Monday, 25 April 2016

Greatness, Andy Warhol, Andy Murray et al and my Mother.

Apart from the apogee of my well documented  rugby and footballing playing days my achievements in life have struggled to reach even a modest level. 

I may have missed out on greatness for myself, but I have taken substantial consolation  -  if in not quite touching shoulders with 'the greats' -  being in places associated with or visited by some of the great heroes. This is particularly true of hotels where I have taken a room. 

Last year I stayed at the Walcott Hotel in Manhattan in order to attend a family wedding in Central Park. Almost 60 years before I rested my head on a pillow at The Walcott, it offered lodging to Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers when they were recording at the nearby Beltones studios. A little earlier in 1904, the hotel was the New York residence of Mark Twain. 

I have not always so widely missed the target of being in the same hotel at the same time as one of the colossi of our culture. Some years ago when I stayed at the Puente Romano Hotel in Marbella the concierge informed me I had missed Sean Connery by only a week and that Prince Charles was due the following week. ( I accept I may not have universal support for counting our future king as a cultural icon).  

Apart from an event I will describe later, the closest I ever came to being in engaged company with one of my heroes while in the same location, was when I saw Vaclav Havel in El Quijote, a Spanish restaurant in Manhattan then used by the guests at the Hotel Chelsea next door. The Hotel Chelsea where for about a week I was once in residence had at one time or another been the resting pad for Arthur Miller, Dylan Thomas, Bob Dylan, Shirley Clarke, Andy Warhol, Willem de Kooning, Patti Smith, Brendan Behan, Jasper Johns and many more cultural titans. I should not forget in this Chelsea list the tragic Nancy Spungen and Sid Vicious.  

I am relating these arguably non-events at hotels because -  as part of my recent 70th birthday celebrations (?!) -  my children generously provided us with a night's stay including dinner and breakfast at Cromlix House, a country hotel near Dunblane. The hotel is owned by Andy Murray. The rural setting of the hotel was magnificent and though the hotel was full, the atmosphere was so relaxed and peaceful we decided to stay for an additional night.  

To be sure that we shared the ether with greatness, on our first evening we slept in the Sean Connery Room and on the second evening we slept in the Arthur Conan Doyle Room. The major disappointment of our stay for me was that Andy did not personally wait upon us at the dinner or breakfast table. Furthermore despite there being two superb tennis courts in the hotel grounds, he couldn't find time to work out with me over a couple of sets. He seems to have been too busy enjoying parenthood  as well as playing in a tournament in Miami.

Even so I don't think I'd be telling you all this if I hadn't noticed this morning in the pages of The Scotsman (a newspaper I  infrequently read) that the Cromlix House Hotel had been voted "The Most Luxurious Hotel" in Scotland. Further on in the article I read that Balbirnie House Hotel in Markinch, Fife had been voted both Wedding Hotel of the Year and also the Scottish Hotel of the Year. This is noteworthy because it was there in 1994 my sisters, my brother in law, my wife and I enjoyed a family lunch with my mother to celebrate her 70th birthday. This was an occasion upon which I truly shared with one of 'the greats'.

For all kinds of reasons my mother is a legend. More of that another time.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Happy times: my playing days with Dundee Football Club and the Scotland rugby team.

A great deal of frustration together with the exercise of tolerance comes with the lot of being a Dundee FC supporter and a Scotland rugby supporter : a few wonderful 'highs' and perhaps an excess of 'lows' and yet it's good to look back on the happier times.

I was clearing out our garden shed the other day and came across these three photographs that brought back some memories of happier days. The photos which were copies of press cuttings my grandson had collected are not as clear as they should be. They've been damaged by the damp atmosphere in the shed but I publish them here for general interest and as curios of unique events in Scottish sporting history.

You'll remember that a few seasons ago I scored a number goals for Dundee FC. You'll see below a photo of me spinning away in celebration just after I'd volleyed in a beauty for Dundee against United.

The following season I returned to playing rugby and you can see me here in action at Murrayfield. You'll note that I'd had to do a lot of work pumping iron to get my physique right for the upper body stresses of modern international rugby.

What was most extraordinary - you may recall the stir it created in the press and on the radio and TV at the time - is that both my grandsons, S and J played in the same sides with me at Dens Park and Murrayfield. It was the first time that a grandfather and his grandsons had played simultaneously at both senior football level  for Dundee FC and for the Scotland rugby side. In the photo above my grandsons can be seen playing in support of me as I begin to throw the pass that led to the winning try.

The final photo shows the three of us celebrating a goal in the victory which led to Dundee winning the Scottish Premiership.

Proud days for us.


Photographs  © 2015   SST

Published 1.4.16


Noel Howard writes
Nice to see your sporting exploits on the blog and also as John Burton said, so modestly put. I see the Dandy makes an appearance on a recent my book no education is complete for those who were not fortunate enough to have waited eagerly every week for the Beano, Dandy, Lion, Tiger et al......soap operas for kids but the difference being good triumphed (usually) over evil. If only we could be so certain today. Do you remember the 64 pagers ?

John Burton observes
I'm astounded, Charles. A sporting dynasty. An inspiration to us all. And so modest with it!

Emlyn Schiavone comments,

As Jimmy Nail once said :-  "Hang on to your dreams. It helps to get through the working week."