DESPITE an African monsoon sweeping across Edinburgh, the clouds parted just at the right moment to allow Dollar Academy successfully to defend the Bell Lawrie White Scottish Schools Cup final at Murrayfield, with many of the Scottish rugby squad looking on from the stands for a change.
Under a full moon, a boisterous record crowd of 5,483 witnessed Dollar Academy skipper and scrum-half Graham Wilson nail his kicks with Jonny Wilkinson-like precision as his side overcame Dundee High School 27-14.
Some of the younger members of the crowd showed great enterprise in the home-made giant megaphones they brought along to cheer on their school, items which are rarely spotted among the usual Barboured West Stand habitus.
Looking on was Scotland’s newly crowned captain, stand-off Chris Paterson, who was not only basking in the glow of landing the job that day but was also very impressed with the standard of rugby when the ball became a bar of soap on such a sodden field.
"It’s very difficult to appreciate quite how hard it is to play rugby when it is so wet as this," explained livewire skipper Chris from the touchline.
"Fortunately the Murrayfield surface holds up very well in these conditions and it has been a hugely enjoyable game. Dollar Academy have controlled the game superbly in difficult circumstances though Dundee have defended very well against much bigger opponents. It will be a great thrill for these guys to play here at their age - as it still is for all of us."
As for taking the helm of the national side and his team’s prospects in the forthcoming RBS Six Nations Championship, he remains upbeat.
Added Chris: "I was surprised and delighted to be made captain and I will be relying heavily on the experience of such players as Gordon Bulloch and Tom Smith throughout the campaign. It is a huge honour and although I have not captained Scotland before, I have captained throughout my career at a number of different levels.
"England will obviously start as tournament favourites but we cannot look beyond the Wales game. The training has gone really well and has been helped by the move to Stirling and we can all hardly wait to get stuck in. Supporters can expect a huge commitment and desire to win and for progress at the end of the five games."
Scotland’s emerging talents, Simon Taylor and Mike Blair, were both on hand to sign autographs for an army of admiring females, though Mike’s other half, the ebullient Viv Mackay, ensured all was in order.
"Both Mike and I are working, so to speak," explained Viv over a coffee and shortbread at the pre-match reception in the President’s Suite.
"My company is doing the PR for tonight which seems to be going very well and there has been a great turnout despite the weather which has driven me to book my trip to Rome for the Six Nations when Scotland play there, in search of sunnier climes."
Boswell hopes that Simon Taylor will have shaken off a minor ankle injury before the trip to Cardiff next weekend to get Scotland’s campaign under way.
"Training has gone really well and I am fully fit with the ankle a very minor concern," said the affable Simon, whose laid-back persona belies the carnage he creates on the pitch.
He also backed arch-rivals England’s decision to appoint Lawrence Dallaglio as skipper in the post-Martin Johnson era, though he seemed less well informed about his own new boss.
"Dallaglio is definitely the right man to lead England and I would have chosen him," added Simon. When asked what he made of Chris Paterson taking Scotland’s reins he raised his eyebrows saying he was unaware of the appointment - but Boswell may well have just bought a trademark Taylor dummy. Good luck in Cardiff.
Smoke signals worth following
THOSE in possession of a GPS satellite system should enjoy Smoke Stack, Richard Forbes’s new restaurant in Leith, which is hoped will build on the success of the first Edinburgh outlet in Broughton Street.
The new eatery is located in an attractively converted 18th century warehouse on the site of David Ramsden’s former restaurant Fitzhenry, and the Cullen skink and the trademark chargrilled steaks and fish were well up to scratch.
The new Smoke Stack’s location - tucked behind Martin Wishart’s restaurant on Shore Place - had most cabbies scratching their heads, but Richard Forbes is optimistic.
"Smoke Stack has been so busy over the last six years that we knew we would have to open a second one to be able to meet the demand, especially from larger parties," said Forbes - the man who opened the Basement Bar and so began the trendification of Broughton Street.
"The additional space at the new Smoke Stack in Leith is ideal for larger bookings, and of course there’s the same combination of top quality food at affordable prices that keeps our customers coming back for more.
"Favourite dishes include calamari with lime mayonnaise, king prawn kebabs with chilli jam, goat’s cheese with caramelised walnuts, and, as befits the true burger kings of Edinburgh, our version, made with 100 per cent pure ground steak mince has a tantalising selection of nine different toppings to choose from."
Among the guests was the winsome Kim Gurney, who works for the Leith-based subsidiary of the US giant Rock Star Games, which produced the highly successful Grand-Theft Auto: Vice City. Sadly Kim was keeping mum about future plans for the firm, which played its part in developing the quickest-selling game in history.
As diners have so far reportedly included Jack McConnell and the husky Radio One DJ Sara Cox, all augurs well for the restaurant’s future.
Clans exhibit their naked ambition
ALWAYS up for a clan gathering, K made her way to the Clan Exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery to check up on her ancestral portraits.
K admired photographer Gordon Davidson’s collage on the Clan Donald, which included a tartan-clad Prince Charles, though K was somewhat surprised to see a photo of a naked man with a tattoo of Bannockburn across his buttocks.
Photographer Fin Macrae explained: "Our model, aptly named Mr Bruce, was really proud of his heritage. The irony is he tattooed the Bruce’s heart to his chest, right next to one from South Park."
Before K could contemplate following suit with her family crest, Highland Festival director Alastair McDonald explained: "The clan system is very much alive, perhaps not dressed up in an instantly recognisable tartan, maybe not even living full time in the Highlands, but is still strong and still relevant. There was a lot of brainstorming for this exhibition."
The event is sponsored by Orange, whose spokesperson Pip McLennan added: "This project is no ordinary photographic exhibition; it addresses the process of change in the Highlands, and in Highland life in the 21st century. We believe this will encourage debate around the traditional clans, and the contemporary clans, portrayed here."
Luftwaffe march keeps the RAF's aces high
K WAS thrilled to join senior RAF officer Air Commodore Simon Bryant and company at a charity concert, held at George Watson’s College and hosted by Edinburgh’s own: 603 Squadron of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force.
The audience of 600 stood respectfully to God Save the Queen before the band kicked off to a stirring rendition of Aces High, an old Luftwaffe march, prompting MC Peter Crawford MBE to lament: "The enemy get all the best tunes."
The George Watson’s College band than took centre stage dressed in parade uniform. The world champion pipers marched to the beat of the drums before accompanying the band of the Royal Air Force College Cranwell, in a rousing rendition of Highland Cathedral.
Principal Gareth Edwards told K the boys had been invited to play in the Far East. "They have been invited to Japan this April, third year running. I am hoping to join them as a bag carrier."
K then reports the crowd went wild when a crooner then sang Robbie Williams’s offering Angels.
Clearly swept up in all the pomp, K even purchased a natty Spitfire badge and the band’s CD, aptly named Up, Up, Up and Away. Don’t be surprised if the RAF has a new recruit.
Party of the week
ANYONE at a loose end on Valentine’s Day may well be advised to head along to Edinburgh’s Macdonald Holyrood Hotel for a Greek fancy dress ball.
Expect plate smashing, Greek dancing and oodles of ouzo at the shindig organised by Dr Maria Evgenikou.
Bachelor Boswell is banishing himself to the Namibian desert for Valentine’s Day, so it will be up to loyal lieutenant Lyons and K to take charge and fly the flag.