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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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"?).
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!
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".
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
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
ability to say "hello", "beer", "please"
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?).
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
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
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).
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
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.
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).
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
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.