Freetown Christiania

Copenhagen, Denmark • May 2018 • Length of Read: 4 Minutes

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Feeling a bit ropey, Jason and I left the girls in bed and took the metro downtown. Taking a pew at a trendy open-aired café, we ordered a Caesar salad to share and proceeded to lazily sip on cortado coffees whilst taking in the hustle and bustle of the metropolitan city centre. It was sunny Thursday morning in Copenhagen, and as the summer temperature began to rise the Danish capital came to life, it’s beautiful, tanned, well-groomed and effortlessly cool residents going about their day-to-day business in a manner that had me pining for a return to such lifestyle.

In addition to the chino and shirt wearing masses, groups of dapperly dressed youngsters also began to weave their way through the square, tuxedo-clad guys looking Scandinavian sharp and the girls on their arms glowing in traditional billowing dresses. Bringing us the bill, our waiter informed us that it was Norwegian Constitution Day, ‘Syttende Mai’, and that a number of prestigious parties were being held around the city in celebration.

The hilarity of our escape from the Jailhouse the previous evening was still fresh in our minds as we stretched out our legs and wandered down to Nyhavn Harbour; dozens of brightly-painted boats lining the canal paths and upmarket seafood restaurants spilling out onto the cobbled streets. En-route, we passed numerous gangs of ice hockey fans in Nordic game-day tops, the Ice Hockey World Cup in full swing and busloads of supporters making their way across the Öresund Bridge to support their national teams locking-horns in the historic and fierce on-ice rivalries.

Reaching the end of the pier, Jason and I got some Aperol Spritz from a pop-up bar and chilled on a couple of deck chairs overlooking the widening waterway, chatting about life, the Universe and everything in between as we watched dozens of kids diving in and out of the murky river.

Ever since Jason and I had met on a bus in New Zealand eighteen months previously, a bond of trust and honesty had been created that I hope will last in perpetuity. You know that feeling when you just ‘get’ someone? And they ‘get’ you? He has since become my go-to guru for advice, concerns, ideas, knowledge, and everything in between, and I his muse in return. At the dock we sat for hours, bouncing about ideas, regaling stories from a wilder youth, and trading tales of success and failure. It was bliss.

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A late-afternoon stroll took us to the universally-unique district of Christiania. Right in the heart of Copenhagen sits a former military barracks that lets off a heavy whiff of marijuana. Taken over by hippie-squatters in 1971 as an anti-governmental social experiment, Christiania became a self-governing collective operating under its own rules and principles. Following a dark era involving hard drugs and murder, this anarchistic micro-nation has now cleaned-up, and its 850 residents are currently deliberating an offer from the Danish government to outright purchase the 34 hectares of land they live on.

One of Christiania’s most famous sons is Lukas Forchhammer, lead singer of the pop band Lukas Graham, who, in an interview with Rolling Stone, spoke about growing up in this community led him to learn “how to mix a Molotov cocktail before I knew how to mix a Long Island iced tea.” He has also reminisced about the police presence was so pervasive that a fear manifested itself within the children of the rough neighbourhood and it wasn’t uncommon for this anger to be vented at the authorities. He concluded, however, by describing Christiania as a ‘utopian place to grow up if you’ve got parents living together and working regular jobs. There’s just this sense of community. Everybody knows everybody. Everybody helps everybody. You know the names of your friends’ parents.”

Leaving behind the Freetown, the setting sun shining with an even brighter intensity than it had all afternoon, Jason and I picked up the blaring noise of techno music from a distant set of speakers and, following it, stumbled upon a family-friendly canal-side party; DJ, a bar, and tattooed dudes flipping burgers whilst everyone chatted away in a jovial manner. A couple of cold ones and a few dying rays helped crown off what had been a fantastically-relaxing sightseeing way to shake off our hangovers from the night before.

A Night in the Jailhouse

Copenhagen, Denmark • May 2018 • Length of Read: 6 Minutes

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The security line at Edinburgh airport weaved its way like a caterpillar around the roped queue, grumpy holidaymakers becoming impatient as they shuffled along at an insect’s pace. There was a guy in a full kilt about a dozen places in front of me; Bonnie Prince Charlie jacket, waistcoat, knee-high socks, sgian-dubh, laced shoes, the lot. I would have bet my house on him setting off the security scanner, but as I got trapped behind a group of face-tattooed foreigners he emptied his sporran and strolled through the checkpoint without so much as a second glance from the officers on duty. I guess that’s why I don’t yet have a mortgage or place of my own.

The previous day I’d gone to the cinema by myself to see Avengers: Infinity War Pt. 1, the most recent release in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Why certain people think it’s weird to go to the cinema alone is beyond me. You’re sitting in a dark room, watching something you’ve paid to see, and where it’s a social faux pas to talk. Writing this, I’m struggling to think of many other activities or events better suited to doing alone. There had been some scenes in the movie filmed in Edinburgh. At one point, Scarlet Witch and Vision are having a romantic heart-to-heart in the cobbled Old Town, when a laminated sign on the window of the late-night fast food shop that they’re standing in front is brought into focus to display a pixelated saltire with the notice ‘We’ll deep fry your kebabs’ printed underneath. A warmth swelled up in my heart, so proud to call myself Scottish.

I was heading to Denmark for three nights to visit some very close friends and following a rather peaceful, albeit cramped, flight I exited Copenhagen Airport and took the metro to DR Buyen station where I then chilled out on the grass and waited for Jason, Ieva, and Iza to arrive. It had been two-and-a-half years since I’d made acquaintance with the girls whilst on a New Year’s getaway to their hometown of Vilnius, Lithuania, and although I’d spent a lot of time with Iza during her interim six-month university exchange programme to Glasgow, I hadn’t seen Ieva since. When I’d suggested a reunion in the city where they now resided, they were quick to agree, and it didn’t take much to get my travelling companion Jason immediately on-board. His flight had landed a fair few hours ahead of mine, and he’d sat in the airport bar drinking €9 pints before realizing it would be cheaper, and more sociable, to drink cans of supermarket lager in the girls’ student digs. And that’s when I saw them…

It was hugs and smiles all round as we embraced one another, a million questions being fired about as we sauntered our way towards a nearby park, my neck catching the last glimmering rays of the setting sun. For better or worse, Ieva hadn’t changed a bit, and upon graduating from university back in Lithuania had immediately relocated herself to be with Iza. Despite being the elder of the near-inseparable pair, she looks up to Iza as an older sister for advice, security and confirmation, and the independent Iza lovingly accepts this adopted role.

Unlike in the UK, where there is a party or event taking place near on every night of the week, the bars and clubs of Copenhagen tend to restrict their opening days from Thursday to Sunday. With it being a Wednesday night, our options of drinking establishments were therefore drastically limited. Ieva was able to do a quick search on her phone, however, and identify that a place called the Jailhouse was within walking distance of their flat and open for business. The fact that it was a gay bar did nothing to dissuade us from this proposition.

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With the windows barred up, the booths replicas of holding cells, and the sign hanging above the door designed to be like that of a penitentiary, we entered the street level bar to find a line of male barflies perched atop wooden stools and staring into their pint glasses whilst a gentleman dressed in a fancy-dress-shop policeman’s uniform, and looking like he’d come straight from a Village People concert, poured them their medicine. A gay bar that had every stereotype completely ‘locked-down’.

The policeman’s eyes lit up as we entered and quickly became transfixed on Jason, a dude blessed with the model like looks of Thor. A sharp blow on his whistle and suddenly every punter in the place was looking at him.

“Take your top off for a free drink,” he yelled in a camp and seductive manner. “And that is a law enforcement order.”

Always in good spirits, Jason removed his t-shirt without hesitation to reveal a tanned and ripped personal trainer torso that sent the policeman-bartender into overdrive with hot flushes. He maintained enough composure, however, to grab Jason by the hand and march him round to the staff members’ side of the bar.

“Choose your poison,” he said, absolutely loving this novel treat. “There’s a wide selection on the top shelf,” he continued, taking up a position directly behind Jason. “Or, if you’d prefer to bend over and see what’s on the bottom shelf, then be my guest.”

“The tequila from the top shelf will be suffice enough,” laughed Jason, happy to play along with the joke as long as it remained a joke. The handcuffs hanging from his belt looked to be a prop, but I wouldn’t want to second guess that he’d used them on an un-expectant patron before.

“Very well,” said the policeman, tipping the brim of his cap. “Four tequila slammers coming up for yourself and the three girls,” he grinned, nodding in the direction of Ieva, Iza and myself. In the eyes of a gay man, apparently I’d just switched genders. Whether I should have been relieved or displeased by this, I’m not too sure.

“If I take my top off can I also get a free round?” I asked the policeman as he came over to pour our drinks.

“Sorry, but you’re too ugly” said the policeman with deadpan sarcasm, as Jason searched around for his t-shirt.

“Hey, where did my t-shirt go?” queried Jason. “I don’t want to remain topless all night.”

“Well, somebody wants you to,” laughed Iza. “A guy came over whilst you were behind the bar, snatched it, and then scampered off into the staff room round the back.”

Somewhat panic-stricken, Jason headed round the back and after a bit of searching breathed a sigh of relief. His t-shirt had been put on a hanger on the wall. The guy has been bold enough to steal his t-shirt, but gay enough to not want risk it becoming creased.

We danced around to camp pop hits for the remainder of the evening, cracking jokes with the policeman, who we found out was actually the owner of the bar, and reliving the good old days from when I’d been partying in New Zealand with Jason and snowy Vilnius with the girls. The policeman was an absolutely charming man and seemed to genuinely really appreciate us for having brightened up his mid-week graveyard shift. As closing time neared, one other heterosexual couple and ourselves the only remaining patrons, the policeman gave us some free mint shots for the road and we staggered back to the girls’ apartment.

They had done their best to make room to accommodate their guests, but as I laid down on the hardwood floor, wrapped in a dog blanket, I couldn’t help but imagine that some prisoners probably had more comfortable sleeping conditions.

The Anglo-Celtic Cup Golf Tour 2018 (Part 4 of 4)

Albufeira, Portugal • May 2018 • Length of Read: 8 Minutes • Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3

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I awoke to find an empty room, George having most likely headed down for breakfast without bothering to give me as much as an indicatory nudge. Stretching, I stumbled to my feet and shuffled along the corridor towards the bathroom, the rush of blood to my head upon rising causing momentary dizziness followed by the feeling that someone was trying to hammer a nail into the top of my skull. I was in no state to play golf, and by the look of the two guys sprawled out on the living room sofas, neither were Russ and Nick. The pair hadn’t had but a wink of shut-eye, having returned from dinner and decided to stay up all night with a crate of beer. True golf Tour etiquette. Our only hope was that the English were in an equally dishevelled state.

For Saturday’s third round clash, I’d been paired with the very eager Sarge in what was billed to be a competitive wild-west shootout against Bradders and Streety. All three of these men had shown promising displays of high-calibre golf over the previous two days, and with the revised scoring format I’d have nobody to carry me and nowhere to hide. Up to that point, the matches had been played in a four-ball-better-ball format, in which the lowest score from each pairing is compared to decide the winner of each hole. The Saturday format, however, had been altered to make it a combined affair, with both playing partners’ scored added together before being compared to their opposition’s total. To put it simply, this means that if one person messes up then the hole is effectively lost. A dreadful scoring format that I would immediately eradicate where I to ever be awarded the honour of Celt captaincy.

Incidentally, in order to receive this privilege, one must first serve as vice-captain to their predecessor, and to be eligible for vice-captaincy selection Tour rules state that you must have participated in a minimum of three Tours prior to this. As a result of these stringent regulations, no individual in the history of the Anglo-Celtic Cup has served multiple stints as captain, making it the most difficult segment of the still-elusive Holy Grail to tick off. Laid out on parchment by Tour’s Founding Fathers, the Holy Grail can only be obtained when a Tour player has served time as world number 1, won the annual Tour Championships (a separate event from Tour), and led their team to victory on Tour itself. Many a player has completed two out of three, but as of yet nobody has stamped their name on the Grail and confirmed themselves as the G.O.A.T – Greatest of all Time.

“I’m expecting a good showing from you today, Crobs,” said Sarge as I hopped into the passenger seat of our buggy and we set off down to the first tee. I was definitely in no state to be driving, be that in a cart along cobbled paths or with a wood in my hands from a tee box. Drawing my 3-iron from its holster I shook hands with Bradders, wishing him luck, before taking one look at Streety and bursting out into laughter. He was looking remarkably fresh for someone who’d been absolutely hammered in a kebab shop just a few hours previously, but how either of us could take this duel seriously with the antics of the previous evening still fresh in our minds was beyond me.

Bradders, on the other hand, was raring to go, having recently taken up a stringent exercise regime that had him running 5kms before breakfast and laying off the booze. Refraining from drinking spirits isn’t exactly in the spirit of Tour though, I have to say, and as his opening tee shot split the middle of the fairway I was still trying to rinse the taste of tequila shots from my mouth, which was as dry as Gandhi's flip-flops.

Taking a few feeble practice swings, I then addressed my opening shot. Were I to have received a Police sobriety test at that point I would have failed it with spectacular colours, and as I squinted at the tee peg with blurred vision I could make out about three balls sitting atop it. ‘Here goes nothing,’ I thought to myself, and with all eyes of Tour on me I hacked at it with the finesse of a lumberjack. The ball squirted off the hosel and shanked straight-right into a lake that acted as a hazard on a completely different hole. My playing partner just shook his head in despair.

Having matched my opening 7 with an equally disastrous 7 on the following hole, Sarge and I reached the short par-3 3rd one-down and most definitely on the back foot. As I rolled in a 20ft right-to-left breaker for a birdie two, however, and Bradders failed to convert a near-gimmie tap-in, we were back on level terms. And when my stinger of a 3-iron approach under a stiff breeze to the well-guarded par-4 4th landed like a feather a mere 5ft from the pin, my confidence was restored. Unfortunately, however, the farcical change to the scoring format made what would otherwise have been an enthralling game a rather tedious and sorry affair; every mistake accompanied with a slew of apologies and unfulfilled promises of redress.

As the course wound its way out from the clubhouse we were matching one another blow for blow, but as we made our way around the turn a number of fortuitous members’ bounces and get-out-of-jail-free golf put Bradders and Streety in the driving seat. A series of reckless tee shots from our opponents, which you’d have bet your bottom dollar were goners, were found in very playable lies, and as Sarge and I failed to carry one another’s errors the wheels began to fall off the wagon. As much as we tried to cling on in there, in no time at all we were staring down the barrel of a rather hefty defeat, and Streety dealt a decisive blow with an exquisite birdie on the most difficult hole on the course to seal a somewhat deserved 5&4 victory.

Saturday is known as ‘moving day’ for a reason and, despite Aaron’s table-topping performance, the Celts didn’t fare well across the board in the combined four-ball format. The English had eaten into a big chunk of the lead we’d manage to amass over the first two days’ competition, and we would be heading into the final day singles matches with our noses 10-8 in front. It was still all to play for, but we were in prime position to make it rain and end the five-year winless drought.

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The Celts were all out in black polo shirts and beige shorts for the Sunday singles, with eight hours kip under our belts, no hangovers, and eyes firmly on the prize. 12 singles matches meant that 12 points were up for grabs, and we needed 6 of them to ensure that the trophy would be coming home in the bag of Garrett, our motivational captain, that evening. I had been pitted against the frustratingly slow-playing Westy in the penultimate group, and accompanying me in the Celt’s buggy was to be George, my Kiwi brother, roommate, and opponent of Webby. The hour of reckoning was upon us.

George had a challenge ahead of him from the get-go as he knocked his opening tee shot on the Faldo course out-of-bounds, but I, somewhat uncharacteristically, smashed one straight down the middle and raced into a one-hole lead. The 13 strokes I was ceding to my unwieldy opponent, however, got him back into it, and despite being four Stableford points up at the turn I found myself one down in the match play stakes. I was swinging well, but Westy’s ludicrous four-net-two on the 8th, canned 50ft putt from off the green on the par- 6th, and snap-hook recoveries from nearly every tee box weren’t allowing me the walk in the park I’d somewhat naively envisaged.

Webby, on the other hand, was imploding like a chain of ticking time-bombs. Having had an absolute shocker of a front 9, he managed just a solitary Stableford point on the back half to gift George a 6&5 victory, despite his playing partner putting his body on the line to help out a lost cause. Westy, aforementioned as having incredibly poor course management, found himself sauntering aimlessly across the 12th green when a ball struck him square in the chest and knocked him to the deck. Webby had been playing a blind shot into the pin and hadn’t realised where his fellow Englishman was. The result was a rather winded Westy, and Webby having a 20ft putt for par as opposed to raking around in the bushes at the back of the green where his ball would more-than-likely have otherwise come to rest. Despairingly, he still found a way to three-putt and lose the hole, however.

“That was a horrific golf shot,” I said to Westy as his drive on the par-4 14th was topped straight into the foliage at the front of the tee box, causing George to burst out laughing. Any form of course etiquette had been wiped out by the speed of Westy’s play. Shorelines erode quicker than it takes for the man to line up a clutch putt. One of the course martials had parked his buggy at the top of the hill and, with a member of the establishment gazing down at him, Westy had folded like a deck chair. I took the hole with a well-constructed par and a short while later found myself standing on the 16th tee in a dormie 3 position.

But it ain’t over until the fat lady sings, and despite my unassailable lead I’m gutted to say that my nerves got the better of me. A three-putt followed by two shanks on the 17th and 18th, and I found myself shaking Westy’s hand for a halved match. To use the official terminology: I’d ‘shat it’.

At the end of the day though, the result didn’t matter, with an elsewhere dominant display from the Celts providing us with a winning margin of 18-11. For the first time in half-a-decade, the trophy belonged to those with Welsh, Irish and Scottish blood in their veins. And we weren’t going to let the English forget that any time soon. As everyone bode farewell at the airport that evening and went their separate ways, Garrett promised to give the trophy the lap-of-honour that it deserved. The very next day, our group chat received a photo of him holding the Anglo-Celtic Cup aloft in front of the Eiffel Tower – two iconic images brought together in the same picture. It had been a joyous, loose, entertaining, and competitive long-weekend. I couldn’t wait to return to the fold the following year and contribute to the defence of what was now rightfully ours.

Tour website: https://angloceltic.weebly.com/

The Anglo-Celtic Cup Golf Tour 2018 (Part 3 of 4)

Albufeira, Portugal • May 2018 • Length of Read: 8 Minutes • Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 4

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Benefiting from having already played it during Wednesday’s practice round, Greg and I drew upon our invaluable knowledge of the layout and dangers presented by the Faldo championship course to close out a 3&2 victory against the Fitzy and Westy in our second-day four-ball match; securing my first point for the Celts in the process. Fitzy, who had been as steady as a rock when matched against me the previous day, made a number of uncharacteristic errors in the unforgiving and windy conditions, the culmination of which was a topped wedge off the tee on the signature par-3 16th that effectively handed us the win. Perhaps his playing partner’s disastrous course management had put him off his game.

A quality and amicable guy, not as much could be said of the way that Westy navigated and plotted his way around the Portuguese resort golf courses that week. Despite owning a relatively high handicap of 25, the Englishman played at the speed of a PGA tour professional with serious financial consequences and silverware on the line. Following a lengthy deliberation and internal monologue of how he was going to play each shot that lay in front of him, Westy would then take an alarming number of practice swings before addressing the ball and standing over it for what seemed like an eternity.

If so much as a lick of breeze were to then tickle the hairs on the back of his neck he would consciously step back from the shot, stick his arm out horizontally in the air to try and effectively gauge the wind speed and, once content, restart the entire rigmarole from the beginning. Nine times out of ten, he would then duff the ball along the ground, with the other one out of ten turning out to be an absolute peach. “Still you,” I found myself calling out to him from across the fairway on more than one occasion. Playing golf with Westy would test the patience of even the Dalai Lama.

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A depleted squad headed into Albufeira Old Town that evening, with a number of the more mature-in-age lads having decided to forego the ‘Freaky Friday’ shenanigans for some fine dining at a bourgeois seafood restaurant instead. As I stood on the dancefloor of the same shitty bar where we’d called it quits the previous evening, however, taking in the spectacle and debauchery that surrounded me, I couldn’t have been happier with my decision.

A faction of Tour’s Founding Fathers were perched at the bar, laughing away as a gorgeous barmaid in tight red jeans and sexy Harry Potter-style glasses kept the Sambuca flowing; Aaron was in the corner chatting up a red-hot Irish girl in a bright pink dress, no doubt regaling travel tales from far flung destinations; Webby had mounted a stripper pole and was busting some moves in front of an encouraging hen party audience, all whilst maintaining the facial expression of a lost puppy; the hot-pant wearing pre-op tranny who Garrett had been entertaining the previous evening was strutting his stuff on stage, and gave me an acknowledging wink as I clapped his dance moves. ‘I fucking love golf tour,’ I bellowed out loud.

The night raced by in a whirl of drinks, lights and colours, and as time ticked into the early hours of the morning I found myself staggering down a side street with Webby, Bentley and Streety in tow. Before we could reach the taxi rank, however, we were coerced into a late-night fast food diner by a cute local girl in a woollen fleece that bore the logo of the establishment. Despite the humidity of the Portuguese summer evenings, however, she was as cool as a cucumber and didn’t even look like breaking into a sweat.

“Hi Varna,” I said as we took a table.

“How do you know my name?” she asked with a quizzing smile.

“It’s written on your nametag.”

“You must be the sober one of the group to notice that,” she chuckled.

“I wouldn’t go that far,” I slurred.

“Do you do burgers?” asked Webby as he glanced over the laminated menu that Varna had handed him with a slanting, drunken gaze. He clearly wasn’t taking any of it in.

“Yes, we do.”

“Ice Cream?”

“Yes.”

“Chips?”

“Yes,” laughed Varna. “We do pretty much everything.”

“I’ll have two pizzas and two pints of beer then, please,” said Webby, managing to hold himself together in a rather impressive manner.

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“I bet you 10 Euros that you can’t down one of those pints,” chuckled Streety, scooping up a slice of Hawaiian pizza and letting it fall into his wide open gullet. Nobody else had bothered getting any food, knowing fine well that there would be plenty of leftovers going spare.

“Watch me,” boasted Webby, picking up one of the beers and dutifully necking it before crashing his forehead down onto the table. Impressed, we also agreed it was a sign that we should probably start thinking about going home. There were important golf matches to be played in just a short few hours’ time lest we forget.

As we waved goodbye to Varna and exited out into the fresh air in search of a taxicab, two burly lads talking in a rather familiar dialect walked past. It turned out that they were from Bathgate, a town in the central belt of Scotland, and in a stroke of luck were also on a golfing getaway at the same resort as us. Despite having had four rounds booked, however, they’d only ventured out for a solitary game so far, the hangovers on the other days too much to bare. What ‘softcocks’!

“I’ve had an average spend of €600 per night here,” chuckled Euan, the elder of the two, as we headed up the cobbles and away from the treachery of the Old Town. “But then at only €20 a dance in the strip club, how can you turn that down?  Sometimes, if you’re lucky, they’ll give you oral towards the end of their performance… or even shag you.”

“Are you sure you didn’t inadvertently walk into a brothel?” I laughed.

“Now you mention it…” began Euan, pausing for a moment’s reflection, “that would explain a lot.”

I was quickly getting the impression that he wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but before I could take this rather comical line of questioning any further a blacked-out people carrier pulled up alongside us. Just as I thought we were going to be kidnaped, robbed, and raped, however, the window rolled down to reveal the toothy smile of a friendly Portuguese man.

“Hey Pavel,” said Euan, sliding open the passenger door. “Great timing. Do you guys want a lift back to the resort at all?” he asked. “There’s plenty of space and we’re heading there anyway.”

“Absolute lifesaver,” I exclaimed. At that very moment Webby had decided to mount a waist-high wall, and without the intervention of Euan coaxing him down and into the back seat he may well have gone the way of Humpty Dumpty. The fact that he would go on to win his third-day tie in emphatic style was nothing short of miraculous.

I hopped into the front seat as Pavel’s shotgun ride, taking him a little by surprise, and he set off on our half-hour commute back to the resort. The digital clock on the dashboard read 04:08 am.

“Are you still on for me picking you up in three hours then?” he said to Euan as he dropped the Bathgate boys off in villa block B.

“Why?” asked Euan with panic-stricken eyes.

“Are you not going to the airport?” laughed Pavel.

“Oh shit!” he exclaimed. “I’ve not even packed.”

Tour website: https://angloceltic.weebly.com/

The Anglo-Celtic Cup Golf Tour 2018 (Part 2 of 4)

Albufeira, Portugal  •  May 2018  •  Length of Read: 5 Minutes • Part 1 / Part 3 / Part 4

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The opening hole on Amendoeira Resort’s O’Connor course is a lengthy dogleg par 5, its wide and welcoming fairway lined at the extremities by a creek which wraps around to create a run-out zone about 250 yards from the tee box. The hole then swoops to the left, where mischievous fairway bunkers play with your lay-up shot before the back-to-front sloping green provides a modicum of respite for the inaccurate golfer. A slight headwind could be felt as we drove our buggies in convoy from the clubhouse down to the first tee, an amphitheatre setting being created for the commencement of the Anglo-Celtic Cup’s latest edition.

As the Celts all stood there in matching pink polo shirts and beige (definitely not grey) shorts, history was ready to be written. Having hit a series of dreadful shots on the practice range that very morning I was feeling rather nervous but hoped that I could hold it together. Whilst the first group posed for a photo, I gave a wry smile in the direction of my playing partner, Morray. The stage was set. It was game on.

Like all great leaders, both captains had decided to lead from the front, and as a tense hush fell over the first tee each player in the opening four-ball proceeded to impressively smash their drive straight down the middle of the fairway. As they then scooted off in their buggies, I took a 3-iron from my bag. Garrett had jotted down the Celts’ detailed tactics and well-thought-out game plan on the back of a restaurant napkin the previous evening after having consumed four pints of Super Bock lager and, as a result, Morray and I were up next. My fellow Scot and I had been drawn against the English pairing of Fitzy and Webby in what was sure to be a tightly-fought contest.

When Morray, who had been billed to me as Mr Consistency, snap-hooked his drive into the creek on the left, however, and I then stood up and shanked one into the waterside reeds on the right, our opposition may have thought differently. It wasn’t the start we were after, but once away from the gallery of watchful eyes I managed to somehow zig-zag my way along the first hole and come away with a bogey nett par for the win. Now one-up, what ensued was a cagey, see-saw battle.

We were pegged neck-and-neck as we reached the turn, some rather ropey and suspect golf being played by all parties involved, until Fitzy, the lowest handicapped golfer in our four-ball, put together a string of good holes. I tracked in a long-range birdie putt from all the way across the 12th green to steal one back, but Webby was able to cancel this out on the par 3 that followed by sinking an equally-monstrous putt of his own for a two. Despite our best efforts, the Englishmen managed to keep a hold of their slender lead for the remainder of the back 9 and we fell to a deserved 2&1 defeat. Battle of Bannockburn, it was not to be.

There had been a glimmer of hope on the 14th fairway when Webby’s approach to the narrow par 4 veered straight to the right and landed plop in the middle of a picturesque lake, but it was agreed that his ball had connected with one of the overhead power lines that crossed the course. Checking the rules on the back of the scorecard, he was allowed to replay the shot, and subsequently knocked his mulligan attempt onto the fringe of the green from where he got up and down for a four net three and took the hole. Sometimes you get the rub of the green, and sometimes it’s just not your day in the office I suppose. Regardless, the rest of the Celtic partnerships had fared better, and we finished the day with a commanding 4-2 lead over the defending champions.

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Once the final shots of the day had been played everyone congregated on the clubhouse balcony for a bite to eat, celebratory/commiseration beers, and a run-down of how each others' rounds had faired. The scores were then announced before the pairings for the following day revealed. I would be forming a rookie pairing with Greg and also given a chance for redemption against Fitzy, who had this time been paired with another fresh recruit in the form of Westy. Knowing that a key to victory would be how well we communicated and operated as a unit, Greg and I decided to start our partnership there and then by teaming up as drinking buddies.

After quickly showering off the sun cream and buttoning up a trademark checked shirt, I jumped in one of the numerous taxis that had been booked to ferry us the half-hour into Albufeira’s Old Town. All twenty-four boys were in attendance, each in a different state of intoxication, and there was a feeling of a bachelor party about the place as we unloaded at the drop-off point. A stag do without a stag.

It was your typical Brits abroad scene as we marched down the neon-lit cobbled street, plastic seating and booming music spilling out from every bar and club, drinks promos the order of the day, and drunken, sunburnt groups of tourists getting rather loose and yelling in the Queen’s English. I got flashbacks to my boys’ holiday to Zante in 2009 and coming-of-age scenes I’d rather blinker from my mind.

From his exuberant antics in the clubhouse bar, I’d already deduced that Garrett would be one of the loosest of the group, but as he ran around the highly-concentrated area of bars chatting and joking with everyone he bumped into, sweated profusely on nightclub podiums, and danced provocatively with a pre-op tranny wearing a pair of denim hot-pants that showed off his great arse as well as his knob, I quickly developed a newfound respect and loyalty for our team captain.

“Are you guys here on a stag do?” asked a girl from London as we moved from one bar to the next, Webby jeering from a balcony on the opposite side of the street from where we were currently downing shots, shots, shots and indicating to us that the party was definitely where he was at.

“Golf tournament,” I responded to her in a blasé and deadpan manner. “9th edition of the Anglo-Celtic Cup.”

As she took in Morray’s fantastic ‘grandpa-at-a-wedding-style’ dance moves and tried to make heads-or-tails of what I’d just said, the look of confusion on her face was priceless.

“Please tell me you’ve heard of it?” I added. “It’s quite a big deal and we’re only a quarter of the way into it. There’s still all to play for.”

Tour website: https://angloceltic.weebly.com/