When Scotland asked for a couple of north-based umpires to help them out at their Nationals, we jumped at the chance for a trip over Hadrian's Wall. Friday morning we donned our tam o'shanters, took a swig of Irn Bru and set off northwards.
The first of many highlights of our trip came in the form of a stop off on the A66 at the wonderfully named Llama Karma Kafe (complete with real live llamas strolling past the window!) where we enjoyed a cup of tea and a bacon sarnie. Well worth a visit if you're in the area (and check out the neighbouring Llamas in Pyjamas B&B!). Our other driver-swap stop was equally lovely, at the Chocolate Gallery cafe in Auchterarder where Chris enjoyed a particularly molten hot chocolate.
Anyway, on with the badminton. After dropping our bags off at the hotel in the centre of Perth we walked round to the sports centre in time for the officials' briefing, where we met the Scottish umpires (9 in total). On service judging, we were told 'call everything, significant or not.' This was going to make life interesting... The hall was looking pristine, with everything in place ready for the start of play.
Friday evening was the mixed doubles which passed without incident and we were back at the hotel in plenty of time to enjoy a drink in the bar with our fellow umpires. This may have been the evening when Vicky knocked Chris's pint over, but we'll gloss over that one.
Saturday began in earnest with the singles, before moving on to the level doubles, which was when the service judge's chair became a particularly interesting place to be. Again a fairly civilised finishing time in the evening. Umpires and line judges, along with referees and other organisers congregated at a local Chinese restaurant where we shared a very enjoyable evening.
Sunday was semis and finals. Vicky was delighted to be in the chair for Kirsty Gilmour's semi. Deciding she may never get another chance to umpire a homegrown Olympian, she chose to enjoy the occasion by grinning through the majority of the match! The finals were heralded by a live pipe band, which really set up the occasion and got everyone in the spirit, while also prompting a discussion about how as an umpire you would react if the pipe band came into your court mid rally... Vicky took to the court for the women's doubles, while Chris took perhaps the hottest seat in town, service judging the men's doubles.
With our games over, we were released from duty mid afternoon to make the long journey back to Yorkshire/Lincolnshire. We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend in Perth at what was a lovely tournament. The Scots gave their Sassenach visitors such a warm welcome and we were extremely well looked after all weekend (just as long as we didn't mention the rugby!). As they say, we arrived as strangers but departed as friends.