Donald Walker: A trip to Paris in magnetic kilts

A hen party at Edinburgh airport makes a beeline for Richie Gray as the Scotland squad, and its supporters, head for the French capital. Picture: TSPL
A hen party at Edinburgh airport makes a beeline for Richie Gray as the Scotland squad, and its supporters, head for the French capital. Picture: TSPL
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LIFE begins at 40, we are told, but feeling the effects of getting older isn’t one of the pleasures of this dubious privilege.

For most of us who are over that particular hill, contact sport is now a distant memory. Every day starts in a blur, and where once that could be blamed on the previous night’s over-indulgence, now it just means that we can’t find our specs. And no amount of guff about baldness being a sign of maturity can ever pull off the same shameless trick when it comes to the curse of middle-age spread.

Another of these awful realisations dawned yesterday when our Paris trip veterans gathered at Haymarket. When the news came, it was clear we had reached a defining moment in our lives. After over two decades of drifting around the French capital every two years, from brasserie to tabac to boulangerie and back to brasserie, grazing on the way, never knowing where the next refreshment was coming from but sure that it was waiting for us somewhere nearby, the unthinkable had happened – one of the guys has booked us into a restaurant tomorrow. For a meal, for goodness sake. Has it really come to this?

There was worse to come. One of our number has delayed his departure by a day… because of a family holiday mix-up. Frankly, that reeks of a conscious decision. Another chancer pulled a similar stunt, stating that he had to attend his firm’s 30th birthday party – an anniversary shared with EastEnders. As lame excuses go, this is right up there with Arthur Fowler and the Christmas club money.


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To think that, only a few years ago, we waltzed around Paris when the rugby weekend clashed with Valentine’s Day, as our other halves nursed their wraths – and steery off-spring – back at home.

By the time we reached Edinburgh airport, the numbing news of the restaurant booking meant we had aged at least five years, although this might also have had something to do with the painfully slow progress the tram makes from the Gyle onwards.

It didn’t get much better at departures. A hen party came rushing towards us – further proof that even at our age, the kilt remains a magnet of some description. Or so we thought, until these ladies brushed past us to make the acquaintance of Richie Gray as he headed to the team charter. Poor girls. The weekend can only disappoint after such a big start.

On the plane, we spotted Gavin Hastings. Normally this would be a cause for some celebration but, when some bright spark pointed out that it’s now 20 years since the big man’s glorious match-winning try at Parc des Princes, father time gatecrashed the party once again. Old bugger. (Not you Mr Hastings, although it might be Grecian 2000 time soon, if it wasn’t before).

And so we arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport, handily situated on the outskirts of our destination in contrast to our landing place two years ago – Paris Beauvais, north Belgium.

There was just time at baggage reclaim to catch a word with Big Gav, who had read the first instalment of this Paris Diary during the flight and seemed genuinely alarmed at the prospect of appearing in the next despatch. Happy to be of assistance Gav.

A demain…