Sunday, 27 July 2008

NEDDING! Part 4. Sunday farewell.

After retiring to bed ridiculously early on Saturday night, after dancing up a storm and nearly vomiting down Spartan's back as he hefted me over his shoulder, there was some excuse for melancholy in the Fisher-Seshat boudoir. After over a year of discussion, planning, arrangement of surprises, invitations, plotting, deception, and blood-fizzing excitement, it was all nearly over. But, in the end, there wasn't any sadness at all. We had Sunday to look forward to, and look forward we did.

The day dawned bright and sunny - yet another miracle - and we headed down for breakfast.

Breakfast, in fact, turned out to be an unexpected joy. I'd spared no thought for this mundane part of the day, simply nodding and agreeing when our nedding planner mentioned that it was part of the package. What I failed to recognise was that it was, in fact, another full meal at which everyone participated, and that it was delicious. Fisher and I entered the room, saw every table all but filled with cheerful diners, and chose our places. Snowy tablecloths, sparkling cutlery, the aroma of coffee and toast ... it was marvellous. I had been about to order a boiled egg and soldiers, but seduced by the rest of my table's insistence on a full Scottish breakfast, I, too, succumbed. And I'm delighted I did. It was extremely good - salty bacon, softly herbed sausages, a poached egg, toast, coffee, fruit juice ... mmmmm. I was well set up for the day.

We all had to be out of our rooms by 11am, and if I had any criticism of Ardanaiseig it would be for the manager. His manner alternated wildly between accommodating and pissy, and while I appreciate that getting 31 adults out of their rooms in time for the hotel to become public once more is a daunting task, we were all very much 'on' it, and he had no need to remind me with a stern, patrician glare.

Everyone was out in good time, and people started enjoying the hotel for their last few hours. There were walks about the grounds, people lazed in the public rooms, and some of us decided to take the boats out. Thus I found myself in a rowing boat with Koios and Phid, giving encouragement to them both as they took it in turns to row us out onto the loch. After a shaky start, Phid took us part of the way out. I took over for a bit, then Koi had a go. It was lovely. The water was a little choppy when we cleared the banks, but nothing to concern us, and meanwhile the other boat had been commandeered by Wheeler and Spartan. They cheated and used the motor, but they had fishing rods and clearly wanted to get to the best fishing spots fast!

I do love messing about in boats. It's wonderfully tranquil, even if you are being mocked by two homoerotically repressed buddies with an outboard. Before you could say Mouse Race, time had ticked by and it was approaching the hour of Mouse Race results. We'd told everyone to gather in the yurt, and I'd instructed the manager to serve our last lunch at 1. He reminded me that we'd originally said 11.30 am, which is nonsense, but we had possibly said 12 or 12.30 - but seeing as there was no cooking involved, we'd always been told we could play it a little by ear. So play it we did, and said 1. This didn't stop him bringing all the food out at 12.30 as Fisher & I were totting up the Mouse Race points total.

"Is it going to be all right sitting out for half an hour?" I asked politely, but pointedly, at which he whined:

"Well, you said 11.30 originally, and then decided 12.30."

"I said 1," I smiled icily. At which he sulkily turned to the entourage, laden with plates of cold food, and barked: "Take it back! Take it all back!"


Nevertheless, Fisher and I ignored him totally and he was soon forgotten in the excitement of discovering the Mouse Race winner.

Back in the yurt, with the assembled throng on the edge of their cushions (or not), we kicked off proceedings with some bonus prizes. There was the winner of the Treasure Hunt to announce, and it was sweet to see Gemmill's little face get all big-eyed and nervous. He, aparantly, had basically dragged his team of Blarney, Wheeler and FW round the course and insisted all clues were gathered - so he was very much hoping to be the winner. So, naturally, when I announced that Gemmill's team was victorious, he raised his arms in triumph and was rewarded with a dinosaur board game. Later, he informed me it was lucky he'd won, or else an adult might have won the game and not liked it. Sage words from a 5 year old.

There was also a prize of 2 books for 'casual croquet' which went to Wrecker, who'd spent a good portion of yesterday's croquet tournament whacking his own ball about, once or twice actually getting it through a hoop, and often disrupting the tournaments by insisting on stealing balls of a more interesting colour than his own. There was also a prize for best rescue - a bottle of champagne to Fisher's Dad and Guardian - for saving Ceegar's life, and a 'pity prize' of red wine for Ceegar. Although he was always going to be given something for driving the minibus and being our MC, so the 'pity prize' thing was just to lighten the incident.

And thus - to the Mouse Race. Everyone put in an excellent showing, and with much fanfare we read out the top 8. The top 3 got prizes, and there was a definite air of tension about the place when I got to number 4. But in 3rd place, with an admirable 219 points, was Spartan. He got a book (Callum's Road, which we traversed together on Raasay) and a bottle of red. Second, tan tan ta-raaaa, was ... Protagoras! Even without swimming all the way to the island he managed to get second place through writing an epic poem and joining in absolutely everything. He managed 245 points and won a book of traditional recipes, as read about in books of your childhood like Enid Blyton, and a bottle of fizz. But the winner, by a clear margin of 48 points, was Wheeler - and to Phid's delight, the prize was a night at Hotel du Vin in Glasgow, with supper thrown in. Not breakfast, though - and not booze with supper. What can I say? I'm cheap.

Now, because we only announced the top 8 on the day, I am going to give a full list of the Mouse Race order, winner to loooosah. Ahem.

1. Wheeler, 293 points
2. Protagoras, 245 points
3. Spartan, 219 points
4. Koios, 212 points
5. Pistol, the tall fella, 202 points
6. Ceegar, 192 points
7 = Chopper, 182 points
7= Janus, 182 points
9. Champaign Charlie, 177 points
10. Meeper, 174 points
11. Silver Arrow, 152 points
12. Phidippida, 142 points
13. Guardian, 132 points (also winner of Best Rescue)
14. Lubentina, 121 points
15. Fisher's Dad, 116 (also winner of Best Rescue)
16. Badger, 102 points
17. Minstrel, 90 points
18. Brave Bird, 87 points
19 = The Boat House Contingent (i.e Ma), 80 points
19 = Sister, 80 points
19 = Gemmill, 80 points
22. Islander (who gets no points for sleeping, though he did it best), 68 points
23. Wrecker, 40 points
24. Blarney, -2 points (-100 for cheating, otherwise she would have come 17th with 98)

Those were the competitors, those were the standings, and the referees's decision is final. FINAL, I tell you.

There was much clapping and laughter, and then the announcements were over and we could all have lunch. I went to tell the kitchen they could bring it out when they were ready (avoiding snotty manager man) and then rejoined my buddies for our final chow.

It was a lovely, relaxing, fitting end to a fabulous weekend. We had strawberries (well - I didn't, as I foolishly thought I'd have them after my savouries - and they were all gone), scones, leftover cheese from the Nedding Cake of Cheese (we had this at the barbecue the night before - did I forget to mention) and little croque monsieur thingies. I think. The food is now all getting mixed up in my head. There was so much of it! And it was all so goooood! Anyway, we took our plates and sat on the lawn with our legs dangling down the slope, and chatted happily in the sunshine.

Last Moments

Gradually, people started drifting away. The Cheese Boys were eager to get on their way in their lovely JagMKII - although Spartan lingered, yakking away as is his wont. Eventually an impatient Pro and Wheeler came and picked him up between them and literally carried him away, still gossipping. We bade them farewell - and then everyone was preparing to leave. Brother and Gaura had left after breakfast in order to go to A&E and get an x-ray of Brother's eye (alas the radiologist wasn't there so Bro had to wait until he was home. He had a consultation on Friday, and I will find out how it went today). Both sets of parents were soon waving us goodbye, too - and soon it was just the minibussers, Sister & Sons and the Cheese Boarders who were left. Sister & Sons were giving Awesome a lift back to Fife, as she was staying with some friends in Crail and Sister was coming for a wee holiday with us, and to buy some goldfish for Gemmill. The minibus left with much fanfare, and soon Sister followed. The Cheese Board were set and ready to go. We jumped in the hire car, and I began to drive away.

Then the snitty manager came out and inquired as to how I would like to pay. Or did I just want it "comped"?

Sheepishly, I went inside and actually paid the bill. 15 minutes later, and I was back in the car - no longer a criminal. We drove away, and that was that. The end of it all.

But not quite. The journey back was as much part of it as anything else, as we chatted, dissected the weekend, and generally enjoyed one another's company. We dropped Phid off in Dollar, then on to Edinburgh and more chat, vows to meet up and see the Vanity Fair exhibition, and the other girls were back home. Fisher and I were alone.

But not really. Back at HC, Sister & Sons awaited us - and so did Awesome, whom we'd prevailed upon to stay the night, seeing as her Crail friends weren't back until midnight the next day. There was no time for melancholy, as the next couple of days were a whirl of boyish fun.

We went to Cairnie Fruit Farm and Gemmill made a good stab at the Mega Maze, while Wrecker attempted to control a mini digger and had a tantrum when at last taken away. Then we went swimming at East Sands Leisure Centre, and Wrecker braved the enormous inflatable walkway, only falling off and being caught by me once. The day after that, Gemmill bought his fish and the family departed, returning home on the ferry. With any luck the fish are still alive. Awesome Girl went to see her friends, but I unfortunately didn't manage to say a proper goodbye as there was a lack of communication, and Fisher failed to meet us after swimming as we'd planned.

And then there were none. It was just me and Fisher - and that's when I expected to feel flat.

Not so. Such was the fun, and so rich the memories, that still, today I feel bouyed by them. I feel happy every time I think of that loch swim, and that 1920s dinner - and even though there are, as yet, very few photos of me and Fisher, and certainly none I actually like, it doesn't make any difference. The photographs are very vivid in my mind. (And it serves us right for not having an official photographer. Friends only take photos of the things they're interested in, and that doesn't include making sure they've got lovely, flattering pics of the hostesses. Or, in some cases, any pics of the hostesses. But still I'm glad we didn't have some bearded arse marching around, ordering us about, and getting us to pose in places we might actually have gone to of our own free will had we not been forced to pose for photos. If the downside of this is not having any photographic evidence we're willing to share, then so be it.)

That, then, is that. It's done. It will not occur again.

At least, not until 2018 and our 20th (proper)/10th (nedding) anniversary ...

Friday, 25 July 2008

NEDDING! Part 3. The Mouse Race.

What, I hear you cry, is a Mouse Race? Well, considering almost all the people who read this blog were actually at our 'nedding' it's rather insulting that you've forgotten so quickly, but for my other reader, and for those with amnesia, this is the tale.

In Edinburgh every year there is a competition called the Rat Race. It's an 'urban adventure' with a number of crazy competitions, all revolving around a mad dash around a course. You have to run, cycle, canoe, a certain distance, and at the same time perform such tasks as dipping in the Water of Leith (thereby contracting bilharzia), climb a wall, hit a golf ball a certain distance etc etc. At least 3 of our insane friends take part in this nonsense - but this year they were forced to miss out because of the nedding. Therefore, feeling guilty for dragging them away, we contrived to invent a mini version, dubbed the Mouse Race.

It began at 10.30am in the Walled Garden, with an archery competition. But I leap ahead. First, let me mention my state on awakening.

You will remember, I had been smugly pleased that I'd drunk a respectable amount, that I didn't feel particularly drunk, and was righteously outraged by Fisher's state of hideous inebriation, which led to the destruction of a romantic nedding night? Well - here's justice for you:

I was stinkingly, vilely hungover on waking. Also, thanks to a combination of waking feeling sick as a dog at 5am, then 7am, and Fisher's shenanigins, I'd had approximately 3 hours sleep. I wasn't cheered to discover the weather at 7am as misty and stinking as the day before, either. Breakfast was definitely a no-go, and instead I lay quietly, dozing, waking on waves of horror, and reading Patrick O'Brian. I became increasingly fretful at the thought of having to get up and sort the archery competition. For those who read this blog regularly, it may have become increasingly evident that when it comes to feeling sick, I am, possibly, the world's biggest wuss.

Gradually, as time wore on I began to notice a miracle occurring outside our bedroom window. To combat a certain smell permeating our room, I had flung all windows wide - rain be damned - and was enchanted to find the wonderful aroma of peat smoke drifting through from the yurt chimney outside. But that was not the miracle. Oh no. A paltry miracle that would be. This was one of such magnitude it almost plunged me to my knees in conversion. For, come 10am, the sun had broken through the clouds and was shining brightly. The sky was blue, the loch sparkling with diamond chips, and a beautiful, wondrous warmth fell upon my window-turned face. It was enough. The sight of such perfection urged me from my bed, into a brief bath, clothes, and out.

On the way to the front door I encountered a merry-faced Minstrel and Brave Bird who assured me they were off to take part in the archery contest. (Everyone knew about the structure of the day because I'd placed Mouse Race packs in each room at 3am in the morning. The packs were supposed to be put in the rooms by hotel staff at turn-down, but this failed to happen thanks to a lack of communication, so I was sent round in the wee hours, stuffing packs under doors.) In fact, any fears that the archery contest would be sparsely attended was banished by a very good showing gathered in the pretty walled garden. I nearly didn't make it, though. My nausea was still very much with me as I walked with Minstrel & Brave Bird, and I wondered briefly if I'd have to rush back to my room - but, luckily, it didn't last. The sight of the targets all set up, the proud bows and quivers of arrows, and nigh on 20 pals awaiting competition was enough to banish any quivering nastiness.

It was a great success - lost arrows notwithstanding - and the winner, Arrow, was proclaimed and honoured with 20 points to put towards the Mouse Race total.

The next competition started in over an hour's time, which gave several crazy fools the chance to pick up the gauntlet flung down in the Mouse Race literature, which allowed 40 bonus points for a swim in the loch. We thought only a couple of hardy souls might attempt it - and to really encourage the idiots, Fisher added a further, bonus 40 points for all those who swam to a little island, some 20-30 metres off shore.

Ah yes. Did I mention that Fisher, despite being pissed as a stoat the night before, suffered only a few headache twinges? Life, my friends, is not fair.

So. The swimming. As I said, I thought only a few hardy, macho types would be temtped into the icy loch water. But what did we find? These people stripped off, ready to plunge into the frigidity:

Champaign Charlie

Who knew I'd befriended so many mentally ill people? I should be given status as a charity, for giving so many half-wits such a lovely day out. And of those 10 people, I believe everyone but Pro swam to the island and back. Unfortunately the whole thing nearly ended in tragedy as Ceegar had a panic attack on the way back from the island and had to be rescued by Fisher's Dad and Guardian in a nearby boat. Luckily we'd had the common sense to perform the swim near the pier, so he was easily rescued - but it was a hairy, hairy moment. He was fine - just very, very cold. Some people seemed intent on making it an issue of enormity, and had I dwelt on it I knew I could start giving myself the heebies - and that it could cast a cloud on the entire day. So, once we'd warmed Ceegar, and sent him back to his room to warm up and recover (which he did, with no ill effects - and his cheerful countenance was soon seen back in the crowd) I decided the best thing to do was crack on with the next tournament.


I divided people up into pairs, pitted them against one another, and placed a time limit on each round. It was 10 minutes for the preliminary rounds, with a point awarded for each successful hoop and 2 should you peg out. Meanwhile, those not interested in croquet, or those not interested in watching, started a spirited game of French Cricket (or "gay" cricket, as some would call it). It was during the course of this game that Brother attempted to catch the cricket ball in his eye socket which, coupled with a filthy hangover (he stayed up until 5.30 winding up Awesome about John McCain being a good bloke) sent him to the depths.

The tournament went smoothly, and more winners were crowned - but the final took place after a light lunch in the yurt, where a pub quiz set team against team. Finalists of the croquet were the mighty Spartan & Arrow - the only pair to have pegged out in their 10 minute slot - against (I think - my memory is hazy) Wheeler & Koios. The final took 15 minutes, and after a bold start, Spartan & Arrow were scuppered by some superior play and the winners were crowned with yet more points.

Again, while all this was going on, other challenges were being undertaken: giant jenga, remote controlled stock car racing, Scrabble, card games, artwork in the yurt, poetry writing, board games, cricket, thunderball (which is just dodgeball by another name), as well as a treasure hunt around the grounds, book reading, walking, boat rides (Sister, Islander and sons went off and discovered a little island with a secret castle on it), fishing, billiards - even 'bog tennis' by Minstrel and Brave Bird, who braved the crappy courts. There were any number of activities, all taken up by enthusiastic guests. But once the croquet was done, I was desperate to actually take part. Fisher and I couldn't score points for the Big Prize, and I'd been adjudicator all day while Fisher had fun - so it was time for me to start running about. Thus the next tournament was announced.


I was expecting a handful of people to want to play football, but it turned out we could managed teams of either 8 or 9 - and even my heavily pregnant Sister joined in with gusto (being landed on by both Champaign Charlie and Pistol, though luckily at different times). Minstrel proved to be an excellent player, while Brave Bird was nippy, darting in and out of the crowd, popping up everywhere in a very useful manner. They were on my team, as was Spartan, and we proved far too strong for them. Champaign Charlie, too, showed his Britishness to the core by being extremely useful with the ball at his feet - and my team ran out the winners, 4 goals to 1. The ladies were valiant, with Koios particularly showing excellent positional play and a good eye. Half an hour later, extremely bruised, puffed and happy, the game was declared and we sauntered off to recuperate.

The tournaments were supposed to conclude with a rounders competition - but, frankly, my 3 hours of sleep were telling on me. I attempted a game of Trivial Pursuits in the yurt, but as my head started to nod after 4 pieces of pie (the game pieces - not actual pieces of pie) I decided I'd be better served with a nap in our freshly cleaned room. Fisher could have organised the rounders had she wished to, but she clearly decided that everyone was too knackered - and she was probably right.

After a bit of a lie down and 40 winks (that's what the 40W was in the number-phrase quiz, people - not 40 weeks) I was just about fit to re-emerge. This I did, dressed in the second theme of the weekend - hippy chic - and ready for the evening barbecue and ceilidh to follow.

Now - I'd expected people to make a cursorary effort at hippy stuff. The 1920s night was the big costume event, and I imagined everyone would focus on that.

Not so.

I emerged to the sight of tie-dyed t-shirts, hemp jackets, bell bottoms, Disco Stu-style wigs, long haired wigs, paisley skirts, bright flowery leis, enormous round dark glasses, kaftans ... you name it, people were wearing it.

Disco Stu (Spartan) & Blarney go Woodstock

We milled around the gazebo and yurt, eating delicious steak provided by Islander and Sister and carefully, beautifully cooked by Islander the King of Barbecue. There were accompanying salads from the hotel, which were extremely lovely, and although there was a vast pile of leftover steak which concerned Sister, it was a triumph. We took the steak into the hotel with us and left it in a pile in the bar, for those who wished to nibble throughout the evening - and I hoped there wouldn't be too much wasted.

It was here I had my only, mini-grump of the weekend. The ceilidh band had arrived and while I was welcoming them and trying to persuade them to play outside, or in the yurt (and failing - there wasn't enough room), everyone just vanished. I know getting people to dance is difficult at the best of times - especially English menfolk, who are too concerned about their image and who don't have the same Celtic background as their Scottish counterparts - so I was keen to encourage folk. It was also slightly embarrassing that this highly thought of, nay mildly famous Ceilidh band were strumming instruments to an empty room. Actually, Gemmill was having a whale of a time dancing to the Ghostbusters theme, which the accordionist immediately struck up on his request, just as I'd said "I don't think that's part of their repertoire," in a slightly snooty tone.

I managed to shepherd Blarney and Spartan, and went out to usher others inside - and just as I was coming in again I saw Spartan heading out the door. I'm afraid I was slightly brusque, but snorted in contempt at his comment that I'd given him an 'arse kicking.' It was no more than a light spanking - but it irked him, nonetheless.

Still, after the usual moderate beginning, where people undertook dancing out of a sense of duty, everything warmed up nicely - and by the time midnight rolled around and the last dance was being stomped, we were running very high in energy and jollity. After the mild contretemps between us, Spar and I discovered we were natural ceilidh partners - both being determined to throw the other one out the window in the course of a boisteous spin. Much to my astonishment and girlie squealing, Spartan actually picked me up, hefted me over his shoulder and span me round at the end of Strip the Willow. This is no mean feat, especially for a man no more than 2 inches taller than me, and considerably lighter. Naturally, I returned the favour - and to my chagrin, it's only photos of me picking up Spar than have made it into the world. There are no photos of me being picked up like a girl. Instead, the evidence suggests that I am, in fact, a bull-dyke who is dancing as the man while her male partner has to take the female rôle. This is NOT what happened. I state it here, loud and furiously.

He did it First!

Actually, come to think of it, Fisher and I are going to have to learn both the male and female parts of every dance so we can take it in turns. That evening showed us to be woefully ill equipped to dance with one another, as we both know the woman's part to the waltz and just drifted aimlessly back and forth.

Aaanyhoo - the dancing was fantastic, the band great (apart from some pretty cheesey covers between songs, which we could have done without) and come the end of the night, all were red-cheeked and happy. And what of the huge pile of steak?

Why, not a scrap did we leave. In fact, Fisher pronounced herself astonished that someone didn't upend the plate and drink the juice in vampiric delight.

Exhausted after the exertions of the day, and the previous day, we retired to bed. I felt a certain melancholy at the thought that it was almost all over - but there was still half of Sunday to look forward to.

On a slightly more worrisome note, Brother's eye swelled up to impressive size and he retired to bed early after calling on the services of our personal, resident Doctor. However, she said that although he needed an x-ray, such things were rarely emergencies, so there was no need to head into Oban that night. Better to sleep on it and see how it did in the morning. So, during the course of our nedding festivities, Fisher and I had conspired to drown one of our dearest friends, and break the face of my sibling. Not to mention the numerous bruises inflicted on ourselves and companions during the course of a fiesty football match, archery and other such activities.

Is one supposed to return from one's marital celebrations covered in bruises?

Actually, don't answer that. It could take us down an unheralded route.


End of Part 3.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

NEDDING! Part Two. Friday.

And so, where was I?

Ah yes, driving away with the Cheese Board, having done The Deed and signed the civil partnership. It all started very well. Fisher and I were very civil to each other as we listened to the Cheese Boarders attempt to complete the number-phrase quiz, designed to last until the Secret Location, before leaving St Andrews. They failed.

We pootled onward, enjoying the drive, as my navigators pretended to give me directions. It was, obviously, designed to entertain them and eke out the suspense of where we were going, rather than actually tell me where to go as - y'know - the Secret Location wasn't that secret. I did know the way.

Throughout the drive I was kept posted with the status of the other guests. 2.15pm, all minibussers had arrived apart from Pistol and The Doctor. And there - I had expected Chopper and 'Boarder to be the tardy ones! How I maligned them. Luckily, not 3o seconds after receiving that text, both latecomers arrived and the bus was able to set off. Phew. Then, of course, came the squealing texts from Spartan as the boys discovered their surprise.

Yes folks, I'd secretly rented them a 1962 Jaguar MKII to take them from Dollarbeg, where the folks of Caledonian Classics have their HQ, to the SL. Luckily, Dollarbeg is literally round the corner from Phid's, so Wheeler was able to deceive the Cheese Boys with alarming skill. He told them he had to go back home to pick up something he'd forgotten. He also managed to evade the question of why Norman the VW camper van had space issues. He said he had to take his motorbike back home. Naturally, Spartan, Pro and Badger had no reason not to believe him, and so they were duped beyond all duping. I believe their delight at seeing what they would be driving may have been tempered with sheer terror as they took the MKII over 40m.p.h for the first time. A 3.4, 6 cylinder engine is quite a beast.

Back in the Cheese Board car, we stopped at the very pleasant café at Tullybannoch and had a spot of lunch. I was too excited to eat much, but I appreciated the excellent coffee and off we went again. We were half way there! The Cheese Boarders remained, I believe, clueless as to the destination, and as the miles trundled by they entered into the spirit of secrecy with abandon. Apart from Blarney, nobody attempted to extract information from me - and with every question, I gave Blarney more and more cause for concern - just to serve her right. By the time we reached Taynuilt and the turn-off onto the final stretch, I think she believed we were sleeping under canvass, with portaloos and a nedding feast straight from the baked bean tin. And, of course, the real fun came at Kilchrenan Inn when I said:

"Here, ladies, is where we ditch the car."

"Wh - what?" Blarney squawked, like a strangled chicken. "Surely ... surely we can get the car up that road?" She was looking straight ahead, past the inn, to where a perfectly serviceable single track road led onward. It was wide enough to get an HGV up.

"Nope," I said firmly. "We're leaving the car - and that's why." I nodded out of the driver's side window.

"It looks big enough," Blarney bleated desperately, ignoring me. "Can't we drive?" The poor girl was convinced we were now going to be walking the rest of the way. But eventually I managed to draw her attention to the right hand side of the car and the Kilchrenan Inn car park, where there stood a horse drawn carriage and two beautiful Irish draught horses - Paddy and Jack.

Much squealing, akin to that from the boys, via text, was forthcoming. I couldn't stop beaming - especially as Ma and Pa were there to greet us, fresh from a 2 night stay at the George in Inveraray which had successfully banished travelling blues. Ma was extremely cold in her short blue jacket, having forgotten - once again - that acclimatising from a Maltsese summer (35ºC/95º F in the shade) to a Scottish one wasn't as easy as she though.

Ah yes. A word about the weather. As we got closer to our destination, my mood began to plummet. I'd always been prepared to be joyous no matter what the weather, but as we neared Taynuilt and the rain came down in sheets, the mist swirled about us and the view was utterly impenetrable, I started to question the sanity of a horse-drawn carriage ride. Fisher and I had packed rain macs for everyone, but even so - it was going to be a drenching. But lo! Some weather god was looking after us, because as we arrived at Kilchrenan the clouds lifted a little, the rain almost stopped, and the magnificent view emerged from the swirling Argyll mists. That's not to say the rain macs didn't come in handy - but the rain was easily ignored.

So up we hopped, off clopped Jack and Paddy, and the carriage ride commenced. Along the winding road we went, up, down, curving back and forth. The trees dripped, the air smelled sweet with fresh, rain-washed greenery, and the mountains peeked through the mist more clearly with every passing mile. Everyone agreed that horse-drawn carriage really was the only way to travel in this environmentally challenged time - and 45 minutes later, we rounded the final corner.

"Oooooooh!" was the general consensus - for we were here:

Those of you who have read my blog since its beginning may recognise this marvellous hotel as Ardanaiseig, last seen on the whisky tour with Arrow and Lu, and Fisher's & my new favourite escape. It's on the banks of Loch Awe, and anyone who wants a hotel close to amenities, a mere step away from the centre of town, and a hotbed of nightlife, should get the hell away from here!

Ardanaiseig isn't just in the countryside - it's quite literally in the middle of nowhere. It's 10 miles from the nearest A road, and that A road only goes to Oban anyway. Really, there's nothing there - apart from the most glorious scenery you can possibly wish for, lush green grounds, 6,000,000,000,000 midgies and, now, us.

The first thing I had to do was prove to Blarney that I hadn't been lying when I said canvas would be involved. But while she'd feared tents, or wigwams or something, what we'd actually provided was a Moroccan yurt. We poked our heads in and saw the yurt man constructing the chimney, so we could have our little peat-burning stove, and admired the rug-strewn floor. It looked very comfy, and would look even more so after the hotel provided cushions upon which to sit. Considering the weather, we were glad to have such an enticing area in which to shelter. We were sure we'd need it.

Back inside, everyone was shown to their rooms. Naturally, I had to be there to see their reactions to the luxurious suites we'd allocated - and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Koios was so overwhelmed with her loch view and mammoth king sized double bed (with no foot board, so Pro didn't have to worry about his legs being cramped) she shed a little tear. When it comes to reactions, that's what I'm talking about! You can always count on Koi to give you the feedback you want. Everyone else was bouncing with delight, too, and each squeal of glee sent me higher and higher. I was simply having the best time of my life!

After settling in, we went for a wander round the grounds in the rain, with my mother. Back inside with cups of tea, we were soon greeting new arrivals. Sister, Islander and sons arrived in their Land Rover, weighed down with luggage - and the barbecue, of which Islander had been dubbed King. Next up was the minibus, and out poured Chopper, Awesome Girl, The Doctor, Pistol, 'Boarder, Ceegar and Meeper. I showed most of them to their rooms. Awesome Girl obviously had to have the room called 'Awe', while Ceegar and Meeper had a garden view, ground floor room so Ceegar could nip out and have a fag through their private door whenever he chose. All were delighted, and by this time I was almost trembling with joy.

Next to arrive were the Cheese Boys in the Cheese Car! At first it appeared that they would drive straight to the car park, but luckily, because we were all gathered in the doorway to see them, they decided to come and show off at the entrance. This they did, faces split ear to ear in proud grins, and revved the engine to its loudest roar. We cheered and applauded - but arriving straight behind them were Arrow, Lu and Champaign Charlie - whom we'd not seen in God knows how long. So their welcome was cut short by us rushing to see our US-seduced pal, and make a bit of a fuss of him.

Then came Brother and Gaura in Elsie, having driven up from Edinburgh after a night in the Holiday Inn. They, too, were greeted merrily and shown to their rooms - but by this stage, time was getting on and we had a lot of preparation to undergo in order to be spick and span for the evening celebrations. Fisher was trying to wait for the arrival of her father and her ex Guardian, who were travelling together - but in the end she just had to start getting ready. I stayed downstairs for a little longer (my natural beauty means I need less time than Fisher to make myself purdy) and was rewarded by the arrival of Fisher's Dad and Guardian just as I was about to call it quits.

As I was chatting to Fisher's Dad, I was bossily ordered by one of my hench-women, Phid, to start getting ready - so after a final quick word, I obeyed. Shower, make-up, and into my bespoke dress I climbed - but not before Koios, my other hench-woman, performed wonders on my hair, curling it in loose ringlets about my face and really giving me a 1920s flair. The finishing touches were a long silver necklace of leaves, which I'd doubled up and draped around my forehead as a coronet, and 3 peacock feathers clipped in so they stood up from the coronet. And lo - I was ready. So, too, were Koios and Phid.

Koi had got a funky black skirt made for her, with a cherry lining and a small fishtail, and on top she was wearing her black corset - a gift from Pro. A very little cape, made from the same material as her skirt but worn with the cherry lining outwards, completed the ensemble, and a 1920s headdress with small feather was the icing on the cake. Pro, meanwhile, had a gorgeous, rusty orange dress with simple lines, a few graceful ruffles and soft straps across the back. They both looked fantastic, and we emerged from our room brimming with confidence. (I speak for myself, but there was no reason the other two shouldn't have felt indestructable, the way they looked, so I can't imagine their confidence wasn't sky high).

And at last, at long last, I was able to see Fisher in her much anticipated bespoke dress.

It was fantastic.

She'd had a 1920s flapper style modified a little to suit her, and it was bold, bright blue to match her lovely eyes. She was wearing her golden hair loose, which, with her wide-mouthed laugh always makes her look like a slightly naughty Boticelli angel, and she wore a coronet of silver cord. She looked, literally, a million dollars. (Make that 2 million dollars, considering how shite the exchange rate is.)

Down we went, descending the sweeping staircase to the reception hall, listening to the hum of gathered guests grow louder. The hench women entered the music room, where all were gathered, and Fisher and I followed. Our entrance went utterly unremarked - which was perfect, as we both hate to be twittered over - and we were therefore able to gasp in delighted amazement at what met our eyes.

People had taken the 1920s theme and not just run with it, but sprinted like Michael Johnson doing a downhill 200m. We gazed upon a laughing, merry gaggle festooned with feathers, white tie and tails, flapper dresses, sequins, 3 piece suits, walking sticks, white silk scarves, temporary facial hair (for the men - mine isn't temporary), trilbies and fedoras ... you name it, they were wearing it. Brother won the prize for best costume, though, for his vntage plus fours, tweed cap and v-necked jumper - straight from the Old Course Catalogue, circa 1928.

It was, quite simply, perfect.

We'd laid on a Bennet cocktail for everyone, which was delicious (gin, sugar syrup, lime juice), and after a bit of a gossip it was soon time for Ceegar to start his MC duties and usher everyone in for supper. Everyone went, nattering happily, leaving me with Fisher and our dinner escorts - Brother and Sister. A few minutes later and Ceegar popped his head round the door to tell us all were seated, and we headed in. I was nervous. I had a speech to make, and I wasn't all that inspired by it, to be honest. It wasn't very funny, it wasn't very interesting, but it served a purpose - welcoming everyone, and announcing the start of the evening.

We entered, took our places, and I gave the speech. It was ok. People kindly laughed where they were supposed to, and I did the job. I'm no Blarney, though, that's for sure.

And then the food came in.

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm ... it was all so goooood! We started with a little amuse bouche of fois gras, then went on to smoked salmon blinis with red roe. Then came venison, cooked perfectly pink, and we finished with chocolate tart (lemon for Koios and my mother, who don't like chocolate desserts). And, of course, we glugged back plenty of tolerable wine.

The tables worked extremely well, I think. I kept looking round the room, and everyone seemed to be in full flow of conversation, and the buzz of chat was high. People enjoyed the little cards of questions we'd set out for them to ask their fellow diners. I think some were used, some weren't - but they were ice breakers, and if you didn't need them, then all the better.

It was such a fantastic meal. The only downside was that it was slow. The servers took a long time with the courses, and while we'd been told to expect to be finished by 10.30, it was well past that by the time the pudding was cleared, I'd made my second speech of the evening (explaining the Mouse Race - more on that later) and the coffee was being served. This ordinarily would hardly have been worth mentioning - but the thing was, we'd ordered a Casino to set up in the music room for 10.30pm. It was to be available until midnight, but we didn't start playing until near enough 11.30 - which meant I'd wasted money on something we barely used. I had to rush people out of the dining room with their coffees, too, which rather broke the ambience. It looked like it was going to be the first disappointment of the weekend - but the kindly Casino staff took pity on us and gave us a good hour, if not slightly more. So all was well in the end, and we only lost 20 minutes or so. We had Texas Hold-'em Poker on one table and Black Jack on the other, and the top 8 winners of the evening had points put towards the Mouse Race.

After the Casino had packed and gone home, the way was clear for some music. Actually, Pistol and Brother had done sterling work singing and playing the piano throughout, but once the room was cleared, we could have some turns from Minstrel and - shudder - me. It ended with people dancing as Brother strummed some jaunty tunes on the guitar ... while elsewhere in the hotel people talked, drank, and played billiards in the games room.

As the evening drew to a close and I began to yawn, I congratulated myself on not having drunk to excess. Yes, I was slightly fuzzy headed, but nothing to how drunk I've been in the past. It was time for bed, and I was confident I would feel fine on the morrow. Not so Awesome Girl, who entered into a spirited explanation of how she "needed my bat" from Blarney's room and how she'd been trying to get her bat out of the room and now Blarney wouldn't let her in to get it. This was all very puzzling, but I realised what she was actually trying to say was that she needed her key, which she'd left in Blarney's room after helping remove a rogue bat which had flown in through the window. Man, I was glad I wasn't Awesome. She was going to feel ro-o-ough in the morning!

I retired to bed, after having dragged a reluctant Fisher from the billiard room. She, unlike me, was very drunk. Very, very drunk. I'd hoped we might have some quiet, romantic time together on our nedding night, discussing the wonders of the evening and - well, you know. That wasn't to be.

I think it would be kind, in fact, to draw a veil over the events that followed, and simply say:

End of Part 2.


A word about the speech. It was drawn to my attention that I didn't say enough about Fisher in it. I'd like to make it clear that this was through no neglect on my part. Fisher categorically refused to have any attention drawn to herself, and any cooing was condemned from the word go. It's hard enough writing a nedding speech - but writing one in such circumstances makes things even more difficult - and anyone who would like to show me how it should have been done can feel free.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

THE NEDDING - Part 1. Signing the Registry.

I am not, by nature, a particularly emotional person. Generally, I don't go into transports of either delight or despair. In fact, I spend a great deal of time feeling very little at all. I believe this is because when I do feel an emotion, it tends to be all-encompassing; it leaves me with no room to think of anything else, little desire to do anything else, and a complete absence of rational thought. I dislike this very much. Emotions are too powerful to be a comfortable experience, and therefore I tend not to experience them at all.

The nedding, however, swept all that away. I experienced 72 hours of unbridled excitement and happiness, with only a small, 20 minute spell of grumpiness to remind me how happy I actually was.

It all began on Thursday. I drove the 7 seater I had so boldly fought for (see previous post) to Edinburgh, via Lundin Links to deliver Secret Location directions to Brave Bird and Minstrel. In Edinburgh I tried to drop off more directions to Ceegar and Meeper, then realised they were actually at their country cottage, not in Edinburgh - so went to pick up the first of the hench-maidens: Janus. I was slightly alarmed to see that, although she'd packed a sensibly small suitcase, she'd also left a large pile of leftovers for Badger to take with him. As Badger, unbeknownst to him, was going in the surprise rental (more of that later), I had to warn him there would be space issues. This was slightly tricky to explain, because as far as Badge was concerned, he was going in Norman - Wheeler's large VW camper van - which could only have space issues if it was attempting to transport the congregation of Westminster Abbey. But I shrugged off explanations, and Janus and I headed off to get Koios - after first dropping yet more directions at Wheeler's. While returning Dougal the cocker's warm greeting, accepting the plastic baguette he brought me, I warned Wheeler about the space issue. He reassured me that all would be well. He would think of something. I believe he may have suggested I stay calm, but by this point I was so buzzing and bouncing with excitement, he might as well have instructed Amy Winehouse to stay sober.

Off to Koios we went, and thence on to collect the lovely Blarney. I was delighted to see that Awesome Girl had arrived safe and sound, not too jet lagged, and perfectly content to spend the night alone in Spartan & Blarney's flat before joining the minibus the next day.

With the 7 seater Kia bouncing with good vibes, we set off on the last leg of Operation Round-Up. This took us to Dollar to collect Phidippida, then home, via Blairingone to drop off yet more directions to Ceegar and Meeper. On the way, we phoned through a Thai takeaway at the lovely Rama Thai in Dundee - then phoned Fisher, who was at home, and asked her to pick it up. This she did, so there was a wonderful smell of Thai cuisine to greet us as we pulled up at HC.

The evening was passed playing Who's In the Bag?, eating Thai food, and looking at the wonderful album they'd put together of the Hag Weekend. It was just the distraction we needed, and before you could say Nedding, it was time for bed.

Sleep came quickly.

Waking also came quickly. It was 5am. Luckily, sleep came back quickly, and the next time I woke it was 7am, and I decided to read a bit of Patrick O'Brien to keep my mind from wandering into the dreaded area of Psycho Tummy. I could feel the tension headache just starting to throb behind my eyes, but it was barely worth concerning myself, so I paid it no mind.

Soon, the household was stirring. Owing to the fact we've had our downstairs bathroom ripped out, there would soon be a queue forming for use of the facilities, so Fisher and I got up, got ready, and tripped our merry way downstairs.

Soon, we were all breakfasted, washed, dressed, brushed and ready. The car was packed. The hour was nigh. It was time to go.

We drove sedately to St Andrews, where I kicked Blarney out to go and buy me ibuprofen, then continued on to the registry office. There we saw Lubentina, waiting in a perfect car parking space. Unfortunately, it would have been perfect for an ordinary car, but the Kia was too vast and unwieldy, so we had to reject her kind offer and park further down the street. This probably proved a godsend to the Cheese Board, who, while Fisher and I were performing the lack of ceremony, took it upon themselves to decorate the back window with a shaving foam message of "Just Nedded", festoon the thing with balloons and streamers, and place a "Congratulations" banner on the dashboard. Had we been parked in the original place, the extra 30 seconds it took us to walk back to the car would not have allowed them to finish the job. After all, as Blarney so romantically put it:

"People take longer in the toilet than it took you to get nedded."

But, short though it was, it wasn't without ceremony. We used the official chambers, with the vast wooden throne with a carving of St Andrew on it, and it felt very sober and grand. The assistant registrar told us who she was. We agreed that we were who we said we were. Then we were told not to enter into our partnership lightly and given a pen. We went round the table, I sat in the throne, and we all signed our names where appropriate. Job done! Hugs from Arrow and Lu, then out into the fresh air to see the final squirt of shaving foam applied.

The ceremony completed, we leaped joyously into the car and headed on our merry, merry way.

End of Part One

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Pre-Nedding Jitters

And so, tomorrow is the big day. Having been calm, unflustered and relaxed about the whole thing, today I awoke at 8am with a raging tension headache, a dream about not having enough spoons (!?) still lingering in my mind, and a small knot of anxiety where my toast now lies. Another surprise is that I'm actually, geniuinely excited about the actual Civil (lack of) Ceremony, where Fisher and I will legally become a single entity and be forced to ask each other "do I like that, dear?" for all eternity. (The answer to that question will undoubtedly be: "Is it expensive? Is it rare and difficult to find? Then yes, dear, you like it.")

I don't want to imply that I didn't always think the actual signing was the integral part of this shindig - but I always looked on it as private, nothing to make a fuss about. In fact, making a fuss about it is an anathema. It's serious - a legally binding contract that is supposed to last until the day you kark it. That's some heavy shit, dudes, and not something I ever thought on as a show piece. White dresses, music, flowers, weeping mothers - all that's very well for some people, but in my mind, a marriage (or 'narriage') is a serious-minded affair, and, as with all things serious, I want to be left alone when doing it. You don't throw a party to celebrate signing the Official Secrets Act, do you? (Ok, I know that's not really a contract, but it was the best analogy I could come up with in the time.)

So the signing wasn't something I got excited about. It was business before pleasure. But now, despite the fact I still think it's serious, legal stuff, I'm also quite thrilled and excited about doing it. I'm still glad it's private, though.

Just got back from Dundee where I was off to pick up the hire car, which should fit the 6 Cheese Boarders. I was due to pick it up at 11am. What do I discover when I get there? The booking has gone missing, nowhere to be found, and there is no 7 seater car for us. Luckily, I fixed the fella with my beady eye and, smiling sweetly, told him that accidents happen and it won't matter a jot, as long as it's fixed. He therefore rang the nearest branch that did have a 7 seater and, at my suggestion, got some people to drive it up from Edinburgh for us. Had I not suggested it, I'm not sure the option would have popped into his mind - but all's well that ends well. It's now 2.45pm, we've spent the whole morning in Dundee when we should have been organising ourselves with final details and ensuring we were relaxed and ready for our Cheese Board guests this evening - but I refuse to become antsy. All will be well.

Altenatively, all will be terrible - but, even faced with faction fighting, tempests, guests struck by lightning - I intend to have a good time. Fuck 'em, I say. Fuck their charred, lightning struck corpses. I'm gettin' nedded!

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Hag Weekend

It's taken me a while to gird the old loins and get down to writing up the epic that was our hen/stag (ergo 'hag') weekend. Needless to say, it exceeded my hopes and dreams beyond the wildest of expectations, revealing our friends to be not only incredibly generous with their time, but masters of organisation and utterly dead-eyed when it comes to hitting the target of what we like.

From the beginning, then.

It all began with a pretty, purple and white, be-ribboned invitation (or, rather, summons) to Edinburgh arriving on Thursday. It was addressed to me. Only me. Fisher had a small bout of depression, thinking she'd been swallowed whole by my personality and was now only considered a Seshat appendage rather than an independant entity. I suggested that, owing to the utter crapness of the Royal Mail nowadays, even invitations posted on the same day may feasibly arrive at different times. She was only slightly appeased, until I sent Blarney a subtle text and received reassurance that Fisher's own, personal summons had indeed been sent at exactly the same time, in the same post, and was arriving a day later. Hopefully.

It did indeed arrive, and we perused our orders with growing excitement, and no little concern. The first night was deemed 'glad rags.' How glad? I wondered? How ragged? We took it to mean we were going out for supper somewhere fancy and packed accordingly. The second day called for 'ordinary Saturday clothes and trainers.' All well and good. Saturday night, on the other hand, threw us for a bit of a loop. The theme was 'slinky and seedy.'

Point 1: Anyone who has ever seen me in something slinky, please raise their hand. Come on. Let's see them. Higher. Hiiiigher. Now, let me do a quick count ... hmmm ... let's see ...

Ah, that's right. NONE. At least, anyone who'd ever seen me stuffing my corpulence into a slinky outfit, much like trying to fit too much sausagemeat into a flimsy skin, will doubtless have run to the hills and never looked on humanity again - and are thus absentee voters.

Point 2: Let us repeat the process with something seedy.

Thus unable to think of a single thing in my wardrobe that even vaguely matched the criteria, and suspecting the hand of Koios in the description (her wardrobe is predominantly of the slinky variety, so she doubtless had no notion of how difficult this would be for us!), we headed out to Dundee for a shopping whirl. There are few things in life I hate more than shopping for clothes for myself. I decided I would buy some leather trousers, as I need a pair anyway for motorbiking, and be done. But could I find a pair of leather trews anywhere? No, I could not. Instead, I bought a cute black halterneck dress from Monsoon which showed a lot of cleavage and hoped I wouldn't be wildly overdressed. I then returned home before I grabbed the nearest chainsaw (infinitely easier to find in Dundee than leather trews) and went on a Grand Theft Auto-style melée.

For Sunday we were instructed to think comfort - which was fine by me. At this point, I was hoping the entire weekend would involve sitting in some form of squashy chair and grunting - but that was only because the shopping had killed my mood. Luckily, it soon returned, and we jumped into the car with dogs in tow, dressed up to the nines and songs swirling in our hearts.

We'd been ordered to telephone Blarney's mobile on the dot of 7pm while parked outside her flat in Edinburgh - so after walking the dogs in Inverleith Park, this is what we did. We were commanded to ring the buzzer. We did this. Spartan's cheery voice greeted us, and up we went, chuntering with pleasure. There we were greeted by Spar, dressed very nattily, who refused to allow us to lift a finger save to pour ourselves wee drams of very fine Macallan, while he went and fetched the dogs in from the car and put them safe and warm in their crates.

Wandering into the guest bedroom had Fisher squealing. Rose petals were strewn in a heart shape on the bed. I doubled over with hearty larfter, as no doubt was intended - but the smile was swiftly wiped off my face at the sight of a half bottle of champagne and some chocolate florentines on the sideboard. Smirk replaced with joyful yelps, I was half tempted to lay into the florentines like a starved wolverine - but restrained myself. And a good job, too.

After half an hour or so of settling in, sampling the Macallan and the building of twitchy excitement, we set out for a short walk to Channings Hotel and Restaurant. There we met up with all our finest buddies, as well as Brother, who'd driven all the way from Staffordshire to be there.

It was a fantastic evening of fine wine, fine food, and great chat - and on returning to our guest boudoire, we couldn't believe the weekend had only just begun.

Next morning, untroubled by hangover (I'd been very careful not to drink too much and so spoil the rest of the fun), we left the flat for our separate meeting points. Yes, indeedy - Fisher and I had been separated and allocated 2 teams for deadly competition. My team met at Janus & Badger's flat. I picked up Koios on the way, and we passed Janus heading in the opposite direction as she went to meet up with Fisher and team.

My team was:

Either Pro or Spartan, depending on who won the toss. They were the events organisers, so one of them kept score while the other competed.

The OTHER team was


Thus divided, we recieved our first instructions - head for the park outside Koios & Pro's house. First team there recieved bonus points. Upon hearing this, Koios set off like a loosed hound, baying at us all to follow. I was a bit alarmed at this, as I'm still suffering from tendonitis in the old ankle and knee, and even my recently purchased supports weren't enough to prevent extreme pain upon running. Luckily, it was only a short sprint - and we got there first, satisfying Koios's insane, ravening desire to win, win, WIN!!!

What did we find? Plastic pitching wedges, wide circles laid out for scoring zones - and a bag full of smoked salmon and baguettes as a wee snack to fortify us after the breakfast we'd eaten no more than an hour or so ago. Marvellous! We knew it was going to be a good day!

After kicking serious arse on the golf course, my team then failed dismally on the cryptic clue. It was all my fault. The clue called to remove the leper from the festive bush. I looked at Festive Bush and saw St Ive (FeSTIVE) whom I thought might well be a leper. Having taken him out, I was then left with Fe Bush.

"Is there a Febush Street?" I wondered.

No, was the resounding answer, so I was then flustered enough to completely fail to think more simply and go with 'Holly" for the festive bush, which, with the rest of the clue (sounds like an obscenity) would quickly have given us Holyrood. Removing the leper, it turned out, just meant taking out an 'l'.

Still, in my defence, my team was no fecking help either. We got it on the second clue, but had to witness Fisher's unbearably smug expression as her team got the clue in miliseconds.

Of we pootled to Holyrood Park, taking photographs as we went (they had to be exact replicas of photos we'd been given), and when we arrived, we discovered rounders laid out for our entertainment. Rounders, for any American readers who don't know, is the source of baseball. In fact, its earliest reference is from 1744 where it's called 'baseball' - but it's thought to have been played since Tudor times. It's very similar to baseball, but you only score for a 'home run' - you don't get points for a single etc. You don't get 3 strikes at the ball - you only get one, and you have to run, unless it's a 'no ball'. If you leave your 'post' (base) and it's been stumped with the ball by the fielder, you can't return to it. You have to run on to the next post - and if that one is stumped then you're out. You can't have 2 people on the posts, so running someone out can lead to a bit of a chain effect, with everyone on the posts being stumped. This is why it's always best for the backstop to throw to first post, then first post to throw immediately to 4th post. The moment 4th post is neutralised, nobody can get a rounder.

I went off on one a bit there, didn't I? It just reminds me of what a great game rounders is. Played well, it's fast, exciting and skillful. I remember playing it at school, and how quick you had to be on the posts, how well rehearsed the throws between fielders had to be, and how tactical you could be with batting. Man ... those were the days.

We were not good. We were, in fact, a bunch of losers. As a group, I think it's fair to say we can't catch, hit, or throw. I was the 1st bowler and I was shite - although not so shite I didn't get Wheeler out and witness a little tantrum which charmed me beyond all things. He was adamant I'd thrown above his head - which I hadn't - and when the independant adjudicator (Spartan) refused to allow him to stay in, he stomped off to talk to Dougal on his picket pin. Luckily he wasn't allowed to sulk for long because he was the 3rd out and the innings changed.

This, I hasten to add, is not how you play rounders - unless you're Irish and follow the Gaelic Athletics Association rules. The NRA (National Rounders Association), whose rules we followed at school, dictate that a whole team (9 players) must be bowled out before the innings change, and that there are only 2 innings - i.e both teams bat twice. But we had time constraints, so 3 and out it was - with 2 innings.

Dear God - what is this obsession I have with rules? I don't care if I win or lose, but if the game has no structure, I don't feel there's a point. It has to be fair - otherwise the game is dross. And fair it was - and fun it was - and we won, by the skins of our teeth! Brother dropped a catch which would have handed them the win and we were victorious. Huzzah.

Then followed lunch - baguettes with roast beef (cooked by Pro) and horseradish sauce. Mmmm. Following that was a stroke, frankly, of genius. Spartan had managed, through no small effort, to get his hands on a real Tug-o'-War rope ... and we were pitched against each other in a fight to the death. Thanks to our physical superiority, my team won that too, and Fisher's face was a picture of rage! Brilliant. We had at least best of 3 for the Tug - and then Pro was pitched against Koios, Lubentina and Blarney. We thought it would be a fair match - but the 3 women vanquished Pro with only a little hefting and sweating. Believe it or not, he actually looked a little ashamed to be beaten by 3 women ... but I think his masculinity is intact. We then had a game of men vs women. Unfortunately, there were 2 fewer men than women, and they still won. Bah. We put up a half decent fight - but I think we should have taken them.

After the fun of ToW, we were then sent on a task collecting beer mats from pubs up the Royal Mile - and whatever else we could smuggle out. Because my team was unscrupulous and stole a glass and a menu as well, we got bonus points and walked out the victors once more. In yet another stroke of genius, Spar and Pro had finished the beer mat challenge at the Museum of Scotland where, streaming wet from torrents of rain, we sat in trepidation and waited for our next task. I had a feeling they were going to set us questionnaires and send us round the museum searching for answers. This would have been very worthy, very cerebral, and the last thing I wanted to do when slightly tired, wet, and hyper with excitement.

Should I have worried? I should not. Cerebral questionnaires indeed! Instead, we were sent through to the science bit, where there are several fun games to try. First, Fisher and I were pitted against each other in a game of 'hit the lights and judge reaction times'. It was an even battle, but I pulled ahead and was the eventual victor, hitting 55 lights to her 49. (I also kicked the arse of the bloke who'd gone before us, who got 50. Not that beating men is anything to shout about ...)

Then followed a game of seeing who could make the wind-up rocket go furthest on 30 seconds of turning the handle. We could. Then 'lift your own weight' - sit down and pull yourself up to the top of the pulley with ropes. There were 3 levels, and both Fisher and I managed to pull ourselves up on the hardest levels - as did Phid and most of the blokes - so things were neck and neck at the museum!

Lastly, we were sent up to the roof to check out some landmarks and judge points of the compass, before heading to Koi & Pro's for a cheese and wine tasting competition. This I utterly sucked at - but so did everyone else, so there was no clear advantage gained. There had also been a picture competition (name the people in the photos) which the Other team won. Boo.

Exhausted, happy and very well entertained, we retired to Spar's to change our clothes, have a little rest and get ready for the evening ahead. I donned the little Monsoon halterneck, and discovered that holding up the weight of my boobs with naught but my neck is extremely exhausting. It was still a mystery as to what we were going to be doing ... but Spar let us know that it was held at Janus & Badger's, so not to worry about *other* people. We picked Brother up from Channings, and the minute he hopped in the taxi we knew what was about to happen.


And it was genius. The room was set out with different tables named things like Dodge City and Monte Carlo. There were 2 rounds - one to assertain who would go into the grand final, and the final itself - with the chance to win the big pot of £140. Unfortunately, with my usual idiocy I managed not to listen to the part where the minimum bet would be raised after an hour - so instead of betting heavily when I had good hands in the first half of the evening, I bet conservatively - and so lost almost everything when the bet increased. 2 people from each table went through to the final - and Phid & Koi were the lucky winners from our table.

While the finalists had their moment of glory, we set up a small table with a £35 pot and played for our own consolation prize. 15 minutes from the end of the finalist's hour, we went and watched to see who would take the glory. It was Pro. Emphatically. And looking at those faces I had a sneaking suspicion that Koi was not happy to be losing to him. There's a certain level of scary competition going on in that household.

And if that's not a fine example of pots and kettles I've never seen one! My jubilation at winning the Top Hag trophy after a fine display of Mr & Mrs style questioning at the start of the evening was tempered only by ...

No, what am I saying? It wasn't tempered at all. There may, in fact, have been a small victory jig. This morning. Again.

At 1 am ish I very reluctantly offered to go home and let the dogs out. They'd been alone for 6 hours, and I could just see them crossing their poochie legs until unable to contain themselves any more. Of course I was secretly hoping that Fisher would insist on doing it herself - but she didn't, so I grumpily took Meeper's offer of a lift and returned to Spar & Blar's flat. It was a very good job I went back when I did, too. On taking them downstairs, Baffie got only as far as the garden door before having to squat. Luckily I managed to get her out onto the grass before more than a little bit of pee hit the stairwell - and handfuls of wet, mossy grass made an admirable sponge, so no harm done.

Spar, Blar and Fisher weren't far behind me. I hoped me leaving hadn't broken up the party, but I think a natural end had been reached with the conclusion of the poker - and Janus was almost dead on her feet, too, and I think your hostess going to bed is always considered, in polite circles, an indication that the evening better wrap up.

But was that the end of the weekend? It was not. Sunday saw a lazy morning turn into an active lunch. We headed off to the Sheep Heid pub for a barbecue lunch - which was mediocre - but completely irrelevant to the main attraction: an old fashioned skittle alley! It looked very like an ordinarly bowling alley, but without the mechanism for setting up the skittles, and no finger holes in the balls. Man, it was hard! I'd love to blame my sore knee, sore ankle, sore heid ... anything! on how shite I was - but unfortunately, there is no excuse. Fisher's team romped away with the metaphorical bowling trophy, despite a valiant fight to the death, which saw us claw our way from 3-0 down to 3-2, then a narrow 4-2 defeat in a game that would have seen us draw level had it not been for some excremental rolling from me!

And then, with a last roll of a pock-marked bowling ball, the weekend was done. And what a weekend! None better. Ever. We bade all a fond farewell, watched Brother head south in Elsie the Merc, hugged friends ... and, on our contented journey to Fife, reflected on how the bastards had completely, utterly rendered our nedding celebrations anticlimactic.

I assure you - there is no earthly way we can top that.

EDIT: Oh yer. We also bought a house and got the keys yesterday. It's nice.

EDIT 2 : Am a dam' fool. The weekend didn't end with the bowling alley - it ended with the Wimbledon men's final, strawberries & cream, and pizza at Blar 'n' Spar's! The greatest men's final ever, some say. And it was, indeed, marvellous - although Koi & I wanted Federer to win, while Blar & Fisher were cheering for Nadal. There were moments where I thought friendship between Koi and Blar was at an end ...

Tuesday, 1 July 2008


On Thursday I hopped on a train at Leuchars, joined by Koios in Edinburgh, and we sped down to London for Wimbledon. Koi managed to get tickets through work, and Blarney - although keen to snaffle that second ticket - was kind and wonderful enough to stand aside in the face of my rabid enthusiasm. Gor' bless her.

Unfortunately, the train ride down was a nightmare. Brother was allowing us to use his and Gaura's house, despite them not being there, and had left a key with a neighbour. Alas, he'd forgotten to tell the neighbour til after he left for his country pad, so followed a great deal of ringing round, only to discover that the neighbour was out that night. His teenaged daughter was in, but it meant I had to telephone her - something I hate doing beyond all things. I'm crap on the phone, even with people I know, so to cold call a stranger and ask a favour was very low on my list of fun. Still, she turned out to be very pleasant, very happy to be of service, even when I said we wouldn't be due in until near enough 11pm.

Alas, naturally, our train was delayed. Lightning struck the signals near York, and we slowed to 50mph, got put in a queue which involved a great deal of standstill, and ended up delayed by 4 hours. I got increasingly fretful. Koios kept reassuring me that a late night was no big deal, as Wimbledon courts only open at noon - until I slightly impatiently reminded her that it was more the fact that we were going to get in at 2am at the earliest, and keeping someone up til that time was hardly fair. Our late night and potentially bleary eyes was the last thing on my mind.

Eventually we chugged into King's Cross, got in a taxi, and found ourselves standing outside the neighbour's house at 2.15am. I scratched upon the door and, after an agonising wait, it was opened by a pie-eyed gentleman who'd obviously been roused from his bed. He handed us the key, I apologised profusely, he was very nice (albeit croaky and half asleep) and we let ourselves into Brother's house. It crossed my mind that it wouldn't be beyond my sibling not to have alerted us to the presence of a burglar alarm. I had visions of it going off, waking the entire street, and leaving me sobbing in frustration and exhaustion in the arms of suspicious London bizzies. Luckily, this wasn't the case and we collapsed into our beds in relief.

Next morning we headed out to Wimbledon by foot and train, arriving in time to see Centre Court's matches begin. Naturally, the heavens opened just as we stepped foot inside the hallowed arena. Grey clouds covering the entire sky filled us with foreboding - but whenever I got crabby, Koi was merry, and when Koi succumbed to a fit of the grumps I managed to find myself in a cheery mood - so in this fashion we bolstered one another. It also helped that we managed to find ourselves a wee table in the food lawn and ordered some Pimm's and some strawberries and cream, brought to our table with no need to queue amongst the hoi polloi. And, just as we were chowing our way through, the announcement came that play would commence on Centre Court in 5 minutes. I high-tailed it, to see if I could see Federer walking onto court, leaving Koi to finish her strawbs and Pimm's in a more leisurely fashion - and I might as well have stayed with her, as I missed the arrival anyway.

Our first match was Federer versus some Frenchman I didn't know - and it was a masterclass of grass court tennis. Fed dispatched the Frenchman in 3 comfortable sets, barely breaking a sweat. We appreciated the beauty of the display without ever really being invested in the game.

Next up was Serena Williams against Amelie Mauresmo. As predicted, Mauresmo went out in straight sets - although the first set was hard fought, and more entertaining from that perspective than any of the Federer 3 sets. The minute we knew Serena was going to walk the second, and the tennis descended into a one-sided bore fest, we headed out to see if we could catch Bagdatis on Court 2. Koi's a big fan of the Cypriot. Unfortunately, it turned out that Centre Court tickets don't allow you onto Court 2 - although we both believed they did - and there was no room for standing. So back to Centre we went, to see Mario Ancic play the 5th seeded David Ferrer.

This turned out to be the match of the day - a rollicking 4 setter, with 2 tie breaks. Ferrer battled back in the 3rd after going 2 sets down, and it looked like he might actually pull off a real come-back - but Ancic's serve got him through, and with the crowd going increasingly crazy he finished it out at 9.15pm, winning the tie-break in the 4th. Koi and I had reservations at The Cinammon Club at 9.30, but we gladly re-booked the table for 10.30.

Thus it was we found ourselves chomping on delicious but spicy food at close to midnight, which is not great for the old digestion. I woke the next morning with a distinct Tandoori flavour in my mouth - not a particularly eddifying start to the day. Still, it's a fantastic restaurant with really interesting dishes, and I'd recommend it to anyone willing to blue over £100 on a dinner for 2 (and the only booze we had was 2 G&Ts and a bottle of King Cobra between us).

The journey home was, thankfully, uneventful, and I was greeted by a car full of Fisher, Janus and Badger at Leuchars. J&B were up for the weekend, and we started by going home and playing a game of About Time in the garden, where the sun was shining ... for a while.

It was a lovely, relaxing weekend. We had our first barbecue of the summer on Saturday night, then, on Sunday, decided to take advantage of the sunshine and walk West Lomond. Janus had done half of it before, but was driven back to the car thanks to driving rain - so this seemed a great opportunity to walk it in the sunshine. So off we went to Falkland, and, at the foot of the West Lomond way was greeted by - yes, indeedy - driving rain. Unwilling to repeat the drowned rat experience, we turned the car about and went instead to Balmerino, where there's a lovely woodland amble along the banks of the Tay, up to a secret garden and back. It's about a 3.5 mile walk, and the dogs romped along with great joy in their hearts - as did we.

Back at the car we headed to Cairnie Fruit Farm for a quick lunch - which turned out to be a rather slow lunch, as the service was as inept as usual and the place was heaving with kids on holiday. I had to hurry everyone because I was due in Edinburgh to give Meeper her 2nd massage of my case studies, and J&B wanted to cadge a lift. All was well, though, and I arrived in Auld Reekie in good time, gave Meeper her massage, and was back home in time for supper with Fisher.

Next day I arranged to give Wheeler his second massage, and as we had a hunk of pork we'd intended for Sunday lunch but for which we ran out of time, we invited Phid to join us. They brought Castor along too. The pork was consumed with gusto, and we followed it with a walk up the hill in the gloaming. Again, the dogs were thrilled - especially little Dougal, who romped along at our heels while Baffie and Bridie showed their utter disregard for our authority and vanished for long spells.

Back at home, Wheeler had a coffee before they all departed. I revealed myself to be something of a strict maiden aunt by frowning disapprovingly* over Castor not giving thanks for the hospitality. I also disapproved of him getting down from the table without asking Fisher or me - although he did have to ask his father, who probably should have told him to ask Fisher. He is, after all, only 11 ... ish? and is still in the process of learning social skills.

I fear I am becoming something of a stickler. I'm sure all my friends will tell me to remove the stick from my backside, and they may well be right, but good manner cost nothing and are such a huge bonus in an increasingly insolent world that I think them more important than they have ever been. If someone is well mannered people are so much more likely to go out of their way to help them. If someone has bad manners it leaves you feeling cross, with no desire whatsoever to make allowances for them, and certainly no wish to perform further services for the ungrateful sons of ...

I hope at this point, Gentle Reader, you realise I'm no longer referring to the very minor incident I was describing, but have once again gone off on one of My Rants. I hope I'm not (yet) so rigid in outlook that I can't put a small boy's lack of mannerly experience in the same category as willful rudeness. However, next time I see him I'll give him a damme good thrashing in the woodshed.

Anyhoo - it was a lovely evening, as ever in such company, and apart from a broken dishwasher leaving huuuuge piles of dirty crockery to depress the spirits (luckily it's now fixed thanks to a dawn call from a plumber), we retired to bed with a great sense of wellbeing.

And that's it for the mo.

*If, by 'frowning disapprovingly' I mean 'shrewishly bitching about it to Phid as they left', who pointed out that he was not her child, which I refuted by pointing out that he was in her care - an observation that may well have incensed her to the point of forcibly restraining herself from picking up a rock and fuzzing it at my head. Luckily, the woman can't throw worth a shite, so I'd have been relatively safe.