So, the last two weekends with the Scotland Writers team were pretty amazing. Gothenburg and Vienna, two lovely but contrasting cities – tidy, calm, designed vs sprawling and historically stratified. Our hosts for both trips were hugely friendly, the hospitality excellent – whether it be the astonishing seafood platter in the Dubliner pub in Gothenburg washed down with Pripps lager or the wienershnitzel and Schremser at Vienna’s beautiful Palmenhaus or the welcome post-match cans of Ottakringer awaiting us in the dressing room.
The literary contributions were fascinating, funny and uniformly well received (but if I have to mention highlights – Billy Letford’s performance in Vienna’s Buchkontor (pop in if you’re there, it’s a great wee shop) was astonishing). Great mix of fictional and non-fictional, football and non-football too.
And to the football itself. I think we can put the whole experience down a team getting to know itself. The first game we looked and played like strangers and were royally routed (9-2 FFS!) by a much more switched on Swedish side. The second game, with only a handful of changes in the squad, saw a much more focussed performance. Tight in the first half, but taking control in the second and running out worthy 1-3 winners in the end. It may have helped to have Aberdeen legend and crime writer Arild Stavrum as an out ball, but the overall performance throughout the squad was quality. It was a genuine honour to be part of the whole thing and I treasured every minute I was on the pitch in both games.
- Wearing Davie Cooper’s number 11 shirt in Sweden, even if left wing has never been my position.
- Prawn mountain in the Dubliner.
- Singing Flower Of Scotland accompanied by a Swedish bagpiper.
- Breakfasting on kirsh strudel in the Naschmarkt.
- Playing on the same pitch where Wiener SK beat Juventus 7-0 (okay, in the 50s).
- And its Cemetery Stand.
- Great craic with everyone involved in both escapades.
So two internationals in a week, done. These legs, but? Stiff as old wood.
So, worth it though.