SATURDAY / SUNDAY 21st / 22nd MAY 2011
SATURDAY: Have I mentioned that I like Braemar? Possibly.
Friday evening was spent mainly
washing socks and pants enjoying life in the Fife Arms, sitting on my backside with pints of Guinness, with my back leaning against the back of a chair.
Lord Elpus has this theory about the importance of various discoveries in man’s evolutionary zeal to haul himself out of the primordial soup to become Earth’s top predator. Had it not been for a few ground-breaking “Eureka” moments, we would still be swinging from the trees eating bananas, dates and nuts; three of the foodstuffs that are on my “produce of death” list; so this topic is close to my heart:
The ground-breaking discoveries/inventions, call them what you will, are the internal combustion engine, the wheel and ……… the chair.
And the most important of these three (and you heard it here first, remember) is the chair. When man was fed up hunting for wild boar and dragging his woman home by the hair to cook the beast, he needed to relax. He tried lying down, but the ground was all lumpy and hard and besides, its very difficult to eat your lightly poached wild pork with a pomegranate jus, lying down. You can’t handle your antler cutlery very easily from a horizontal position.
So, man invented the chair. Everything else then followed logically: The wheel was invented to transport the chairs around more easily and the natural next step was the internal combustion engine, which made the job a whole lot more fun. All modern infrastructure that followed; roads, rail, television and table dancing, all were simply logical adjuncts to the invention of the chair.
But this does not explain why Braemar holds such fascination to a Challenger. Braemar is a highlight of a Challenger’s itinerary as it has three vital ingredients that make it an essential place to pause awhile and take in the surrounding splendour.
As all ‘O’ Level students of a certain age (and of things Geographical) will be able to tell you, Edinburgh is renowned for its Biscuits, Books & Beer; Dundee for its Jam, Jute & Journalism. And so Braemar has the good fortune to be hallowed for its Highland Gathering, Hungry Highlander and Highland Flings.
The Highland Gatherings have traditionally been held in the presence of Her Madge and her family & hangers-on but lately the place has become far more famous for the TGO Challenge hitting town. The Hungry Highlander is the almost mythical fish & chip shop whose wonderful ladies sell freshly battered fish, the size of those landed in “Jaws”.
In more recent history, the Flings have been provided by the Moorfield Hotel and it’s Resident Rock Band: Bingo Wings; self-styled “Braemar’s Best Rock Band -Braemar’s Only Rock Band.”
So after a day of supping fine Assam Teas and Arabica Coffees, with just the occasional Guinness, the Challenge throng decamps from the Fife Arms and makes its way, lemming-like, to the Moorfield, to sing and dance until the band runs out of songs. This year, Bingo Wings played requests, over the mobile telephone, to absent friends, so they too could leap up and down to the last number of the night; Blur’s “Song 2” – WHOO HOOO! (You have to get through the Advert first – but well worth it!)
SUNDAY: Okay, perhaps Sunday morning could have been a little better, but the head soon clears and the awful flash-backs recede with the medicinal application of a few measures of the Black Stuff. By lunchtime, Challengers are up-for-it once more and so a last trip to the Hungry Highlander is made, for a settling haddock, before nipping back to the campsite to drop the tents and to continue the Braemar Pilgrimage to Lochcallater Lodge.
This is an easy step up the golf course road and a gentle climb up the Rover-road. Nothing too out-doorsy and you are soon in the womb-like warmth of what is still affectionately known as “StanAndBill’s”.
To everyone’s great sadness, since last year, Stan passed away and his son, Ross, has stepped up to the plate to join Bill in entertaining scores of passing Challengers and offering teas, cake and if they are prepared to stop over, a bit of a party. This year the party was an emotional affair as we all remembered Stan. He was a bloody lovely bloke. He will not be forgotten.