether The Cheese Café was worth a 2 hour car journey or not was quite beside the point. The Cheese Board is always worth it. (Just in case there are people reading this who don't know, or if I suffer dementia at any time, The Cheese Board consists of: Me, Fisher, Koios, Blarney, Phid and Janus, and are in the photo I use in my profile).

After a leisurely lunch, we drove home. Luckily, the traffic wasn't nearly as bad in that direction and we made it back in an uncanny hour and a half. Plus, none of our snooty Edinburgh friends turned into gnomes from the Glasgow taint, and Helga's hubcaps were intact upon our return. I, of course, having a healthy dose of Glasgow blood, had no cause to worry anyway.

Back at home I watched the Wimbledon men's final - which Federer won after a 5 set battle with Nadal, to equal Borg's record 5 titles. It was the best final I've seen since Rafter v Ivanisevic in 2001 - although the crowd wasn't a patch on the 2001 lot, which was made up of a swathe of members of the general public, who were let in because the final had to be played on Monday. I'm not usually snobby about who gets tickets to things - I don't think being rich should count against you - but I have to say, Wimbledon could really do with more oomph when it comes to the supporters. Fewer corporate boxes, please, and more rowdy, partisan fans. It doesn't need to be like the crass US Open, but a happy medium would be perfect.

That was Sunday done for (after also watching highlights of Jamie Murray and Jelena Jankovic winning the mixed - hurrayyyy!) and I slept like the dead.

Monday was a day of mundanity, but I did go to the gym and run my fastest ever 5k at 33 minutes and 13 seconds. I know, it's rubbish in comparison to people who can actually move their legs - but I was very pleased. Fisher also managed her fastest 5k, at just under 27 minutes, so I was quickly put in my place - but I refuse to have my spirit dampened. I was worried that cutting down on my running would seriously affect my stamina, but it looks like the swimming and cycling have not only kept my stamina up, but improved my speed. So hurrah!

That evening, we went into Edinburgh to see Kois and Protagoras and try The New Bell restaurant. It was a lovely evening, with chat free flowing and the food good save for the steaks which were horribly overcooked. Why is a rare steak so difficult to find? Both Prot and I asked for them rare and got them medium at best, and well done in places. The chunky chips were great, though, and everthing else passed muster. On the plus side, the wine was great! We had something neither Koios nor I had ever heard of before (doubtless revealing our appalling ignorance), and if I can just remember what it is, I'll order a case! It was deliciously rich, dark and chocolatey, and I would have sworn it was much older than 2003 from the brown meniscus (sp?). I'm going to have a think and try and remember the name.

SANGIOVESE, Step Rd, Australia.

That's what it was, and most delicious it was, too.

Anyway, we had a most gigglesome meal (particularly entertaining being suggested Christmas gifts of baked loaves ... but that's a private joke) and despite it's shortcomings, The New Bell is somewhere I'd go back to - and not order the steak.

This all brings me up to date, thank god. If anyone has the patience to read all the way through it, god help them. It can't be particularly rewarding - so if you're still with me, thanks! Have a glass of Sangiovese as reward.