Gray Cowden Days and Hot Turku Nights
Andrew Goldie wiz @ Ra Gemme
"Our Leader's Name is Nelly….
Nae Messin'
"Jist look at Davy's belly....
Nae Sweets
"And Stewart's burd is Smelly...
Nae Amused
… The Gray Cowden Family!"
Nae Programmes


More of whom, much, much later…


For the more distinguished readers (ie those over 50) let me firstly say that this pre-season bash blows the old Highland tour of Cove, Buckie and Dornoch out the water. You get back, and after a day or two in the recovery room, you find yourself asking "Did it really happen?" Only until Davy posted up the pictures did the terrible and sometimes ugly truth reveal itself, and hopefully this short resume will make a little more sense of the photies in the gallery. With people coming and going for a short time, there was a different chemistry every couple of days and occasionally the mixture was explosive.

Now Read On.

DavyAllan and m'sel' flew to Helsinki and found ourselves in Turku quite by chance so we were settled in easily. Stewart, however, was off and running by the Sunday morning having been enjoying the favours of a Helsinki Floozie named Petra. Now, quite obviously I have no quarrel with anyone with the name of a Blue Peter dog, but when it comes to gnawing on a bone? More will be revealed later. Ugh.

Pork Stew

Having got on a coach to take us into the middle of a beautiful nowhere (Hats Off to Vivien and Davy B!) - the No Fishin' notice had been hastily replaced by "FC Boda This Way" - we denuded the local petrol station of every fluid ounce of alcohol, we watched an experimental (ie, not very good) Hearts side struggle to match the levels of enthusiasm of both the opposition and the Hearts support. Cheerleader-in-chief was Our Very Own Neil Mackay, and Edinburgh is quaking in its size-8s knowing he will be back resident there shortly. After Hearts' opening goal he expressed his approval by racing onto the pitch, shirtless but not beerless, can in one hand, waving his shades around in the other. The programme mentioned "Triallist", and I believe his case comes up next week.

They don't think it's all over

However, he was outdone shortly after by Not Our Very Own Brian Smith, whose encouragement of the shed-side linesman following the crippling of Robbie Neilson in front of his and our eyes was as constructive as it was crackpot. "LINESMAN!" he ran up to the man, but stood never less than five yards away - no encroachment, no threatening behaviour, you understand -

Brian notices the linesman is zonally-challenged
"GET IN THE ZONE! YOU'RE NOT IN THE ZONE, MAN! YOU HAVE TO GET IN IT, YOU HAVE TO LIVE IT, LOVE IT, BREATHE IT, TOUCH IT! YOU'RE NOWHERE NEAR THE ZONE! COME ON, LINESMAN, GET IN THE ZONE!" Five minutes later, Brian sat down again. This was to prove something of a motif for the entire week.

The referee - something of a cross between Hugh Dallas and Franz Beckenbauer - was quite obviously the local scoutmaster (only one who fancied himself more than his charges) and strutted around blowing his whistle for no reason. Expect him to be tossing the coin the next time Hearts get into the UEFA Cup. (Don't laugh.) Half-time entertainment was provided by the World's Strongest Man (supposedly) lifting some (supposedly) serious weights. The locals cheered but we weren't impressed. "That's nothing," we said, "This time last year Steve Fulton attempted the world pie-eating record at half-time. That was something to see."

Precious McKenzie
Meantime, the Heroes of Rainbow Hearts had 'taken' the home terraces, much to the chagrin of various locals who voiced their concerns.
"Sijoittunut nahty suuria hienoukia maali syntyi vapaapotkusta!" one of the Hagar-lookalikes exploded.
"Aye, well, that's easy for you to say," the Rainbows responded with some spirit, and when Hearts scored the winner the argument was decided.
Pagger Zone
No need to tell you that Finland was easy on the eye, and no need to go into detail about exploits. However, we were most impressed that a quick glance on the inside back page of Scott Rogers' passport showed that he's the only man we know whose Name, Nationality and Profession can be listed on one line. Equally, during the long evening after the Boda match, Brian found himself in Another Zone Entirely with two middle-aged man-eating good'ol' gals (who no doubt thought they were in the Twilight Zone).
Forbidden Zone

Turns out he was just warming them up for Davy Allan and your correspondent, as Room 427 in wir hotel was the hottest ticket in town that night.

Possibly. Possibly not. I don't really remember.

The Big O Zone
I'll get me coat…
"Hallo, is that the Police?"



The following afternoon found us sipping a restorative Belgian beer in the Old Bank, one of the most civilised bars to be found in Western Europe, and a scan of the local press showed the exposé of the year. The picture didn't actually prove Stewart was wearing nothing beneath his kilt, but a strategically-placed black disc ("The Black Hole of Calcutta") inferred there was something there you really didn't want to know about.

Caption in Finnish says: "Unfit for Human Consumption"
As well as consuming Quite A Lot Of Drink, the food wasn't too shabby and we decimated the local reindeer population at a restaurant where some of the menu was actually on display. Choose your animal! Some others later went off to a club where they did something similar. Or so I heard.
The game against crack Finnish side VPS was prefixed by an unrefreshed march to the stadium, so we thought perhaps mass hallucination was affecting us all when we saw a man in a green t-shirt carrying a maroon cross. Davy's digitally-enhanced picture proves this, so all we could suppose was that some Hibs fan had come over early for their tour of the mosquito-ridden forestland, carrying his burden. Green Cross Man

The game itself wasn't up to much (what I saw of it, anyway) as we watched a non-experimental (ie, not very good) Hearts side struggle to get to know each other. It was quite easy to spot Mark DeFries - he was the injured one trotting up and down the lines. He did a lot of that on this tour. In the end, Hearts shared five goals with VPS, but they were more greedy than us, simple as that. The local wildlife had turned out to bellow their support for their team, and in a response to plummeting share values, one of our number swapped his £45 Hearts top for a minging old VPS dishtowel which will undoubtedly be worth a fortune on e-Bay in a hundred years' time.

Auld Reekie

Meantime, Stewart was investing in a little foreign exchange of his own just as the Hearts players were getting on their coach to a mystifyingly enthusiastic response from all of us considering they'd just been beat.

Kissy Kissy

Mike Rogers presented Antti Niemi with a jersey with the number of goals Hearts will concede this season on the back and while we repaired to the bar, some Hearts players went back to the repair shop - or McDonald's as it's better-known. We have eye-witnesses' who will swear on oath that a well-known Scottish Internationalist fixed himself with 3 cheeseburgers, 6 chicken nuggets, one fries and two ice-creams. None of this poncey pasta diet nonsense, eh? I mean, what the hell are they - professional athletes? Naaaah!

Old. Antti.

The Open Golf Tournament started at Muirfield on the Thursday, so in its honour we had a drink-induced shot at the crazy golf course in a beer garden close by. If anyone remembers the Japanese bloke after whom the Road Hole Bunker was renamed The Sands of Nakajima in 1978, the 8th hole will keep Davy Allan awake at night for years to come. Drive up the slope, but gently enough for it not to go round the topmost curve and slowly return to the tee.

No claret jug for you, Monty!

Got that, Davy? Ten shots later… Oh well, he got his money's worth, put it that way. Then to the football game, which wisely someone had arranged a minibus to - we'd walked far enough playing golf.

just before it was ripped into a million pieces
The little beer enclosures were proving unsurprisingly popular in view of the fact that Hearts kept giving away two-goal starts, but old habits die hard and I joined the cognoscenti in the Centre Stand. It was to my surprise, then, when a young Finnish journalist asked us a load of interested questions at half-time. You can't believe everything you read in the papers, because I'm quoted as saying "Suomeen meidat toi tietenkin Hearts. Olemme kai tarpeeksi tyhmia lahteakseeme seuraamaan joukkeueen harjoitusotteluita" - which is pretty damn' impressive, 'cause I can't speak a word of Finnish. Grouser's Corner
They also quoted Davy Brunton, and the estimable Ian McKintosh (who'd jetted in from Jamaica, Top Man) and one "Gray Cowden" - obviously Finnish for Gary Cowen, though after the measured debate/punch-up with Davy Allan concerning Grecian 2000 the day before, it seemed suspiciously coincident. Gary consults a good lawyer


A few memories to share and treasure: the beauty that was the Old Bank, Turku Cathedral on the river, the beer (natch), the women (natch), and Scott phoning us up on the Friday morning from Helsinki Airport to tell us he'd left his passport in the fridge of his hotel room. Having delivered it to him, Davy and m'sel' decided to hop on the next available plane home rather than have an extra couple of days on the lash. Man, we needed it. I'm off to McDonald's to refuel - anyone fancy it?

pub Pray For Hearts Up the Kriek Kegger! "This is the fiftieth and final call for the 1.30 plane to Heathrow…"