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Correspondent&#39s Week

As a man who has sat next to a pathologically patriotic Scotsman for the

past 10 months at work, I have had much to endure.

Apparently, Scotland, now with its own Parliament, is “Europe&#39s premier

rugby side” and was “the dark horse for the Cricket World Cup”.

As an Englishman and lover of all things sporting, these constant digs are

hard to bear. So when a pair of tickets for golf&#39s British Open

Championship at Carnoustie came up for grabs – courtesy of Scottish

Amicable – I thought this presented the perfect opportunity for an unbiased

fact-finding mission.

The plan was simple – meet fellow MM hack John Lappin at Heathrow

Airport&#39s terminal one at 11.30am – but its execution was a nightmare.

On the white-knuckle ride to St Pancras, the Arabic kickboxing minicab

driver informed me I looked like Dirty Dancing&#39s Patrick Swayze. This

caused me grave concern over his eyesight as we swerved through London


The airport was a hop and a skip away via the Heathrow Express but I still

managed to check in just 20 minutes before the flight was due to leave.

When I finally struggled through the queues on to my first-ever

business-class flight, I found Mr Lappin ensconced by the window with a

copy of The Independent.

Apparently, with my posh ticket, I could have bypassed the hoi polloi but

I was far too deferential to do so. Oh well.

From Edinburgh Airport, we had a half-hour taxi ride to our hotel in

Stirling, the home of ScotAm&#39s HQ. We were to be left to our own devices

for Saturday night but picked up at the ungodly hour of 6.45am the

following day for a 90-minute coach ride to Carnoustie with a herd of IFAs.

So, after checking in, we decided it was too early to start drinking beer

and opted for culture instead. Stirling Castle, on a hill in the middle of

the town, was surprisingly interesting and the official tour guide (a

small, neat man) took great pleasure in pointing out the many “heraldic

beasts” which adorned the place.

Culture over, pizza consumed and shirt ironed for the morning, we met the

personal finance editor of The Scotsman in the bar of the hotel and decided

to see what the bright lights of Stirling had to offer. Armed with a mental

list of the names of a fistful of boozers faxed to me by those kind boys

from the ScotAm press office, we set out to sample the lot. A couple of

trendy pubs filled with children drinking bottled beer later, I remembered

a third watering hole on the list.

I knew we were in trouble the moment I walked in the door and 100 ginger

heads swivelled to eyeball us.

A Scottish flag pinned over the door, wall-to-wall bruisers covered in

nationalistic tattoos with roll-ups gummed to their top lips – and that was

the women.

After the fastest pint of this middle-class English boy&#39s life, swilled in

silence for fear of a give-away London accent, I quietly suggested we might

want to consider moving elsewhere. The rest of the evening dissolved into a

blur until our 6.30am wake-up call the next morning. Felt surprisingly

sprightly but Lappin was ragged.

Pulled on my “smart casual” (surely an oxymoron) get-up bought specially

for the occasion and marvelled at the Scottish countryside all the way to


Full English breakfast and a bucket of coffee later and I was right as

ninepence, champing at the bit to check out the course. Golf seems to be a

case of people in appallingly tasteless clothes watching people in

appallingly tasteless clothes whacking a small ball. Fantastic.

Lunch and a few glasses of bubbly, then off to the green at the seventh to

watch the millionaires putt on their final round. Tiger Woods, Greg Norman,

Ernie Els and all the rest of the big names sailed across my field of

vision but I could not catch surprise leader Jean Van De Velde.

My day-long predictions of “le choke” seemed unfounded as we headed back

to the coach for the airport at 5.30pm. Unfortunately, we all missed the

most exiting finish to an Open in years, as Van De Velde lost the plot and

local boy Paul Lawrie took the title after a nail-biting three-way


But as the huge cheer went up on the plane somewhere over the Midlands,

this Englishman cheered as loudly as any of the Scots. I can almost see why

they make such a fuss about the place.


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