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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


traffic.


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


Carnoustie.


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


play-off.


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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