Just over a year ago, in the glowing aftermath of the fantastic event that was the Belfast 4 Nations, I went with the flow of the moment and the enjoyment of the weekend, and agreed to host the next event. Since I'd been good at arithmetic at school, and 3 events of a 4 Nations tournament had already been hosted by the other nations, unassailable logic told me that it was time for the 4th event to be held in Scotland - and this, plus said glowing aftermath, succeeded in masking the internal alarm that was frantically trying to tell me that I've never organised any competitions in the past, and didn't have a clue what questions to ask, let alone know what I had to organise! As an example, I didn't know the measurements for the various lines on a piste - there's always someone else who has already organised that (and I still don't know them - Bob and Paul from Allstar gave me a loan of a couple of conducting pistes for the weekend, so I used the lines on that as a template!). This made me understand and appreciate just how much people do to prepare for competitions - something I used to take for granted, but from now on, I'll be extremely grateful!
The internal alarm started to register a few months later - however, I'll skip past the intervening months since then, where there was a growing list of more and more examples of just how much I didn't know! Thankfully, I shared these with the organisers for the other nations - who mercifully offered advice, guidance, help and documentation (and many thanks to Gillian, Mike, John and Fiona for this) and I'll bring the story up to the weekend of 24/25 April, when a welcome host of fencers descended - despite volcanic ash - onto St Thomas of Aquins school in Edinburgh, where we had an extremely enjoyable weekend of fencing and socialising, in particular at a well-subscribed dinner on the Saturday night. Traditionally we bring gifts from each nation to present to the others at the dinner. This year we agreed to hold a raffle for these gifts, with the proceeds going to charity. To draw the raffle, I was very pleased to have Bert Bracewell - the man who taught me fencing - as the guest of honour. Many of you will know Bert, and it will be no surprise to you that he had many suggestions for me to include in my own speech - so many, in fact, that I volunteered him to give his own speech, which was well received! I'm not going to dwell on the speeches, but there were some fine words from Mike Norfolk, John Crouch and Sheila Anderson (and apologies if memory is a bit fuzzy and there were other speeches - I did have one or two drinks!), preceeded by a fine chorus of "Happy Birthday to you" for England's Moya who must have turned 40 something. I assume this age, since she was at a Veteran's event (and looking pretty spry from what I remember from refereeing the first match!).
The drawing of the raffle was fairly brisk, and - unusually - saw the prizes going to the right people - e.g. Welsh Whisky going to a Scot (Brian - our national heritage means he should be able to appreciate this tipple); a monumental slab of chocolate going to a self-confessed chocaholic (Fiona); our own 2nd (i.e. daft) prize of a Nessie hat (including the instruction to wear it when leaving) going to a Scotsman. In all, well-deserved prizes - plus we raised £206 for the charity Missing People, and I'm scouting around for further donations - so if you have any, please let me know, as if I can get it up to £250, my employer will donate another £250, meaning the charity will get £500 - a pretty good result for the first time we've tried this!
We went into the Sunday knowing that England were heading for victory (unlike last year in Belfast, where Scotland and England were neck and neck at the end of Saturday). However, this didn't detract from the competitive spirit, and everyone fought it out to the last hit, with the final outcome being:
- Wales - 4th with 4 victories
- Ireland - 3rd with 7 victories
- Scotland - 2nd with 11 victories
- England - 1st with 14 victories
For me, it was a great weekend, epitomised by the nail-biting final match of the event - Wales-Ireland Men's Epee. I'm sure the Welsh and Irish will remember the detailed sequence of hits, and my apologies that I didn't catch all of it. All I remember is hearing it was 39-38 with not a lot of time on the clock, then equalised at 39-39 with somewhere between 10 and 20 seconds on the clock, then going from there to a 42-40 victory for Wales. Epic stuff!