11am Christie Park Stadium. Sun. In the changing rooms, Jakob Jensen wants to write on a wall in mud. Could I find him a bucket, water and …some mud?
12.30pm Lunch at the Gordon School. The kids swim around us like sharks. In the stadium social club, the radio bumps along with the travel news and the artworks begin to pile up. ‘Visit Garioch Blinds! Open 9 to 5 Monday to Friday.’
6pm Four pipers in full dress uniform lead a roaring tribe of Huntly folk and footballers down the main street. ‘Scotland WIN, Denmark LOSE!’ over and over again. Old ladies wave from the windows. As eccentric as Ivor Cutler and as Scottish as the Broons. ‘Who’s going to win on Saturday?’ cries Roddy Buchanan. ‘Scotland!’ scream the kids.
Later The Sports Trust building (aka The Barracks) White-painted brick walls, wide corridors and an overpowering smell of Ralgex. Twenty-six green canvas camp beds, 52 smelly trainers and their respective socks, and a stress-disorder of possessions like someone’s set a bomb off in a teenager’s bedroom.
4am Woken by a noise outside. Someone bangs on the door. Can’t find my watch; can’t find my T-shirt, must be morning. No-one else up. I get up, half-naked, find two policemen in the corridor.
‘Morning. I suppose it is morning?’
‘It is. What’s going on?’
They’re standing slightly too close for comfort. I explain that 26 footballers are sleeping and that some of them are Danish and it’s Art. ‘Oh right,’ one of them abruptly whispers. ‘I heard about this …’ And they tiptoe off.
2.45pm Dreich. I have to collect Roddy, who’s due to talk with a group of sixth-year girls. To my surprise, he seems more interested in training—such is the power of the Beautiful Game. Claudia Zeiske, producer of Art Cup, tells me to tell him if he doesn’t come now he won’t get his tea.
FRIDAY 23 JUNE 4.15pm Well-built, red-faced and white-coated, a man with a ham arrives from Raeburn’s the butchers looking for help. ‘Is this yours?’ he asks, handing me the outsize joint. ‘I’ve no idea,’ I reply, ‘but it wouldn’t surprise me’. He laughs, slightly puzzled.
5pm Jonathan Gowing, the Scottish goal-keeper, has popped his knee during the afternoon’s friendly and won’t be able to play. A bad omen.
6.30pm Nuno Sacramento, Art Cup’s co-founder, introduces the private view. He points out that the first Art Cup took place in Lisbon, capital of Portugal; the second in Helsinki, capital of Finland; the third in Belgrade, capital of Serbia; and this, the fourth in Huntly, capital of …
‘Strathbogie!’ someone shouts.
7.30pm There is a miniature cow in the showers. I love it. It belongs to Peter Bøttger. I’m now sitting in the stand watching three groundsmen marking out the pitch. I’m not sure it’s quite what Paul Klee had in mind but they are undoubtedly taking a line for a walk.
Midnight Despite Roddy’s best advice on pre-match boozing, the barrack block is buzzing. Derek Lodge has his head shaved in warrior ritual.
Match day. Silence before the storm. In fact, silence is the problem—the PA system doesn’t work. It did last night and of course nobody knows why it doesn’t now. Panic. More panic, right to the wire. The new PA clicks, parps a bit and—‘Ffwh, Ffwh …’ —works less than one minute before it is needed.
1pm The game begins. In the control room, two guys lounge about in a rainforest of cables while the commentator is saying, ‘Well, after 15 minutes of no entertainment so far, perhaps it’s a conceptual match. Artists, eh?’ Rain. Absolutely torrential. Scottish rain. The pavilion rings with stamping feet and banging seat-backs. Players slip and slide in the wet. Across the field a Danish banner has begun to run, red on white: ‘Danske Drenge Har de Bedste Ben!’ (‘Danish boys have the best legs!’). Towards the end of the second half the Danes score a third goal. It’s hard to see how Scotland can recover. Interesting how serious it has all become, which I guess is the point. We’re all captivated, drawn together into the final act of a performance that began weeks ago.
10pm The ceilidh in the Gordon Arms Hotel sparkles. Antonio Rodriguez-Anderson (Denmark) dances a creditable jig. The glitter-ball winks with post-ironic glee.
12.30am After a swift half in the Rose & Thistle, the guys head home, whistling a cheery tune or two. Hardly anyone attempts ‘Flower of Scotland’ (in either Scottish or Danish) and no-one suggests a single round of ‘Donald Whaur’s yer Troosers?’
8am (or was it 11am?) Breakfast at Asda. Rumours of antics in the early hours, all of which sound a wee bit far-fetched to me. I mean—naked five-a-side at dawn? As if in your wildest …