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A light-hearted look at some of the items you may wish to consider packing if you're setting off on a Tartan Army trip in the near future. Not all of them will fit in your sporran, mind.
Don't leave home without it!

Talcum Powder

If there is one thing that all kilted travellers should never, ever leave home without, it's talcum powder. I found this out first hand on the San Marino trip, when, after a car journey round the M25 to Heathrow, a flight to Bologna on a leatherette seat, a wander round the town, a train journey to Rimini and a long walk to the hotel, I developed a rather uncomfortable sensation in an area where you don't want to be uncomfortable.

After a fruitless search for my specially packed Johnson's Baby Powder (which I had managed to leave at home), I had to settle for some aftershave balm for that evening - knowing I'd be fine as long as I didn't slide down any bannisters! The next day, after a wander along the seafront walking like John Wayne, I found a chemist and by using the Italian for talc (not listed in my phrasebook, so I settled for "talco") I managed to purchase some powder. The exchange with the chemist went along the lines of:

  • Me: "Talco, por favori?"
  • Chemist: "Talco? Skin irraticion?" (pointing to armpit)
  • Me "Si, si" (nodding and gesturing up kilt)

At which point the chemist nodded knowingly and reached for a box on the shelf behind him. In absolute agony by this point, and spotting a deserted road, I asked the boys to keep watch while I nipped behind a palm tree and whacked some talc on where it was needed.

All was fine for the next 5 minutes, until I felt the great balls of fire, and started running to the hotel, with the lads following behind, confused by this turn of events. In rushing back to the room, I quickly filled the sink and dropped in the cubes, feeling a sensation of relief. By this point the boys were ripping the piss through the bathroom door, obviously very amused at my predicament - it was only when I limped back out and examined the talc carton that I realised the chemist had sold me MENTHOLATED talc! Bastard!

I had to make do for the rest of the trip with aftersun lotion, and swore to never forget my talc again. And to never trust an Italian chemist.

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Kitty Bag

A kitty bag is an essential, but not as essential as a kitty itself. No system of buying drinks ever works quite as well, unless you've got a really loaded mate who doesn't mind picking up the whole tab.

The thing with a kitty is the cash always seems to go further, and no-one gets stung for their round in the strip club expensive bar. It also gives more scope for buying on spec drinks for passing locals. The bag is simply an easy method of storage, although when it was forgotten in Amsterdam, we made do with Allan's sock.

Sadly, the bag that has served us so well since France 98 was last seen in Legs & Co behind the St Enochs Centre, on the day of the San Marino home match.

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A kitty bag, literally
Pussy Magnet


Because Paul can't get to sleep at night unless he's got a cuddly toy. Ahh!

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Heids on sticks

Not for everyone, mind. In fact, not for anyone apart from one headcase in Zagreb, brandishing a decomposing sheep's skull on a broomstick. When Milngavie Davie asked what it was the reply came back "Heids on sticks, pal, heids on sticks".

Best left alone, as Environmental Health don't approve.

NOTE: The man responsible for this outrage, known as the Black Douglas, has his own site at Mental Tshirts.

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Cute, isn't it?  Now picture it's skull, on a stick...
The one and only Tommy Scott

Scottish Music

Nothing beats hearing the strain of the Proclaimers or the Bay City Rollers "Shang-a-lang" floating across the cobbled backstreets of a European capital. My first real taste of this came in Lithuania, where a bar in an underpass outside the hotel was belting out tracks from the Scotland World Cup album ("Yabba dabba doo, we support the boys in blue, and it easy easy").

This has grown in popularity, and on the way to Prague we were treated to a compilation in the airport bar mixing Scottish standards with a few party sing-alongs - I was still singing "Its Not Unusual" at 6am the next morning.

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Scarves, Flags, Badges...

By this, we mean spare flags, scarves, badges and anything else that you don't mind giving away of swapping. In preparation for France '98 we had amassed loads of extra souvenirs to swap with other fans, but by the time we'd left Bordeaux (our first Scotland game out there) we'd already given away the lot!

The knack is not to get too attached to anything (e.g. 'lucky' scarf etc), although I have still got the tartan scarf I wore at my first ever Scotland match, and don't intend losing that.

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Gve it away, give it away now...
Hangover cure


Expect hangovers - if you haven't got a hangover the next morning then you didn't enjoy yourself enough the night before!

Headache pills are always a good bet, but be wary about washing them down with vodka the next morning. Personally, I always steer clear of Alka Seltzer, as I've never liked the bit on the packet about "emptying" your stomach! Not recommended in a kilt - fear of that sinking feeling when you feel a fart running down the back of your knee!

Ever since suffering glandular fever a few years ago, I've been cursed with acid indigestion after drinking, so Antacid/Rennie tablets are also de rigeur as far as I'm concerned, although I'm off the charcoal tablets due to the unpleasant side effects (remember "Ivor The Engine"?).

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Something tartan

As you never know when it might come in handy - one guy from Prestwick persuaded a young Croatian lady to don his scarf as a mini-skirt.

This doesn't apply just to kilts - for a couple of years I faced the same dilemma: see a Scotland away match without a kilt, or stay at home and use the money to buy one. I finally invested after we didn't qualify for Euro 2000, meaning I could put my tasteful Bay City Rollerseque tartan trousers at the bottom of the wardrobe.

Spare a thought for Rich - before he got his kilt, he had to buy his Tartan Combats from a punk/bondage shop in Brighton!

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Just a little something

Old Scotland shirt

By this, we don't mean Retro-styled shirts (e.g. TOFFS or Score Draw), nice as they might be. What we're talking about here is the genuine article, even if you were 8 years old when you last wore it!

One of the highlights of France 98 for me was seeing some guy squeezed into the red and navy away shirt (Spain '82), although he had obviously put on a wee bit of weight in the 16 years, and the shirt barely covered his nipples.

On Tartan Army trips, the usual etiquette governing football kits goes right out the window, and its a case of the older the better, particularly with some of the more obscure away kits that we've worn over the years. I'm quite lucky that I kept all my kits, and my other half now wears both the home and away shirts I had when I was eleven (the Mexico 86, "Davie Cooper" style) in a skinny-fit way, which has prompted more than one comment of "that's my favourite Scotland shirt, that is". 

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Irn Bru

Sold in Estonia, no less. The first time this came into its own was when trying to resuscitate Wee Davie from Milngavie on the way to the U21s game in the Czech Republic. At the risk of blaspheming, I can only stomach the diet version, as the full sugar one feels like its corroding my teeth on impact.

And lets not forget our role not just as ambassadors for the nation, but also as the last bastion of defence against Coca Cola's world domination attempts! All together now:
We hate Coca Cola
We hate Fanta too (it's shite)
'Cos we are the Tartan Army
And we drink Irn Bru

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Made from girders, apparently
A bit of the lingo, will get you these

The ability to say "hello", "beer", "please" and "thanks"

The ability to speak these four magic words has gone a long way to quenching our thirst in a variety of outposts. The most important one comes in three main variants across Europe, pronounced as: "beer" (Western Europe, apart from Spain's 'cervaza'); Pivo (Eastern Europe - remember that 'w' in Polish is spoken as 'v'); and Alus in the Baltics.

Rich always buys a phrase book and speaks a lot about learning the language, never manages it, and leaves it to Paul to master the important stuff on the flight out (which is what the flight's for, isn't it?). 

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Hawaiian Shirt

Not everyone's favourite, but holding fourth place in the TA fashion stakes behind Scotland tops, TA t-shirts and ghillie shirts is the old staple, the hawaiian shirt (which, thinking about it, means it comes in just above gimp suits in the TA popularity stakes).

As favoured by Wee Davie in Zagreb, and set to make a splash with other members of NATA, be prepared for a widespread explosion of these as they are officially back in fashion this summer (allegedly)!

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All the rage
Just in case

Outbound Duty Free

Every single time Paul insists on buying a half-bottle of Vodka for the hotel room in the airport on the way out, "just in case we can't get a drink when we get there", and every single time he brings it back untouched.

And its not just drink, either. Paul being a vegetarian, he panics about not getting food out there, so he buys those jumbo packs of Toblerone as a back up (and has lived off them on more than one occasion). 

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The location of the nearest Irish Pub

Now, this is one that I often have trouble comprehending. We travel all the way across Europe, and then look for an Irish theme bar to drink in, where they promptly whack up the prices.

Take Caffrey's in Prague as an example: it was built to be a shop; it charged a pound a pint (when everywhere else was 50p max.; it had no atmosphere apart from what the TA brought with us; and most crucially, it was shite. Not 100 yards away around the corner was an excellent local bar called Bar Football, and 50 yards further was another (admittedly Irish) pub called Molly Malones, offering genuine atmosphere, entertaining bar staff, and 50p pints.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-Irish, I understand that its all a question of taste, and I'm not criticising anyone who drinks there. I also see the benefit of drinking in such a place as logic dictates that the locals in there should by definition be more tolerant; it's just that every time I've been in THE bar, there's always been a much better and cheaper one right around the corner, usually offering more of a splash of local colour and culture (like the Klondaika pool bar next to Dickens in Riga, and the Pub Medyk behind the Amsterdam in Bydgoszcz).

So, there are two reasons that the location of the nearest Irish pub comes in handy: to meet up with the rest of the TA; and to find that much better pub right around the corner.

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The landlord, counting his takings
Cheap at half the price


When we were in Croatia, a vicious rumour swept the troops suggesting that Japan was so expensive that even a simple watermelon cost £75. Wee Davie was terrified by this prospect, until someone asked him how many melons he got through on an average trip. Meanwhile, I was cooking up a plan to smuggle a couple in on the plane, by taping them to my thighs under my kilt and walking through customs like John Wayne. I figured the black-market prospects of funding a couple pints in Tokyo outweighed the risk of the aircraft pressure making them explode (imagine having to explain that one in Tokyo casualty, as a nurse attempted to tweezer out any stray pips).

Back home, a friend at work used his contacts to speak with an ex-foreign exchange student in Japan, who revealed that melons are indigenous to Japan, and change hands for the same as they do over here. This outweighed the penalties for being caught smuggling contraband fruit across several continents.

However, on Friday 15th June 2001, The Sun published a story of how Japanese farmers have developed square watermelons that retail for £58 a pop (click here for a link to the story on The Sun's website). So it again looks like concealing the melons will be the only way to fund my trip (if we qualify).

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Spare Loo Roll

This is an item that many over-cautious travellers will take with them wherever they go, but has proved an absolute lifesaver on a number of occasions. Paul, being a vegetarian, often has trouble with local food, which can play havoc with his fragile digestive system with often explosive results.

However, the most notable occasion where a lack of supplies caused a crisis affected none other than American Dave at the World Cup. He and Paul had popped back to the hotel in Lyon to "freshen up", and Dave made his way down the corridor to the WC (a ridiculously narrow affair with no knee space and searing temperatures). After almost an hour, Paul became a little concerned and went to see if all was well - "This is an emergency - go get the hotelier, quick" was Dave's desperate reply. Unable to find the hotelier, Paul had to go to the convenience shop over the road to buy some loo-roll, but too embarrassed to walk back to the hotel, past all the cafe bars, with a four pack under his arm, he felt obliged to buy some other stuff as well, just to ensure that a carrier bag was provided. Which is how Dave was able to toast his release from his plight with a glass of £2-a-bottle Rose wine.

NOTE: Bob (aka Tartan Army Casualty) speaks from year's of experience when he recommends pre-moistened toliet roll. Wet wipes may be used as a substitute. Alternatively, empty the contents of the minibar and stick the loo roll in there ready for use!

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Just don't let the dog get at it
Just like the alps


Another regular duty-free purchase for the Fat Man, which he claims is due to the need to keep his vegetarian-afflicted blood sugar levels high! Seriously, Paul lived off this in both Germany and Bosnia, where he often forgot to eat anything else as it got in the way of the beer.

Closer to home, before the France home match, 16 of us were thrown out of one of central Glasgow's rougher pubs (Buchannans) for singing about this humble chocolate bar, after Paul bartered with a shoplifter to buy a stolen one (the size of a bazooka, apparently) for a quid.

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Often overlooked by NATA members on the early trips, as although with us on every trip, we were often too drunk to remember to take photos (not a single Bordeaux photo exists) - this has been compensated for on more recent trips, with no less than 6 films contributing to the 58 photos from Poland.
These photos are valuable for a number of reasons - to be able to show the grandchildren, to be able to remember yourself, and the obvious: blackmail potential.

Rich (The Ladies Man) had invested in a flashy APS sporran-sized effort (broken in Poland, less than 9 months active service), but never did fully explain why he needed one with a remote control. Filthy bastard.

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Used correctly, this could pay for itself  through blackmail
I shall not be moved!

Imodium Tablets

A recent discovery by our digestive system correspondent, Immodium tablets have been field-tested to ensure that even the dodgiest of guts stays intact over several days of sustained alcohol abuse.

Still emotionally scarred after his close call in Prague '99, and aware of the dangers of vegetarianism in a faraway land, Paul now swears by this stuff, particularly when combined with Aludrox indigestion tablets. Now you know why he always looks so bloated!

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Essential accessory for that decadent pre-match swagger. An intermittent tradition started in Riga, Scotland have yet to lose a game where cigars have been a feature of the NATA warm-up.

Always seems like a great idea, only to fade away as we all get bored around the 30 minute mark.

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Remember the one about the Fat Man and the cigar?
Hush little baby...

A cushion (of sorts)

A disturbing trend on recent trips, both home and away, has seen Paul need to take a wee nap before, after, and sometimes during matches (at half-time, anyway!). Pandora's Bar is a favourite spot for a doze, and this picture shows Paul captured using a loo roll (no idea where this came from, as it certainly wasn't brought from home!) as a cushion in a Bath pub. Other items have included stray coats, hats, someone else's shoulder and pub benches.

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