I'm sure you will have shared my disappointment to read the Royal Club's announcement that the Grand Match on the Lake of Menteith, hoped for next Tuesday, will not take place.
The Loch looked beautiful today. I walked way out, reminiscing on how it looked just like this in 1979.
There was just a light dusting of snow over the main surface of the loch. Just as there had been in 1979, there were big cracks, as happens when a body of water of this size freezes solid. And solid it is!
There were a few skaters, some playing ice hockey. I encountered a number of walkers with their dogs!
Then there were these professional photographers, freezing their ***** off to get a worm's eye view. Of what?
Of the curling, of course!
Two rinks had been marked out. One group was made up mostly of Gogar members from Murrayfield, who kindly allowed me to play a couple of stones down their rink. It was not bad at all - a little slow if one wanted to be critical, but eminently playable.
I arrived at the hotel just as the Grand Match Committee had finished their meeting with representatives of the police and the emergency services. Colin Grahamslaw was preparing a statement, which undoubtedly you will now have read here.
The disappointment was palpable. There were lots of sad faces, eg President Bill Marshall, second right. Let's be clear about this. I doubt the Royal Club could have done more than it has to facilitate the Grand Match on the Lake of Menteith next week, even though this venue is not on the list of recommended sites. But if the police and ambulance say no, as happened, then there was no other decision the Royal Club could make.
And without knowing details of the discussions, I can see the problems. Even today with relatively few cars on site, idiots parking selfishly were threatening to block the little road that runs aside the loch, heading south from Port of Menteith. Given the hype in the media (which I'll perhaps return to in another post), huge numbers of spectators would have headed for the Lake of Menteith next week, tying up lots of police in traffic management. But the key problem would be accidents. Even getting on and off the loch beside the hotel today was not easy! Broken bones are one thing, but if ambulances cannot reach more serious incidents ...
There is a lot more to it than the above, but having familiarised myself with the area around the Lake of Menteith, I can see myself now just how unsuitable it is for a repeat of 1979, in terms of access.
But see below!
I've come home this evening to an email inbox full of messages indicating disappointment. Many are critical of the Royal Club. Some of those who have contributed to the thread on the Scottish Curling Forum are misinformed. Let's be clear, there's no question that the ice itself is unsafe. It is as safe as it was in 1979.
I believe that it is other concerns such as those I've touched on above which lead the emergency services to say 'no' this time, with such a short lead in time.
There is talk of a 'breakaway' big bonspiel which could be held unofficially! There's a Facebook page here.
Come on guys, get off your butts. There is absolute no reason why you cannot get a few friends/club members together, and if you have your stones, crampits, a tee-ringer and a byre brush and scraper, then there are lots of opportunities to play outside, as I've tried to indicate on this blog over the last week or so.
Indeed, if you are an enthusiast, why weren't you playing on the Lake of Menteith today? And enjoying yourself, as those in the pics above were.
The hotel had a barbecue going on the deck, with homemade soup and hamburgers. Excellent too. Complain all you want about the Royal Club and the GM committee if you must, but if your game is curling, then you should have been on the loch today. Maybe you will be tomorrow, or even next Tuesday? What's stopping you? Get organised, and do it.
It should be all about playing outside, not just about the Grand Match! Having experienced a game or two from the crampit, then you might be better prepared when the call comes again for a Grand Match, as it may well do, perhaps even next month.
If you don't fancy travelling to the Lake of Menteith, there's going to be a bonspiel on the Kirk Loch, Lochmaben, on Sunday, 11.00 - 15.30, organised by local curlers headed up by David Hamilton. Teams of four or six can play, and must have their own stones, hack or crampit. It is of course at everyone's own risk. There will be a collection for prizes and for charity. Help is needed to clear snow on Saturday morning.
If there are other opportunities for outside curling, please let me know.
Get out there! Stop complaining about the lack of a Grand Match, just enjoy the opportunity to play outside. Today was perfect. Where were you?
1. The lake at the driving range, Castle Kennedy, Stranraer, 11.00 Sunday.
2. Castle Semple Loch, Lochwinnoch, tomorrow (Saturday)
Pics above are © Skip Cottage