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 rĂ´le. 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.


Lubetina said...

Sure I've seen one photo of you being lifted - if I manage to find it I'll let you have the link. :)

Ruth said...

20-30 metres? Come on, it was at least half a mile.

OK, 100 metres definitely.