Thursday, April 30, 2009

Scots in semifinals in Dunedin

Congratulations to both our senior teams competing in the World Senior Championships in Dunedin on reaching the semifinals. Peter Malcolm's report is here. And linescores and standings are on the official website here.

Keith Prentice's side will now meet the USA in Saturday's semifinal on Saturday morning. Canada will meet Switzerland in the other semi.

In the women's event, Marion Craig's team is up against Switzerland, and Canada plays Sweden in the other semifinal.


Above, the women against Canada. Pic by Ken Sinclair.

Marion Craig and Pat Sanders. Pic by Ken Sinclair.

Craig v Craig. Canadian second Roselyn Craig and Scottish skip Marion Craig. Photo by Peter Malcolm.

Couples curling - the three Scottish couples with one half in each team, plus Italian skip Carlo Carrera, with his wife Susanne, who is the men's coach and also playing in the Italian ladies' team, and Peter and Wendy Becker from New Zealand, the skips of that country's teams. Photo by Peter Malcolm.

Seniors update

Well done to Keith Prentice (above) and his team for reaching the semifinals of the World Senior Curling Championships in Dunedin. The Scots beat Hungary 9-2 in their last round robin game, a four at the first end setting them on the way.

Marion Craig's team lost to Canada, and their chance of reaching the playoffs depends on the result of their last game today, against the home side.

Find all the results here. Official reports from the WCF are also available now, see here. The Otago Daily Times online also has stories and photos, for example here. And Peter Malcolm has a second report on the Royal Club website here.

Lockhart Steele

Robin Aitken

Tommy Fleming

Photos courtesy of Ken Sinclair.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Curling in black and white

Our teams continue to battle on in Dunedin, New Zealand, at the World Senior Curling Championships. There have been no official draw reports from the World Curling Federation this week, unlike the other major championships recently. Nor is Mike Haggerty in New Zealand reporting for the Royal Club. It has been difficult then to get much of a flavour of what's going on, other than the bare results, see here or here. Today though, on the Royal Club website here, is a report from Peter Malcolm, Anne's husband. Well done Peter! He has also sent the pics above and below.

Yes, we have black and grey circles at Dunedin! Turns me off, I'm afraid. It's all about national sensitivities of course, and I look forward to seeing the tartan heads at Aberdeen in December. It's just as well that Team Prentice is not wearing their usual all black outfits this week, or it would be a case of 'now you see me, now you don't' - the punchline of the old joke about the zebra on the pedestrian crossing. I've said it once, and I'll continue to say it. Curling is a colourful game. Dump the drab!

There's only one section in the women's competition, with eight countries. Marion Craig, Rhona Fleming, Catherine Raeburn and Anne Malcolm have played five. They have definitely won two, perhaps three! Their last was against Sweden, and as I write this, the online scores have Scotland winning according to the linescore, but losing according to the final score. Let's hear it for accurarcy (or accuracy, even)! Watch this space. (Added later. Yes, Scotland beat Sweden 10-5).

Keith Prentice, Lockhart Steele, Robin Fleming and Tommy Fleming have played four games in the six-strong blue group, and have won three of these. Their last game is against the Hungarians tomorrow, and a win here would see them safely into the semifinals.

These two photos were taken from a spot only 100 yards from the ice stadium. Looks lovely!

The weather has been so warm that many of the competitors have been strolling on the beach between games (spot the Canadian in this pic), and eating at the beachfront cafes, about ten minutes walk away.

Thanks to Peter Malcolm for the pics.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bob's birds

This afternoon I was attacked in my own house! I came in from the garden into the porch and was hit around the head by a small yellow bird. A siskin (like this one above, or it may even have been the same one) had found its way in, and had not found the way out! I should say the porch is the size of a small greenhouse - indeed that's its function usually. At the moment, it's home to seedlings and small plants. But I digress.

What should one do, in this case of an unwanted guest such as this? When I retreated back into the garden, leaving the door open, the wee bird settled down, and stopped trying to throw itself through the window glass. Thirty minutes later, it had found the top of the door (and a couple of spiders), and after another half an hour my visitor finally decided to return to the outside world!

I'm not a fanatical bird watcher, although I do have a number of feeders in the little strip of garden outside my conservatory. When I'm in and around the garden, I love to listen to the birds singing, and that's most of the time. Regular visitors to the garden and to the feeders include blue tits, great tits, coal tits, greenfinches, siskins, dunnocks, robins, wrens, chaffinchs, and this year, for the first time, nuthatches have come to throw much of the seed feeder contents onto the ground! A pair of blackbirds nest every year. The odd rook and crow come to visit. It is not unusual to find a pheasant seeking sanctuary! A buzzard occasionally sits on the fence. A sparrowhawk divebombed the regulars last week.

I set up a thistle seed feeder this winter to see if there were any goldfinches around. It only took a week or so before the news got around Wamphray's goldfinch community, and now it is not uncommon to see half a dozen or so of this attractive bird queuing up, or squabbling over a place.

I'm even less of a wildlife photographer, having no patience whatsoever. And my favourite visitor, the greater spotted woodpecker, is so nervous that I have rarely been able to point the camera in its direction before it's off. My best effort so far is below. The RSPB's bird guide is here.

Here are the feeders. Where are the birds?

I'm sure I could do better with my goldfinch pics.

This is a male greater spotted woodpecker, with the 300mm lens, through the conservatory glass! Two years ago I had the privilege of watching a female teach a youngster, easily identified by the red crown on its head, how to get nuts from the feeder! Now that would have been a photo to have captured!

All the above pics are mine.

Digital journalism

I've thought for a while that having live interviews on the blog would be one posssibility for the future, taking it forward a further step. As blogallies will know, I've been experimenting with embedding YouTube videos into the blog, although none have been my own. One of the first people I would want to interview would be David Murdoch. Imagine my surprise when I discovered such an online interview was posted last week after the Murdoch team arrived home from Moncton.

I shouldn't have been surprised of course. Some universities now have digital journalism courses (example here). Last year there was an announcement (see here) that one local newspaper group in Scotland was hiring a number of digital journalists. It is one of these digital journalists, working for the Dumfries and Galloway Standard, whose interview can be seen here. Interesting to look at the quality, as well as listening to David's confident (and patient) answers.

While I remember, the announcement of who will be in the GB Olympic Teams is set for this Friday, I understand. The British Curling website will be where to look for it.

Thinking back to the World Final in Moncton, there's an excellent analysis of how the last end was won, and lost, on CurlingNet's site here. (Thanks to the Scottish Curling Forum for this link)

Whisky flavoured Moray International

By all accounts the 1st Moray International Curling Bonspiel was a success and much enjoyed by the fourteen rinks that took part. Organiser Andy Cameron has been in touch to say that the event will be held again next year at the Elgin rink. The provisional dates are April 16-18. Put these in your diary now. Any four curlers.

The Elgin rink had skating right up to the night before the bonspiel, and the ice staff did a great job preparing the rink for curling in such a short time. Apparently the ice got better and better as the weekend went on.

Andy wanted the competition to have a Moray flavour through and through. That is reflected in the list of sponsors: Forsyth's Copper Smiths Rothes, The Glen Grant Distillery, Chivis Regal Distillers, The Macallan Distillery, Gordon and Macphail, and Mckerron and Milne. The Trophy is a copy of the still in the Glenfiddich Distillery, and was bought from a local company, Highland Spirit, that makes them.

The first winners of the trophy are shown above. L-R: Manager of the Glen Grant distillery, Dennis Malcolm presenting, Struan Wood (3rd), Organiser Andy Cameron, Jay McWilliam (2nd), Billy Morton (lead) and Dave Edwards (skip).

High Road Runners-up:
Team Robin Scott (Team Bond), Mark Callan, Camilla Jensen and Marianne Neeleman.

Play in the Elgin rink.

More action.

The award for the most colourful 'team' has to go to (L-R) Kevin Thomson, Mel Porter, Andy Cameron and Kirsty Harrison. The photo should have shown more of the kilts!

Pics are courtesy of Andy Cameron.

Monday, April 27, 2009

World Seniors begin

Goodbye then to Italy last week, where I see that the Swiss pairing of Irene Schori and Tony Mueller won the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship, see here. The Swiss team, which, incidentally, was picked to represent their country rather than win through a playdown, have yet to lose a game in two years of the World MDs event. That's quite a record. Hungary won the silver medals, and Canada the bronze. Read Sean Grassie's take on it here.

This week my attention is on what's happening in Dunedin, New Zealand. Marion Craig's Scottish women lost their first game to Japan, and Keith Prentice's side were also on the debit column to Canada.

Find the results here. Incidentally, the time difference (I think) is eleven hours. I'm writing this at 9am, and it's 8pm in Dundedin. Marion's team has another game today, against Switzerland, and will be on the ice now.

On the subject of ways to get information about the event, I note that the USA women have their own blog: seniorladiesrock.blogspot.com, a sentiment I've shared for some years!

Photo of the outside of the Dundedin arena courtesy Anne Malcolm.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Remarkables in New Zealand

Today's post is about the Remarkables in New Zealand. No, I'm not just talking about Scotland's representatives (above, photo courtesy of Anne Malcolm) at the World Senior Curling Championships which run April 25 - May 2 in Dunedin, remarkable as the members of our teams are! It is just remarkable too, that the World Curling Federation decided to award the hosting of this event to this remarkable country. I have visited New Zealand, and spent a wonderful week there on my travels round the world eleven years ago. Not long enough. I would love to go back.

Anyway, Keith Prentice, Lockhart Steele, Robin Aitken and Tommy Fleming with alternate Archie Craig have their opening game against Canada on Monday. Marion Craig, Rhona Fleming, Catherine Raeburn and Anne Malcolm with alternate Helen Drummond open their account against Japan. The full draw is here.

Everything you want to know about Dundedin is here. I knew of its famous railway station. But the women's team has organised a visit to a very special attraction, here, but only if they win!

These are the Remarkables, one of the South Island's magnificent mountain areas, accessible from Queenstown, the 'Adventure Capital of the World'.

Now, why am I talking about them? It was a great thrill for me, although rather embarrassing, to read my own citation yesterday for the Royal Club's lifetime achievement award (see here). It's not my first award. Not many know that I also have a mountain named after me. Bob's Peak has the Skyline Gondola, which runs up to the summit (446m), from which there are spectacular views. Immediately below is Queenstown, beyond is Lake Wakatipu, and, forming a striking backdrop, are the peaks of the Remarkables.

The seniors men's coach/psychologist/nutritionist/fixer Archie Craig took Keith and the team to a 'holding camp' in Queenstown last week to prepare them for the championships ahead.

He has sent this video (here, or embedded below) of the team in training at Queenstown with their minder Rebecca. Remarkable!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Another MDs update: Hungary's first ever curling medal

How about that then! Hungary's Ildiko Szekeres and her husband Gyorgy Nagy came through a tiebreaker against Sweden and two playoff games against the Czech Republic and Finland, to get into the semifinal of the World Mixed Doubles in Cortina. I've been following the results online this evening, and I see that the Hungarian pairing has just beaten mighty Canada, Sean Grassie and Allison Nimik, to reach the final!

Hungary is guaranteed the silver medals at least, the first-ever curling honour for that country!

According to the WCF report of the game, which is online here, the Canadians could only shrug and marvel at the skill of the Hungarians. "They're a juggernaut," declared Nimik. "That was a game of anything you can do, I can do better. You can't feel badly about (losing) a game like that, when you play well yourself. By far, that's the best game I've had here. They could make the rocks do amazing things. We had a good battle, and they're definitely on a roll."

Ildi and Gyorgy now play Switzerland, Toni Mueller and Irene Schori, who are the defending champs, who got past the Chinese pair, Zhipeng Zhang and Sun Yue, in the other semi. The final game is tomorrow. Find the result of this game here, and a selection of reports from the event is on the WCF website here.

I've cheated a bit. My photo of Ildiko and Gyorgy is from last year in Vierumaki! There's a pic of Ildiko in action at Cortina this year here, and one of the celebrations here.

Shots of the year

Now, you understand, I'm not suffering from withdrawal symptoms yet, but I wanted just to point out CurlTV's selection of 'Shots of the Year' here. There's thirty of them, some, like Glenn Howard's last stone against Saskatchewan in the Brier, are quite exceptional. You can sign in to vote for your top five. Or just enjoy watching some great shotmaking!

There's one shot missing of course. The most talked about shot of the year is surely Kevin Martin's throwaway in the tenth end of the Ford World Championship final against Scotland. I would vote for that one!

And just a little note to CurlTV. One their home page there is a trail to Kris Laudien's report on what's happening in Cortina this week. No, CurlTV, it's not the World Mixed, it's the World MIXED DOUBLES. Canada doesn't have a national mixed doubles championship, of course. Perhaps if the Canadian Curling Association was to hold such, then the media on that side of the pond might pick up on this great discipline of the sport of curling. I've never let accuracy stand in the way of a good story myself in the past, of course, but I intend to turn over a new leaf! Getting names right, that's the first challenge.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Update from Italy

Scotland's reps at the World Mixed Doubles in Cortina, Vicky Sloan and Keith MacLennan, beat the Russians in an extra end of their last round robin game, but their two previous losses meant that they finish third in their section - a good performance but not enough to progress further in the event.

One semifinal matchup is confirmed. China (7-1 in the Green Group) will face defending champions Switzerland (8-0 in the Blue Group). Canada is through with a perfect record from the Red Group. But five teams are still in with a chance to claim the fourth semifinal berth at the 2009 Mixed Doubles Championship.

Sweden and Hungary both finished 6-2 in the Green Group and will contest a tiebreaker. The winner will clash with the winner of a second tiebreaker featuring Poland and the Czech Republic, who finished second equal in the Blue Group at 6-2. The winner of that matchup will meet Finland, who beat Bulgaria 10-4 to claim second place in the Red Group with a 7-1 record. That winner will advance to the semifinals to face Canada, the Red Group winner at 8-0. The Finns and the Canadians were the two teams who beat the Scots.

The gold and bronze medal finals are scheduled for 12 noon on Saturday, April 25.

You can find all the results here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Road to Dunfermline

(The Dixie Chicks are blaring out in the background as I write this.)

Today was a milestone in my life. I delivered the last Scottish Curler magazine of the season to the office in Dunfermline, above. For the past seven years, I've set out several times each month during the curling season via Moffat, the Devil's Beeftub, Broughton, Romanno Bridge, La Mancha, Penicuik, the Edinburgh bypass and over the Forth Bridge to Pitreavie Industrial Estate where the publishers of the magazine have their home. If you are already a blogally of Skip Cottage you will know that as from today I am the former Editor of the magazine.

(Why the Dixie Chicks? You may well ask. My musical tastes are wide, but I've always had a bit of a soft spot for country, country rock, and 'alternative country'. I encountered the Dixie Chicks eleven years ago when I was working abroad, the Wide Open Spaces album - liked the sound, and have been a fan ever since.)

I confess that the last week or two have been a bit odd, writing my last editorial, and putting the magazine together for the last time. Last night, trying to fit the last pieces into place, I was (almost) sad! Today, proofing the final printout, and still finding errors and typos that hadn't been picked up in the multiple times the 24 pages had been gone over before, it was like saying goodbye to an old friend.

(The Chicks comprise Martie Maguire, Emily Robison and lead singer Natalie Maines. It was Natalie who voiced criticism of George Bush during a London concert ten days before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, saying, "We don't want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas" (the Dixie Chicks' home state). There were some Americans who thought this unpatriotic, un-American, and they received hate mail, death threats, and many boycotted their music and concerts. Natalie's sentiments have been proved correct, of course, and the group have since had a further tour, very popular here and in other countries but not the sellout in some venues in the US. Still, they won five Grammy Awards in 2007, including the one for Album of the Year for Taking The Long Way. I love people who are not afraid to speak their minds, and I love the Dixie Chicks music. See here for a flavour if you don't know what I'm talking about.)

Where was I? Yes, we all know now that the Scottish Curler has a future, and is not going to disappear as we feared. The job of publishing it will now be in the hands of the Ayrshire Division of Clyde and Forth Press, which is based in Ardrossan. Here they publish the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, amongst other titles, as well as some magazines, so the Scottish Curler will no longer be a loner, as it was at Dunfermline. I met the CEO of that branch of the company today, Helena Morrow, and was impressed with her tenacity and ideas to breath new life into the publication which, if I'm blunt, has stagnated somewhat over the past couple of years on the marketing side in particular. I look forward to helping Helena during this handover period. Who knows, there may even be opportunity for me, and the existing team, to contribute content for the magazine of the future!

(Who's my favourite Dixie Chick, I hear you ask? I love Natalie's voice - it really is distinctive and strong. Emily Robison is so talented, on backing vocals, and she plays the banjo, dobro (just brilliantly), guitar, bass, mandolin, accordion, and sitar. Martie McGuire is Emily's sister, and I'm completely blown away by her mastery of the fiddle, although she also plays the mandolin, viola, acoustic bass, and guitar. And she is an attractive blond. So no contest then!)

When I get more information about the 'new' Scottish Curler I'll be letting everyone know, either here or on the Scottish Curling Forum. Suffice to say at the moment that the subscriptions for next season stay the same as at present!

(What's my favourite Dixie Chicks' track? Their discography is here. Travelling Soldier, Landslide, Cowboy Take Me Away (Martie's fiddle solo on this would make my hair curl, if I had any) are songs I never seem to tire of. They are probably best known for Goodbye Earl. But my number one is Voice Inside My Head, track 10 from their last album, Taking the Long Way. The Dixie Chicks website is here, but it has been a bit quiet recently. I would love to think they might tour again.)

The May Scottish Curler will be printed over the next few days and, if all goes well, will be in the post to subscribers next week. Where have the last seven years gone? Tomorrow beckons.

(Here's a treat for you)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Curling media made redundant by players

I'm glad I'm retiring. The new world has swept aside the old. Take the Mixed Doubles in Italy for example. I've been relying on the official WCF reports (here) to give me a flavour of what's happening. And they've been great.

But the Canadians have it worked out. One of their players in Cortina is penning press reports, and these are available online. Sean Grassie is writing a column for the Winnipeg Sun about his experiences on and off the ice during the championship. The 30-year-old is a communications student at a local college in Winnipeg. You can read what he has written about the games so far, including the one against Scotland, here and here.

The Canadian Curling Association is obviously comfortable with this. As I noted before (here), their National Development Coach, Paul Webster, was blogging from Harbin at the World University Games.

I wonder if the practice could become even more widespread? Wouldn't it have been interesting to read the report by one of the Canadian team after the Ford World Championship final in Moncton!

As a card carrying member of the World Curling Media Association (WCMA, and yes there is such an organisation), I should probably be appalled. But I can see how our own Royal Caledonian Curling Club might think to embrace the idea. It would save money! Having players provide media reports would obviate the need for having to pay others to provide copy.

Organisers of major events too would no longer need to provide any facilities for press. The Aberdeen organisers of the next European Championships would love it. It would save them money. The European Curling Federation doesn't appreciate the press much anyway. After all, they just occupy space that could be better used by coaches and support staff.

And talking about support staff, could not a journalist become embedded within the support, alongside the coaches, physios, psychologists, video analysts, Tom Cobley and the like, that accompany our teams. These (unbiased, of course) press types could utilise the acres of video footage taken by the support staff, to produce some YouTube videos of each game, for us all to enjoy. If our Prime Minister can use this medium for communication, then surely the Scottish (and GB) curling establishment can do similar. We, the curling supporters, are paying for it, directly or indirectly, after all. I'm all for people multi-tasking!

The World Curling Federation is sure to embrace the idea that the players tell their own stories. It would save them the expense of having their media liaison, George Karrys, attend the events and provide reports for the curling world. Sorry gk, but it's the future!

Yes, the curling media has had its day.

Perhaps not.

I must remember to take the medication.

Monday, April 20, 2009

MDs update

Here are Keith MacLennan and Vicky Sloan up against the Canadians at the World Mixed Doubles in Cortina. Scotland started the competition in fine form with wins over Australia and New Zealand. They didn't win this one though. Vicky was short on a draw in the seventh to allow their opposition to steal three. Find the WCF report here.

Word from the team is, "We're having a great time and playing pretty well on superb ice. We really should be on 3-0 but we threw it away against Canada. Hopefully we'll get back on track against our southern neighbours tomorrow!" That refers to the BIG game, against England (John Sharp and Jane Clark) tomorrow morning. You can follow all the results by clicking here.

You can send the team a message of support from this page.

Top: Canada's Allison Nimik and Sean Grassie watch as Vicky Sloan encourages Keith MacLennan to do the hard work! Thanks to the World Curling Federation for the photos which are by Mario Facchini.

The second pic has to be a caption competition. What's Keith saying to Sean? "Do you really think Martin should have thrown his first away?" Your turn.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Euro Mixed for Prague

When I reported on the Scottish Mixed Championship at Curl Aberdeen recently (see here), the venue for the 2009 European Mixed had not been announced.

Now it has. A note, dated April 18, has been put on the ECF website (here), to say that, following discussions in Moncton last week, the European Mixed Curling Championship 2009 will be in Prague, September 26 - October 3, 2009.

Tom Brewster, Lynn Cameron, Colin Campbell and Michelle Silvera, as the Scottish Mixed Champs, will be invited to participate.

I note too that a Special General Meeting of the ECF will be convened during the Euro Mixed Championship, to consider a new playing system for the main European Championships! That's been talked about for a while, now so many countries are taking part. Aberdeen is of course the venue for the next Euros this December (see here), and Champery, Switzerland, will host in 2010.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

World Mixed Doubles

Question for today. When is this curling season going to end? You may well be heading for Elgin this weekend, and I look forward to hearing how the first Moray International event goes. Best wishes to Andy Cameron for his efforts up there.

The Dolomites would also be a lovely destination to be heading to this weekend, and with some interesting curling to watch too in the Olympic Ice Stadium in Cortina d'Ampezzo, the ski resort area in northeast Italy. The World Mixed Doubles has teams representing 27 nations taking part, including Scotland's Vicky Sloan and Keith MacLennan who won the Scottish Mixed Doubles Championship in December, see here.

The Round Robin begins on Sunday. The semifinals will take place on Friday, with the Championship Final and Closing Ceremony on Saturday, April 25.

Cortina is the venue for the 2010 Capital One World Men's Curling Championship, less than one month after the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. So the MDs is something of a test event for the 'big one'!

"The venue has a great view of the mountains and it was also home to events in the 1956 Olympic Winter Games," said Massimo Antonelli, President of the Organizing Committee. "We are very proud to host the World Mixed Doubles in Cortina d'Ampezzo and we are looking forward to the competition."

There are three pools of nine teams (Blue, Red and Green groups) contesting the second WMDCC, following last year's inaugural championship at Vierumaki, Finland. Then, Switzerland's Irene Schori and Toni Mueller rolled to an overall 9-0 record in winning the championship trophy, including a tight 5-4 final-game victory over opponents Anne Malmi and Jussi Uusipaavalniemi of the host country. See here, and here.

I said a year ago after seeing the event in Vierumaki that I thought Mixed Doubles is just a great event. I hope Cortina will prove this to be the case. One disappointment would seem to be that, despite the suggestion of the WCF President Les Harrison that there would be, there seems to be no webcasting from the event. And that's so frustrating. The more people see how great this type of curling is, the more it will be accepted. But how can you persuade people, if they can't see what's going on? Sometimes I despair!

Anyway, Schori and Mueller return to Cortina, nominated by Switzerland to represent their country a second time, and lead the Blue Group along with Austria's Karina Toth and Andreas Unterberger, Latvia's Robert Krusts and Iveta Stasa-Sarsune, Slovakia's Milan and Gabriela Kajan, France's Wilfred and Solene Coulot, Japan's Fukuhiro Ohno and Matsuda Atsuko, Karel Kubeska and Anna Kubeskova of the Czech Republic, Poland's Agnieszka Ogrodniczek and Herman Damian, and Elizabeth and Stewart Cairns of Wales.

Also returning is 2008 silver medallist Jussi Uusipaavalniemi of Finland, but with a new partner in Jaana Haemaelaeinen. Their Red Group also includes Canada's Sean Grassie and Allison Nimik, Scotland's Keith MacLennan and Vicki Sloan, Italy's Andrea Pilzer and Chiara Zanotelli, Russia's Olga Jarkova and Alexander Kirikov, New Zealand's Brydie Donald and Scott Becker, Australia's Jennifer Thomas and Gerald Chick, England's Jane Clark and John Sharp, and Borislava Petrova and Lubomir Velinov of Bulgaria.

The Green Group features newcomers Brady and Cristin Clark of the United States, who have a powerful legacy of four-person mixed play in their home country, having already won their sixth mixed title this season. No other athletes in US history have won this many mixed titles.

They will be challenged by Hungary's Ildiko Szekeres and Gyorgy Nagy, Sweden's Sofia Gustafsson and Andreas Prytz, China's Sun Yue and Zhang Zhipeng, Norway's Hilde Stenseth and Ole Hauge, Denmark's Christine and Per Svenson, Korea's Kyung-mi Park and Jun-pyo Hong, Estonia's Kristiine and Martin Lill, and Estrella Labrador and Alberto Vez of Spain.

Good luck to Vicky and Keith! We're supporting you from afar!

The event website is here. Results and standings are here. Game stories and photos will also appear on the World Curling Federation website. Thanks to the WCF press release for some of the above.

Garden update 1, and a Thai story

Right, I mentioned gardens at one point when I started out with this new blog, and I suspect that some blogallies may well be interested in my progress at Skip (above).

It was a lovely weekend at Skip over Easter and I was able to take a wee break from putting together the May Scottish Curler to check out the state of the garden! This will be my sixth summer of trying to restore the garden. My five year plan has been extended indefinitely! I moved in on December 24, 2002. The garden had been nice before, but hadn't been touched in a while. Of course there was little to see that first December!

I took the advice that first year to wait and see what was there already. It was a surprise then when lots of daffodils appeared in the spring - indeed the daffs (and snowdrops) had been among the few things to survive the neglect. And they still cheer me up at this time of year.

Saturday was the start of my spring clear up. The photo above is from the bottom of the back garden, which is on three levels. I was pleased to find that the retaining walls had held up this winter - it's amazing just what one can learn on a weekend's dry stane dyking course!

The trees are just beginning to awaken. The big beeches though are still quite dormant. I just love these, and will post something about them soon. Promise!

There's quite a large 'wildlife pond' in the bottom corner of the garden (bottom left of the pic above). The tadpoles have hatched, and no doubt the garden will be jumping with frogs as summer approaches.

My neighbour has a much bigger garden! This is looking north up Annandale towards Moffat, the River Annan on the left. Scotland is so beautiful when the sun shines.

When I was working in the garden on Sunday, clearing all the old growth, I was still finding I'm particularly sensitive when things rustle in and amongst the plants. I jumped out my skin last summer when a large frog took offence at being disturbed, as did a hedgehog, not to mention the pheasant which attacked me because she had her chicks hidden nearby. (It is quite a wild garden in places.) The reason that I'm so jumpy is that for two years of my stay in Thailand I had a garden. And when something rustled in the undergrowth there, you moved quickly.... in the opposite direction.

This was my front garden then. There are three seasons in Thailand. There's the VERY HOT season (the equivalent of our winter), there's the VERY HOT AND WET season (the rainy season), then there's the VERY, VERY HOT Season! Things grow well there. I had lots of containers, and my Thai friends couldn't believe my enthusiasm for things they considered pretty much as weeds eg bourgainvillea, and some of the common orchids!

My house was in the western suburbs of Bangkok, near Salaya, where one of the Mahidol University campuses was located. More rural than urban. And there were snakes. Poisonous ones. So one had to be just a little careful when one was indulging in pastimes such as gardening.

My Thai snake stories should probably go into my autobiography, but here's just one as a taster. I was trimming one of the shrubs which grew on the fence on the left of the photo above, when one of the green shoots I was about to snip off with my secateurs, moved!

It was a very thin green snake, unlike anything I'd ever seen before, a beautiful thing, and it was blissfully travelling through my shrubs and plants about two feet off the ground! I rushed in to the house, grabbed my snake book, and outside again, talking nicely to my visitor to persuade it to keep still long enough for me to identify it.

This was my reference. I've kept the book, don't know why. Anyway, what was visiting my garden was Ahaetulla nasuta, or a long nosed whip snake.

Sadly, it didn't stay long enough in my garden for me to get my camera - it had probably seen the secateurs and may well have realised what a close call it had had! I found this photo on the web tonight, it gives a good impression of what this beautiful snake is like, better in fact than the pic in the book. There's a super photo of it here too.

Anyway, enough for tonight. Thailand has been in the news these past few days for all the wrong reasons. Thai politics have always been exciting, although difficult for foreigners to understand. One has to hope that this country, with its wonderful people, has a happier future ahead.

Episode 2: Bob's encouter with a King Cobra (but not in his garden!) Some other time.

Skip pics are my own, and those of my Thai garden are scans of prints from the days BD (before Digital).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

National Academy progress

Royal Club Chairman Bob Tait has sent out this update on the progress of the National Curling Academy at Kinross and has asked for it to be widely circulated. So here it is in its entirety:

National Curling Academy Update 2: Spring 2009

This update reports progress since the update of 29th January and the open meeting held on 5th February. This note is being sent by e mail to those who provided their details at the meeting on 5th February. These individuals should feel free to forward it to any of their curling acquaintances who were not at the meeting. It is also being sent to all club secretaries in Area 7 who are asked to forward it to all of their members and to ensure that support for the new facility is discussed at AGMs.

The Trust
• Kinross Curling Trust was incorporated as a Scottish Guarantee Company on 4th March 2009 under Company Number SC355969.
• The Memorandum and Articles of Association will be available on the Trust’s web page shortly.
• The Trust is awaiting confirmation of its charitable status (hopefully this will be known shortly).
• The subscribing Trustees are Jamie Montgomery, Bob Tait (Chairman of the RCCC Board) and Colin Grahamslaw (Chief Executive RCCC).
• The Trustees are being assisted by Bob Anderson and Alistair McCabe (technical issues), Mary Morgan (secretarial) and Linda Young (local fund raising). Assistance with ice issues, communications/web and accountancy / VAT should be in place soon.

The Project Team
Turner and Townsend, the project managers, with assistance from the technical advisers, have interviewed firms of architects, civil and structural engineers and mechanical and electrical engineers. They have appointed the following firms to join the team:
• Archial Architects (they were the architects for Curl Aberdeen ),
• Blyth and Blyth as civil and structural engineers
• Mechanical and electrical engineers for the project will be announced within the next few days, effectively completing the core design team.

These firms will now take the project forward based on the project brief and schedule of accommodation agreed by the Trust, its technical advisers and the Project Managers. There is master programme detailing each of the stages of the project and, if maintained, completion is scheduled for the end of September 2010. The next key stage will be the application for outline planning permission scheduled for May, with the detailed planning application penciled in for July.

Information updates
Andy Heer of Forth Business Systems has volunteered to design a new website for the Trust (www.kinrosscurlingtrust.org) and the Subscribing Trustees aim to use it to keep curlers abreast of progress during the spring and summer. They hope to have plans on view at the RCCC AGM on 20th June, at The Highland Show and at the Kinross Show on 8th August.

Membership
Membership of the Trust will open shortly to all curlers who intend to curl at the new facility and, subject to any conditions attached to its charitable status, the Trust will probably levy a small annual fee in return for membership. Members will be eligible to vote and the intention is to hold the first Kinross Curling Trust AGM this autumn where, amongst other items, elections will be held for the six local Trustee positions.

Funding
Funding for the construction costs needs to be secured before the building contract is awarded. The largest contributor will be sportscotland and the Subscribing Trustees are maintaining close contact with them about the format and timing of the grant application and its decision-making timetable. The Trust has also provided the RCCC and the RCCC Trust with the current outline estimates of the construction costs of the proposed RCCC offices and museum so that these bodies can firm up their requirements and source the necessary funding contributions. The Trust will shortly be opening discussions with other potential grant-making bodies and financial institutions.

However, as explained at the meeting on 5 February, local curlers and members of the Trust will be expected to make a contribution to the costs of the facility they will own. A fund-raising sub committee is being set up by Linda Young with the intention of launching a variety of schemes aimed at raising money from individuals, clubs, provinces etc over the coming months. In the meantime, the Subscribing Trustees would welcome approaches from any local curler who is prepared to help fund the project as the project moves now into a fairly intensive phase over the next few months.

14th April 2009

The contact details of the Subscribing Trustees (Jamie Montgomery, Bob Tait and Colin Grahamslaw) are also in the news update, but I have not included these here. Suggest you contact the Royal Club if after reading the above you need more information.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

World Champs Home

I was surprised that there were initially so few of us at Edinburgh Airport today to welcome the team home! There was 5th man Graeme Connal and all the support staff off the flight from London at 12.40. But where was the team? They'd lost them... somewhere.

Actually, they had missed the connection in London! Most wanting to see the team home had read of the delay, and of course turned up later.

So, there was a good opportunity to have a chat to Graeme. It must have been difficult for him to have been sitting on the bench this time - last year of course he filled in for Ewan MacDonald as he recovered from his knee surgery. But Graeme was full of admiration and support for his teammates. Most don't know the hard work expected of the team alternate, late nights helping match stones are just one of the jobs. He's a great guy is Graeme. A good curler too. A very good curler. Here's a fact about Graeme you may not know. He's represented Scotland ten times at World Juniors, Europeans and Worlds, AND HAS ALWAYS COME HOME WITH A MEDAL!

Home and work commitments meant that he did not put his name forward for the Olympic Squad. Pity... Still, the final team for Vancouver gets announced at the beginning of May. No awards for guessing who four of them will be. Who will be the fifth? I wonder...

The soon-to-be-retired from being Editor (me) had time to admire Graeme's WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP GOLD MEDAL. (Sorry, I just feel like shouting it)

Of course, two hours later, there was a big crowd of friends and family to welcome the other members of the team. Here are just some of them.

And some more, with flags, banners and balloons.

And the media were waiting. All the papers had had news and photos of the win today. Now they wanted more. Even Terry Wogan had mentioned it on his popular Radio 2 morning show! (Now you know that I'm a TOG)

And here they are in action! What a welcome.

And this is what they are looking at. L-R: Peter Smith, Ewan MacDonald, David Hay, David Murdoch, Euan Byers, and Graeme Connal (finally re-united with the others).

A special welcome home for the Scottish skip from his partner Morven. And in case you are wondering - not that this family blog would ever think of indulging in smutty innuendo - that funny shaped balloon is supposed to be a champagne bottle!

Aaaaah! You add your own caption! Thanks Morven.

And here's the 'posed' shot. L-R: Peter Smith, Euan Byers, Ewan MacDonald, David Murdoch, Graeme Connal and David Hay. Once again, congratulations to you all.

Pics by Bob.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Was it a dream?

I woke up this morning, wondering if it had been a dream. I switched on the computer and in my email was the photo above from Hugh Stewart in Moncton. David Murdoch, Ewan MacDonald, Pete Smith and Euan Byers DID win the Ford World Men's Curling Championship in the early hours of the morning!

Thanks to the Eurosport Player I had been able to watch the final live. Great production, with Luke Coley's knowlegeable commentary, and great value for money. It's a long time since I've been that excited at 3 am!

So well done to the boys. They are expected home tomorrow, Tuesday, around lunchtime I gather - the details will no doubt be put up on the RCCC website. In the meantime, I am going to enjoy reading what the Canadian pundits say about the defeat of their 'unbeatable' team. Here's a starter from Al Cameron's enjoyable blog.

Gold for Scotland in World Final

David Murdoch, Ewan MacDonald, Peter Smith and Euan Byers are the World Champions!

At the Ford World Men's Curling Championship in Moncton, the Scots beat Kevin Martin, John Morris, Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert FOR THE THIRD TIME in the week.

I'm speechless, almost in tears, and full of admiration for the Scottish team. Very well done guys!

Find the linescore and playing percentages here, and Mike Haggerty's game report here.

Kevin Martin and David Murdoch in the final. Photo by Hugh Stewart.