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 ...