Well, for once don't blame me for the headline. It was in the East Fife FC programme last Saturday reporting their win over Queen of the South FC from Dumfries in a previous CIS Scottish Cup match. Queen of the South(what lovely names they have in Scotland for their teams - Heart of Midlothian, Caledonian Thistle etc.... Anyway QOS are nicknamed the Doonhammers and Doon Hame means down home in Scottish speak :SO The Doonhammers were sent home losing 1-0 to the Fifers. Now you know.
Arriving on a Click Air flight from Barcelona at Edinburgh Airport there were signs everywhere SCOTLAND: THE BEST SMALL COUNTRY IN THE WORLD. Waiting a long time for luggage-the staff said they couldn't open the hold- I looked at the one and only vending machine by the luggage belts. Schweppes Malvern Water, from England, Cadbury's Chocolate from Birmingham, biscuits made in Liverpool. Well, I guess they don't package Haggis.
The Tourist office insisted that there was absolutely no accommodation available due to The Edinburgh Festival, so I took the airport bus to Haymarket Station, looked across the road, and VOILA!! A Vacancies sign in the window of The Guards Hotel.. NO PROBLEM. and a great hot breakfast included, although I didn't touch the black pudding!
The very first name I look for when searching the Scottish League results is STRANRAER, from Galloway in the extreme South West of Scotland, though I have never seem them play before. Here was my chance. Ignore the nearby Scottish Premier League Hibernian vs Abderdeen, or Rugby International Scotland vs South Africa at Murrayfield half a mile a way, and take the 45 minute train up to Kirkaldy and then a bus to Bayview Park: East Fife vs Stranraer Division III. Its one of the most pleasant train trips in Europe, up to South Queensferry and across my favourite train bridge THE FORTH BRIDGE over the Firth of Forth and into the Kingdom of Fife. I had been to South Queensferry before and the ancient Hawes Inn where in 1886 Robert Louis Stevenson started to pen his masterpiece Kidnapped' You hug the estuary with its seals, kittiwakes, fulmars, cormorants and the occasional Milke whale, past long stretches of deserted beaches and links golf courses, to Kirkaldy station and the birthplace of one of the most influencial economists of all time -ADAM SMITH.. the Wealth of Nations, and the place where linoleum was first manufactured, and the start of the Fife Coast Cycle Route., and half an hour from St. Andrews, home of golf
Its then another 40 minute local bus to Methil and the 6 year old Bayview Stadium. Its a strange stadium with only a main stand which seats about 2,000 people and stretches the length of one touchline. The other 3 sides are bare concrete walls, with a huge disused power station 100 yards away on the far side and the North Sea 100 yds behind the East goal. Outside there were a couple of dozen young teens on a small hill, smoking away, and a couple in the branches of a tree. The Fifers are top of the league and a couple of days after I left knocked Premier side St. Mirren out in the next round of the CIS Cup. They play in yellow and black stripes and their colours were matched by a bee that tried to sting me. With my Fifer programme I gave it a headache and sent it up to that great beehive in the sky!! Stranraer the Clayholers,in royal blue, were no match and wer dispatched 3-1, with about 30 travelling supporters in the one bus facing a long ride hame!! Stranraer are the 3rd oldest club in the Scottish Leagues, founded in 1870, 33 years before East Fife. The attendance was 650, above average for the league.
Walking away I chatted with one fan and asked him if he had supported East Fife all his life. "Not all the time, only since I was 18 in 1946", said the 79 year old. The players are part timers in this league and supported by sponsorships from the league such as IRON BRU energy drink and local advertisers, and also run a youth club with a few teams.
Back in Edinburgh the Festival had hoards of crowds, with hunderds of plays, comedy. dance, ballet,musical events to choose from with the official Edinburgh Festival or The Fringe. Princes Street is one of the most magnificent in the world, lined on one side with shops fronting the New Town(well 150 years old), and on the other a valley that is full of gardens and statues and a band stand, then the hidden main railway line and above it after a steep climb The Royal Mile that leads from Holyroodhouse Palace to the Rock and Edinburgh Castle. Just behind Princes Street is Rose Street lined with any number of bars, pubs and restaurants with all sorts of excotic menus. I popped into one huge pub which had on draft my personal favourite Kopparberg Pear Cider from Sweden, and on sale as well. Kopparberg sponsor and have the naming rights of a womens soccer club in Goteborg, Sweden and also make apple cider, blueberry, blueberry and lime, elder and lime, rasberry and blackcurrant and more.
It was the last day for the Edinburgh Tattoo on the esplanade of the castle- a mixture of pipe bands, horse drills, precision marching and military competitions. I found myself under the castle on Johnson Terrace and outside The Castle Arms pub chatting with an officer in magnificant white breeches, scarlet tunic and holding his busby helmet in one hand and a pint of beer in the other. He was a member of the famous Royal Household Cavalry, and his regiment the Blues & Royals with 2 famous members, the Princes William and Harry-the heir and the spare, sons of The Prince of Wales and Princess Diana. We were watching the squaddies lead the horses onto transports for their journey back to the stables after their recent performance. The Royal Mile, leading from the castle was also lined with restaurants, pubs and narrow wynds or closes of the Old Town. Lots of tourists shops selling bagpipes, kilts, cashmire, golf gear, rugby jerseys, mini loch ness monsters and souvenirs of all kinds. South African and Scots rugby fans, the latter in clan kilts were mingling with each other after the Springboks had easily won. Of course, the true Scot doesn't wear underpants, as they will prove by showing off their bare bums to any that question their authenticity.