Scotland

It’s time to grab my kilt because Olympic Curling started today with Women’s Curling being aired at 5:00 AM and Men’s Curling going off at 5:00 PM. If NBC (the National Biscuit Company) continues to do this, yours truly is going to be getting up before the chickens for the next twa weeks.

By way of response, I’m seriously considering launching TCC – The Curling Channel; All Curling, All the time! If I can get the distilleries on board, I’m in business! Imagine! An hour of curling brought to you by Laphroaig . . . or Glen Grant, Springbank, Dalwhinnie, Cragganmore – verily, the mind boggles! Of course, interest is going to wane come the summer but we can show “Curling Down Under”! Just think! Bonspiels from Australia! Interviews with Kiwi skips! And to round things out, we can show Shinty matches and watch the lads from Kingussie kick some ass! Be sure to let your cable provider know what YOU want to watch!

Has This Ever Happened To You?

I caught a wee glimpse of the men’s 500 metre speed skating this morning. Of course, the Dutch were burning up the track as usual. There was one heat with an Aussie speed skater in the outside lane. The gun went off and both skaters took off . . . or at least they did until the Aussie leaned forward a bit too much, the tip of his left skate dug into the ice and down he went, flat on his face. Somebody get the bloke a Foster’s while he regroups!

This past Sunday was an outstanding example of a fall day here in central Virginia; sunny, not too warm, not too cool. In other words, it was the perfect day to attend the Central Virginia Highland Games and Celtic Festival. This event has returned to the old State Fair grounds near Mechanicsville after following the State Fair up to its new home near Doswell, VA. (I’m going to skip relating the soap opera that was Atlantic Rural Expositions & its departure from Strawberry Hill.)

My wife & I locked up the house in Hopewell and drove up to Richmond dressed in traditional Scottish-American attire: I wore a kilt & she wore slacks – cargo pants to be exact. This jaunt was a bit strange for us as it was the first time in five years that we’ve attended one of these events and we were not hosting a clan tent. Back in the auld days, we – or at least I – attended 3 to 5 of these things a year, loading up the truck or the car with everything we needed to represent Clan Macpherson and/or Clan Grant and then driving off on Fri. evening or Saturday morning to wherever we were supposed to be.

The recession of ’08 had a lot of side-effects and one of them was a mortal blow to a number of these events. Highland games depend upon the fees garnered from Clan societies and vendors as well as proceeds from the gate in order to stay afloat. In the case of the small to medium-sized events, putting them on is a labour of love mostly and if they break even, it’s a good year. Nonetheless, it is all a house of cards. The public won’t come if the Clan Societies and vendors aren’t there and if the public is not going to turn out, then the vendors don’t want the hassle of paying the necessary fees and setting up shop. It’s the same way with the Clan Societies. Most of the tents are funded by the people who host them and are thus even more sensitive to disappointing turn-outs. If there is little or no chance of recruiting new members then why shell out the $$ and loading up the car/truck when you could be home watching football.

People lost jobs during the recession and the extras that made life fun – like attending Highland games – were curtailed or eliminated altogether. The folks who loaded up their cars couldn’t afford to do so anymore which brings me back to our day at the Central Virginia games. The Clan tents were there but fewer than 5 years ago. The vendors were there though not quite as many as before. The crowds were fairly decent but we only saw a handful – and a wee handful at that – of people from before the recession. Some, of course, had reached that certain age when it was time to stop doing stuff like this while others may have relocated, but the rest . . .

What I can report is that we had a fairly good time that afternoon. We got to hear “Oh Shenandoah” on the pipes which is second in chills-up-the-spine only to “Highland Cathedral” and saw an athlete hit a perfect 12 o’clock with a tossed caber. The only downside was the poor excuse for a meat pie that I was forced to endure. And when we had our fill of the festivities, we simply walked out to our car & drove home instead of having to wait until 5:00 or 6:00 before we could pack everything up and then hit the road.

The following poem by Robert W. Service — my favourite poet from the get-go — is one that I have loved for decades. I am presently contemplating memorising it as a party-piece.

A Song For Kilts

How grand the human race would be
If every man would wear a kilt,
A flirt of Tartan finery,
Instead of trousers, custom built!
Nay, do not think I speak to joke:
(You know I’m not that kind of man),
I am convinced that all men folk.
Should wear the costume of a Clan.

Imagine how it’s braw and clean
As in the wind it flutters free;
And so conducive to hygiene
In its sublime simplicity.
No fool fly-buttons to adjust,–
Wi’ shanks and maybe buttocks bare;
Oh chiels, just take my word on trust,
A bonny kilt’s the only wear.

‘Twill save a lot of siller too,
(And here a canny Scotsman speaks),
For one good kilt will wear you through
A half-a-dozen pairs of breeks.
And how it’s healthy in the breeze!
And how it swings with saucy tilt!
How lassies love athletic knees
Below the waggle of a kilt!

True, I just wear one in my mind,
Since sent to school by Celtic aunts,
When girls would flip it up behind,
Until I begged for lowland pants.
But now none dare do that to me,
And so I sing with lyric lilt,–
How happier the world would be
If every male would wear a kilt!

Robert W. Service

Resources:

On January 26th, my brother invited me to attend a Burns Night  celebration in Winchester, VA. Jim is a classmate – Hopewell High School, 1976 – of one of the many people involved with putting on this event and he figured that this would make an ideal birthday present for his aging, decrepit bother. It has been over 4 years since I attended/participated in one of these things so I was game from the get-go.

The photos in the album below were taken with my iPhone 4S. I didn’t want the hassle of lugging my SLR or even my Sony pocket-sized camera -my sporran is only so big – so I thought I’d give the iPhone a go. I have seen some brilliant work done off an iPhone but it does require a steady hand and the decided tendency of the photograph’s subjects  to remain stationary. This was somewhat difficult for Dr. Data as he had 3 drams of The Balvenie 12-year old in him so the results were somewhat less than spectacular.

I decided to post this 12 photo album to get a feel for the WordPress plug-in that runs the show so sit back and enjoy.

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At Long Last!

On our first trip to Scotland, my wife & I wound up w/ a LOT of time to spare at Glasgow’s Queen Street Station. Since we had not slept a wink on the flight over, we were seriously looking for ways to keep our eyes open. Judi wandered into the W.H. Smith newsstand and came out with a copy of that day’s edition of The Scotsman and a detective novel. Judi had never heard of the author but it looked good so she bought it. The novel was Black and Blue by Ian Rankin and it was good! So good that we wound up taking turns reading it during our stay in the highlands. I had discovered that I was allergic to Heather – probably the reason my ancestors emigrated – reading that book made things a bit more bearable.

Thus began a 12 year love affair with Ian Rankin’s detective fiction and Detective Inspector John Rebus. We went as far as to order copies of his works from Amazon.co.uk so we could read them in the original and not have to deal with the Americanised versions sold on this side of the pond. (Bloody Yankers!) That’s not all, either; we have two marvelous moggies named “Rebus” and “Rankin”. This factoid has been communicated to Ian Rankin by a member of Edinburgh’s Really Terrible Orchestra but no indication has yet been received as to how Mr. Rankin felt about this singular honour.

Although Ian Rankin has written other detective/crime novels with other central characters, the “Rebus Series” ended with D.I. Rebus’ retirement in the 2007 novel, Exit Music. Needless to say, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter of discontent since John Rebus was put out to pasture. Ian Rankin had said on several occasions that he wasn’t through with D.I. Rebus and that Rebus wasn’t through with him. Five years have come and gone since Exit Music and Judi & I had come to think that John Rebus had finally consumed too many drams at the Oxford Bar.

We have since discovered that this is not the case. Ian Rankin’s occasional newsletter announced this morning that Standing In Another Man’s Grave – a.k.a. Rebus Returns – is scheduled for release in a few days. (And there was much rejoicing!) Dr. Data now has one of Lady Judith’s Christmas gifts sorted and he assures you that Standing In Another Man’s Grave will be reviewed here on The Parsons’ Rant. When that happens is another matter as Lady Judith will hold on to the book with a death grip!

Muted Grant tartan

Women often complain that men “just aren’t in to fabric”. If you guys have ever spent an hour in a fabric store “just looking” then you’ll know what I mean. (On the other hand, my wife has spent countless hours in tobacconists hither, thither and yon whilst I “foamed” over pipes so I guess that there is some justice in the world.) However, all that suddenly changes for men of Scots descent if the fabric just happens to be tartan. The lads can put the lasses to shame on that bit.

If you’ve got the slightest interest in the plaid stuff, here are three bits of information about The Scottish Register of Tartans which was established by act of the Scottish Parliament in 2008 to register new tartans and to preserve information about existing tartans:

  1. They have a website at http://www.tartanregister.gov.uk/
  2. They have a Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/ScottishRegisterOfTartans
  3. They may be followed on  Twitter via @TartanRegister

Here’s a quick post for those of you with a Scots bent. The Scottish Register of Tartans now has a Facebook page.

The purpose of their presence of Facebook was stated in the e-mail announcing the launch of this page:

“We hope to use the page to engage with all those interested in tartan around the world, to have discussions and to share our love of tartan. We would invite you to visit and (hopefully) ‘like’ the page.”

So be a good lad or lassie and stop by http://www.facebook.com/ScottishRegisterOfTartans to give them a “like”.

Of course, you can can always go to http://www.tartanregister.gov.uk/index.aspx to register a tartan, search the registry for something that interests you or sign up for their mailing list like I did. You can also see a few of my favourites like:

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Dr. Data has PAD - Pipe Acquisition Disorder

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