FRANCE 98, it’s ten years now…..

 

 

Bring Your Own Campervan

 

 

A long time ago in a Grangemouth galaxy, far, far, away…

 

Six young bawheids shared a dream. This is the story of how that dream came true.

 

Well, sort of.

 

We were going to France to see Scotland in the World Cup, and we tingled in the anticipation of experiencing the  ‘Special Moment’.

 

You know the sort of thing I mean? Naw, no a blow-job, I mean a special fitba moment.

 

Like, for example, a Scotland World Cup Wondergoal. You’ve seen it on the telly a thousand times. That faraway footage of the summer of 1978, and wee Archie Gemmil swerves brilliantly past yet another apparently stoned Dutch defender and then almost casually clips the ba’ into the net. Special Moment.

 

Fast forward tae the summer of 1982 and the ba’s leaving David Narey’s peg and is travelling at 1,300mph en route to the postage stamp of the Brazilian goal. He obviously didnae score many cos he doesnae know how tae celebrate, he kind eh raises both arms and jumps up and down on the spot like a drunk uncle at a wedding reception. Ah’ll concede this tae Jimmy Hill though, it still looks like a ‘toe poke’ to me. But that disnae matter. Nice goal though. Special Moment.

 

Four years later and the wee gingerpubes Gordon Strachan with that ridiculous blue band around his shorts, canny get over the advertising board to celebrate after lancing a shot into the West German goal. How the watching world and the dour Gerries must have laughed at his wit. Special Moment.

 

Four years after that, the funny accented Jock-Yorkshireman Stuart MacColl has bombed up for a corner and somehow bundled the ball into the net against the Swedes. That defeat against Costa ‘Bloody’ Rica a few days earlier now forgotten. Special Moment.

 

If none of this strikes a chord wi’ you, none of it makes ye tingle just that wee bit, then you may not have much of a scooby about what is to follow. Having said that, if you have ever in your life felt that sad, lonely, desperate or depressed then you may just understand, cos really at the end of the day that’s what following Scotland is all about.

 

Many times during the summer of 1998 the six young bawheids in question would say, ‘ one-day we will look back and laugh’ at what had happened. At the time, none of us believed that we would ever be capable of laughing at anything again, but hopefully we can now approach the subject in a vaguely adult manner without any mair tears or swinging punches.

 

 

Chapter 1            TONY THE PIT PONY

 

DAY ONE

Saturday 6th June 1998

 

‘Save the Snail

Save the Snail

Wur the famous Tartan Army and wur here tae Save the Snail’.

 

It’s fair tae say that the cavernous La Gare Du Nord in Paris was somewhat larger than wee Polmont Station where the epic journey began about fifteen hours ago. Indeed, it wouldnae be an exaggeration to say that it was a very humungous station indeed, and we, a few seconds into our Parisien adventure, were completely lost and ever so slightly pished.

 

None of the bawheids noticed the Corinthian cast iron columns that were stretching majestically upwards to support the enormous glass roof glistening high over our heads. No one heard the grumbling train engines, the garbled tannoy announcements and over-laden trolleys squeaking chaotically along the tiled floors. We were too preoccupied with the thought that we were now AT the World Cup, no’ watching it on the telly, no’ hearing about it from others or reading about it in the papers. You know, WE WERE THERE!

 

We had stepped off the Eurostar with our travellin’ beers and sportsbags full of holiday clothes.  The six young bawheids in question were me:  Malkyboy (Scottish history museum curator) and then, in no particular order there was:

Big Deek (painter and decorator supreme)

Jasperini (scientific boffin with floppy hair)

Spag (mathematically minded Bairns fan)

Godfrey (the…ahem… Hun supporting bank worker) 

Starfish (the computer design ladeeeees man).

 

A truely ungodly alliance, but school buddies at the High School we had been, drinking buddies we were and fitba was the glue that held us thegither, for now at least.

 

For the last half hour or so many other trains were projectile spewing their load eh tartan clad football fans into the heart of this unsuspecting city.  Kick off for the first game, Scotland v Brazil, was still four days away, but large chunks of Paris were already starting to get that sort of messy way when large amounts of pished folk arrive from Scotland on their holidays.

 

Even this early into the campaign, it was obvious that not all the Tartan Army were the posh boys from Perth. Especially when it only involved a couple of train journeys to get here, you were always going to find yersel sharing a train wi’ an awffy lot of fannies and bawbags. In the words of Arthur Montford, it was all a bit of a stramash. Lookin’ about the platform, there were scarves that had been dusted down from the 80s (that’s the 1880s), denim jaikets with ‘Argentina ‘78’ badges oan them, there were kilts, glengarry’s, inflatables, cairry-oots, fanny magnets, wee boys, granddads, blawhards, supermodels, various inflatables, Pat Nevinesque intellectuals, heid-the-ba’s, a full sized cardboard Mel Gibson in Braveheart kit, and lots of what we would classify as the slightly more ‘normal’ guys, just like us, here for the adventure and not having a clue whit tae expect – except that there would be plenty of beer consumed and Scotland would obviously be getting gubbed at some point in the proceedings.

 

From La Gare Du Nord we could have taken a train to Belgium, the Netherlands, Northern Germany, and a whole rake of other places. It seemed a bit surreal for us looking up at the huge destinations board: ‘Berlin’, ‘Ghent’, ‘Brugges’, ‘Munich’,’Vienna’: all these places that, for us anyway, had previously only been smalltype on a subbutteo ‘Teams of the World’ wallchart. But we didnae want tae go anywhere else, we were just happy to have made it as far as the capital of the football world in 1998. That’s as soon as we found how to get out of the fucking train station likes.

 

Leaving Jacques Ignace Hittorff’s station architecture completely untroubled by our thoughts, we finally found a wey oot and dragged our luggage to a taxi rank. One of the bawheids, Spag, the most practical and experienced in the ways of travel outwith the district of Falkirk, had somehow inveigled a map along the way. As we queued at the rank he was trying to locate the whereabouts of the official World Cup fans campsite, where our caravan was at this very moment awaiting us.

 

The mumbling taxi drivers, both of whom looked extremely pissed off that we had had the nerve to ask them to take us somewhere, lazily scratched stubbly chins and reluctantly helped to haul our bags into the boots of their two mud-splattered estate cars.  Through various clouds of cigarette and engine fumes, we leapt out at a junction and joined throngs of crazy French bastards in their beaten up shitreons and waspish motorbikes hurtling their way through the spectacular city.

 

The journey from the train station to the campsite was to be our first brush with the martial art that is driving in Paris. The few bams that were foolish enough to be found on pedestrian crossings were treated to a prolonged toot of the horn and the universal hand signal which implied they were currently without a girlfriend.

 

The taxi carrying three of the other bawheids, travelling slightly less than a millimetre behind us, suddenly lurched violently across the road. Tyres screeched manically. Rubber burned. Stomachs churned. The silence was only broken when someone said ‘I think I’ve just shat myself’.

 

We got back to talking about the fitba for a bit as the city sped past the windaes. And then someone said:

 

‘Is this the tunnel whaur Princess Diana wis killed?’

 

The taxi driver quickly turned fully around in his seat, abandoning the steering wheel. He was attempting to point to the map showing them from his upside down vantage point the exact location o’ the Diana crash.

 

His cigarette ash fell and burned small holes on the map. He appeared to be completely undeterred by the cries of

 

‘No mate, it disnae matter!!!’

 

And

 

‘Watch the fucking road ya daftie!’

 

Which rang out loudly into the Parisian evening.

 

By now, the taxi had veered spectacularly further across the road and seemed to be heading directly to the arcing concrete wall. Thankfully, the driver turned round and assumed a more traditional driving position, and after a short squeaky skid, his vehicle was wrestled back under control. He laughed. The boys laughed. There was a terrible, terrible smell in the car.

 

At long last both taxis arrived at the gates to our campsite; we ended our journey with a flourishing emergency stop and a ‘Starsky and Hutch’ style screech of the tyres, narrowly missing an auld boy on a bicycle and drawing attention to oursels from all within the vicinity.

 

There wiz nae tip.

 

In time we stopped shaking and dragged oor stuff across tae the campsite reception.  Our first impressions were favourable, we had arrived via a wide tree lined boulevard that flanked a series of sprawling public parks. I imagined French poets, writers and artists strolling of an evening through the grass jotting doon romantic thoughts with the same sort of inspired fervour Scottish fitba’ refs have when booking dirty midfielders.  I later found out that if they were strolling through the grass, they were probably looking tae get their end away, as this was where you traditionally went to find a hooker.

 

It was at the campsite reception that we first met a sprightly young gayblade called Tony (or Tony the ‘Pit Pony’ as was added by Jasperini for reasons we’re still not quite sure). Tony the Pit Pony looked at the small crumpled bit of paper that Godfrey had thrust into his hand and quickly accepted the validity of our internet booking.

 

You have to remember that in 1998 the Internet was still a bit of a novelty, the fact they ye could actually book yer holidays on it without speaking tae another human still seemed a bit Star Trek tae ma luddite sensibilities. But here we were anyway, successfully embracing the future.

 

Tony the Pit Pony, who had the sort of crazy beetle-brows that had grown onto each other when no-one was looking, motioned in a jokey conspiratorial fashion to follow him towards our Campervan. Whit a boy. Here we go! We were aboot tae be introduced to the Base Camp for the assault up the perilous north face of Mount Booze n’ Fitba!! Get it right roond ye!

 

It was only at this point that I allowed masel the brief luxury of thinking about the pressed white linen sheets and soft pillows of the campervan beds. It had been a long train journey from Scotland, a long day in that whore of a strange place called London. There was also the slightly draining matter of naively wandering into the middle of the Gay Pride march with the kilts on and getting lost on the Tube, as well as the hangover from last night (I had a flashback: Beehive beer garden, Grassmarket, Dario G song, new Scotland top wi’ MALKIO 98 on the back)– I realised suddenly that I was totally cream crackered!

 

As we walked behind Tony the Pit Pony towards what would be oor hame fur the next fortnight, Godfrey asked how many Campervan keys we were getting. Tony the Pit Pony found this question quite amusing and said wi’ eyes twinkling,

 

‘Oh no my friends, where you are going you will not need a key!’

 

Tony the Pit Pony obviously couldnae understand the Scottish language very well. Somewhat unkindly we were all pishing oursels at how stupid he was, and carried on walking along beside him and his large bristling beetlebrow. It was now getting quite dark, the last of the dusky light around the campsite being gradually snuffed out under the Parisian skyline. Somewhere to the immediate left of us, the dark waters of the River Seine flowed endlessly past. It was so hard to believe that we were here in Paris for the World Cup! Paris! The World Cup!! Here!!!

 

Tony the Pit Pony led us on a bit further past a line of slightly more tinky campervans and doon a weed molested concrete path before stopping at what appeared to be a random patch of wasteland of thinning grass and some pebbles which were enclosed on either side by a tall sprawling hedge. It was like fucking downtown Baghdad, or even worse, Bo’ness.

 

Here you are then’ said Tony the Pit Pony who unbelievably had already started to turn and scadaddle.

 

We all looked at each other, and then at Godfrey and then again at the departing Tony the Pit Pony. Mo’an tae fuck!

 

Now, we knew that Godfrey had our accommodation details clearly printed on that grubby bit o’ paper. These same details had been confirmed when we originally booked and verified at the reception just a matter eh minutes ago. Godfrey was now waving the bit o’ paper as though it had just caught fire in front of Tony the Pit Pony’s startled coupon. I was starting to realise that something may just have gone very, very wrong with our little summer jaunt ower the Channel.

 

Godfrey was now speaking to Tony the Pit Pony in the very slow and very loud form of the English language, often favoured by British folks when they are speaking tae deaf people or foreigners, when they really, REALLY want them tae understand:

 

Naw…mate…wuv booked…a..Campervan……look [angry point o’ finger to relevant bit of booking form]…wi’…electricity’.

 

It was obviously all just a simple misunderstanding brought about by Tony’s poor grasp of conversational Scottish. Tony the Pit Pony however, was about to say something that was to plunge our holiday into the blackest pit of the burniest part of hell.

 

‘No my friends…you have not booked a campervan…….

 

You have booked a parking space for a campervan…

 

YOU HAVE TO BRING YOUR OWN CAMPERVAN.’

 

His words hung in the air like an executioner’s axe.

 

As though to illustrate his point he said ‘Look’ and pointed at the crumpled bit of paper, ‘there’.

 

Just like the last time, and the umpteen times beforehand, we plainly saw the typed French words that oh so clearly said:

 

 ‘blah blah blah CAMPERVAN blah blah ELECTRICITIE’.

 

Apparently the ‘blahs’ were quite important in putting the only two words o’ the sentence that any of us actually understood into some sort of context. A wave of nausea swept over me. I knelt on the ground. With hindsidght, it did seem a very cheap deal for two weeks use of a campervan during the World Cup.

 

‘But whit aboot this bit here fur electricity?’ bleated Godfrey weakly.

 

He was pointing at the booking form where it very clearly stated ‘ELECTRICITIE.’ There was no denying that the words ‘electricity’ and ‘electricitie’ were one and the same, and you don’t have to be a French Language Professor to realise that likes.

 

Tony the Pit Pony marched to the middle of our recently acquired ‘parking space’ and pointed tae a squat metal stump sticking out of the ground that had a connection to an electrical generator just around the corner behind one of the hedges.

 

‘Theeess ees your electricitie’

 

We looked. The truth sunk in like a gravediggers shovel. Oh fuckity fuck. I hated him intensely. In fact at that moment in time I hated all French folk intensely.

 

We all took another withering gaze at the ugly box like generator and the electrical power point rising out of the grass, looking for all the world like the middle digit of someone’s finger rudely sticking right up at us. ‘Sit an’ swivel ya wanks’ it seemed tae be sayin’.

 

It was round about this point that the sickening truth of our situation finally began to sink in.  I realised that this jist wisnae going tae be the intended big laugh with the boys; this wasn’t ever going to be a fun-filled, carefree, get-away-from-it-all, relaxing, live-the-world-cup-dream, two-week holiday. Aw no.

 

The situation was thus: The six of us were completely homeless in the middle eh Paris. Currently lying around oor feet were five huge sports bags bursting wi’ clothes and a large rucksack, each one containing vital items such as a stereo system, several CDs, a bright yellow mitre fitba’, food to cook and in Jasperini’s case, a fucking hairdryer. I looked dejectedly across at the ground; our ‘home’ for the next TWO WEEKS was to be a wee patch of pebbles. The cold, black, awful truth was that we had absolutely no bedding of any description, no sleeping bags, no tents, no groundsheets, no covers, no pillows, no cooking facilities, and of course nae bloody campervan! On the plus side, we did however now have a fortnight’s rental of two attractive hedges and the shared use of a washing line!

 

As was often to become the case in these adverse circumstances, we started to argue amongst ourselves like small boys squabbling over spilled marbles in the playground. This gave Tony the Pit Pony the chance to discreetly slip away through the line of parked campervans to our left.

 

After a few minutes of shouting very loudly at each other and blaming Godfrey for what appeared to be the mummy and daddy of all cock-ups, the figure of what we supposed had to be a human approached us from behind one of ‘oor’ hedges. He was one o’ the other early Scottish arrivals on the campsite and had obviously overheard the sorry predicament.

 

He was a lanky man, with his heid shaved right to a particularly boney looking skull. He was wearing a dark blue replica 1960s style Scotland shirt with a somewhat surprised looking red lion on the chest. He was an unlikely answer tae oor problems, but from what we could decipher through the heavy Dundonian flem, it looked as though our own personal saviour was about to offer us some sort of divinely acquired accommodation. Like disciples (minus the beards and morals), we clustered round him and waited eagerly for his hoarse words of wisdom:

 

‘Ah’ve goat a golf umbrella if ye want tae use that…..’

 

This was not the most promising start to the miracle. Instead of the words ‘golf umbrella’ I was fully expecting to hear the words ‘spare caravan’ or ‘mate with a flat’ or ‘garden shed’ or even ‘tent’.

 

For the first time he looked properly round at the six o’ us

 

‘ It’s quite big mind….’

 

He looked roond again…

 

‘ But it might no shelter all of ye likes’.

 

At that moment in time, I visualised the six of us taking it in turns at sleeping underneath a golf umbrella in the middle of Paris for a fortnight while one of us used Jasperini’s hairdryer connected to the electrical generator to keep us warm. You might have been able to get away with this sort of pish in Dundee, and I’m sure The Broon’s have carried it off on one occasion when Grandpa Broon forgot the keys for the But n’Ben, but this was a different situation altogether. This was, sadly, real life!

 

By now other Scots fans were arriving en masse in a tumbling carnival of ill-fitting tartan outfits.  The campsite bar beside the reception was rapidly filling up wi’ folk getting fu’ and all around us the new arrivals were singing tonelessly and generally enjoying themsels.

 

A table football game was being played constantly in the background somewhere over there beside the pub. The handles spinning and rattlin’ (yer no meant tae spin them), the ba’ fleeing off the ‘pitch’ bouncing away intae the darkness. One team: Morton fans, the other: Saints. Local rivalry.  Someone scores. ‘Yeesssss!!’’ and ‘Basturts’ fills the air at the same time.

 

There was nae doubt that the World Cup party was beginning tae get intae full swing but as yet, we were still very much the uninvited guests. As we stood by oor shitey little plot of pebbles weighing up the umbrella offer, each terrible sound of laughter that drifted across, each drunken cheer of a ‘fussball’ goal, was another swipe of a dagger stabbing at our hearts. Shite!

 

The atmosphere was becoming increasingly funereal as the cold began to kick in and the night around us seemed to be getting oppressively dark. Godfrey and I decided to head back along to the reception to see if we could retrieve the situation in any way. I went along to use my schoolboy French and Godfrey went because he had booked the bloody thing. Fucking Internet!?  It will never catch on for folks booking their summer holidays that’s for sure! We left the others huddled in the gloom and set off like banished sons into the darkness.

 

Now, it may have been the historic spirit of the Auld Alliance shining through or more probably the fact that both of us were about to start greetin’ like bairns that had been poked wi’ sharp sticks, but Tony the Pit Pony eventually seemed to take pity on us and told us that he ‘understood our predicament’.

 

He quickly ushered us back outside the reception, in comic fashion he looked over both his shoulders to ensure the coast was clear and when satisfied, started whispering in Godfrey’s ear. We soon latched onto his cunning garlic coated plan of mischief. He was now looking for some more money from us, in exchange for which he would ‘miraculously’ provide us with new accommodation (‘with a roof’) for ‘a couple of nights’.  Apart from the brolly what option did we have?  Godfrey began stuffing cash into this strange Frenchman’s hand. Soon Tony the Pit Pony smiled conspiratorially and dropped a set of caravan keys into Godfrey’s hands. The relief washed magnificently over us and there was soon much rejoicing as we realised that we had a roof over our heads and would hopefully not be forced into selling ‘Le Grande Issue’ for the next fortnight. Fuckin’ Yess!!

 

Like reprieved men walking back from the gallows we made our way to our newly acquired accommodation. Crucially this was not to be a booked-on-the-internet-that-doesny-really-exist-cos-you-have-gotta-bring-yer-own-campervan, but a real static caravan wi’ walls and a door and a roof and other important structural stuff like that.  Okay, so it wisnae a ‘chateaux’, but it was to be our home and it was without a doubt a much more preferable option than the rock garden with the nice hedges or indeed the fuckin’ Dundonian brolly.

 

Upon arrival at our home, the sleeping quarters were ruthlessly divided. Spag and the Starfish settled into a small room with two beds to the left  (Spag got a bed because he said he was wee, he needed sleep and he wanted to get away from Godfrey, and Starfish because of medical reasons relating to his incredibly dodgy knees). Deek and Godfrey took the room with two beds on the right (this was because Godfrey ironically claimed to have booked the thing and wanted to get away from Spag and because Deek couldnae fit his 9 foot, 6 inch frame into any other part of the campervan). This left Jasperini and I in no-mans-land on the small solid sofas in the middle of the caravan facing the glass door. Total and utter luxury!

 

It had been a close run thing, but we had done it! It was amazing the change in the atmosphere amongst the bawheids as we quickly dumped the bags and got ready to head out and into Paris. We now felt once again that we were the lads back on a real holiday. The team looked good, there was a good spirit in the proverbial dressing room, and we stepped out into the city.

 

Within an hour, revitalised with our stroke of good, if somewhat more expensive fortunes, we were standing on the astonishingly wide pavements of the chestnut tree lined Champs Elysee looking up at L’arc de triumph and pinching ourselves to make sure we weren’t dreaming. But it was all real; here we were in ‘La Ville Lumiere’, ‘the City of Lights’. A city of love and romance, culture, vibrant life, tragedy, history, and most importantly the World Cup! We would no doubt have spent a lot more time sooking up the unique Parisian atmosphere if a large group of Scotland fans didnae march past us at this point singing:

 

 ‘Wur the famous Tartan Army and wur here tae save the snail’. 

 

The six of us, wi’ concentration now disturbed, followed them down the street and settled intae the nearby Cambridge Tavern. Okay, so it wasn’t the most French sounding of places to spend our first evening in Paris. It had been a nightmare of a day and you could say we thought we deserved a swally, no matter what the nearest bar happened to be called. Within a couple of minutes we had secured six drinks for the knock down price of around twenty seven pounds, and had began to think this wisnae exactly going to be the most relaxing or cheapest holiday in the world.

 

It indeed had been a day that will be remembered for as long as we all shall live. Saturday the 6th of June 1998 is deeply etched into our very souls.

 

Unfortunately for us, the’fun and games’ had only jist begun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2            THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT BY THE WAY

 

 

DAY TWO

Sunday 7th June 1998.

 

Early on the Sunday morning, dawn spilled gradually over the remarkable city skyline of Paris.  Fur a couple of weeks you could forget yer docks, yer BP cooling towers, yer ICI moonscape, yer fish factory, and yer Rangers Club. Today we were in the city of the Eiffel Tower, L’arc de triomphe, Notre Dame and the thousands of other stunning buildings in the city that were all gradually being bathed in a glorious light. Forget yer shopping trollies and jonnys in The Burn, today the reflections from the young summer sun sparkled and danced on the waters o’ the River Seine. Some hours later we woke up oursels and were very much relieved to see the equally spectacular sight o’ the slightly stained caravan roof still there above oor heads.

 

For Jasperini and I, those initial feelings of relief quickly evaporated as we attempted to sit upright on the sofas. I rubbed ma lower back and pain flooded to ma bruised spine. The sides of my ribs ached and my upper arms were completely numb. It didn’t take us long to conclude that we had got the shitey end of the stick when it came to the hastily thrashed oot caravan sleeping arrangements.

 

‘We’ll need some sort eh squad rotation system so we get a proper sleep, you can’t get comfy on these things, they are..’ I searched the murky recesses of my mind for the appropriate term,

 

‘Spinebastards’

 

Jasperini mumbled in pained agreement, but unfortunately the rest of the bawheids were playing ‘keepie-uppie’ outside the caravan, oblivious to our despair.

 

I stumbled painfully towards the caravan door and looked out at the enormous campsite like a wounded general surveying his troops efter the battle. God, we had only been here for one night but already I felt ill and in pain. Like modern day Roman Emperors the bawheids were feasting on Mars Bars and swallying Sprite from the campsite vending machine, there was a rumour of a McDonalds somewhere nearby. Ah yes, the city of Paris, the culinary capital o’ the world.

 

Beside us, identical caravans seemingly stretched forever in a winding path into the far distance. Scotland flags fluttered in the breeze all over the place. To our left wis a large fence marking the boundary of the campsite, behind that was some bushes and a concrete path and the River Seine and beyond that some new shiny corporate looking buildings. Somewhere far away to our right was last night’s abandoned parking space.

 

Our future accommodation plans were not really clear at all. When I say not really clear at all, I meant we didn’t have fucking scooby what we were going to do

 

As the sun climbed into the sky signifying the approach o’ midday, we decided tae head back into the centre of Paris to do a bit of traditional sightseeing. We soon learned that the Number 244 bus left the campsite every half-hour to take us to the Porte Metro Station. A  non-stop stream of pished oot their faces Scots had been arriving at the campsite through the night. In the ten minutes that we waited for the bus, a converted ambulance driven all the way from Stonehaven rolled through the gates; it was closely followed by a couple of familiar skidding-to-a-halt taxis and a car painted in various tartan designs, with scarves flapping out the windows. The loud, spluttering explosion of a backfiring engine then heralded the arrival of what I always think of as the quintessential Tartan Army travelling machine, the Volkswagen camper van. OK it may technically be German, but it’s got a Scottish soul.

 

The constant convoy of vehicles showed no signs of stopping as we boarded the bus into the city. Looking at the other five assembled bawheids wi’ their ashen faces and empty wallets, everyone still seemed a bit traumatised. The whole episode of arriving late last night, and finding we had managed to hire the use of a small car park for a fortnight was obviously still playing on everyone’s minds. It seemed pretty obvious to me that the answer to our problems was to get straight into the party spirit and try to forget about last evening completely. In other words, we needed to find a suitable place to wire intae lots and lots of alcohol.

 

From what we could gather from the other early Scots arrivals, the general consensus of opinion amongst the punters was that the only place to visit was the ‘Auld Alliance’; this being a Scottish bar in the middle eh Paris it was an obvious enough choice. After spending part of the day sobering up and wandering round the magnificent centre of Paris, we decided tae go and check out the Auld Alliance for oursels.

 

By Sunday night, this little L-shaped bar with a variety of tartan shite on the walls was in a state of absolute mayhem. This particular evening, a curious Brazilian TV crew were on hand to suss out their opposition in the opening game. After a short time, the very attractive blonde Brazilian reporter had managed, without too much difficulty, to position herself right in the middle of the bar.  The traditional request in musical form from the assembled Scotsmen for her to show certain well endowed parts of her upper anatomy were met with a baffled smile. One of the many, many reasons that she didn’t ‘get her tits out for the boys’, was probably because she was about to take part in a short live news piece, where she was going to attempt to convey the World Cup ‘party atmosphere’ back to the millions of South Americans watching at home.

 

With the cameraman following about three feet behind her, the presenter flounced casually forwards to the edge of the group of fans. The red light above the camera winked in the darkness. The poor women obviously had a wicked talent for courting disaster as she picked on the two drunkest members of the pub clientele to be interviewed; they looked like they had been fighting with small hedges all day.

 

 ‘How do you think Scotland will fare against Brazil in the opening game of the World Cup here in Paris?’ She asked in commanding textbook English.

 

The reply wis short and tae the point:

 

‘Goat thum oan toast’

 

The fan’s even more unkempt mate, looking like a werewolf from a very low budget horror film, quickly realised that the language barrier may have just resulted in a mis-understanding

 

‘Whit’s he’s sayin is, it’ll be toaffee’.

 

Until now we had largely forgot about the game.  I had a nagging suspicion that we were all here suddenly skint and semi-homeless in the middle of France for a reason, and it was coming back to me now, the World Cup Finals and the biggest game in Scottish fitba history!

 

So how would we get oan against Brazil? It certainly wouldnae be ‘toaffee’ that’s for sure. If Ronaldo and Rivaldo and Roberto Carlos and the rest of those yellow shirted footballing superstars with ‘R’ in their name played as well as they could, a pure old fashioned gubbing was definitely on the cards. If however we raised our game, as we often did against the so-called ‘bigger’ teams, then who knows? Maybe, just maybe, a morale-boosting draw was possible. We have a dream! A draw against Brazil?? The bevy was now kicking in.

 

We edged our way oot o’ the Auld Alliance, past the slavering fans and fake claymores and shields on the walls and made our way intae a likely looking nearby nightclub to continue the first ‘proper’ night out in Paris, and also of course to see if we could find any Shareen Nanjiani.

 

Unfortunately, the cavernous club was pretty empty and the dance floor was deserted. For this sort of action we could have stayed in Grangemooth! Even the laser beams from the fancy disco machine above us looked half hearted as they swirled and cut a ray of coloured light through the walls and ceiling as though vainly searching for some Parisien stunner to illuminate. It was a disappointing end to the evening and after a couple of hours of pacy swallying by the dance floor waiting for the place to get busy, we were all set to leave the premises when Deek came bounding across the weirdly patterned carpet like a genetically modified greyhound.

 

‘How much money have we goat oan us?’ he panted

 

Shite, what now?  I raked about my various pockets pulling out some crumpled up notes and placed them on the table. But for once, this was good news! Deek went on to explain that the barman had some tickets for the Scotland – Brazil game and was willing to part with them, for a certain amount of cash of course. Unfortunately he only had two tickets for sale, so it came down tae who had the cash on them and how much they were willing to pay. The game had been sold out for months, we didn’t think we’d get a sniff of tickets. So this was a great moment for the bawheids.

 

After some more drunken negotiations, the two tickets, each costing the equivalent of £100, were bought by Jasperini and Godfrey.  For the weirdos out there, those who STILL don’t know about Archie Gemmill’s slalom through those bewildered Dutch defenders, David Narey’s delirious ‘toe-poke’ against Brazil or wee Gordon Strachan failing to clear an advertisement board, this may seem a ridiculous amount of money to watch twenty-two strange men kicking a ba’ around a park for an hour and a half.  But for us, the question of stumping up a hundred pounds for a seat in the Stade de France to watch the biggest game in Scotland’s history, the opening of the World Cup against Brazil, was not a question at all.

 

After yesterday’s accommodation disasters, this clandestine transaction carried oot in a dingy corner of a crap nightclub had been the topping of a successful day. I think it was on the Metro home that we were just about starting tae relax and beginning to remember that this was indeed a summer holiday we were on. And holidays, at least in the traditional form, were generally designed for laughter and enjoyment and not floods of tears and abject misery. 

 

After copious amounts of drink in the Auld Alliance and then the club, even Jasperini and I were looking forward to a good paralysing night’s sleep on the ‘Spinebastards’ – the idea of a rotation system had been rejected by a predictable 2 – 4 majority.

 

In the few hours that we had been away on the Sunday, the campsite had filled up with hundreds of supporters. Even more Scots and Brazilians were arriving right through the night. At the reception entrance we saw some Brazilian men juggling with a little fitba, like a tanner ba’.  Deek and Spag decided to head back to the caravan and get the heids doon, but Jasperini, Godfrey, Starfish and I were suddenly refreshed and stayed to take on these Latin American baws, and show them some real fitba skills, honed not on the sun kissed beaches of Rio, but on the dog-shite splattered grasses of the Ranny Park of Grangemouth.  Despite the late hour, fast samba music was soon reverberating from an ancient ghettoblaster sitting like an electric deity on the ground. We were soon all revelling in the carnival atmosphere of a drunken fitba’ festival. I looked across to see the Starfish drunkenly swing a leg, make contact with the ball and send it what appeared to be miles into the dark sky, as it descended in a black ball back to earth, he set off, like an injured donkey in a lolloping stagger, to retrieve it.

 

An apparition in Spag form then appeared at the campsite gates:

 

‘Boays, you better come and have a look at this…….we’ve goat a problem’

 

Said a very small voice from somewhere within the very white face.

 

It was much later on that Spag explained what had actually happened as they approached the caravan.

 

‘At first we thought we had just been broken into when we saw the door was damaged, but then we made our way inside and Deek says……

 

THERE’S SOME CUNT IN MA BED!!!!!!!’.

 

‘We fair crapped ourselves’.

 

It seemed to be an honest and straightforward assessment of the situation.

 

There was indeed a huge pair of feet now hanging out of the bottom of Deek’s bed. I looked at Deek, Spag, Godfrey, Jasperini, Starfish and then down at my own feet. There were one, two, three, four, five, six of us. I then looked at the pair of feet belonging to unidentified person number seven. Who in the name of the wee man was this?

 

Looking around the caravan, the floor was covered in glass and a thick sickly flow of blood was oozing steadily down what remained of the glass part eh the door. It looked like a murder scene from a really shite episode of Taggart. There was a tell-tale trail of bloody footprints from just inside the front door leading in a wavy path towards Deek’s room.

 

Thur’s been a murrrrrderrrr????

 

Naw. It turned out that the bloody footprints and the bloody big feet belonged to ‘Big Murdie from Paisley’. We were later to find out that he was our ‘next-door neighbour’.

 

Big Deek, the first amongst us to recover his composure and rarely being one to give into any signs of emotion anyway, stated with statesman like decorum:

 

‘Haw neeber…… yer in the wrong caravan.’

 

Big Murdie from Paisley awoke sluggishly and it has to be said with some confusion.

 

Whoose are youse?’ he asked in textbook West Coast.

 

It turned out that round about three hours ago, Big Murdie fi’ Paisley had been embarking on a futile mission to travel the fifty or so yards from the campsite bar to his caravan bed. His had been a day of spectacular swallying, consuming the amounts of alcohol that would have made George Best take a dizzy turn. Unfortunately in his tired and emotional state Big Murdie from Paisley had managed to loose his caravan keys.

 

Frustration soon reared its ugly head and Big Murdie from Paisley, who had the ugliest head I had ever seen, thought that the sensible option for him would be to punch and then headbutt his way through the glass door of his caravan and then get down tae a good nights sleep and deal with the consequences in the morning. Big Murdie from Paisley’s plan had one small flaw, in that he had broken intae the wrong fucking caravan.

 

It was one of these moments that everyone instantly sobered up, everyone apart from Big Murdie from Paisley who was continuing to take drunkenness to new and special levels. After persuaded him that he wasn’t in his caravan, we escorted as best we could Big Murdie off the premises. I was eyeballing Big Murdie from Paisley from our caravan doorway. Staring directly into his eyes I told him exactly what I thought of his pish and that thanks to his stupidity, we would probably now be evicted from the caravan which wasn’t even ours anyway.

 

 It was round about this time that I had a life-saving revelation: I was standing three steps up in a caravan looking level at Big Murdie from Paisley as he stood on the ground outside. My maths is not that good at the best of times, but I quickly realised that I was standing about three and a half feet off the ground and was about 5 foot 10 inches tall, but I was in fact level in height with Big Murdie from Paisley, which made him…….

 

Bloody hell…..TEN FEET TALL!!!!!!!!!

 

Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but he was a heck of a lot bigger than me, and looked like a tiger that was shrugging off the effects of a tranquilliser dart. I sensibly shut the little bit of what remained of the caravan door and decided that we would deal with the whole thing in the morning.

 

By way of a postscript I should add that Big Murdie from Paisley later found his own caravan keys in his ‘back poaket’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3                                TENTS AND TENSE

 

 

DAY THREE

Monday 8th June 1998

 

Waking up early in the morning and looking across in the direction of the caravan door, it quickly dawned on me that what had happened the night before had no’ been a very, very bad dream. This was finally confirmed by an icy blast of wind that ripped through the caravan, tellingly coming through the jagged empty space like a cartoon monster’s mouth, where a large pane o’ glass used tae be. Aw shite! Ah hate when that happens, when ye think ye jist dreamed it, and then ye sober up and you realise it’s real and ye have tae deal with the consequences. Ye can try tae get back tae sleep, but the gemme’s up.

 

A deep and uncomfortable silence descended when we realised that one of us, one of the brave Bawheids, now had tae go and locate the lair of Big Murdie fi’ Paisley. Within a quarter of an hour, the rumours were sweeping through our caravan that Big Murdie from Paisley had been well over fifteen foot tall; he wrestled crocodiles fur a living and ate newborn bairns for breakfast. After a tousy period of pointing accusingly at each other, I was finally chosen to confront him. Without him being consulted, it was decided that Deek was to accompany me ‘just in case things were gonny get violent’.  Neither of us liked the sound of this one little bit. I didnae come all the way tae France tae get a do’in on day three.

 

We were soon shuffling across to the neighbouring caravan. Fortunately for Deek and I, Big Murdie from Paisley had sobered up to a remarkable degree. Although you wouldnae put any money on him lifting this year’s Mastermind trophy and ye certainly wouldnae huv him as yer ‘phone a friend’ on Millionaire these days, he did seem tae be a reasonable enough sort of a big daft lad. Big Murdie from Paisley, it turned out, was sharing a caravan with his brother and another pal; they all looked bemusedly at us as we somewhat fearfully knocked on their (noticeably fully intact) caravan door. 

 

After a short formal introduction by masel using what ah had learned of basic conversational Paisleyese (‘alright boays?), followed by a rather unsure explanation concerning the previous nights ‘activities’ (‘errsa bittoa proablem wi wur door’) the lads invited us in.  Big Murdie from Paisley grunted what we took to be an acknowledgement. Something we had said had triggered some sort eh chemical reaction resulting in the Big Man having a ‘memory’ produced somewhere within his pulsing an’ overworked brain cell.

 

Big Murdie from Paisley’s brother stood up from the table an’ said:

 

‘Ah, noo that explains a few hings’,

 

and looked disapprovingly at his ‘wee’ brother lying across a bed cradling his bloody fist in a shovel of a palm. 

 

‘We thought he went aff looking fur a bag o’ chups’ he then explained inadequately. The boys, relieved to finally know now what had actually happened to Big Murdie from Paisley’s hand, apologised for the whole sorry episode and were happy to gie us a bundle eh money as compensation to pay to get our caravan door fixed.

 

With some pain, Big Murdie held his hand up towards the light, a macabre souvenir of the first day of his holiday. The hand was swathed in makeshift white bandages and although they were tightly wrapped, you could see an ugly band of dark red still coming through the material. Big Murdie from Paisley had suffered the injury as he tried tae climb through the shattered glass door into the caravan. This went some way tae explain the long sickly streaks of blood that were everywhere on our floor.

 

I’m quite sure that in his quieter moments, if he ever had such things, Big Murdie from Paisley will have realised he actually escaped quite lightly. Looking at his wound, he must have missed the main artery on his wrist by a midgie’s bawhair. There’s no doubt about it, if Big Murdie from Paisley had bled to death in a drunken slumber on Deek’s bed in our unlawful caravan, it would have certainly have put a bit of a shitener on the holiday.

 

Deek and I returned triumphantly to the campervan to the acclaim of the other nervously waiting bawheids, but the job was now only half done. With some trepidation, Godfrey and I then went back up tae the campsite reception to try to somehow explain what had happened through the night.

 

It was not exactly the sort of thing covered in your French lessons at school. ‘Lesson One, Travel and Holidays: Last night Big Murdie from Paisley mistakenly heid butted and then karate chopped his way into wur caravan and narrowly missed cutting open his bawsack’. You see, this sort of shite just didnae happen to ‘La Family Garnier’.

 

 Nevertheless, somehow, with some sort of misguided good intentions welling up inside us and in order to preserve the good name eh the Tartan Army, we intended to make it clear that we were fully prepared to pay the entire cost of the bill to replace the damn door.

 

By the time we arrived at the reception, the campsite seemed to be totally over-run with hundreds of wandering Scots fandangoes who had recently descended locust-like on the premises. With only two days to go till the Brazil game, the arrivals from Scotland were coming thick and fast. With the emphasis oan thick.

 

The quality of questions being fired in the general direction of the now completely bamboozled staff behind the counter were bordering on the linguistically magnificent. One guy, leaning at a gravity-defying angle ower the counter, seemed tae be asking the straightforward question of

 

Huv ye goat ony ice-boaxes?’

 

The poor French lassie behind the bar was having a bit of difficulty with the term ‘ice boaxes’ and asked him to repeat the question. With exasperation, he did so, this time speaking much, much quicker and at a greater volume.

 

‘Huvyegoatonyiceboxesdoll???????’.

 

Spittle landed in non-discriminatory fashion everywhere within a six feet circumference.

 

Elsewhere in the queue, many more Scots were of the opinion that

 

 ‘Naecunt kin speak proaper Engulush roon’ here’.

 

Worryingly for us, Tony the Pit Pony was no-where to be seen. In fact no one behind the counter seemed to know exactly whom we were talking about. Ignoring a carefully co-ordinated display of French shrugging of shoulders from two members of staff, we described Tony the Pit Pony as best we could remember him. We were obviously slightly hampered by the fact that it was a very dark night and we were very emotional at the time. All we knew is that he may or now may not have been called Tony and we had given him most of our spending money to stay in a caravan till the end of the week. Admittedly, when we said it out loud like that it didnae sound too good.

 

 

Another figure appeared from a back office. He was a wiry little man with obviously splendid hearing and a lovingly cultivated moustache. He whispered something in his co-workers ear, ushered her out of her seat and sat down in front of us. He looked at us sternly. As he proceeded to speak angrily and quickly in French at us, we were beginning to gather that he was having a bit of a shite day. In fact he looked as though at any moment he was about to bring out a machete and slaughter everyone in the campsite that was wearing tartan.

 

His large moustache twitched violently as he listened to our pathetic story unfold. Needless to say, he was not a happy Frenchmen when he discovered that the door to our caravan had been, not just broken, but virtually destroyed on its very hinges. Armed with Godfrey’s surname, he marched to a large filing cabinet behind him, returning with a pink slip of paper, our original booking form for a ‘campervan parking place with access to a communal electricity generator’. I peered over at the form to make sure it was the correct one, I studied it carefully: ‘blah blah blah CAMPERVAN blah blah ELECTRICITIE’. Aye, it was ours.

 

The man behind the counter was an even less happy Frenchman to discover that we shouldnae even have been in the now semi-doorless caravan in the first place. We were beginning to get the feeling that coming back to the campsite reception wisnae tae be our finest idea o’ the fortnight.

 

Godfrey sensibly (I can’t believe ah’ve just typed ‘Godfrey’ and ‘sensibly’ in the same sentence) made a great show of bringing out the wad o’ cash that Big Murdie from Paisley’s brother had presented to us. The situation immediately calmed down. After signing another form, we then paid for the damage to the door; mysteriously the total of the bill came to exactly the same amount of money that we had just produced. Shady bastards.

 

The horrible little Frenchman sitting behind the counter then insisted that we leave the caravan by tomorrow and go to our rightful land that was the campervan parking space. As far as I was concerned the historical 700 years Auld Alliance between the ancient kingdoms of Scotland and France was at this precise second in time now terminated.

 

There was little point in further protest so we dawdled back to the bawheids feeling somewhat downhearted. It was obvious that today was going to be the day that we would have tae go into Paris and buy some tents to use on the parking space. As we made our way to the Metro it was clear that the situation was becoming a little desperate. Nobody fancied sleeping on the shitey pebbles, but it was becoming a distinct possibility. There was no way we could afford tae stay in a hotel for two weeks, and unsurprisingly all the Youth Hostels were fully booked. One thing was clear, if we didn’t get some sort of accommodation sorted out today, and we kept spending money at the rate we had been, Deek, Starfish and I, with no tickets for any of the games, were getting close to cutting our losses and heading home in a big cream puff. The first Scotland game was not until Wednesday afternoon and there was no way we thought we could make it till then. Oh aye, the fitba, forgot aboot that.

 

Attempting to buy tents in Paris on a Monday sounds like the sort of task that would no be beyond any person of reasonable intelligence. It’s no as though we were stuck half way up the Himalayas looking tae purchase a part for a vacuum cleaner or anything. The City of Paris covers forty-one square miles; so there obviously hud tae be a tent shoap of some description within one of these miles. Or so we thought.

 

 During the long, dark hours of a subterranean midsummer morning, we hurtled roond the Metro, completely oblivious to the sunshine beating down somewhere above our heads. As we sat in rattling carriage after rattling carriage, we were trying desperately to convince each other that things were gonny be okay. It was a hopeless task and the morale of our little group of bawheids was now at rock bottom. We were cold. We were already skint. We were still sober. We were relegation material.

 

Relentlessly the clock ticked on and things were looking increasingly bleak.

During the course of the day we had developed an almost religious like mantra that we would take turns to chant like monks every five minutes or so,

 

‘hings will be awright when we get the tents’.

 

‘hings will be awright when we get the tents’.

 

‘hings will be awright when we get the tents’.

 

The theory being that when, or if, the tents were finally bought, then things would calm doon, the real holiday could rightfully begin and the dream of going tae the World Cup to watch Scotland’s ‘Special Moment’ could be fulfilled in a more orthodox fashion. Because lets be honest with ourselves here, to date, it had been a fuckin’ shambles.

 

No matter how much we tried tae convince ourselves that it was all going to be okay, the truth was always looming like a spectre in the background – we had nowhere to stay apart from the parking space, time was running out to buy tents today and we had already vastly overspent the holiday budget paying for a caravan that we were now no allowed to stay in.

 

You think you can sleep rough in these situations, just get pished stay up as long as you can, sleep rough again the next night. But when it comes to it, you just couldn’t do it really, and anyway our mums would kill us if they found out! By the mid afternoon, after nearly four hours of vacantly staring at maps and constant sniping arguments between ourselves, deep down nobody really believed that everything was going to be fine at all. I didn’t give a damn if one day we would look back and laugh, this was just no fun, we had been on holiday for only three days but it was honestly no exaggeration to say that it felt like three years.

 

Eventually we decided we had to go against our male instincts and ask someone for help. We finally sought out the tourist information centre back on the Champs Elysee. The lassies kind of looked at us like we came from Jupiter, and handed over a map. Circled on this vital document with red pen were some likely locations where we could buy a bloody tent. Before we left the premises, we also managed to get six tickets for the World Cup opening ceremony at Le Place de la Concorde, at least something seemed to be go’an right for us!

 

We went back on the Metro and headed out from the middle o’ the city. After much further searching of streets and vague pointing from bemused locals, we at last got tae one of the shops that the girl in the tourist centre said we should visit first. Sure enough, there in the window was a variety of different coloured tents and other miscellaneous camping stuff. The only problem was that on the door a sign told us that the shop was shut on Mondays!

 

We incredulously looked at the small bit of paper bluetacked ontae the door window as though if we read it enough times we could change the scrawled inky message. This wisnae good.

 

No good at all.

 

Towards our left, there was a small bell with an accompanying sign asking to ring it if the shop was closed.

 

 Ring it then ya fanny’ says one o’ the bawheids in the background.

 

Our hopes collectively rose as I pushed the bell. This was to be the first time that I would properly use my finely honed skills of conversational French. It was a time to make Mrs Mowatt and Madame Maurice from the High School proud as punch.

 

‘Oui?’

 

‘Em….. bonjour…..errrr, avez vous…em, les tents?’

 

‘Pardon?’

 

‘Errr, can we buy some tents?’

 

‘Pardon’

 

As far as conversations go, it admittedly wisnae a classic.

 

‘Non, we are shut on a Monday’.

 

‘But,’

 

‘Au revoir!’

 

We wernae happy at this outcome, there must only be so many times that you can use the phrases ‘aw naw ‘ and ‘you must be fucking joking’ in your life. After three days in Paris, I was pretty sure I had used up my quota.

 

Unsurprisingly, the atmosphere and the crisis management skills amongst the bawheids were not improving. We were all looking for a free transfer away from here. Everyone was falling out wi’ everyone else. Wee pacts were forming, subtle divisions in the squad if ye like. If we were a fitba’ team it may have been glossed over and described tae the media as a training camp bust up, a difference of tactical opinions, but in reality we were all just a bunch of fuds who shouldnae have been allowed oot the country at the same time as each other.

 

At that point in time I really didnae think we were going to make it. Never mind the fortnight, I meant through the day. I looked around the packed streets of shoppers and had an enormous urge to lie down on the road, shut my eyes and go to sleep in front of an oncoming taxi. I wanted tae be anywhere in the world except Paris with these bawbags, we were all miserable and wanted each other to go away for a very long time. It’s fair to say that you could have landed a golden eagle, never mind a budgie on ma petted bottom lip.

 

As the afternoon careered relentlessly intae early evening, we went on to investigate several more shops without success. By the very late afternoon we finally got to a Camping Shop that was open, only to be told that this shop specialised entirely in the sale of sleeping bags and rucksacks. Shite!

 

We were promptly directed to another shop from the same chain at the corner of the next block. Arriving here we were told the shop only specialised in the sale of skis and boots.

 

Just as we began to suspect that we would have more chance finding Lord Lucan dancing down the street wearing a Hibs Scottish Cup winner’s medal roond his chest than finding a tent, we finally struck canvas. I could hardly believe it as we trudged up a flight of stairs intae a large shopfloor that was crammed with dozens upon dozens of tents of all different shapes and sizes. This was as close an insight as I was going tae get as to how Howard Carter felt when he discovered King Tutenkamen’s tomb!

 

We surveyed the canvas landscape with barely disguised glee. Mouths open, jaws to the floor, it had to be a mirage or a trick of the light. We had arrived at Tents City, it was Tents-a-rama, Tents-a-go-go, there were blue tents, green tents, red tents, beige tents, big tents, wee tents, family tents, one-man tents! Price was not to be an issue as Deek had decided that he would pay for the tents with his visa card and we could settle up with him later – God Bless the big man. After a short deliberation we decided to purchase two green tents for the six o’ us. The assistant insisted at the time that each tent was designed to sleep four men. Looking at the little bundles lying on the ground in front of me, and then at the towering lads around me, I had my doubts about this pretty outrageous claim. Nevertheless, the facts of the matter were that it was 5:57 in the pm, and there was absolutely no disputing that

 

WE NOW HAD TENTS!!

 

We felt the overwhelming need to celebrate, and after not much deliberation at all headed for the next place in the street that sold alcohol, which turned out to be a small Chinese restaurant. We sat and had a meal and a few bottles of cold lager. Could the holiday now finally begin? Were things now going to be alright? The bawheids were back together, the squad was settled for now, roll on the fitba….was it ever go’an tae start?

 

 ‘Who’s idea was it tae arrive five fuckin’ days before the kick off’ I thought whilst shovelling 4 grains of rice into ma gub off a chopstick.

 

When we left the restaurant a couple of hours later and stepped into the early Paris evening air, we were all bawheids together again, we were all in this and we would stick together! The arguments were stupid, we all felt silly, we were sorry for shouting at each other, it will be worth it in the long run. Character buildin’. It was a much lighter step that took us towards the Metro. Things would indeed improve dramatically now that we had the te…

 

wait a minute………

 

THE TEEEEENNNNNTTTTTSS!!!!!!!!

 

It turned out that the tents were still lying under the tables of the Chinese restaurant. We spun round and hammered it back along the street, round the corner and up the hill into the restaurant. Thankfully our two little green saviour bundles were still there where we left them. Although it would have been highly unlikely that anyone would want to steal two little tents, the general consensus of opinion amongst ourselves was that we were ‘a bunch of fannies’.

 

Getting back tae the campsite, we decided that before the tents became our new official residence we would all sleep in the caravan for a final time. After all, we justified this because the boy at reception said ‘tomorrow you go to your original booking’. Tomorrow, no’ the night. The door tae the caravan hadnae been fixed yet but that didnae matter, and anyway it was now baltic and camping tonight would be a nightmare.

 

I was exceptionally gubbed after another traumatic day and even the agonies o’ the Spinebastard and the gusts eh cold air coming through the broken door couldnae prevent me  falling into a deep sleep almost as soon as my head hit the bunch of rolled up clothes that were my makeshift pillow.

 

Unfortunately my peaceful slumber wasnae tae last until morning. I awoke wi’ a start sometime in the middle of the night. Without going into too much detail, lets just say that what happened in the next few seconds caused a great deal of staining in my keks and probably skimmed a couple eh decades off my life.

 

I had been woken up by Jasperini making a series of moaning noises in the dark. My initial reaction was ‘he’s wankin’. But it turned that Jasperini wisnae burping the worm at all, within a matter eh seconds he confirmed this by ghoulishly rising half way out of his Spinebastard then manically swinging both his arms like a wild animal caught in a trap. The Starfish suggested later on that the noise Jasperini made in the following three minutes was a ‘girlie scream’, but I really have to disagree. Lying absolutely petrified, pinned tae the sofa, about four feet away from him, I can confirm that it really was the most bloodcurdling, ear-piercing shriek that I have ever heard. 

 

I didnae have a clue what was going on except it sounded like Jasperini was being attacked by a wild boar. My heart was thudding so violently that my chest was in great spasms of pain; I was go’an tae have a heart attack. That’s just fucking magic, I’ll no even be on this earth tae see Scotland fuck the Brazillians.

 

I peered frantically further intae the inky blackness of the caravan and saw the silhouette of Jasperini pointing a trembling arm towards the door. He wailed again:

 

‘Goooooooo awwwwwaaaaayyyyy!!!!!

 

Suddenly I realised, Jasperini hudnae been possessed by the devil but was rather having a bad dream. Jesus sir, whit a cairry on! I relaxed and tried to breathe again. I supposed that I would have to try and calm him down as best I could, but I was a bit scared to approach him because he, to be frank, looked absolutely radio rental. Instead of going across to him and waking him up (I knew if ye wake them up when they’re sleepwalking they turn intae werewolves or have heart attacks or something like that), I simply shouted across the caravan,

 

‘Jasperini, it’s all right it’s just a dream sir’. Hoping that my familiar words of reassurance would somwhow float into his subconscious and put him gently back tae sleep.

 

Then I heard the boxer shorts-splitting squeak of the door handle to our caravan being pushed down. My eyes darted left. The rain was battering down in loud thumps onto the roof. The bloodstained towel we had used to mop up the floor the night before was covering the smashed door; it suddenly flapped back in a gust eh wind. The weak moonlight lit up the thick streaks o’ dried blood on the bottom half of the door. I quickly scanned back up the door to just above the handle. As the blood encrusted towel flapped back again, I saw a ghoulish deathly white face staring back at me.

 

Somebody was trying to get in to murder us!!

 

Later on Jasperini informed me that when I screamed I was inches away from literally hitting the roof of the caravan. At first I was so scared when I saw the face that I tried to shout but nothing would come out, I felt as though I had been smacked in the stomach and my scream choked and died somewhere below my throat. Suddenly, my lungs exploded with a violent piston of energy, kick-started by the fuel of raw emotion and I breathed in air for the first time in ages and let out this

 

‘waaaaaaaahhhhhaahahahahhahahaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!’

 

Sort of a noise.

 

What came out of my mouth seemed to physically fill up the caravan like a liquid. Simultaneously, I felt my body being violently jolted around in a fit of sheer terror and my legs and arms flailing around with unexpected adrenaline as though I was being electrocuted.

 

I was nauseous and tae make matters worse I couldnae move, my limbs just couldn’t function properly. I let out a pathetic squeak of terror. The white face of death at the door remained still and silent. The door handle was tried again and then again, more urgently.

 

By now we were both half out of our beds and waving our fists in the air like madmen. I don’t know how long Jasperini and I screamed for. Of course all this, in reality would have taken a matter of seconds, but at the time it seemed like many, many, many hours. Spag later said he woke up on Jasperini’s horrific scream and instantly ‘a pint of sweat’ came out of his body. He went on to explain that the noise we both made ‘pierced his soul’. Spag then lay there in his sweat, with his pierced soul, listening to the screams whilst preparing himself for his own certain death at the hands of the deranged intruders.

 

When Godfrey woke up in the other bedroom, he did a much more constructive thing than perspire to an unusual degree, he nudged the unbelievably still conked oot Deek an’ cowering from behind his bedclothes made him go and see whit a’ the fuss was aboot. Big Deek, not being one to give intae emotion as easily as the rest of us, slowly opened his eyes, slowly plodded oot his bed, slowly switched oan the main caravan light and then slowly muttered the immortal phrase:

 

‘Whit dae ye want neeber?’

 

An anxious glance around of the now mercifully illuminated caravan quickly told Jasperini and me that there was no one trying tae top us. It appeared the little bowel-slackening incident we had just experienced was caused by an incredibly lost, incredibly drunk Scotland fan at the door. A rather disappointing slurred reply finally came from outside the caravan door:

 

‘just tae see yer awright’. The voice sounded vaguely familiar.

 

The face finally went away. We never found out who this concerned fatherly figure actually was, but the wise money is on Big Murdie from Paisley.

 

I lay awake in a damp puddle of my own sweat, shite, tears and pish for many hours after the grotesque white face had gone from the door. My heart was still thumping painfully.

 

I will never forget the image of the blood and the handle and the face for as long as I live. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t take my eyes of the shards of bloody glass and the flapping towel. My ears continued to work overtime for noises outside, for some reason I was one hundred percent certain we were still all go’an tae be murdered in a caravan that wasnae even rightfully ours.

 

That would have been bad enough, but it would have been absolutely tragic if this took place before we even had a chance to watch the Scotland – Brazil game. Looking back, I wonder if we would have been seen as martyrs to the cause? Would the Scotland players wear black armbands whilst our dishes were beamed on the big screen at the game – posthumous fame for the bawheids.

 

 

 

 


Chapter 4            A BIT OF AN EIFFEL

 

Football is a devilish pastime and hereof groweth envy, rancour

and malice and sometimes brawling, murther, homicide and

great effusion of blood, as experience daily teacheth. They have

 the sleights to meet one betwixt two, to dash him against the

hart with their elbows, to butt him under the short ribs with

their griped fists and, with their knees, to catch him on the hip

and pick him on the neck, with a hundred such murthering

devices. Lord, remove these exercises from the Sabbath.

                

Philip Stubbes, Puritan pamphleteer, 1583

 

DAY FOUR

Tuesday 9th June 1998

 

We all somehow made it through the night alive and thankfully the early morning daylight quickly reduced the imaginary night-time devils, boglins and rampaging maniacs of the Bois de Boulogne campsite tae mere shadows in the backs of our minds.

 

It was still very early in morning and the rest of the fans around us were still sleeping off the excesses of the previous night, oblivious to our trauma. We wasted little time in shifting our belongings from the obviously cursed caravan, moving across tae our original ‘parking space’ and setting up the tents.

 

Our quiet contemplation of the prospect of camping on the stones and pebbles was then disrupted by Jasperini as he began hopping about the outside of the tents pointing in dismay at his discarded shoe lying abandoned on the ground beside him. I think it’s fair tae say he wisane exactly the outdoor sort.

 

As though possessed by a demonic spirit, he began wailing alarmingly and arced in a circle round us, before suddenly bolting out of the campsite gates. Later on in the day when he was finally brought back into captivity, he was tae explain the cause of his irrational absconding behaviour: ‘Now, I’m no expert on spiders, but that one in ma shoe musty came across wi’ the Brazilians, did you see the colour eh it? It had tae be poisonous!’ You got the feeling at this point that the rest of the camping adventure may become quite difficult.

 

Later on in the day we got chatting to a group of apparently knowledgeable Scots fans, who told us exactly where the Tartan Army were gathering for that particular days entertainment. The most obvious initial rendezvous, after the Auld Alliance pub, turned out to be that most Parisian of landmarks, the Eiffel Tower.

 

We arrived at the ‘Pylon’ to find that this most spectacular of French monuments had been well and truly taken over by the ever-expanding Tartan Army. Scots were now literally everywhere and thousands were sprawled throughout the surrounding cafes and bars and congregating in ever growing messy groups in the nearby squares.  Already it was noticeable that everyone looked cleaner, tidier, healthier and fresher than us.

 

The sun shone down relentlessly on the city, it was probably the hottest day in Paris so far, which also meant it was going tae be bloody baltic in those tents tonight. Instead of stretching ourselves to anything too strenuous like attempting to climb to the top of the tower just yet, we took a large recently acquired carry out of cheap beer and plonked ourselves down on a painstakingly manicured lawn. After about half an hour, I had an uneasy feeling that I didnae recognise at first, could it really be that we might have been starting to relax and actually enjoy this damn holiday?

 

We lay in the shadows of the enormous arcing steel cantilever structures of the tower, beside us there was a massive game eh fitba’ being played oot atween 40 or 50 guys in kilts. The less energetic of the athletes were already clutching desperately to bottles of beer and pausing tae smoke the odd fag. Feeling the effects of the powerful midday sun, many ‘players’ had removed their t-shirts, most revealing a wobbly mass of beer bellies and an impressive variety of tattoos.

 

The Eiffel Tower had been built as a spectacular wrought-iron entranceway to the International Exposition of 1889, an enormous World Fair that marked the centenary o’ the French Revolution. Today, 109 years later, it was being used as a very big goalpost. The strange sound we were now hearing was either the rumblings eh the ancient looking tower lifts over our heads, or Mr. Gustave Eiffel, the bridge engineer, spinning in his grave.

 

The match itself was nothing tae write home about and definitely wasn’t one for scholars of the beautiful game. The gradually deflating ball was bashed and blootered about the grass for a good hour. Occasionally it would veer off course and sail directly into the face or plums o’ an innocent bystander.  This was Scottish fitba at it’s finest alright, a sort of barely tolerated regional combat dressed up as sport. As the players and fans got drunker and drunker, there was the odd heated argument that flared up as one  ‘ball greedy basturt’  hobbled around trying to locate ligaments and splintered bone joints amongst the grass.

 

With hairy nuts swinging openly in the Paris sunshine and blood liberally spraying across the gloriously green grass, the game continued to the amazement of the rapidly gathering crowds of tourists and locals. The ‘match’ was also attracting a bit of attention from various members of the world’s media milling about the scene. One brave Argentinian cameraman decided he was not nearly close enough to the action and actually got on the ‘park’, hovering about beside two bags of beer that were masquerading as goalposts.

 

Unfortunately ‘Diego’ chose to start filming just as he was about to be caught up in a goalmouth stramash. Somewhat predictably him, the camera and his stupid hat were all clobbered, there was a blur of tartan and a crack of limbs and heads, and then various body and camera parts finally landed in numerous states of disrepair in what would have been the six yard box.

 

Apart from those odd scuffles, mistimed tackles and swinging fists, the atmosphere was now truly carnival and the drink was being panelled at an alarming rate. We were ‘en fete’ as they say.  We all had consumed a few bottles of beer while Jasperini was drinking thirstily from some orange tonic wine type bottle, we were very impressed that he had managed to down its entire colourful contents in about an hour and hardly seemed the worse for wear.  This was a most un-Jasperini like performance, he should have been pished by now and talking in a voice so high only the Parisien dugs would be able to hear him. It was later on we found out that his feat wasnae that remarkable really – it took a while to explain to Jasperini that ‘sans alcohol’ on the bottle did not mean ‘loadsey alcohol’.

 

After a few more beers / juices and many more grimaces watching the ‘football’, we decided that we had better go up the Eiffel Tower for a wee look at Paris. Slowly but steadily we ascended the 1652 steps. It was refreshing finally seeing the city from overground rather than underground and from the very top, the views stretched out magnificently for forty miles. There is something quite surreal about being at the top of one of the most famous buildings in the world, only to hear hundreds of Scots fans below you singing their version of the Hokey Cokey!

 

‘You put your left hand in,

you put your left hand out,

in – out, in – out,

you shake it all about,

you do the Maradona

 and you score the goal,

he put the English out – out – out’

 

On our return to land the games of fitba were still going on and more and more fans had arrived in the vicinity. Large flags were being unravelled ontae the grass. Beside us lay a spectacular construction which consisted of an enormous saltire, on which was written that age old question posed by many a clansman as he made his way home through the Highland heather of an evening: ‘Whaurs the Burdz?’

 

By now the Brazilian fans were also arriving on the scene, most of them shepherded carefully around the carnage in tightly organised sightseeing groups.  For all the hype that’s associated with them and the reputation they have established across the world as crazy, beautiful party animals, I was extremely disappointed with ‘ra bruzulliuns’ (as Big Murdie from Paisley called them). The face of the Starfish drooped miserably as he scanned an eye along the group of fat hairy men in front of us – a grumpy collection of forty or so bearded middle-age blokes in sweaty yellow Brazil tops and baseball hats. ‘Whaurs the Burdz’ indeed. We waited for some sort of magical World Cup chemistry tae kick in and for the legendary Brazil – Scotland banter to start: they had so much to take the piss out of us about: Alan Rough’s hairdo, Billy Bremner’s goal-line miss in 1974, Zico’s magical free kick in ’82, the dodgy Jim Leighton and Alex McLeish moment in Turin in 1990 and of course that MoJo miss in the same game, the list is infinite.

 

Ra Brazulliuns mumbled, ignored us, and consulted a map.

 

I got all the lads to bunch up thegither and elbow their way into the unyielding yellow group for a photae. I suppose we should have felt sorry for them. They had been saving up their money for four years and had just travelled half way round the world and the first people they met were six drunken Scots carrying bottles of cheap beer / orange juice singing the praises of Argentinian legend, Diego Maradona! Instead of then partying and getting into the World Cup spirit, they just stood about, scratched their beards and grumbled. Admittedly, they probably perked up a little bit after we left them in peace and Jasperini stopped hugging them.

 

That evening we headed back across the city to witness at first hand the promised spectacle that was going tae be the opening of the World Cup at La Place de la Concorde. This was it, the whole reason for the ‘adventure’ in the first place, it was about to get underway at long last!  Ya Beauty. Live the dream bawheids!

 

There was to be, according to the official programme, ‘a massive carnival and fun-packed parade’ in the middle of Paris. After Jasperini had lost our tickets and we acquired new ones, we burrowed our way through the massive crowd, heading towards some barriers at the side of the square to get a good vantage point of the whole spectacle. As the cold Parisian night began tae bite, we waited for the carnival to jump into life. We waited… and waited.

 

And waited.

 

And waited

 

After forty-five minutes waiting in plummeting temperatures surrounded by thousands of shivering people, I felt about as old as the 3,200 year old Luxor obelisk in the middle of the square. Finally, things got underway and some skinnymalinkys dressed as outsized apples, skipped about the square letting their green and red flares billow in the breeze.

 

We waited again. Nothing else of note happened except a few more colourful looking dancing bits of fruit and vegetables skipped past us. As a finale to the ceremony, and a final insult to anyone who had waited in the cold all evening, some giant, ‘It’s a knockout’ style massive foam rubber men, each allegedly representing the four continents of the earth, began to inch their way at Dave McPherson speed around the square. We kept telling each other something spectacular was going to happen any second now. After about a further two hours of standing about we realised that these gigantic foam men were not going to fight each other, explode or fall over. It was getting excruciating and we decided to head on home to the canvas wonderland and get some sleep in preparation for the big match tomorrow. As we walked along the street away from the ‘festivities’ I had a thought, if we wanted tae watch men in ill-fitting costumes making a fool of themselves in public for two hours we could have gone to Ibrox.

 

It was finally time to go to sleep; it had been another long and eventful day.  We checked the tents; it appeared that no one had stumbled in when we were away. We checked the floor; there was no sign of glass or blood. So far so good then. Jasperini and I carried out a thorough search for would-be murderers around the area. It was almost too good to be true. We assembled ourselves very cosily together in groups of three in each tent. I prayed a little, shut ma eyes tight, and fell soundly asleep…

 

I have to admit that I dreamed of going home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 5                    SCOTLAND V BRAZIL

 

 

‘This is the worst feeling I have ever had. No one wants to lose a game as big as that with an own goal – but there was nothing I could do to get out of the way.’

                       

Tom Boyd (Daily Record, 11 June 1998)

 

 

DAY FIVE

Wednesday 10th June 1998

 

‘Matchday, ya dancer, I’ve been here so long I’m fucking turnin’ French’.

 

After what had undoubtedly been the longest four days o’ ma life, the main event, Scotland versus Brazil, had finally arrived.

 

Jist yesterday, high above Paris, two huge white streaky clouds had spectacularly crossed each other in front of the clear blue background. The canvas in the sky produced a giant saltire that covered the entire city. It was the same sign that the Pictish King, Angus mac Fergus and his own wee Tartan Army had seen on the eve o’ a battle in the year 832 AD just ootside the tiny East Lothian village of Athelstaneford. At that time, when Jim Leighton was just breaking through intae the Sheepshaggers first team, this was taken as a sign fi’ the Big Man upstairs that a victory would be forthcoming. The Scots duly recorded a home win and the flag was subsequently adopted. Here we were, standing outside our tents, some 1162 years later, preparing for another battle of sorts. Was this an omen? A sign we were about tae make history? Or God just taking the piss?

 

Jasperini and Godfrey, jammy bastards, were understandably ecstatic at the thought of going to the match the whole world was waiting for. The game was to be played out in the purpose built ‘Stade de France’, a monstrous circular mass of concrete and metal, towering like a floating spaceship over the suburb of St.Denis in the North of Paris.

 

But what about the rest of us? If yesterday’s scenes were anything to go by, and if the rumours about a big screen being erected near the Eiffel Tower at La Trocadero were true, there was only one place for those without tickets to go to watch the game.

 

After jealously waving goodbye to Jasperini and Godfrey, the rest of the bawheid squad reached the Eiffel Tower and simply followed the weaving, ticket-less, saltire-waving crowd, stopping traffic on a ten-lane road as we went, into La Trocadero. The main focus of attention was a small five a side pitch, enclosed on all sides, just below a large screen. The mini terracing around the pitch was quickly filling up with hundreds of supporters.

 

The small park was currently playing host to an international five-a-side tournament for Under 15 players. By the time a young fresh faced Scotland team, yet to be ravaged by booze and burdz, ran out onto the hallowed Astroturf there must have been five or six thousand sardined into the stands. Somebody with a twisted sense of humour decided that the opponents were to be ‘the Unglush’ and soon eleven petrified plooky young sassanachs shuffled onto the park. Despite the shrieks of abuse that thousands of grown Scottish men shouted at small boys who happened to be born the wrong side of the Border, the brave young Englishmen proved they could handle the hostile atmosphere and ran out as deserved winners in the game, although I think the lap of honour idea was quickly abandoned.

 

What we didnae know at the time, was that one of the young Scotland players that day was Aiden McGeady. He would go on to represent, not Scotland, but Republic of Ireland at Full International level. It’s a shame we couldnae now go back and have a wee word wi’ him aboot that. Wanker.

 

Once the match was finished the fans were allowed to fill up the Astroturf playing surface area in front of the screen. It was a cracking wee venue to watch the game, bars on either side, decent screen, wee bit of sunshine. The berries!

 

The sense of anticipation for this historic match was patently increasing in a direct proportion to the intake of alcohol. There was now only thirty minutes to go till the most important match that Scotland had ever played kicked-off. Half an hour, that magical time before a big game when your hopes for the team havenae been dashed yet, the pre-match lager is takin’ effect, the butterflies start doing the laps of yer insides and ye start to wonder if maybe, just maybe, this is go’an to be our year.

 

But wait a minute. The large screen above us remained suspiciously lifeless. Was something wrong?  Five minutes later, to triumphant cheers all round, the screen flickered into life. Another five seconds later, it flickered again, faded and returned to a deathly black. Moan tae…..I asked a flustered steward what was happening; he said:

 

 ‘ze problems’

 

‘Furfucksake, ‘Ze Problems’? What kind of ze problems? Big ze problems? Wee ze problems?

 

According to a group of quickly departing fans beside us, they had been told that the game was now definitely not going to be shown here. With only fifteen minutes till kick-off, some more panicking Scots began slipping away, back towards some of the other large screens that were allegedly set up across the city. Someone indicated that the nearest one was at L’Hotel de Ville, a short Metro trip away. This was farcical!

 

We were now faced with the prospect of coming all the way tae France to watch Scotland play Brazil in the opening game of the World Cup and not even being able to see it on the telly! I suppose it neatly encapsulated the first five days of what was turning into a rather draining holiday. About ten minutes before kick off we decided that there was no alternative but to make a quick move with the rest of the fans to the ‘Hotel de Ville’.

 

The alleged ‘ze problems’ at the Eiffel Tower screen, it later turned out, were just part of a cunning ploy to disperse the Scots fans that had gathered in enormous numbers, creating something of a safety risk in the temporary stands. No’ for the first time, the French authorities were caught out by the sheer number of Scots fans that had descended on Paris. Little did we know that as we were stepping onto the train in the Metro, the giant screen at the Eiffel Tower was flickering into life in front of a decimated crowd of people who were either:

 

A.         Too pished to go anywhere else,

 

Or

 

B.         The cowering English under fifteen squad.

 

On the packed train we shifted nervously from foot to foot, looking at our watches in despair. One minute to kick off. They would have sung the national anthems by now. Big Braveheart would be encouraging the boys, his golden Hot Shot Hamish locks shimmering in the floodlights. As we slowly bounced our way along the tracks, the atmosphere could have been cut by a fork, never mind a knife.  The most important game of football that Scotland will probably ever play had just kicked off and we were, once again, in a bloody train!

 

Finally our transport, obviously burdened by its highly volatile tartan-clad cargo, struggled intae the station. We sprinted up the steep steps of the Metro exit only to be met by two demented Brazilians jumping up and down.

 

Brazil were already 1-0 up.

 

Our worse fears about the game had been realised; Cesar Sampaio had scored for Brazil after only four minutes! FOUR MINUTES!!!!

 

A Samba band at the back of the square, confirming our worst fears, started belting out celebratory rhythms. The fat bastards were dancing like mongs and wobbling their hairy Latin American bellies. All I could see was shaking brown flesh squeezed into cheap shite polyester Brazil tops. They were taunting us as we entered the sunlit square. Bugger! And indeed where were the dirty lookin’ stunners ye always saw on the telly?

 

Until 1832, L’Hotel de Ville, the Grand City Hall of Paris, was the rather dramatic location for most of the high profile executions in France. Today it looked like it was the Scots who already had their heads in the hangman’s noose. This was it, it was going to be 10-0 and we were going to be humiliated in front of the watching world!!

 

Four minutes gone, one-nil down. Bollocks!

 

Despite the unfortunate scoreline, this certainly was a spectacular place to watch football on the telly! Towering high over us on the left hand side, the large buildings hosted a spectacular tumbling multicoloured waterfall of flowers from a huge stone balcony.  In front of us, we were relieved to see that the enormous screen at the bottom of the square was fully working, although the current viewing was far from pretty. Over the sea of heads, we saw a replay of the opening goal. We didn’t need to be the most wizened of fitba tacticians to work out that our defence were guilty of piss-poor marking from the inswinging corner, allowing a free header or rather a free ‘shoulder’ in the six yard box from Sampaio past a flapping Jim Leighton and his heavily vaselined eyebrows.

 

The place was absolutely heaving with Scots fans that had arrived in France minus a ticket for the game. The square, in spite of its vastness, could not contain the sea of tartan and many fans had spilled out onto surrounding roads. From our vantage point at the very back of the square we looked down along the thousands of heads and clapping hands in front of us. Literally thousands of Lion Rampant Scotland flags fluttered defiantly in the air. Along the sides of the square were several lampposts standing like sentries. Without exception, each lamppost was now home to numerous nesting Scots that had climbed up looking for a better view of the screen. Directly above us, perched precariously on top of the lamppost about 20 feet up in the air, was a fan wearing nothing but a kilt. He was waving a large flag with one hand and just about holding on with another whilst trying to get his mates to throw him up a can of Mick Jagger. What a heid case. But we a’ knew he had a better view than any of us.

 

Back on the park, Scotland were now starting to recover from the shock of conceding that soft early goal and had been playing well, they were starting to even create half chances here and there. When ah say half chances, it was half chanches in that sort of Scotland half chances way, which is probably more of a quarter or eighth chance to any other country. Perhaps 10-0 was a tad pessimistic; maybe we could restrict them to 6 or 7? As the game was drawing towards half time and the clock on the corner of the screen said 38 minutes, a long ball was arced into the Brazil penalty box, and speedy wee Kevin Gallacher, all 4 stone of him, flopped down to the grass as though clipped by a sniper’s bullet…

 

PENALTY TO SCOTLAND!!!!!!!!!

 

Nah, it can’t be. It looked a bit soft. We looked again.

 

The referee had really given us a penalty.

 

Ooooya fuckkkkeryeeee!

 

L’Hotel de Ville moved in a way that is difficult to describe, I suppose it would be what an earthquake would feel like, the ground seemed to jolt upwards ten feet into the air. Flailing legs and arms and bodies rolled crazily about in front of us and beer sprayed in giant wet celebratory arcs.

 

Of course, one of the problems with celebrating the awarding of a penalty is that you have to stop celebrating in time in order to see the kick actually being taken. Considering that the memory of THAT Gary MacAllister penalty against England in 1996 was fresh in all of our minds, you would have thought that the Scots fans might have saved their celebrations until the ball actually went past the goalie and swished the net.

 

The whole crowd seemed to be on tiptoes. We all looked at the huge screen, a hush descended.

 

John Collins stood hands on hips over the ba’. His immaculate hair solid in place like some sort of Buzz Lightyear figure. He stared intensely ahead. He started his run up…

 

G o a l! ! ! ! !

 

I would have been extremely surprised if anyone at L’Hotel de Ville managed to see Collins run off towards the Scotland fans in celebration, performing a wee birl in mid air. The place went even more mental than before. There was a weird sort of explosion of muffled noise, then flashes of blue and yellow, tartan, kilts, flags and flesh. I’m sure someone let off some fireworks and all around us people were hugging their pals, or indeed random strangers, stray dogs, old women and lampposts, whoever could be reached in that manic second, no-one seemed particularly choosy. I looked up, the boy wisnae on the lamppost. Did he fall? Is he deid? Who cares. We’ve just scored!!! The shouts, screams and shrieks of World Cup ecstasy filled the air.

 

Spag, Starfish, Deek and I were going absolutely loco! Those five long, long days of accommodation disasters, arguments, caravan break-ins, back pain and general misery was simply being roared out of our bodies. It was the ultimate example of the cathartic values of fitba. In that split second of the ball oh so sweetly nestling into the back of the net, our problems just melted away. The non-existant campervans, the cursed caravans, the Spinebastards, Big Murdie from Paisley, it was all worth it! We would rather have been here with each other than be anywhere else in the world. And we meant it too!

 

Scotland scoring a goal against Brazil!! It was not thought possible by many. Some of the fans around us were already in tears; others had to sit down before they keeled over. This was going to be our competition at last!

 

As far as I was aware no one had seen the screen for ten minutes, for all I knew we could have been 4-1 down by now. The half time whistle went, we all looked at the screen and then looked again, it was true, and we were indeed drawing 1-1 with the World Champions!  The entire crowd turned round away from the screen, the Samba band were noticeably silent; the podgy painted faces of the Brazilians were tripping them. You could see that they were thinking that ‘this was a team they regularly humped.’ (Or whatever the equivalent of that is in Portugese).

 

 ‘You’re not singing anymore’ reverberated around l’Hotel de Ville, and we were loving it.

 

When the second half kicked off, Scotland were still managing to hold their own against the Yellow Cowdenbeaths. We were holding out for a memorable and thoroughly deserved draw, whit a start to the tournament! This point would be a vital stepping-stone to the 2nd round! And then after that, who knows! We have a dream!

 

Of course, then the inevitable happened. With only seventeen measly minutes to go, disaster struck! It was probably the most ridiculous own goal ever scored in any match of football anywhere in the world. No matter how much we may have wanted to, we cannae really blame Tom Boyd for this one; it simply smacked against him and ricocheted into the net past the stranded Leighton.

 

For the rest of the game, we knew the chances of scoring another goal against Brazil were going to be limited. We had played well enough so far, but deep down I think most of us were aware that it just wasn’t to be.  It was destined to be yet another bloody glorious defeat.

 

The moment the final whistle went, the skies above Paris opened as though slit by a surgeon’s scalpel. God was showing his own special brand of anger at the result and the rain began to streak down from the dark laden clouds that had gathered conspiratorially above our heads. The fat raindrops stoated off the concrete slabs in the square and the Brazilian fans scuttled for shelter in the nearby shops. The rain got steadily stronger and stronger, streaking down in thick lines from the sky, already enormous puddles were forming on the ground. In awe of the downpour, shoppers dived into cafes and huddled timidly in doorways. The Brazilian Samba band had almost completely disappeared.

 

The Scots stayed and sang. We tried to keep up with the singing and general madness, but simply couldn’t do it. It was pishing down, my throat was rasping after all that shouting, I felt drained, somehow totally sober and I needed a seat. The match had left us soaked, sad and starving. We spotted a fast food place at the back of the square and went in; the place was full of drookit people eating burgers.

 

From our vantage point in the Burger Bar we could see the square with the large screen in front of us. Directly across the road there was a long, flat, water fountain on two tiers. One tier of the fountain was already full of hundreds of Scots doing the can-can in the pouring rain singing about Irn Bru!  Why? Why? Why?

 

There’s something about Scotland fans that really, really annoys me – they can ‘celebrate’ a defeat better than most nations can celebrate winning. Being defeated by a stupid own goal with 17 minutes to go should be enough to keep you away from a bloody fountain for 25 years. Yes we had played well, but we still were gubbed in the end, we still had no points when we should at least have had one. This had been our chance to make history and defeat Brazil in the World Cup and we had once again self destructed when it mattered the most. Bunch eh fannies.

 

We looked along the front of the fans, only to see Big Murdie from Paisley jumping about in the water; he was up to his waist. Love him or loathe him (and we certainly loathed him) you certainly couldnae ignore him. As we walked outside, he soon spotted us. Taking a brake from his aquatic antics, he waved his heavily bandaged arm and bellowed,

 

‘Alllllrrriiiigggghhhttttt Booooaaaaaayyyyyssss, Are ye comin’ in?’

 

‘Eh, no just yet Murdie’,

 

We sidled away through the puddles as discreetly as possible. If the water was up to Murdie’s waist, it must have been five foot deep; at least his nearly severed hand was getting a wash.

 

In the surrounding streets, cars were coming to a standstill and motorists were getting out of their vehicles in the stoating rain in the middle of the road to get a better look. You got the feeling this sort of thing didn’t happen very much in Paris. Well, it doesnae really happen very much anywhere really. One middle-aged, well-dressed woman, not taking her eyes off the fountain, stopped beside us. After a while she thought she understood the situation.

 

 ‘Scotland won? Yes?’ she asked

 

We told her we were beaten 2-1, she didnae believe us.

 

‘But what would happen if they win?’ she asked.

 

Fuck knows.

 

We left the square with hundreds of Scots still singing the praises of the country’s second most famous drink. Even as we walked a street away, we could hear the chanting of ‘Irn Bru, Irn Bru, Irn Bru’ drift up into the sky.

 

We met up with Godfrey and Jasperini under the Eiffel Tower where there were still amazingly a few very tired Scots playing football on the grass. They must have now been regretting playing ‘next goal’s the winner’ three days ago. Had they forgotten we were playing Brazil today? The feeling of overwhelming disappointment at the result left us only sluggishly.  No one was particularly looking for a big night out and we decided that the Auld Alliance bar would be just a bit too hectic and probably full of the dicks that were in the fountain.

 

Heading to the Metro, we randomly picked a train, and headed off into the great dark unknown of Paris. We had a lot to learn if we wanted to become proper members of the Tartan Army, we had yet to make it into a fountain and were totally miserable after the defeat. Then again, how many of those silly buggers had been sleeping in a bloody tent for the last few days?

 

Getting as far away from the rest of the tartan army as possible, we eventually ventured into a corner café-pub called ‘Bar Bruxelles’. It looked okay, somewhere to sit and drink and moan about how unlucky we always are at fitba. The glass would be half empty this evening. We  didn’t know it at the time, but this place was to become a second home for us for the rest of the holiday. We soon secured seats at a table beside a large telly and watched a very painful re-run of the Scotland game before then watching Morocco and Norway drawing 2-2 in the other group game at Montpellier.

 

Bar Bruxelles was to prove a major attraction in the coming days because it provided us with what we thought were the best beer and bogs in Paris. To you these may sound like simple pleasures but if you had been sleeping semi rough in a campsite with hundreds of other steaming Scots, the importance of beer at a reasonable price and a clean cludgie cannot ever be underestimated.

 

The Bar Bruxelles beer was served in a ‘Giraffe’: a tall, large-necked, clear plastic container, it cost about a tenner and would usually be filled with something like Kronenburg. At the time this was viewed by us as a particularly fancydan foreign beer.  At the base of the giraffe was a small tap from which the beer would be dispensed. In the coming days and nights, the giraffe would sit lovingly on the table between us as we watched the games unfold on the large telly above our heads. We each took turns tae pour the beer into our six small glasses. Unfortunately the novelty of drinking from the Giraffe never wore off, and we must have spent a good percentage of our spending money on this particular item of alcoholic wildlife

 

The Bar Bruxelles toilets also deserve a special mention. Forget anything you have seen or heard about bogs in France, all that medieval stuff about pishing in the street or down wee black plugholes. The toilets in this particular establishment were literally electrifying! On my first visit I pushed a ten Franc coin in the slot beside the door, and heard a whirring noise. The door then swished back like something out of the Starship Enterprise to reveal a gleaming porcelain lavatorial shrine, later to be christened the ‘Remington ElectroBog’. I entered the Electobog and the door slid across, locking with a confident clunk.  I approached the toilet seat with some trepidation. A small buzzing sound grew in volume and the seat magically yawned upwards. A small sheet of paper dropped down and lay round the toilet bowl to sit on. I would be catching no French germs here it seemed.  I had a Greyfriers Bobby, then stood up and after several moments, the toilet seat began to whirr and then gently came down and closed tightly ower the bowl. The flush sounded and the taps in the wash-hand basin came to life. In the words of scraggy scotum’d magician Paul Daniels, ‘now that’s magic’. The whirring and buzzing of the toilet seat automatically lifting and lowering as you entered and left the premises almost made the visit to France worthwhile in itself. I’ve seen the future and it’s the self cleaning bog. Tell the shareholders of Toilet Duck that they are Donald Ducked.

 

No’ surprisingly with these attractions on offer, Bar Bruxelles frequently drew us through its doors for the rest of the ‘holiday’. Most nights we were in Paris we made the voyage across the city. After the pub closed we also learned from the locals to go on to a dodgy bar a little bit down the road, generally the last place in this part of town to close its doors to thirsty punters. It was full of madmen, crack hoors and general bawbags like ourselves, but most importantly here the barman was the spitting image of Trevor McDonald. ‘But the main news tonight’ was that he also kindly introduced us to ‘Desperados’, a beer that was mixed with Tequila, and yes they were as lethal as they sounded.  BONG!

 

Drained and drunk we somehow made our way back tae the campsite that night; it had been a historic day. By the end of it all, Tommy Bawbag Boyd had just about been forgiven; the team had done us proud really. Bring on the Norwegians and the Moroccans and show me the way to the tents – from now on to be known as the ‘Spinebastard2000s’ – and the most uncomfortable beds in all of France!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 6                    A WEE BITTY KULTURE

 

 

DAY SIX

Thursday 11th June 

 

It was Thursday! Somehow we had done it! With the help of gallons of swally we had survived our second night camping in the Spinebastard2000s, and had now made it through these first five long days in Paris.

 

The good news from Team Bawheid ’98 was that all of us hud jist about stayed alive and uninjured long enough to watch the first Scotland gemme. I don’t know about experiencing a ‘special moment’ but it hud certainly been a minor victory for the survival instincts of the human race.

 

Although we would have given anything to be allowed back in a caravan, living in the Spinebastard2000s, at least after two nights, turned out not to have been quite as horrendous as we had feared. Without any sleeping bags or groundsheets it was however a borderline existence that often skirted along the edges of acceptable human hygiene levels.

 

One of the main problems was that it could get baltic as the temperatures plummeted in the evening. To combat what we felt would be the virtually guaranteed onset of hypothermia, we had taken to wearing virtually all of our clothes during the night. Getting undressed to just one layer of clothes in the morning would sometimes take us up to lunch time. Of course, the other less talked about option was to ‘spoon’ each other during the night to keep warm! Gay Paree indeed.

 

I have already indicated that the tents were rather mischievously labelled as being suitable for ‘four men’. Suitable for four Hobbits, perhaps, but Deek, Godfrey and the Starfish were well over six-foot each so things tended to get a little cramped of an evening.

 

There were another couple of issues that made this particular camping experience not entirely pleasant. Although Deek’s popularity rating had soared after he had splashed out for the Spinebastard2000s on his credit card, it quickly dipped again when he started his intensive training for the ‘World Under 30s Flatulence Championships’. Deek’s ‘cellmates’ – Godfrey and Jasperini began to look seriously unwell after spending several evenings trapped in the tent when Deek was hitting top form.

 

The second issue was that Spag and I found ourselves in the misfortunate position of sharing one of the Spinebastard2000s with the Starfish, the man with undoubtedly the biggest, gangliest limbs in Western Europe. He insisted on sleeping with his Inspector Gadget legs and arms spread as wide apart as is humanly possible. Wi’ there being no sleeping bag to constrain his wandering limbs, every night we would have to perform a ridiculous three man drunken gymnastic routine in order to get any sleep.

 

Although the Scots players may have already been packing their bags for the trip to Bordeux for the next game against Norway, we still had the delights of our ‘parking space’ to enjoy and there were many more things in Paris to be savoured in the coming days. Things really were looking up for the bawheids; we had the accommodation issue now resolved, we didnae have to worry about the results of the Scotland team for a few more days and we had loads of decent World Cup fitba to look forward to! What could possibly go wrong?

 

While trying not to think of that ridiculous Tommy Boyd own goal of yesterday, we noticed the enormous campervans that were rolling majestically into the site alongside us. Holland were due to play in Paris against Belgium on Saturday and their fans were arriving in typical continental style. A huge van, the size of a three bedroomed flat, parked beside us. We looked along the row to see about ten huge mobile homes of a similar description had already arrived under the cover of darkness and had filled up their parking spaces to our left. We then looked back to our own stoney parking space wi’ nothing to park on it. ‘Looks like they minded tae bring their own campervans then’ we pointed out to Godfrey.

 

And what magnificent campervans they were. Through envious eyes we saw that our new neighbours enjoyed the luxury of satellites, televisions, enormous freezers, cooking facilities, breakfast bars, power showers, barbeques and then we looked at our facilities: we had two little green tents, a Mars bar and part of a carry out. We were the paupers of Europe.

 

Later the large Tartan Army Daily Record double decker bus rolled into the campsite, and those on board were soon distributing goodies to the Scots fans that were waking up round about us with hangovers of biblical proportions. This was an unusual delivery as far as Aid Convoys go. Not for us the fresh water, flour and grain transported to the war zones of the world, but rather sugary delicacies like Irn Bru and Macaroon bars were quickly demolished in an attempt to restore health. Copies of the Daily Ranger/Rebel (delete as appropriate) were soon also being pored over.  It was strange flicking through the pages to see the photographs of completely deserted streets in Aiberdeen, Embra and the Weege during the Scotland – Brazil game. The photo of Union Street was like that old gag postcard entitled ‘Flag Day’ in Aberdeen, while the Kingston Bridge had just the one motor on it. Who was the driver? Where the fuck were they going? And why were they no’ watching the fitba? It certainly appeared as though the entire nation had been skiving off work or was in the pub for most of the afternoon.

 

Later on in the day, as we began to feel more human again, we suicidally decided to make a return trip to Bar Bruxelles to watch Italy play Chile on the large TV. Within a few hours we were draining beer giraffes again and enjoying a fine game that ended in a 2 – 2 draw, an early Vieri goal for Italy overturned by a Salas double, before a dodgy late Baggio penalty levelled matters. As he scored his country’s first goal at France ’98, Vieri was later awarded 264 bottles of vino from Italy’s National Wine Cities Association. You couldnae help wonder if booze themed win bonuses would also be the way forward for the Scots players?

 

Earlier in the day in Toulouse, an injury time equaliser from Toni Polster gave Austria a completely undeserved 1-1 draw with Cameroon who scored through Njanka.

 

These results meant that Scotland was tonight the only team so far to have been beaten in the World Cup.  Quelle Surprise!

 

 

 

DAY SEVEN

Friday 12th June 1998

 

This morning we woke up tae smell the agonizingly tempting aroma of freshly made coffee wafting seductively over the hedge from our Dutch neighbours and into the Spinebastard2000s. This was followed by a sweet odour of hash and the sounds of giggling and eurobabble. Those crazy Dutch basturts. And then there was something else, bacon perhaps? Followed by laughter, more coffee, more hash. Was this the fabled ‘continental breakfast’ that folk talked about?

 

Our smells were a little different. Godfrey and Jasperini quickly unzipped the Spinebastard2000’s door to release into the wild the un-Godly odours that Deek had noisily accumulated under the canvas through the night. As we struggled out of the tents and slowly peeked over the hedge we saw fat orange t-shirted men cooking on a barbeque attached to a camper-mansion. A breakfast!! Oooh, I would have sacrificed the Spag or Jasperini to any pagan God fur a breakfast this morning. Having nothing to cook or prepare food on, our breakfast dining in the campsite at this early time of the day was normally whatever could be gleaned from the two temperamental vending machines near the reception. Today, the early morning Snickers bar and bottle of Sprite didn’t seem quite as appetising as usual!

 

As was becoming the norm, our meandering travels throughout Paris today ended up once again with a visit to Bar Bruxelles, our third one in three days. It was sad that we were not more adventurous, but we liked the place and the staff and we liked the thought of becoming locals. The waiter took us to our usual seats, and got a giraffe in without waiting for us tae order.

 

From our seats we could look through the large window of the bar onto the junction of two busy streets. Ye couldnae help notice a group of three lassies on somewhat old-fashioned bicycles. They cycled nearer and I became transfixed by the vision of loveliness in the middle. She was a very tall, quite thin and very, very beautiful burd.  She was a true French princess, wi’ flowing golden hair cascading down her shoulders and the sort of smile that would melt chocolate on a croissant from 30 yards.  Somehow she had squeezed her rather splendid legs intae a pair of tight blue jeans which showed her arse off to it’s full potential. The lassies stopped and chained their bikes up at railings outside the café. Ya beauty!

 

To our undisguised delight the blurt came intae the bar and sat down at a table a little way across from us. A little while later, our waiter neeber who had become something of a personal butler, tourist guide and confidante, came across and said that the tall girl with the blonde hair was asking if I would like to go and sit beside her. ‘Aye sure? Me??’ I looked across the table to see if this was a wind up, fully expecting them to be laughing cruelly. Instead they were all just sitting there smiling, pretty and expectant. Gaggin’ for it?

 

Feeling like a one-legged boy at a school disco, I stood up feeling drained and weak. Self-consciously I started to make my way across the polished café floor. What did she want? What was I going to say? Was romance on the cards? Was I going to get my Nat King? Does my arse look big in these massive tartan shorts that I borrowed from Big Deek? The answers to these questions being: Dinny ken, dinny ken, dinny ken, dinny ken, oh aye.

 

As calmly as I could manage I sat down at her table. I was now directly opposite the most beautiful girl in Paris if not the entire universe and all the universes yet to be discovered. This close up she looked simply incredible and was now holding a cigarette as though it was the stem of a flower between her delicate fingers. She stared across directly at me with piercing large blue eyes. Now if this wasn’t Paris, and I was back in Falkirk High Street in Burger King or something, I would probably have described her as a lanky peroxide schemie with a real Benson and Hedges habit, but obviously something in the city air other than the benzene was starting to affect me.

 

This completely unnatural amount of what I could only describe as gawking lasted for another couple of seconds. Looking down at the floor, I racked my nut desperately for something witty and intelligent to say in French that would put us both at ease. Errrrrr.

 

A couple of seconds scraped passed in a heavy silence. You could eh heard a testicle drop.

 

Come on Malkyboy! Do it for the team. I thought again, slightly more desperately, about the most appropriate thing to say. You’ve an open goal son, the goalie’s doon, smash it intae the net. Just like King Kenny.

 

Fuck. Out of the corner of my eye, I could now see the rest of the boys at the table bunched together waiting for me to make my move. Peer Pressure.

 

 ‘Bonnjooouuur?’

 

Despite sounding like Rene from Allo Allo, I received an encouraging nod and was that also the ghost of a smile?

 

‘Em, parlez vous em, Anglais?’

 

She didnae. Shite!

 

I tried to empty my head of all other thoughts other than being able to speak French. This was proving to be a futile exercise and as the silence seemed to grow like a sea mist around us, I could feel the beginnings of a monster beamer ripple warmly across my dish. I kept telling myself to simply think back to my years of studying French at school. Think, think. La Famile Garnier, Tour de France, the swimming pool in Grangemouth, I have one sister, what is the time…it was all bloody useless.……I tried to think of the chatty conversations, or asking directions, ask her what her name is, where she comes from. Come on, it’s easy. Keep it simple.

 

After some more discomforting seconds had passed, the mysteriously salvaged words of ‘Thierry, ca suffit c’est mauvais pour les dents’ sprang deviently into my mind. Admittedly saying ‘Terry, that’s enough, it’s bad for your teeth’ was entirely inappropriate at this moment, unless she happened to be called Terry and was just now shovelling vast amounts of sugar into her coffee cup. She wiznae.

 

Suddenly what I thought was inspiration came to me in a flash, my hopes raised again and I blurted out pathetically:

 

‘vous aimez le football??’

 

With hindsight, ‘Do you like football?’ wasnae the most romantic nor inspired chat up line ever crafted in the French language and the question was met with the kind of deep silence which seemed to imply that she came from a large fitba loving family who were just yesterday wiped out in a plane crash.

 

I was floundering quite spectacularly; fish oot eh water. Desperately I thought of what pish tae say next.

 

‘J’aime le football’, I said.

 

Oh God. ‘Do you like football?’ ‘I like football’ Whit a cock.

 

The silence was becoming dark and deep. My body wasnae reacting well to the pressure: pins and needles and a prickly uncomfortable heat seemed to sweep through me. My head felt increasingly hot, sweat trickled from every pore. I looked round the bar for something that I could make a witty comment about. Miraculously inspired, I pointed like a very enthusiastic sergeant major to the other lads at the table. Again in French I blabbed awkwardly

 

‘They all like football’.

 

Aye, very good numbnuts.

 

I was now officially rambling like a lunatic and everyone in Paris, never mind my table, knew it. I looked across and out of the window, my arm pointed out mechanically into the street, my mouth was beginning to run away from my brain and was blurting out any remotely French sounding phrase

 

‘J’aime votre bicycle!’  I said.

 

‘I like your bicycle?’. What sort of a numptie thing to say was that? I followed that little jem of a statement up with ‘Are you going to a night-club?’ and probably some other inappropriate stuff that I have since blanked from my memory. Holey moley.

 

I could see she had now finished her coffee. I could take no more of this torture. I stood up and said ‘Au revoir’. Feeling round about a foot tall and very warm, I got back to the table and all the boys wrongly thought I had just managed to organise a date for the night. I retook my seat to a series of thoroughly undeserved backslapping. The girl as expected walked out of the café and out of my life forever. I still see her in dreams occasionally, and no, I never did find out if she likes football. If I am ever back in Paris, I might head along to the Bar again, you never know, maybe she didn’t have her hearing aid switched on the last time.

 

To divert attention from my extreme embarrassment, I tried to casually dismiss the spectacularly aborted chatting up attempt and ordered another giraffe for the lads. Thankfully the football on the large screen above our seats was showing Paraguay and Bulgaria – 22 of the swarthiest men on the planet – desperately slugging out a 0-0 draw in Group D. With beer and football readily available, the bizarre incident was soon thankfully forgotten, the conversation turned to one of more immediate concern: something was wrong with Hristo.  The previously God-like Stoichkov seemed to be playing at half pace, running like he was underwater or something. His passes were going astray, his shooting was abysmal, he was jist, well ‘normal’. How the mighty have fallen. Well Hristo, both you and I tonight found out we are mortal men and can suffer like the others. Just at the moment when others expected something special, we both couldnae turn it on eh? Although I have to say, you still have the better stubble out of the two eh us and ye can probably do more keepie-uppies than me.

 

We stayed welded to our seats to watch the next game, this time in France’s group, Group D. We witnessed a Marc Rieper goal for an unspectacular Denmark give them a 1-0 victory over a stuffy and dull Saudi Arabia. It was a shite game, the only other highlight was when the ref booked Peter ‘the glowing neb’ Schmeichel in the Danish goal for basically trying to take over and ref the game for him. Get it right up ye Rudolph.

 

After many more giraffes and as the early evening diners arrived in the restaurant next door, we watched France in the Stade Velodrome in Marseilles outclass South Africa 3-0, much to the slightly restrained delight of the staff and patrons of Bar Bruxelles. After a bit of a struggle in the blustery conditions, the goals came from the much maligned Dugarry, an own goal from Issa and a nice little chip from a wee black laddie called Thierry Henry who was playing wide oot on the wing in his first World Cup game. If he kept this up, he had a real future in the game.

 

The French fans in the café clapped. That’s all they did when France scored, they fuckin’ clapped. Clap clap clap. Silence. 

 

When Les Bleus scored again, we were cheering louder than everyone else. We thought it only polite to support our hosts. As we cheered and raised our glasses at the screen, one old man stood up and shouted and clapped. Everyone looked at him. He looked sheepish for being so happy and sat down. At the third goal, someone murmoured and then everyone else clapped again. Clap clap clap. Silence.

 

Can you imagine if that was Scotland that had scored three goals? The giraffes would have been lodged somewhere inappropriate, the beer would have been spilled, tables overturned, folk would be rollin’ about the floor, swinging off lights, hugging, kissing, screaming. Ach well, this was super cool Paris I suppose, they’re no’ goin’ tae go ballistic over a stupid (and when you think about it irrelevant) thing like a fitba’ match, no when there’s poetry to write and sticks of bread tae carry aboot.

 

Again the night ended in a blur, some singing, some Desperados and a miraculous journey back tae the campsite and the Spinebastard2000s. Despite the tepid atmosphere, the fact that the French team, as hosts, had played their first match, it felt as though the tournament had finally begun. France 98 was alive! God, we were finally doing it, we were finally enjoying ourselves. How long would it or could it last?

 

 

 

 

DAY EIGHT
Saturday 13 June 1998

 

We couldnae hang about bars and grandly pontificate on the endless conveyor belt of fitba on the telly every day could we? Today, Day Eight, was the day when we decided at long last tae take some time to act like semi-normal tourists and visit the other sights of Paris. Just because we were homeless, didnae mean we had to become jakeys.

 

The idea was tae try to stay out of the pubs for as long as possible because it was becoming obvious to us that eight consecutive days of drinking strong lager couldn’t really be that healthy. The farting was outrageous. The smells indicated intestinal breakdown requiring urgent medical attention.

 

Between guffs, we decided to embark on a ‘windae’ shopping trip to take in a few designer clothes shops in and around the Champs Elysee. Considering how brassic we all were, in hindsight it seemed a funny sort of plan. Much to Jasperini’s dismay, Deek went all the way to Paris, an acknowledged hotspot of world fashion, and bought a Homer Simpson T-shirt

 

We looked at our watches, by now it was only coming up to noon – we couldnae start the bevy jist yet could we? So in the afternoon we made a trip to the Louvre and it has to be said blended in pretty hopelessly with our peroxide blonde hair, kilts and football tops. After a few hours it has to be said that some of the lads were absorbing all this remarkable display of world cultures better than others.  After trundling around the massive buildings of the museum some of the boys were getting restless. We needed some sort of focus for the day and it was decided that we would only leave the museum once we were successful in finding the painting of the Mona Lisa.

 

The non-stop walking along the huge gallery floors was especially taking its toll on the Starfish and his dodgy knees. I doubt if there have been many connoisseurs of European art who have muttered the Starfish’s immortal words: ‘Let’s see this bitch and get to the pub’.

 

A visit to the Bar Bruxelles, which was now approaching legendary watering hole status, did seem a suitable counterbalance to the few hours of what Deek called the ‘art and shit’, that we had bravely endured. Although our visit to the museum had entailed a bewildering glimpse of Egyptian antiquities, Etruscan statues, the paintings of Rubens and Rembrandt and much more, it meant that we had now missed out on the first two matches of the day’s World Cup football.

 

Soon we were climbing the stairs at the Metro and entering the sacred portals of Bar Bruxelles, our own cultural home. We learned that the dayglo green shirted Nigeria had shocked the highly fancied Spanish side by three goals to two, whilst Mexico had comfortably brushed past South Korea by three goals to one.

 

It’s a real shame we missed the Mexico game, cos that meant we didnae see the ‘Blanco bounce’ live as it happened. As we sat watching some highlights we jist couldnae take in whit we were seein’ on the screen. The Mexican boy with the number 11 on his shirt, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, was apparently goin’ nowhere wi’ the ba’ on the touchline with two wee Korean defenders on either side of him about tae take him out. With a fluid, almost supernatural movement, he lodges the ba’ between his ankles and jumps over the defenders legs with the ba’ still trapped, and then continues his run along the touchline. It was a weird, an incredible, an are ye allowed tae dae that moment? And then, a few minutes later he did exactly the same thing again! For some unexplained reason, we jist couldnae see this party piece bein’ emulated by Tosh McKinlay.

 

We settled at our usual table with the giraffe and watched the evening game, Holland v Belgium. Although we had high expectations for a feast of exciting football, it turned out to be the drabbest of drab 0-0 draws. So much then for what was apparently the 120th meeting of the pair. This was a titanic bore of a game that left you feeling cheated and frustrated, you could have watched it for 120 years and probably never seen a goal. The only bright thing in the game was the floodlights shining off Collina the ref’s baldy heid.

 

Of course, it may have been some sort of tactical masterclass, we don’t know, but being Scottish it simply didn’t cut the mustard with the Brockville / Pittodrie / Ibrox go’ers in the group. After the match Jasperini, Godfrey and I, with a bubbly Kronenburg confidence sweeping through our veins, decided to take a stroll down to the Pigalle area of Paris, the Red Light district. We were really just looking for a few decent bars and maybe a nightclub, rather than the opportunity to have sex with a midget or any of the other offers that would came our way. Honest.

 

The streets of the Pigalle were garishly lit with purple, blue and red neon lights seeping from shops and beyond doorways. It all seemed a bit seedy, a bit ropey, it suited us down to the ground. A large chaotic road split the area in two and the traffic ploughed up and down noisily and relentlessly.  Music blared. Horns tooted. Not surprisingly, amongst the throngs of curious tourists, weirdos, wideos, winos, junkies, jakeys, bampots, wasters, miscellanous alkies and folk dressed as nuns, there were more than a few kilted Scots fans that had decided to come to this weird and wonderful part of the city. As we walked along the streets, window shopping at the bizarre collection of fetishes and perversities catered for by the wide range of cinemas, booths, shops, parlours, bars and ‘theatres’ we were looking for some sort of ‘normal’ place such as a bar or nightclub to spend the rest of the evening.

 

We finally came across a huge nightclub, which had ‘PARIS BY NIGHT’ in huge neon lights splattered across the roof. This looked fine, so we joined the queue to get in. It was only as we were about to pay our entrance money that we realised we were about to go into, not just a Gay nightclub, but ‘the’ Gay nightclub. This wouldn’t have been a huge problem, but it did seem as though it was some sort of theme night this evening. Looking properly around at the rest of the people in the queue for the first time, there did seem to be a lot of unusually dressed, short haired men with sections strategically cut out of their leather trousers and various piercings dangling off fleshy appendages. Every gentleman in the queue also seemed to be looking approvingly at Godfrey in his kilt. We quickly made our excuses and left. Bawheids we were but Raggy Dolls, we were not.

 

We decided to carefully make a move to another nearby club. We approached an entrance door that was blocked by a large bouncer; I pointed up the stairs in the vague direction of where the dancefloor might be and asked the key question, ‘For men and wmen?’. He glowered down his sharply sloped nose at us for a bit and then nodded suspiciously. It seems that we were being allowed in, albeit a little bit grudgingly, so we made our way into a small foyer where we were each eyed suspiciously by two further bouncers, both the size of a small dark planet.  We paid about the equivalent of ten pounds to get in, and learned that with our ticket we were also entitled to one free bevvy. Allowing for the cost of buying beer in Paris bars alone, we thought we had stumbled across something of a bargain and congratulated ourselves on a good find!

 

On the way up the narrow set of steps, a further black bouncer stopped Godfrey on the stairs. He looked at his tackity boots, then upwards to his kilt and t-shirt and said in English:

 

‘You have come here for the fighting, yes?’

 

‘Naw….the fitba’ Godfrey kind of mumbled in instant reply. Had this guy not heard about the Tartan Army? We don’t fight anymore, we just get drunk and sing songs with the locals to wind up the badly behaved English!

 

We finally made it into the main room of the nightclub. We were now sharing a large nightclub with about two hundred of the most dressed up and trendy black people in Paris and most of them were staring directly at us. And we were standing completely motionless staring back at them. I felt whiter than white. In fact my general whiteness would have won prizes at white conventions. I looked at our reflection in the mirror across from us: I saw the three of us, little white boys, two of us with peroxide blonde hair and one of us with a kilt on. I looked back at the crowd of black people: expensive designer suits and lots of leather. It was yet another fish out of water moment.

 

‘Where’s the toilets?’ asked Jasperini as the occasion got to his quivering bowel. As subtly as we could, we scanned the arena; there they were on the left. ‘I’m not going by myself’ he whispered like a ten-year-old boy being dared to enter a haunted house. The three of us then worked out how to get to the toilet door as inconspicuously as it was possible for three white boys to do so at the same time in what appeared to be an all black nightclub.

 

The situation probably wasn’t that much to worry about really. Paris is one of the most culturally and racially mixed cities in the world and the fact that we happened to be the only white people in this particular building was absolutely nothing to concern us. However, when we got to the temporary sanctuary of the empty toilets I said: ‘let’s get the fuck out of here!’ and I didn’t really need to look at Jasperini to know that he was going to agree. The bouncer’s words ‘Have you come here for the fighting’ reverberated around both our heads.

 

‘Wait a minute’ said Godfrey sternly. I thought he was about to lecture us on the fascinating story of French imperialist expansion, the development of her colonies and subsequent immigration which has lead to a rich melting pot of cultures in the city which is vital in promoting the importance of the virtue of tolerence amongst members of the human race. But what he said was ‘we’ve got a free drink remember?’ The boy was right, God almighty what were we thinking about? Purposefully we walked out of the toilet again and ignoring the stares of what seemed like 200 people but was probably closer to 20, who thought that we were not only white but also now homosexual, we strided across to the bar. We got our entrance tickets together and ordered our three free bottles of beer.

 

We then very quickly finished the drink and thanked our generous hosts before descending the staircase four steps at a time. Back onto the street we made our way into another nearby bar and further steadied our nerves with some more lager. After a while we managed to laugh a little about the situation, but unanimously decided against trying to get into anymore clubs for the one evening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY NINE
Sunday 14 June

 

 

Ah the Sabbath! By now the tournament was well underway and we were slowly unwinding after that tumultuous start tae the holiday. To date on the field the usual suspects, the French and Brazilians, were looking good. Ominously the English were also fairly breezing through the tournament, but there were several other nations that also looked capable of lifting the famous trophy. Scotland were obviously more of a ‘slow burner’.

 

At our campsite, the Spinebastard2000s were still taking a bit of getting used to, as was the fact that we had no cooking or food storage facilities. This meant that all of our meals had to be bought from vending machines, cafes and restaurants, which wasn’t doing much for our meagre combined finances. However, the weather had improved in as much as it wasn’t quite as freezing during the night and the rains when they came didn’t seem quite as heavy as before.

 

Inspired by the three or so matches we watched each day on the massive digital telly at Bar Bruxelles, today we played a game of football in the nearby park against an assorted group of locals.  In spite of the bobbily and dry underfoot conditions, we showed up well in our matches. Our opposition, consisting of twiglet-legged, bare-footed, street urchins and other schemie types with pencil moustaches and tatty tracksuits were quickly won over with our silky soccer skills. Unfortunately home advantage and superior fitness finally won the day and we trudged to the pub muttering things about ‘off-side rule’ and ‘re-matches’.

 

Sitting back in the campsite bar absolutely shattered that evening, it was hard to believe that we had only now been away from home for a week. Financially things were looking really bleak for all of us and we were now in something of two minds whether we should go to Bordeaux for the Norway game. However Spag had a ticket through the SFA travel club for the match, so he had to get down there pretty soon. As for the rest of us, we were having our doubts if our finances could stretch that far. Thankfully, once again with the aid of Deek’s credit card, we made a decision to buy the train tickets and head to the South to carry on the World Cup adventure. Miraculously, it turned out to be the best decision of the holiday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 7                                              ‘BORDEAUX, THE TARTAN ARMY’S HERE’

 

‘The Wines of Bordeaux give tone to the stomach, while leaving the mouth fresh and the head clear. More than one invalid abandoned by the doctors has been seen to drink the good old wine of Bordeaux and return to health’

 

Jury judging Bordeaux wines, 1855 World’s Fair in Paris.

 

 

DAY TEN

Monday June 15th 1998

 

As we boarded the gigantic metallic snake that wis the TGV train to travel the five hundred and eighty kilometres to Bordeaux, we could only hope that we would be leaving the worst days of the holiday far behind us in rainy Paris. Over the course o’ the last few nights we had gradually become acclimatised to the whole trauma of sleeping in the Spinebastard2000s and now that the football tournament was under way, I had one of those rarest of sensations, the feeling that things were actually going to be okay. I looked at the bawheids, innocents abroad, unshaven, bleary eyed, knackered, but somehow we had found a bit of happiness!

 

I slept sporadically on the train, occasionally waking up when someone cracked open a can of lager just that little bit too loudly. I took tae gazing at the ramshackle stations, and blurred fields of swaying corn that sped past the window. We knew there would be further challenges to be faced. Travelling south with limited cash, only one ticket for the gemme between the six of us, and of course no booked accommodation of any description, didn’t exactly sound like the recipe for a completely relaxing couple of days in the South of France.  If the worst came to the worst, we would have to attempt to sleep on a random patch of land in the Spinebastard2000s, and hope that Bordeaux was not going to get as King Billy as Paris had been during the night. Naturally, Jasperini was not to be told of this plan until the last possible moment. But all this misery lay far ahead of us, for now, in our little Tartan Army battalion, morale was as high as it had been all holiday and you could almost see the bawheids batteries re-charge as we hurtled south.

 

On arrival in Bordeaux we climbed up the old stone stairs of St. Jean station, and walked out into a little old fashioned, perhaps typically French square, the buildings of which were sitting lazily bathed in heat and brilliant sunshine. The first person we met, was who else, but our infamous night time house guest, ‘Big Murdie from Paisley’ ™ who greeted us with his usual,

 

‘Aaallllrrrrriiiiiigggghhhtttt booaaaaaayyyyss’

 

Remembering our previous encounter with the Paisley lunatic (how could we forget) we replied somewhat flatly,

 

‘Alright Murdie’

 

The less than enthusiastic response failed to register in the vacuum between Murdies massive sunburnt lugs.

 

‘Where are youse staying?’ he persisted.

 

‘Fuckin’ Far away from you’ we replied, or words to that effect.

 

Big Murdie chuckled. You could see that his memory had been jolted, albeit briefly. He shut his eyelids, he was apparently concentrating. You could tell he was not used to it. He looked confused. Unable to think of any further response, witty or otherwise, he proceeded to amble along the street with a large bottle of red wine tucked under his arm. The yearly turnover of Bordeaux wine is estimated at something like nine billion U.S. dollars, at a conservative estimate, in 1998, ‘Big Murdie from Paisley’ accounted for three of those billions.

 

On the ground around the square, abandoned on the scorching sandstone pavement, the Tartan Army was literally everywhere. It was almost as though there was a conveyor belt round the corner that was churning out people in kilts.  ‘Looks like a few have made it down before us’ Godfrey said, displaying an impeccable sense of observation as he surveyed the tsunami of drunkenness in front of him.

 

To the great names of Bordeaux wines: Saint-Emilon, Margaux, Pomerol, Saint-Estephe, we now had to add ‘Buckfast’. Ah yes, the exilixir of shellsuited classes: Buckfast-Chuckfast-Fuckfast. Why travel to the centre of the biggest wine producing region in Europe and bring your own screw-top tonic wine from a chippy in Airdrie?

 

And of course, just like that fateful first night on French soil, we were soon experiencing the inevitable problems associated with getting somewhere to stay for the evening. There were no taxis to be seen in the vicinity, so we randomly chose a direction and started to walk along the pavement in search of some sort of accommodation.  During the course of our travels we established that the official World Cup campsite was to be located in the middle of some woodland several miles away on the outskirts of the city. According to some fans it was already full to capacity with inebriated Scots refugees and with all ground at the campsite being churned up and muddy, it was turning into a scene that would not have looked out of place at the Battle of the Somme or Fir Park. After the briefest of consultations, we decided that we didn’t really fancy sleeping in the Spinebastard2000s again, never mind surrounded by a sea of mud and slavering ‘Big Murdie from Paisley’ types. What we really wanted this evening was a hotel bed, even if all six of us had to share it! Could we dare to even think of this luxury? Deek indicated that his credit card said we just about could.

 

Most of the Scots that had sensibly arrived in Bordeaux several days ago and had got round the problem of the lack of accommodation and money, by pre-booking several months ago a single hotel room and then piling six, seven or in one case thirteen people into it in the dead of night. If that was good enough for these booked-in-advance Tartan Army amateurs, then it would also have to be good enough for international voyagers like wurselves.

 

However, the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley, the great boy from Ayrshire has previously noted. We tried for about an hour in the centre of town to find one single hotel room available for one single night. It proved elusive. There was lots of shaking of heads from the pretty receptionists as they pointed to maps on the desk in front of them, before desperately directing us out of the foyer and onto the next hotel. You could tell that they had been asked the same questions thousands of times before.

 

After about two hours of this misery, we were running out of hope. We had now wandered away from the centre of the town and into a particularly rundown area.  Most of the windows around us were boarded up and shifty looking people sucking desperately on cigarettes hung around the street corners. Many of the dilapidated shops were shuttered, however the ‘hotels’ that were open, although scrawled in graffiti and sometimes guarded by bony dogs, seemed to have very cheap rents.

 

In desperation I rapped on the door of one of the least bleak looking ‘hotels’. Behind the grill of the door a bloodshot eye scanned us up and down. As we got ready to turn away, a lock clunked, and the door was pulled open. The owner, a small scruffy man with a wisp of yellowy hair, face like an Ordnance Survey map and one bad tooth, responded to my question in broken English,

 

 ‘Of course… we have rooms …my friend…’

 

At last! With a relieved grin I asked how much, he laughed dirtily, and continued,

 

‘But, you pay by the hour’,

 

He opened the door fully back, and with a knarled finger motioned to the partially carpeted staircase behind him. Sitting on the bottom stair was a very ugly middle-aged woman in stockings.

 

The hotel owner then added by way of unnecessary explanation:

 

‘Theees ees a brothel’.

 

Not even the Starfish was going to touch this one. It would have been the proverbial sausage up a close. So we headed despondently back towards the centre of the town. It was now approaching early evening, we still had no accommodation, but the day’s World Cup football match was about to start, so we headed almost mechanically towards a bar.

 

At the inappropriately named Place de Victoire at the end of the Rue Sainte-Catherine, we joined a couple of hundred other Scots to watch Tunisia edged out by England 0 –2.  The goals came from an Alan Shearer header and a Paul Scholes strike. The game in Marseilles was frequently interrupted by the camera panning to outside the stadium, where we saw running fans throwing rocks at each other and generally causing mayhem.

 

It was a much healthier form of chaos that was going on back in Bordeaux. As we sat in the bar after the game, the French DJ, for reasons known to himself only, played Rod Stewart’s classic ‘Ole Ola’ 1978 World Cup song to the bemusement of locals and Scots alike. Where he got this from is anyone’s guess but after a further fifteen or so times of the song being played, the whole pub – Scots and French alike – were soon singing:

 

‘Ole Ole

Ole Ola

Wur gonny bring that world cup back from over thar’

 

Sadly, only one of the two nations would be telling the truth.

 

Our bags and the Spinebastard2000s jutting out awkwardly under the table reminded us that we really did need to get somewhere to sleep for the night. We looked at another one of Spag’s miraculously produced maps of the city and influenced by the combination of the sunshine and the alcohol, decided the only option now left available to us was to try and pitch the Spinebastard2000s in the nearby public park.

 

Unfortunately, when we finally located the public park it was closed. It was also surrounded by huge metal railings, with particularly brutal looking spiky ornaments on top of them. We certainly didn’t exactly fancy climbing the gates so decided to re-think the strategy for the evening. A strategy that preferably didnae include ripped scroats.

 

What we really needed was another large open space, ideally of the grassy variety, in order to camp. As we were scanning the map, looking for this appropriate chunk of green, we at last spotted an empty taxi and manically flagged it down.

 

Taxi drivers know everything that’s going on don’t they? He’ll sort us out with a hotel room! All thoughts of a hotel room, with air conditioning, a mini bar, a television, clean sheets, towels and a shower had now been resurrected.

We were soon being driven all over the town in a fruitless search for somewhere, anywhere to stay. Jesus, how hard can it be? Anything but sleeping rough. Anything but the Spinebastard2000s. After trying about three motels on the outskirts of the town we were no further forward in our quest and were getting further and further away from the street parties in Bordeaux. The taxi metre was ticking away furiously. It was a familiar feeling of impending poverty and homelessness.

 

The taxi driver may have noticed the increasingly subdued atmosphere amongst his passengers. As though to get our attention and to get us onside, he suddenly looked at us all in the mirror and said boldly:

 

 ‘Eeef zeee Eeenglish come again I am ready for them’.

 

It was the first time he had spoken to us since we got into his cab. The keen historian of the French nation, will already know that the English had occupied the port of Bordeaux from the 12th to the 15th centuries; the chances were that their football fans could be ready to re-occupy the town in the coming weeks, depending on their group results. Just as I was about to ask what exactly the taxi driver meant when he said he was ‘ready for them’, he casually reached under his seat and pulled out the biggest axe that I have ever seen in all my life.

 

The excitement of holding this large, very sharp weapon seemed to encourage the gurgling driver to accelate the car dramatically. With his foot to the floor and one hand on the steering wheel, he waved the huge gleaming metal axe in a figure of eight in the air. For about the third time on the holiday I was convinced I was about to be murdered. The sinking sun’s ray caught the blade as it flashed back and forth inches in front of our faces. A solitary trickle of sweat run down my back, I felt that familiar horrible sick way again. Come back Bruces Taxis in Falkirk, come back you miserable Embra bastards, all is forgiven!

 

Thankfully, perhaps because he finally realised there was a real danger of all of us shitting ourselves in his taxi, the driver shoved the ridiculously large axe back under the seat. He was still laughing in the way that only mentally ill people can manage. Oblivious to the fact that we were rocketing along a crappy French street at 60 mph, he had now turned round and was looking amusedly at our petrified faces as though waiting for us to compliment him on his impressive display. In desperation, we opted out of asking him any questions about his gigantic shiny axe and pleaded with him to take us to the campsite. We decided it was better to get out of the vehicle before any more near death motoring experiences cut short our holiday or any large axes cut short our dangly bits.

 

As was predicted, the campsite was completely mobbed and the facilities looked basic to say the least. The tiny wooden reception shack had gone a bit ‘Tenko’ and completely overrun by visiting fans looking for accommodation and the whole set up made the Bois de Boulogne look distinctly organised in comparison. There would definitely be no ‘ice boaxes’ here that was for sure. The designated area for the tents to be pitched was basically a pishy cleared space in the middle of a forest that reminded me a little bit of ‘Platoon’ and those other Vietnam films of the 1980s.  Towards the middle of the ‘campsite’ there was a rickety old wooden shower block, probably where the Vietcong would be springing an ambush later on.  Towards the right of us was a small and painfully constructed wooden shop that seemed to be help up by a couple of nails, it was selling tinned food that we wouldn’t be able to cook and a wheezing black and white television on a shelf was barely showing that Romania had just beaten Columbia 1-0. The match between Germany and the USA, which would end in a 2-0 victory for the Germans, was just starting.

 

It was obvious that there were no more camping pitches left and several disconsolate lads in front of us were being turned away from the reception.

 

The situation in France was once again critical. We had no-where else to go, and if there was anywhere else to go we had no money to use when we got there. Therefore, we simply stood back from the queue and made a decision to sneak into the campsite and hope for the best. As casually as we could, we strolled past the reception with Deek and Spag successfully hiding the fact that they were carrying two Spinebastard2000s up their jumpers.

 

With the six of us whistling various tunes of innocence, we disappeared into the muddy mass of caravans and tents, heading for as far away from the reception as possible. After five minutes of a nervous walk, we finally arrived at the far corner of the site.  Although the mud was not particularly bad here this was not exactly an ideal camping spot as it was covered in tree branches and various prickly bushes, but it was certainly inconspicuous. Within another five minutes the Spinebastard2000s had been surreptitiously erected and skilfully nestled between the other surrounding tents.

 

It turned out that the campsite was guarded by a security man with a dog the size of a baby elephant. In the course of the next couple of nights we were fully expecting to be evicted for not paying our camping dues each time he made a circuit past the Spinebastard2000s. Thankfully, he and his enormous dog left us alone and we managed to, at least for tonight, avoid eviction.

 

After seeing the ‘attractions’ on offer for those choosing to spend the evening at the campsite (an ancient black and white TV and a closed shop)  we decided to head back into the centre of Bordeaux itself.  We were in an ebullient mood as we chattered in the taxi back into the town.  Our destination was the much lauded ‘Global village’, a series of themed-by-country beer tents in the middle of town, just behind the opera house.  As you would have expected, the place was chaotic and doing a roaring trade as more and more of the thirsty Scots and Norsemen invaded Bordeaux throughout the night.

 

In the distance, a couple of pipers and a guy with a big drum started to march out of the side of a beer tent. The pipes were droning out the official Tartan Army marching song of ‘Doe a Deer’ taken from the film, ‘The Sound of Music’. There are various versions of why this particular song has been adopted by the fans. One is that when Scotland played Austria in Vienna, the local newspaper had said that the fans would be hearing ‘the sound of music’ at the match. Unfortunately some bright spark wearing tartan took it literally and the rest is history. There is a big debate today about the song in the Tartan Army,  some love it and some can’t stand it, but back in 1998 it was fresh and a bit of a novelty that was lapped up by everyone.

 

The tartan clad pied pipers started to march out of the tented village and onto the street outside the square. As though it was the most natural thing in the world, hundreds and then thousands of singing Scots and French. It took us only a short space of time to realise we were going to do a lap of the square around the tented village.  By the time the second lap started, more and more fans had joined in, the congoing marchers spilled from pavements onto the road and traffic ground to a halt. The police, after the briefest of consultations, decided simply to close off the roads in an attempt to stop traffic mowing down the supporters. As they cordoned off the surrounding streets several terrified motorists were still in their cars, caught up in the procession. We looked along the row of vehicles to see Scots cleaning car windows with scarves and offering the female drivers kisses and male ones slugs of whisky. One drunk fan, wearing nothing but a kilt did jump on one car to the alarm of the female motorist, probably because she saw more than a wee French fly squelch against her windscreen as the big man sat down. The drunk was quickly hauled off the motor and reprimanded and an apology offered to the driver. The Tartan Army has a very mysterious self policing policy in these instances which I won’t even begin to try to explain.

 

Once again, we couldn’t keep up with the mayhem, we needed a seat and it was getting cold. We had managed about 15 laps, so we hadn’t disgraced ourselves. We wandered away from the tented village with the words to ‘Doe a deer’ still rattling around our heads. Across the city the Norwegians, Scots and French were drinking and singing a more varied selection of songs in virtually every bar. After visiting another couple of pubs, we went on to a smallish night-club with a slippy dancefloor to dance or rather stumble the night away before leaving to somehow get our way home. Along the way, the Starfish even tried to convince a couple of Norwegians that ‘We’ve hud all yer burds up the dung-er’ was a traditional Scottish greeting.

 

As we walked along the road in the vague direction of where we thought the campsite might be, we drunkenly gazed up into stars in the clear night’s sky before looking across the skyline of splendid architecture in a city that we were rapidly growing very attached to.

 

Suddenly the prospect of enduring the Spinebastard2000s didn’t seem too agonising after all and to top it all off tomorrow it was Scotland’s chance to make up for the opening game defeat against Brazil. We were confident we were about to take that leap into the unknown that was the next round of the World Cup. After all, all we had to do was beat Norway. The Scots team was about to make footballing history and we were all here to see it.

 

 

 


Chapter 8                      SCOTLAND V NORWAY

 

DAY ELEVEN

Tuesday June 16th 1998.

 

‘They were polite, friendly, but most importantly happy to drink continuously without complaining about the price. A barman’s dream.’

 

Barman Julien at La Cafet, Bordeaux. 1998.

 

No’ exactly for the first time this fortnight, I woke up gently baking under the green canvas in a very fucked up position. For the last few hours I had been lying semi-paralysed on the side of my body on a patch of twenty-five millimetres of ground. My nose had been pressed so hard up against the side of the Spinebastard2000 that I had difficulty breathing. I coughed masel’ awake. Like that bit in Total Recall when Arnie has his nighmare about being on Mars wi’out his oxygen, I wis spluttering and struggling to find air. My lungs felt like they were about tae explode. It’s fair tae say ah would have had a sounder nights sleep if I went to bed in a fishtank.

 

With some difficulty, ah turned ma completely numb head round and looked at the conked-oot Starfish beside me. Like a puppet abandoned by a spoiled bairn, his freaky legs and arms were splayed along the floor. I strained my head further to look across to Spag at the other side of the Spinebastard2000, he was sitting bolt upright rubbing his back. Red faced, with all of his hair joined by static to the Spinebastard2000 roof, he was in the middle of yet another long and vitriolic session of swearing at the unconscious Starfish about the ‘lack of fuckin’ space’. Ah, the magic of camping!

 

The atmosphere within the BeastieWorld campsite was much better than within our Spinebastard2000 and already you could easily tell that match day had finally arrived. There was a great deal of excitement in the air and as we prised open our bleary eyes, and unzipped the canvas oven, we could see a few of the hardier Scots around us celebrating our success early and were tucking into various bottles of spirits for breakfast.

 

There was a distinct smell of barbeques, the sounds of laughter, and a thudding of people playing football, a huge stereo in a campervan was belting out ‘I have a dream’ and then about twenty pished folk going ‘WHEN DRREEEAAAMMS COME TRUUUUE’ in response.

 

A few of the even tougher lads were returning from braving the freezing cold water and surely numerous water-borne diseases of the camping shower block.  The tartan army was mobilising.

 

We quickly got ready and made tae get into the town. ‘Getting ready’ involved getting out of the tents and stretching for a bit. No need to bother with this dressing / undressing malarkey as we used all our clothes to keep warm during the night, and ye’d be a erse tae take yer chances in that shower block. Taxis were again proving elusive, but the sun was out and now in much better spirits we started walking in the general direction of downtown Bordeaux.

 

Luckily, a group of Scots in a hired Renault Espace stopped us shortly after we started our trek and kindly gave us a lift into the city centre. This is just as well, because by the time we would have got to the centre of Bordeaux, the opening cermemony for the 2002 World Cup would have been about to begin.

 

 These good Samaritans had come all the way from Canada for the Norway game and had a transatlantic Scots exiles accent that suggested they were here for the ‘soccer’ rather than the ‘fitba’. It was a real ‘them and us’ moment. Us – wearing the same clothes for a week, drinking a warm can of beer between us and looking like we had been experimented on by mad scientists and probably smelling like the contents o’ an out eh date can eh Tartan Special. Them – designer clothes, air conditioned hire car and sipping on ice cold cans of Coke. They dropped us off in the middle of the town outside a popular Irish bar called the Connemara.

 

The Connemara was in the middle of enjoying something of a boom in trade. Over the two days we were in Bordeaux, Scotland fans managed to get through one hundred and forty barrels of beer, this was apparently the normal supply for a year. The pub was already too full to get into so we sat down on a small grassy patch of land opposite and watched the mornings events unfold beneath the steadily rising sun. The large flag above the pub said ‘Jacques Chirac is a Scotsman’.

 

Scots were now gradually rising from various horizontal positions in the surrounding pubs and doorways. If you have ever seen Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ video, you’ll know what I mean. The tartan Daily Record bus was already in attendance and proving to be something of an attraction for the Scots fans and prurient locals alike. Further along the street a steamin’ Scotland fan was getting a ‘backie’ on a police bike.

 

Below us another Scotland fan was lying along across the road, using the flagstones of the kerb as his pillow. He had obviously been sleeping rough for a fortnight and it showed as well as smelled that way. He looked as though he had been beamed into 1998 from 1972 in a bizarre time travel accident. He was wrapped in a dirty denim jacket covered in greasy badges marking Scotland’s previous disastrous World Cup campaigns.  At the top of the jacket shoulders an ancient large discoloured tartan scarf dangled round his neck. Above the scarf a mass of wild swirling ginger sideburns festered, providing a dubious frame for an erratic ginger stubbly growth that was failing miserably to form itself into a beard. On top of what we supposed had to be his face was an amazingly outlandish ginger perm, probably doubling up as a cosy home for several woodland creatures. For some reason we christened him ‘Leeroy Long’.

 

We tried to chat to Leeroy for a bit but it was a thankless task. He was beyond the ways of polite conversation. As kick off approached, Spag – the only one of us with a ticket for the game – decided he had enough of this care-in-the-community stuff and was going to join the march to the Parc Lescure, the home of Girondins of Bordeaux, with the rest of the ticket holding members of the Tartan Army.

 

The rest of us decided we would head to a place called the Café Mondial, where apparently most of the rest of the ticketless Scotland fans were heading to watch the match. After the near disaster we had trying to watch the Brazil game on the big screen in Paris, we decided to make a move as early as possible to the Café Mondial. We said our farewells to Spag and arranged to meet him after the game. As we walked through the long tree-shaded streets it became obvious that the Starfish, big Deek and I had come all the way to the World Cup and were not actually going to be going to any of the games. We’re werenae going to be in the ground tae see that fabled ‘Special Moment’. For some reason we didn’t feel as though we were missing out on anything. It sounds wanky, but somehow the fact that we were here seemed to be enough for us.

 

As we headed in the direction of the Café Mondial, situated along the banks of the River Garonne, we walked through a large park, the Esplanades des Quinconces. At one end of the park a huge fountain, Le Monument des Girondins, reached far into the blue sky. The fountain, built in 1894, had a marble base peppered with enormous horses and other fantastic creatures sitting amongst the marvellous water sprays, it had now become the unofficial base for hundreds of Scots fans. Precariously scampering up the sides of the fountain, numerous supporters were tying flags displaying, in the best ‘Blind Date’ traditions, who they were and where they came from.

 

These were messages of deep cultural significance: 

 

‘ARCHIE fae ELGIN’ announced one flag

 

and

 

‘BOABIES BAR ARBROATH’ said another

 

As if drawn by a giant magnet, people started to be pulled away in large groups from the fountain as they headed towards the Quai des Chartrons, the location of Le Café Mondial. Rather than being a little café with tables and chairs as we had expected, the Café Mondial was actually the name given to the largest esplanade in Europe, consisting of a large fenced-off plot of land along the shore of the River Garonne. Numerous fast food outlets flanked the ‘café’ stretching far into the distance along the banks of the river. Looming at the quayside was an imposing grey battleship. Presumably the French navy was just as ready for the possible arrival of the English fans as the Bordeaux taxi drivers seemed to be. At the bottom of the ‘Café’ was an enormous screen that was going, we hoped, to show the game.

 

Although there was still an hour to kick off, the crowds were already building up. We edged our way closer and closer to the front of the Café. It felt like the main stage at T in the Park. We reached the large rectangular screen, which ominously was still showing no signs of life. Just in front of us, another game of fans football / combat was taking place. It was a similar style and quality to the bloodfest played underneath the Eiffel Tower. This time, with the park being made up of dusty soil and concrete rather than lush grass, the injuries were much more spectacular. Once again, the ball was battered off faces, nearby fast food stalls and the odd French navy battleship. Every five minutes or so a ball would land in the water and bob it’s way along the River Garonne, a lost momento of a misplaced backpass or outrageously ambitious shot at goal.

 

The screen flickered and everyone cheered. I held my breath, waiting for the inevitable black out, but it never came. As kick off approached the crowd behind us was reaching 10,000 and the flags were waving in the blue skies creating a spectacular swirling tempestuous sea of yellow and blue above our heads. The temperatures were getting incredibly warm and the wide brims of our silly tartan tophats were offering thankful protection from the scorching sun.

 

And then it finally happened. The game kicked off to cheers and roars from the crowd both crammed into the stadium and squeezed into the Café Mondial. Sprinkled around us there were a few Norwegian fans, their faces daubed in red and white, some of them wearing Viking helmets, but they were vastly outnumbered by the boisterous and confident Scots.

 

As the game settled into a pattern, that confidence appeared to be well placed as the yellow shirted Scots were pinging the passes about and creating chances, continuing where they had left off against Brazil.  With only four minutes on the clock, the busy John Collins had crossed the ball onto Christian Dailly’s curly heid, but it was a bit of a ‘biscuit tin’ effort at goal and the ball flashed agonisingly across the goalmouth with no takers. We were undoubtedly playing well and after nine minutes it was Dailly again who launched a searching cross into the box, which really should have been converted by one of the strikers. Surely it was only a matter of time before we got the first goal? After that went in, the floodgates would open and the Norsemen would be turning their Longships around and sailing back to Norway.

 

By now the Scots were firmly camped in the Norwegian half. The crowd ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ and bounced on tiptoes. Our hopes raised again as Gordon ‘Jukebox’ Durie cracked a shot at goal but we groaned and held our heads in our hands as the ball slipped just past the post. After twenty-seven minutes, the bustling Collins again shot at goal, but Grodas, the Norwegian goalie, pulled off a tremendous save.

 

As the half time whistle blew, the Norwegians were coming back into the game, but the Scots were largely well on top in terms of possession and efforts on goal. Everyone was happy with the performance as they headed off to the toilets and burger bars but that old problem of being unable to put the ball in the back of the net was obvious for us all to see.

 

On this particular strip of land in Bordeaux, ten thousand Scotsmen had now been drinking solidly in the sunshine for three to four hours. Simultaneously, ten thousand battles of the bladder were being waged as we desperately waited until half time before going to the toilet in case we missed any of the action. It was that sort of game. Unbelievably, there only seemed to be six portable toilets in the vicinity. You don’t have to be employed doing mathematical work for NASA to realise that for any one of the 10,000 drinkers wanting to go to the toilet, this is a rather unfavourable set of statistics. I was especially unhappy with the situation, as I have never been known for my camel-like ability to hold enormous amounts of lager inside me.

 

The queues to the toilets were now snaking back for what seemed like miles and a few of the more desperate fans obviously intended on taking a more alfresco approach. At the back of the six toilets was a small wall. By the side of a remote country lane in the rolling French countryside, this would have made an excellent toilet. Unfortunately this small wall happened to be in the middle of Bordeaux and whatsmore, patrolling along the wall were a couple of policemen and more worryingly, a couple of even more severe looking, and possibly very hungry, Alsatian dogs.

 

One of the fans in the queue obviously could take no more of this bladder holding torture, and began moving towards the aforementioned wall for a not so sneaky pee. I looked on in amazement at the great tufts hair, which seemed to be growing profusely from most parts of his body. The rest of the crowd looked on with the same curious admiration; he was probably just over five-foot tall, and was roughly the same width as he was high.

 

As he shuffled hairily towards the wall, he was issued with a severe ‘Non!’ of a reprimand from the nearby policeman who realised what he was trying to do, and a deep growl from the dog. It was a growl which seemed to imply that fang-related carnage was just around the corner. The small hairy man wisely made a full bladdered retreat; his face a study of abject frustration.

 

Not deterred by this setback, he began to pace up and down in front of the rest of the rapidly gathering group of queuing fans waiting for the portaloos. He raised his arms skyward as though seeking guidance from a higher being (perhaps Denis Law). I could almost see the hairs on his armpits grow another few inches. A small pink gap appeared amidst the hair towards the top of his body, From it, he spoke measured words of wisdom gleaned from years of supporting Scotland. It was words that dripped with perception and passion:

 

 ‘C’moan boays, wuv goat tae pish noo or wull miss the second hauf!’

 

Our hairy friend’s desperate but inspired cries did not fall on deaf ears and there was a growing murmur of support from the rapidly increasing ranks. Sensing that the crowd was on his side and that a momentum was being gathered, he bellowed what many of us took to be some form of traditional Highland clan greeting:

 

‘Furrrrrr-fugggggggg-ssssake…’

 

…They canny stoap us if we all go the-gither!’

 

As far as the great military plans of history went, this was right up there with the best of them. It was a suicidal ‘over the top’ charge into enemy territory that any World War One general would have been immensely proud of.

 

As he bristled in front of us looking for volunteers to head towards the wall with him for an open air pee, my head bowed in reverence and cowardice towards the ground. I briefly shut my eyes and visualised the angry police dogs.

 

Thankfully, more volunteers stepped forward and an eerie respectful silence descended amongst the fans. Soon a squad of about ten of the most desperate fans were edging cautiously towards the wall for a piss. Propelled by alcoholic confidence and safety in numbers they walked unsteadily in a line just behind their new hairy leader.

 

The two policemen patrolling this particular part of the Café Mondial were by now aware of the urination revolution in the air and were issuing stern ‘Nons!’ increasing in pitch and severity to this brave, steadily advancing guard of the Tartan Army. Meanwhile the dogs strained on their leashes, saliva dripping onto the parched ground from their gaping jaws.

 

The fans, as instructed by their hairy messiah, ignored the policemen and soon the bravest of the brave of these defiant full-bladdered heroes were lined up at the aforementioned wall. Like a well oiled machine, with the emphasis on well oiled, hands reached under kilts, and various tartans were lifted to reveal a row of various shaped and decorated buttocks to those standing behind them. Now I realise that Bordeaux may have been known to sailors from across the world as the Port de la Lune (the Port of the Moon), but this was just getting ridiculous.

 

 As the first drops of urine spilled onto the dusty ground, no-one was prepared for what happened next. The policemen decided they had no alternative but to let their dogs off the leashes! If this were a Hollywood epic about the Romans, a bloke in a toga would now have stood up in the coliseum and shouted ‘Let the games begin’.

 

The two police dogs, elated at their longed-for freedom from restraint, wildly charged along the scattering row of screaming Scots snapping at their most private of private parts. The dogs jumped towards midriffs and saliva looped through the air. Razor sharp teeth clamped and squelched together between muscular jaws. The petrified fans turned, holding their dicks, and ran for their lives.

 

In the general chaos the queue for the toilets became broken up as fans fled from the devil dugs, or unable to move, simply rolled about laughing at the sight that had somewhat unbelievably unfolded ten yards in front of them. In some cases those in the queue were literally pissing themselves.

 

The enforced laughter was taking a heavy toll on my now screaching bladder. I seized my moment in the confusion and elf-like I leapt along the queue leaving a trail of angry cries in my wake. Within an aggression filled minute I had barged, jostled, elbowed, kicked, spat, bit and shoved my way into the toilet.  After a good five minutes of high powered urination, I timidly ventured back outside the toilet. All was quiet.

 

It had been a bizarre episode, but it certainly gave me something to think about during the fifteen-minute interval before the second half started. Can you just imagine the phone call home to the wife if you were one of the poor guys in that initial line up that ‘met’ the dogs?  ‘Hello darling, the food and drink are excellent, the football is going ok, the weather is splendid, and, oh yes, I’ve had my penis bitten off by a French police dog’.

 

As the second half kicked off I went towards the back of the arena to get yet another overpriced cheese baguette to try and soak up some of the copious amounts of lager that I had been sinking.

 

As I waited in the winding queue I briefly glanced over the thousands of heads towards the direction of the distant screen at the front, only to see a couple of the red shirted Norwegian players celebrating wildly. Apparently without anyone noticing, including most vitally the entire Scottish defence and goalkeeper, Norway had just scored a goal! I later read that ‘Darth’ Vidar Riseth had provided the cross and Harvard Flo had put the ball in the net only thirty seconds after the re-start. Till this day, I have still not seen the goal, and I never really want to either. There are some moments in history that deserve no attention to be placed on them whatsoever, and this is one of them.

 

There were some isolated pockets of Norwegian fans at the front of the crowd but you couldn’t really hear them celebrating from where I was standing. Around me the atmosphere was eerie; thousands of people were watching the Norwegian players celebrate with their flailing arms in total silence. Is it a goal? Was it a goal? Yer Jokin’, Fucksake. It was like we were in a vacuum and it took a while for the goal to sink in. 

 

For ten minutes after the Norwegian goal, the Scots players looked as though they had never met each other before, the momentum of the first half had completely evaporated in the French sunshine as passes went astray and errors crept into the game. Eventually though, with all hope running out and the clock on the corner of the screen reading sixty-six minutes, the breakthrough finally came.

 

The gangling David Weir lofted a ball through the middle of the park towards the onrushing Craig Burley who in turn adeptly lobbed the ball over the advancing Norwegian goalkeeper. The ball bounced once and lifted ever so sweetly high into the net:

 

Goal !!!!

 

 

Ooooohyaaaaahfcknnnnnnnnnnnnbeauttyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

Burley ran off to slap the corner flag and give the cameras a huge trademark toothy grin. Meanwhile the Café Mondial was going absolutely bananas.

 

Just like at the Hotel de Ville back in Paris, fountains of beer sprayed into the air as people deliriously jumped about and wrapped their arms around each other. Foolishly, I turned around to try and take a photograph of the ecstatic faces and the hundreds of flags flying behind us. I couldn’t hold the camera up long enough as I was randomly jostled to the side by the chaotic marauding celebrations of the crowd.

 

One Scotsman in the crowd of 10,000 was however not celebrating. Towards our left, a statuesque chap in his late twenties was frantically yelling at everyone to ‘stoap bloody jumping about’. His hands were held out as though he was attempting to stop two lanes of traffic on a busy road.

 

For a worrying split-second I thought that the referee had blown for offside or something and that the goal had been disallowed. If that was the case then we were going out of the World Cup! I looked frantically at the screen, thankfully the Scotland players were still celebrating as they trotted back to the half way line.  I then looked back at the crowd around us. Everyone else at the Café Mondial was still jumping about like crazy. Small children in ‘jimmy hats’ were still being thrown several feet in the air by their over-enthusiastic parents, kilted men were still stage-diving from the foodstalls, and in the very far distance a hairy five foot tall man was finally, amidst the frenzy, relieving himself against a wall. 

 

Of course it was a goal!!!!

 

 The ashen-faced Scots lad beside us, with a frozen look of terror now playing across his face, slumped dejectedly onto his knees. No-one was paying him any attention, and who in their right mind would want to stop us long suffering Scotland fans celebrating a vital goal in the World Cup anyway?

 

The guy was now joined by a pal who adopted the same peculiar position by kneeling on his hands and knees. They both began patting the dusty soil with their hands. Some sort of weird religious cult? After the celebrations around us faded to a riot, we finally discovered that the lad was not starting the latest dance craze, but had managed to lose his wedding ring. Apparently the ring had flown off his finger at exactly the same time the ball was flying off Craig Burley’s boot and into the net.

 

Within another five minutes a large group of us around him, including a bunch of bewildered conscripted Norwegians, were on our hands and knees and methodically stroking the dusty ground looking for the elusive ring. It must have been a strange sight for those outwith the immediate vicinity. We were losing any vague hope we had of finding the ring and our attention was beginning to revert back to the match on the big screen. Suddenly the tension broke and a very large blonde Norwegian women shouted

 

‘I haf found it!’

 

There then followed a scene taken directly from ‘Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory’ when Wee Charlie finds the last Golden Ticket. Celebrations erupted again as the bloke ran around in manic circles hugging, kissing, shaking hands, and jumping on the backs of everyone within his trajectory.  Finally he reached his Norwegian heroine, whom he gave the biggest hug and kiss of the lot. If any more of this carried on, I’m sure his marriage would have been a much greater state of danger than merely arriving home without a wedding ring.

 

Our attention switched back to the game in front of us as we urged Scotland on to get that vital winner.  Sadly it was not to be, the game petered out and the points were shared. Over the piece Scotland played brilliantly and once again could count themselves genuinely unlucky not to come away with much more from the game. We had indeed gubbed them 1-1.

 

Although the World Cup dream was not over just yet, the atmosphere was a little flat as we filed out of the Café Mondial at full time, for me and most of the other fans the draw felt more like a defeat. However, the prospects of another mad night on the town in Bordeaux soon began to lift everyone’s spirits, As we walked en masse back towards the centre of the city, along the banks of the river Garonne, the game we had just watched became a mere shimmer of a memory in the dazzling sun.

 

By the time we got back to the large park at the Esplanades des Quinconces, once again you would have thought Scotland had just won the World Cup. Le Monument des Girondins fountain again became an epicentre of tartan chaos. It was meant to be a monument to the people of Bordeaux, a suitably spectacular showpiece of nineteenth century civic pride and a memorial to those executed Republicans called the Girondins. It may just as well have been a burst watermains outside a tenement.

 

‘Jump in if you hate England’ they sang, and jump in they certainly did. As the local photographers assembled round the fountain, many more fans joined in the aquatic madness. The front page of the local newspaper the next day had the fountain scene and the headline ‘Festival time in Bordeaux’.

 

Ah suppose I could let them off for their fountain antics this time, we had played much better than we did against Brazil, and after all we had a point in the bag.

 

We made our way back to the Place de Victoire, Spag was already seated at a tiny plastic table with a large bottle of beer, beside somewhat surprisingly, Big Murdie from Paisley and his brother. All three were enthusing about the way Scotland had played and the cracking atmosphere that had sizzled for ninety minutes throughout the stadium. Alarmingly, Spag appeared to have become good mates with the man who demolished our caravan and possibly tried to murder Jasperini and I.

 

On and around the small square outside the door the surrounding pubs were so full; the supporters were spilling out into the roads creating one large impromptu street carnival. I wasn’t so annoyed this time with everyone celebrating, it was a good game, we had played as well as I have seen a Scotland team play and were genuinely unlucky not to have won the match.  Looking back we began to think that a draw against Norway wasn’t the worst result in the world. We later found out that an impressive Brazil, with goals from Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Bebeto, had beaten Morocco 3-0. This means we would only have to beat or even draw with Morocco and we’d go through. Surely Scotland could do that? Nae Bother! As a safety valve there was no way that that Norway side would ever beat Brazil in the final group game.

 

It all seemed so simple and so obvious at the time, just beat Morocco and we’re through. Craigy Broons history makers! Lets have a party! Once again we ordered more drinks and soon were bopping along to the now perversely infectious Ole Ola (we’re gonna bring that world cup back from over thar’). 

 

‘We are bound for Buenos Aires, we don’t care what the fare is, only wish that we had Danny McGrain’

 

warbled Rod and a couple of hundred Scots and French

 

The atmosphere was getting more raucous as the night progressed. A stunning blonde French girl was at one stage spotted dancing on the shoulders of an incredibly ugly wee Scots fan. During a lull in the singing, she peeled her top off to reveal absolutely nothing underneath. Well there were definitely a couple of things there, but what I mean is that she was wearing no further clothes. The wee ugly fan underneath her looked up and grinned as wide as it is possible for a human to grin without their face splitting open. Moments later, several Scots clambered onto the long bar and started doing the can-can to the traditional Irn Bru Dario G song. Topless singers. Can Can dancers. Sunburn. Expensive Beer. Silly Songs – these were the things that the traditional World Cup holiday was meant to be all about.

 

By the end of the evening it was only Spag and I left in the pub, the other four had gone off in a lager fuelled pursuit of food. Quite accidentally, we found ourselves dancing with a couple of quite attractive but you have to say bewildered young French girls. Suddenly a photographer manhandling a huge camera appeared from nowhere on the dancefloor and told us to group together for a photograph. I would not have liked to have seen the state of myself and Spag when that photograph was taken. I’m sure the morning paper reader in Bordeaux would have been choking on their croissants if it was ever published.

 

Having said that, we couldn’t have looked all that bad as the girls asked us if we were hungry and would we like to go for something to eat. We looked at each other knowingly the way blokes do when they are drunk and completely misunderstand the situation.

 

The two of us were soon walking somewhat nervously along the old and ominously darkening streets with the girls. We passed a series of shuttered shops and graffiti strewn crumbling walls. We were definitely ‘in there’ as they say. The air was still a muggy warm and despite it being late at night we were still wearing shirtsleeves. We were walking steadily into another one of the less salubrious areas of the town. I was getting nervous. Were they prostitutes? Were they men?

 

The girls / ladyboys seemed to be walking with a greater haste than us. One of them turned round and unexpectedly blurted out: ‘Watch out for the blacks’.This all seemed a bit racist to us, but there did seem to be a lot of very mean looking black lads, each the size of a Ford Fiesta, coming from the alleyways down the side of the street. The girls explained that in this particular part of town these guys often carried knives and were looking to start fights over very little. Oh yes and they didn’t like outsiders. Magic! Looking around, they definitely did not seem the type that would be placated by the soothing charms of two drunken Scottish central belt wasters and their amusingly tall tartan hats.

 

Although I tried to explain to Spag that I had already dealt successfully with a similarly racially explosive situation in a nightclub in Paris, we walked a bit faster. We were aware that for the first time on the holiday we were completely detached from the rest of the Scotland fans and completely on our own in a strange city.  The situation was becoming more dangerous than reading a pop up book about giraffes.

 

Thankfully, we quickly ended up in the pleasantly smelling sanctuary of a small baker’s shop. ‘We live here’ the girls said as we arrived at the bakers. I was absolutely delighted, it is something of a fantasy of mine to live in a bakery and wake up every morning to the smell of freshly baked warm bread with my girlfriend covered in flour. Sadly, I then noticed that she wasn’t actually pointing to the bakery at all but at a foreboding run-down dingy staircase across the road. It was however still a ‘nudge, nudge, wink, wink’, moment. Up the pitch dark flight of stairs we all went, set for entry into Le Nookie parlour.

 

The door of the flat opened into an old fashioned, tiny kitchen with a chunky wooden table and a couple of rickety chairs. I was pretty relieved to see there was no pimp covered in bling  behind the table or any sort of sex torture dungeon next door. As we filed into the flat, we could hear some snoring and were informed that another couple was lodging in the adjoining room. Since we had met them, the girls were asking us many questions about where we had been on our travels and what we thought of France and Bordeaux in particular. We sat down and had a drink and chatted in a sort of uneasy Franglais for a bit.

 

As the night wore on and they told us that they were so poor that they had not even been as far as Paris before, we were feeling a bit guilty looking for some shaggin’ action when they were obviously just fascinated in finding out more about us and where we came from. We were just their window into the outside world and that was all! We continued chatting in a rambling way for what seemed like ages, and were getting ready to say our excuses; we were after all some miles away from the BeastieWorld.

 

Finally, as we were preparing to leave one of the questions put a completely new perspective on the evening: 

 

‘What do you eat for breakfast?’ they asked!

 

Breakfast? We were staying here tonight after all!!I mean why would she want to cook us a breakfast if we were not staying the night? Ya beauty!!! We had totally misread the situation; they obviously did want our bodies. Spag looked at me like a ten-year-old schoolboy, who had just found a porno in a hedge,

 

‘For breakfast? Oh, anything at all, I mean don’t go to any bother’ we stammered thinking of possibly of warm croissants and a mug of coffee.

 

The girls looked slightly bemused.

 

I glanced lecherously around the minuscule flat, working out the logistics as regards to the location of the night’s forthcoming activities; I certainly didn’t fancy seeing Spag naked. God, maybe the sex chamber was downstairs??

 

The girls then asked,

 

‘And what do you have for a meal in the middle of the day?’

 

Shit.

 

‘And at what time do you have an evening meal’.

 

F*ck.

 

They weren’t proposing a ‘physical’ strengthening of the Auld Alliance. They were simply asking us general and you have to say scintillating questions about the nature and form of the British diet. It finally dawned on us that there would be no nookie in Bordeaux this evening.

Despite our drunken, fumbling advances, we had absolutely no chance!

As we finally stumbled blearily into a taxi bound for the BeastieWorld, we finally managed to laugh at our simple linguistic misunderstanding. As I lay back in the seat I came to the conclusion that Bordeaux had been one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life and I was more than a wee bit sad that we had to leave and go back up to the sometimes soulless experience that was Paris with no money.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 9                    HOW COME YE SPEAK SO GUID FRENCH?

 

‘The World Cup is a party for our city and at parties the guests should be allowed to relax, drink and sing if they wish’.

 

Commissaire Principale Aminote CRS.

 

DAY TWELVE

Wednesday June 17th 1998

 

As we packed up the Spinebastard2000s we were not at all unhappy at the prospect of finally leaving the BeastieWorld campsite. The various carnivorous insects had taken their toll and we were now covered in a series of little itchy bites. I was vaguely aware that I was now a host for a variety of diseases and ailments brought on by their gnashing little bastard French teeth.

 

We were, however, desperately sorry to be leaving the city of Bordeaux. In two days we had fallen in love with the place. The weather had been brilliant, the people brand new and the atmosphere simply unbelievable. Many Scots were understandably staying put for a few days before making the next leg of the World Cup journey further South to St. Etienne for the game against Morocco. Fur us though, our time was very nearly up.

 

As we sat in the taxi going back into the centre of town, we wished we were going to be part of the Tartan Army for the final group game. We had come so far together and it seemed a shame not to see things through at least until the Morocco game. Logistics and basic financial constraints were weighing against us. We were due on the TGV back to Paris that afternoon, and had already bought the return tickets to go back to Scotland on Saturday. Most of us were starting work the following Monday and the Morocco game wasn’t going to be played until the Tuesday. Most tellingly of all, we were now well and truly skint. It seemed as though for now at least, our memorable time in France was coming to an end. It was nearly time to go back to the safe, sane, real world.

 

Once again the sun came out early in the morning and shone brilliantly down on the city for the rest of the day, flooding the buildings and parks in more golden sunshine. It’s true, places do look better in the sunshine, which obviously accounts for your Cumbernaulds and places like that back home. As we peered out of the rolled down taxi windows on the way into the town, it became obvious that not all of the Scots had made it back to the campsite, many slept wherever they stopped drinking and were now just about regaining consciousness. One of the guys I later heard about had driven to Bordeaux with a couple of mates in his car. On arriving they experienced the same accommodation problems as ourselves and decided that sleeping in the vehicle was the only option. After the alcohol-fuelled night on the town that followed the Norway game, the boys clambered into the car, somehow struggled into their sleeping bags, and fell soundly asleep. One of the lads who was propped up in the driving seat in his sleeping bag, was awoken early in the morning by a tapping at the driver’s window from a concerned policeman.

 

‘I’m sorry, you can’t park here, you’ll have to move the car’ he said reasonably, surveying the car sitting on the busy pavement outside the entrance to the city’s main shopping centre.

 

While still under the influence of alcohol, the driver simply turned the key in the ignition and started moving off whilst still sitting in his sleeping bag. He rolled the car off the pavement; narrowly missing a couple of people, a post-box and a small poodle called Claude, and joined the busy traffic on the roundabout. No doubt there were many other stories of a similar nature to be told across the city this morning.

 

We got out of the taxi but realised that we were some hours early for the train to Paris. We then drifted through the pedestrianised squares and tree shaded streets of Bordeaux and wandered along shopping precincts occasionally meeting and nodding knowingly to other dregs of the Tartan Army. We walked past the old stone buildings, passing the impressive Cathedral of St-André at place Pey-Berland. At one point a large North African gentleman, for some reason wearing a Falkirk top, woke up and flashed a huge toothy smile at us from a bench, it was that sort of place.

 

We reached the park that we had once considered breaking into, and had a kick about with a bunch of local kids; the game finished pretty quickly as we exhaustedly slumped to the grass for a breather. When we recovered from the tanking we had taken from the 12 year olds, we took one of the bendi-buses back in the direction of St.Jean train station and then headed north once again to the Paris parking space.

 

If we were feeling a wee bitty low at the prospect of leaving the hedonistic lifestyle and tingly warm sunshine of Bordeaux for a three-hour train journey into a predictably rainy Paris, our spirits soon raised when we realised whom our travelling companion was to be. To our absolute amazement and delight we were sitting in the same carriage as Leeroy Long, the ginger guy who slept on pavements. If it was possible, his tartan scarf, denim jacket and massive ginger hair were even dirtier than before. There seemed to be flies orbiting his head and a cloud of dust beside him, like ‘Pig Pen’ in Charlie Brown.

 

Leeroy was carefully cradling a small bottle of lager and desperately attempting to chat-up a very attractive young French lady who had the misfortune to find herself sitting beside him. Quickly and as discreetly as possible, we shuffled up the seats in the carraige to within earshot of Leeroy.

 

He was doing a good job of terrifying the rather posh girl, but mainly due to her politeness he was managing a stilted conversation of sorts. After about half an hour of cringing chat, there was a gush of silence from Leeroy punctuated only by the odd burp as he stumbled his way to the toilet, it smelled a little bit like he was too late. The poor girl seized her chance and started to chat away in what sounded like pleading French to an elderly woman sitting across from her. It was a real hostage situation.

 

Leeroy shortly returned in silence to his seat and listened earnestly to the rabbiting French conversation for a bit. He then managed to butt into the chat to ask:

 

‘So, eh….tell me then doll, how come you speak so good French?’

 

I suppose, considering my aborted chat up lines to French girls, I shouldn’t really have exploded in laughter at this question, but I did. I saw the rest of the lads folding themselves over. Leeroy must have through this women came from Paisley rather than Paris.

 

‘Because, I am French’ replied the bemused girl.

 

‘Aw, I see’. The answer was processed in the relevant corridor of Leeroy’s brain and the silence returned temporarily.

 

The poor standard of questioning continued for three hours until we reached Paris. For the poor girl it was a journey from hell, but it certainly made the time fly by for us. We made sure we got a group photo with Leeroy at the station. By the time we got back to the Bois de Boulogne campsite we were well and truly shattered. The journey North meant that we saw no football that day. We learned later that Chile and Austria had stumbled their way to a 1-1 draw, whilst Italy had quite easily taken care of Cameroon with a goal from Di Biagio and two from Vieri.

 

Several months later, on our pal Jamie Fraser’s stag night in Edinburgh, we were sitting at a table in Greyfriars Bobby bar looking across and arguing about this vaguely familiar looking guy sitting at the next table. Jamie, by now half-cut and sitting in a convict’s outfit, didn’t have a clue what we were talking about.

 

‘It is him’ insisted Deek

 

‘It’s no’’ I said

 

‘Naw, it is’ said Deek

 

‘It isnae’ I said

 

‘Hoi Neeber, were you at the World Cup?’ shouted Deek, across the crowded smokey pub, displaying his usual statesmanlike diplomacy.

 

‘Em..Yeah’ came the timid reply.

 

IT WAS LEEROY LONG!!!

 

Wow! I looked across at him again with disbelieving eyes. He was now wearing a neat and obviously very expensive black polo-neck jumper and a pair of immaculate dark jeans. His tumultuous crag of ginger hair had been ruthlessly cropped and combed into shape. His monstrous sideburns had become slimmed down, jealously hugging the contours of his cheeks. Beside him sat a strangely familiar pretty woman. Surely it couldn’t be? I looked again at her; this would make some Tartan Army story. I triple-checked to make sure it wasn’t the girl on the train. Well, you would never guess what…It wasn’t!

 

Leeroy looked uneasily at us and shifted very awkwardly on his seat.  Despite talking for over an hour to us once we reached Paris, he obviously had absolutely no clue who we were and appeared rather bashful at being reminded about the World Cup. As he put on his large leather overcoat I thought he could easily have been an artist or a lecturer at the nearby University. Perhaps he had told his superiors he had been off for a fortnight to sample the left bank culture in the ‘City of Lights’?

 

Leeroy departed the scene as rapidly as he could, already fending off questions from his inquisitive partner and avoiding all forms of eye contact. You could tell that he was beginning to realise it hadn’t all been a big dream after all.

 

 

 
Chapter 10                  REVENGE OF LE GIRAFFE

 

DAY THIRTEEN

Thursday 18th June 1998

 

As I peeked out of the Spinebastard2000 early this morning, I realised after a couple of confusing seconds, that we had somehow made it safely back to Paris. A quick look left and right confirmed that there were no other Scots fans, not even Big Murdie from Paisley, to be seen anywhere. I began to untangle myself from the sprawling vines and branches that were the Starfish’s limbs, and went outside in order to peel off the many layers of clothing that had just about stopped hypothermia setting in during the night.

 

After the horrendous campsite in Bordeaux, our old friendly campsite in Paris, didn’t seem too bad after all, I was almost glad to be ‘home’. Sure, we still didn’t have any groundsheets, sleeping bags or pillows , but at least we had our washing line and hedges. Since our last visit, the Bois de Boulogne campsite had been transferred from a lager stained vomitorium to a clean and tidy site, ideal for a couple of nights of civilised European camping.  Compared to the rickety old wooden ‘shitteur’ in Bordeaux, the now sparkling toilet and shower blocks in our little corner of Paris were now positively appealing.

 

For the three days that we were in Bordeaux, we had not managed a single wash. The musty, sweaty and damp aroma within the Spinebastard2000s was now getting rather off-putting. With my underused towel in hand I stumbled across to the shower block, and met a five-foot ten inched bleary eyed human-like creature, like me he had dirty blonde hair, bloodshot eyes and thick gravelly stubble. It took me a couple of further seconds to realise that I was in fact looking in the mirror.

 

The Bordeaux experience, while great fun, had been a long and punishing few days of constant drinking and associated hangovers. We all generally agreed that we were looking, and indeed feeling, like death warmed up. ‘God, I could really do with some decent food’, I thought as I washed my gaunt face. My aching stomach rumbled in relentless agreement. After showering we decided to forego the campsite vending machine, and headed down to the nearby Macdonald’s for a more luxurious but costly breakfast. Most of us chose to have the imaginatively titled ‘Le Big Macs’, although Deek demanded the mysteriously titled ‘wan eh them’, which was ordered with the vague point of a gigantic finger to a board behind the petrified plooky French staff.

 

After very little deliberation, the Starfish, between mouthfuls of burger, announced that tonight was the night that he would ‘be firing in’ to the quite attractive waitress at Bar Bruxelles. The rest of us nodded in laddish support, the waitress had been possibly flirting with the Starfish on our last few visits, so it did not seem a totally impossible conquest.

 

A few hours later we were settled in the familiar surroundings of Bar Bruxelles. We caught the end of Denmark’s 1-1 draw with South Africa, goals coming from Neilson and McCarthy respectively, before ordering something to eat.The faces that had become familiar to us over the last week were all there, and many of them were keen to find out about our exploits in the South. The agenda for the evening was taking care of itself as we got another giraffe and the Starfish was making good quality eye contact with the chosen waitress, something like the way a lion views a zebra in the Serengheti. The Starfish was drinking a good bit quicker than the rest of us, which made my task of trying to teach him some lines of French all the more problematic, especially when my concentration was interrupted by his singing and then my frequent sorties to the Remington ElectroBog.

 

By the time the French game came on we were getting pretty drunk, the Café had filled up steadily and the people inside were much more animated and vocal in the support of their team that we had seen before. Could it be that even these cool, laid back Parisians were being bitten by the World Cup bug? Everyone certainly seemed to be drinking and smoking more in the build up to the kick off and they were much more friendly towards us and much more willing to talk about football, we were converting them! They were becoming Scottish!

 

The match itself was a convincing enough 4-0 victory for the stylish French over a defensive Saudi Arabia. Despite the talismanic Zinedine Zidane being sent off, two goals from the lightning quick Thierry Henry, and one a piece from Trezeguet and Lizerazu sent the French flying into the second round with two convincing victories, scoring seven goals in the process and not yet conceding a goal. There was a growing feeling in the bar that this French team could go on and win the World Cup, but of course we reminded them that to achieve this, at some point in the tournament they would first of all have to beat Scotland.

 

The drinks were by now flowing quicker than ever and by the full time whistle we had generally seen more giraffes that a six month safari. The Starfish, who now had more than his fair share of Dutch, or should that be Belgian courage, was continuing to make steady eye contact with the chosen, ‘victim’, I mean waitress.  The waitress herself told us that she was heading down the road to big Trevor Macdonald’s bar after her shift. It was as obvious a come on as you could wish for. At this point she might have winked at the Starfish, or it might have been her slight squint. Nevertheless, the rest of us, thinking of the Desperados drinks, thought a trip to the bar was a great idea and also an ideal chance to witness the allegedly magical pulling powers of Starfish.

 

When the time came to make a move, the Starfish hauled himself up the side of a table, only to discover that his legs were made completely of some sort of liquidised rubber. He buckled and collapsed back onto the chair. His giraffe intake was beginning to take its toll and it became obvious that he would have to be escorted home. As a couple of the boys poured the Starfish into a glass and took him back to the Spinebastard2000s, we said our final farewells to Bar Bruxelles and they said farewell to their delinquent adopted sons.

 

The few of us that made it on to Trev’s were nearly treated to a smile from the big man. Never the most welcoming, big Trev greeted us with a slight nod, this was unprecedented behaviour from the newsreader-lookalike and a sign that we were welcome back any time. Towards the end of the night, we even got a free drink from him. Our night, indeed our holiday, was now complete and we staggered back to the slightly smelly green canvas wonderland we now knew as ‘home’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 11            COMING HOME

 

The races o’er, they hail the dools,

Wi’ drink o’ a’ kin-kind;

Great feck gae hirpling hame like fools,

The cripple lead the blind

 

Robert Fergusson (1773)

 

DAY FOURTEEN

Friday June 19th 1998

 

Friday arrived agonisingly slowly. It was another too long, too uncomfortable and too cold night in the Spinebastard2000s. Any heat that we could muster came from Deek’s credit card, which was now perilously close to melting. I lay sleeplessly very early in the cold, dark morning, waiting for dawn and looking up at the dull green tent roof and a small black insect trying to penetrate the fine mesh above me. I felt as though I had been born in this bloody tent. I am a World Cup refugee. Ah’m no well.

 

I was acutely aware that we had now been drinking solidly and living more or less rough for a fortnight – some relaxing holiday this eh? Maybe we would look back and laugh one day, but certainly not tonight. Throughout the evening, coughs had barked and rattled out of our chests as we tried to get to sleep. Our backs, legs, necks and arms, due to the variety of rocks and pebbles that had made up two weeks worth of ‘bedding’, ached dully through the day, the pain was only eased when a blessed unconsciousness took our minds briefly back to the warm beds and friendly faces of home.

 

Closer to bankruptcy than ever after yesterday’s beer giraffe marathon in Bar Bruxelles, we decided that today we would stay near the campsite, watch the football at the rather souless local bar, and try to relax. Ha Ha! Relax! On this holiday? Very funny.

 

We probably had just about enough money between us to get to the train station tomorrow, but that was about it.  Unfortunately the two Group D games today did not turn out to be particularly enjoyable. We watched Nigeria go through to the last sixteen as they beat Bulgaria 1-0 with an Ikpeba strike, although it could all have been different if Stoichkov didn’t miss a late sitter and Kostadinov’s shot hadn’t thudded off the bar.

 

For the evening match we then huddled together in the cold campsite bar to watch Spain and Paraguay play out a drab 0-0 stalemate.  It was a match with few highlights, perhaps notable only for Chilavert’s spectacular leaping save from a first half Raul exorcet.  As the sun set over the campsite, and once again, the now familiar skyline of Paris faded into a black anonymity behind the trees, we agreed that things had worked out not too badly in the end. With hindsight, our big breakthrough that started us on the road to recovery was the buying of the Spinebastard2000s. Over the course of the fortnight, our only real regret was not staying longer in Bordeaux. We had overcome the twin nadirs of homelessness and poverty and had resurrected the holiday into something of a memorable one.

 

Not long now lads, we were going home!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY FIFTEEN

Saturday 20th June 1998

 

In a rare act of foresight and planning, which must now be officially recorded as a stain on our otherwise unblemished record of stupidity, we had left the majority of our clothing in the luggage lockers at the Gare Du Nord station on our return from Bordeaux. We simply took out enough clothes tae last us until we were leaving Paris on the Saturday. Genius.

 

On the Saturday morning, for a final time we carefully rolled up the tents and began to clear up the patch of grass and pebbles that we had managed to survive on for a fortnight. As we scrambled around the campsite one final time looking for our respective boxer shorts and towels, we were all very aware that we were rapidly coming to the end of what had been a very interesting, not to say somewhat unique, holiday.

 

As we walked along the path past the reception for the last ever time, we had a final lingering look at the campsite that held so many memories for us. We took the connection bus to the Metro for a final time, and we talked about that fateful Saturday night, was it really only two weeks ago? In some respects it seemed like a lifetime away yet it was all so vivid. We had become a small part of Tartan Army history; we had provided another tale to weave into that rich tapestry of legendary nonsense and capers

 

On the train from Paris to London and then back up to Scotland we played cards and without enthusiasm drank a little bit more, but this was it, it was all over at long last. Praise the Lord!  We had accomplished the big dream that took us to France. We had been to watch Scotland at the World Cup, and maybe only half of us had been literally there in the stadium, but we had all been through this together. In the end, we didnae get our ‘Special Moment’ though. Our World Cup memory in 1998 wasnae to be of the highs of an Archie Gemmil or Davie Narey wondergoal, nor was it even to be the lows of a defeat to Costa Rica. What we would take from this holiday was that we had survived two weeks in a tent when we originally expected the hot watered, electrified, comfy bedded luxury of a campervan. We might remember John Collins penalty against Brazil or Burley’s lob against Norway, but much more vivid to us in 50 years time will be Big Murdie from Paisley’s feet and that bloody face at the caravan door.

 

 A combination of those memories and drinking for a fortnight made me feel distinctly unwell. I shut my eyes again and as the train rattled over the Border. Someone cheered. I dreamed of getting as far away as I could from Deek, Spag, Starfish, Jasperini and Godfrey. We all felt the same. I dozed into a restless sleep of sort and visualised sleeping for more than four hours a night, I dreamed of drinking a cup of tea, having a proper shower and most importantly of all, changing my underwear.

 

Who cares about the World Cup, I was going home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Postscript

 

Tuesday 23rd June 1998.

 

Tonight we were safely settled in the shitey and tragically comforting surroundings of the Oxgang.  As had become the accepted tradition in the last couple of weeks, we were dressed for the match by wearing our recently cleaned Scotland tops. Eagerly we waited, along wi’ the rest of the country, for the proceedings of the Scotland – Morocco game to unfold before our eyes on the big screen above us.

 

The pub conversations babbled and pulsed all around us. Pished Portonians giving their analysis of the tournament, Craigy Broon’s team selections, those fuckin’ peroxide blonde hairdos. Those poor stay at home punters innocently watching the games from their local eh?. Full tae the brim with a fanciful optimism that was never going to be fulfilled. As I surveyed the foam spilling out of the slashes in the maroon leather bench seats and the nicotine stains indelibly marked on the walls eh the pub, it all seemed several light years away from standing on the banks of the River Garonne wi’ a bottle of wine, or sitting on the grass underneath the Eiffel Tower. Despite the dramatic change of setting, our dreams and hopes for the fitba team and the boys proudly wearing the dark blue battle uniforms had not changed in the slightest.

 

Of course, despite our less than blistering performances so far,this was Scotland’s big chance tae make it into the next round of the World Cup for the first time ever. On the face of it, this isny exactly a spectacular ambition really in terms of world football, but it had proved to be an insurmountable hurdle in the past. Deep down everyone else in the pub really believed that this was finally going to be the night that we would make history.

 

The match kicked off, and we were once again transported intae that magical never never world of hope and fantasy that is Scotland playing in the World Cup. Mebbes? For the next hour and a half we stood, and then sat, then swore and then moaned with the rest of the pub as things began to go pear shaped for Scotland. The atmosphere was becoming increasingly uneasy; we should be hammering this mob surely? This plainly wisny go’an tae happen and the North Africans were proving to be a skilful and strong side. At the back of our minds we thought that this could all be our fault, if we hadny abandoned ship and came home, the boys wouldn’t be in this predicament.

 

By half time I knew that once again it just wasn’t to be, by full-time my worst fears were comprehensively confirmed. By the time Craig Burley, the hero of the Norway game, was sent off, it was blatantly obvious that the rest of the Tartan Army would be following our footsteps back home a lot quicker than they would have either wanted or expected. This time the performance wasn’t even a Braveheart style glorious defeat, but a pure and simple 3-0 gubbing. The Moroccans had darted and danced around the pitch and left our players almost embarrassingly in their wake. Somehow the Scotland team looked older, like shells of themselves, almost past their sell by date, it was as though they had used up every ounce of energy in the first two games and now had nothing in reserve for the final push.

 

As we sat on the seats by the window, gradually becoming shrouded in the funereal atmosphere that descended on the pub like a mist after the game, we had a final drink to help erase the agony of the teams’ disappointingly inept performance. Elsewhere in the pub the arguments were already starting amongst the well-oiled drinkers about who should have been in the team, and who the next manager should be. We didn’t want to enter into those debates; we simply sat and thought of what could have been.

 

To make matters worse, the news filtered through that that pish Norwegian team had beaten Brazil  2-1. Rekdal (as in examination) scored a penalty in the last minute. It’s jist no fair. They were a lot more shite than us and they beat Brazil.

 

When you are living constantly with each other like we had been, the need to talk all the time slowly diminishes until you can reach a stage when you almost know what the other are thinking and feeling. Over the last few days we had got to know each other a whole lot better, but I think we all agreed that we would appreciate a short break from each other to aid the recovery process! As grief counsellors say, ‘we would talk about it in our own time!’

 

The next day, as seems to be the norm in a country that can at times revel a bit too much in it’s own self pity, the papers were full of the traditional woe and dour navel gazing that follows Scotland’s early World Cup exits. How come in a nation of 5 million folk, it’s the same 10 fannies that call Daily Record hotline every day?  As we watched the other games over the next couple of weeks from the comfort of our respective armchairs and local bars, we began to realise just what we had been through in the last couple of weeks. The news reports from France managed to convey something of the atmosphere, but we more than anyone else knew they only scraped the surface.

 

All of the twenty thousand or so Scotland fans who went to France each have a story to tell, we began to realise that we had not a bad little tale either. It took a few further months to pass before we could come to terms with what had actually happened that summer and even more months before all the debts were squared up and associated loans paid off, pints returned in kind and visa bills seen to.

 

I don’t want to get all ‘Stand By Me’ on you, and suggest that our trip to the World Cup in 1998 was something of a ‘rites of passage’ for the six boys who were there. Sure, we still go out and get blootered and talk incessantly about football, ‘the burds’ and booze. We probably won’t stop doing that. We may even go on holiday together again (but I doubt it!), and no doubt if we do we will still suffer a similar catalogue of excitements along the way. But I just get the feeling that things have changed for good: the Starfish has produced a little Starfish, Godfrey and Spag both are settled with girlfriends, Jasperini is down south and wining and dining and no doubt wooing Mrs Jasperini with tales of the day he fought a poisonous banana travelling Brazilian spider. Maybe there is more to life than football, at least for just now.

 

Even if we don’t talk to each other ever again, we still have a common memory of a very uncommon couple of weeks. In the years to come we will still look back with a wry smile to 1998 and the stories that we can pass on through the generations. Despite the trials, tribulations, tears and tantrums, we can now look back and tell anyone who wants to listen, that ‘we were there’ and no-one, not even Big Murdie from Paisley, is going to take that away from us.

 

Oh aye, and needless to say Scotland finished bottom of their group…. again.

 

                        P  W   D  L   F  A   Pts

Brazil                3   2   0   1   6   3   6

Norway 3   1   2   0   5   4   5

Morocco            3   1   1   1   5   5   4

Scotland            3   0   1   2   2   6   1

 

 

 

 

 

The End

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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