It seems an age ago now the last
weekend in October, Halloween in the air, and a mixed bunch of Showcase types packing into
various cars to head off for the annual weekend of fun, frolics and a small sweet sherry
or two. The last few years weve headed North Stonehaven, Pitlochry, Kenmore
and Perth, so this year it was time another direction was the poor unsuspecting town.
Peters footballing days with Gala Fairydean provided the inspiration
lets hit Gala!
The first thing everyone seemed to note on arrival was the fact that
the hotel seemed perfectly equipped to deal with us. At first glance little more than a
pub with some bedrooms on top, further examination revealed three bars to choose from!
Lets set the scene:
Conservatory Bar: stuck in an eighties time-warp, a surprisingly chilly
and atmosphereless selection of formica-topped tables and chrome furniture.
Lounge Bar: large, comfy, typical country hotel lounge bar. Fills up on
Saturday lunchtimes with a clientele of old ladies taking a break from their shopping for
scampi or steak pie.
Public Bar: dartboard, linoleum, three drunk old men. And one of them
was behind the bar.
So on Friday night we all went for a pub crawl. Except some of us never
left the hotel....
We started out in the Conservatory, which is where we were fed
Kirsty and Peter had negotiated us a great rate on good value bar suppers, which were soon
disposed of. A few pints later, lets all head through to the lounge bar, for more
pints and convivial company. Then the itchy feet set in, and some headed off to the bright
lights of Gala, whereas a lot of us decided to brave the Public Bar. This didnt seem
like a great move at first, until we discovered exactly how accommodating the barman was
willing to be first of all with choice of music on the sound system, and secondly
with the concept of closing time. First of all on went the "Kings and Queens of
Cool" CD all Dean Martin, Andy Williams and Shirley Bassey which was duly sung
along with. Then AJ produced a CD to strike terror into us... a recording of last
years show! If you werent there, think about this carefully. Did we a) pop on
a couple of highlights, b) leave it on as background music and chat, or c) relive the
entire show, sing along at the top of our lungs, perform dance routines and clap our way
through "Hey Jude"? Is that your final answer? I can tell you that if youd
answered c), youd have been correct! At this point a special mention has to go to
the honorary Andrews Sister, Brian. Joan and Zoe had to toot-toot-salute their way through
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, but there was no Marjorie so Brian obliged, and what a
star! Im not sure the moustache would have gone with the skirt but I bet he
would have suited on of those little hats!
By this time those that had ventured off to check out the rest of Gala
returned, muttering complaints about pubs closing at 11. This was definitely not going to
be a problem in the hotel bar, as the night wore on into the wee small hours and we
eventually staggered towards our beds.
Saturday mornings of Showcase weekends always follow certain patterns,
as people cope with them in different ways. Theres the "playing football"
approach favoured by some of our healthy young lads (and Malcolm), theres the
"staying in bed and doing what comes naturally" approach favoured by AJ and Lee,
theres the "Ill get up for breakfast but Im going straight back to
bed again" approach favoured by Kate, theres the "ooh arent there
some lovely little gift shops and now lets go to a tearoom" approach favoured
by the girlies (including Crofton and Brian). Personally, I usually opt for the tagging
along with shopping girlies, protesting that the pubs open at 11am, and suddenly needing
to find a toilet as the previous evenings over-indulgences make their presence felt.
Too much information, I know, but anyone who remembers Perth will know what I am talking
Back at the hotel, and four teams formed up, got into cars and headed
off on the car treasure hunt. One of the hazards of the treasure hunt is the inevitable
time-lapse between setting the clues, and the treasure hunt actually happening. Last year,
Perthshire decided that the tourist season finished between the two dates, changing
several clues. This year it was the weather that did us no favours. The week before, Zoe
and myself spent a fun packed afternoon driving around the Galashiels countryside in
crisp, dry, sunny Autumn weather. In those conditions, wandering around Earlston,
traipsing around a graveyard, and tramping through the woods to Wallaces statue
seemed like a great idea. Come the day of the actual treasure hunt, and the weather had
other ideas it was persisting it down. Which was fine for Zoe and myself with the
joy of pubs in Gala and shopping for prizes, but there were some rather bedraggled and
muddy participants that returned to the hotel! The winning team was Kate, Joan, Crofton
& Brian -unsurprisingly, as they seemed to be the only ones that actually want
to set it next year.
The Saturday evening was to have a somewhat different look to previous
years instead of a fancy dress party in a function room in the hotel, we were
booked into a nightclub in Gala. It started out promisingly enough welcome glass of
bubbly in a separate upstairs room, and cheap doubles were going down very well. But then
it got busier, and busier, and we were really starting to see a slice of Gala nightlife up
close. There were the dodgy slappers in frankly unwise dresses, and blokes that looked
like they were not going to be happy unless the evening ended in a fight or a shag (or
preferably both). The phrase "its just not my scene, man" sprang
effortlessly to mind, and I began to realise rapidly I had to get out of there before I
got my lights punched out for gawping. I cant help it if I felt like I was filming a
Channel 4 documentary! So at about half past midnight, a tactical retreat back to the
hotel was carried out. We got settled into the public bar again, and gradually more and
more Showcase types drifted back from the night club, the singing was in full flow, and it
was the by far the wrong side of 3am.
I realised as I was packing the next morning that I had barely touched my carry out
the reason being that the bar was never shut! Can we find a hotel this good next
year? Heres hoping!