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.

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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It’s November 30th – St. Andrew’s Day. St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland and kicks off the holiday shopping season in the run-up to Christmas.

It is also the first day of the Annual Haggis Hunt sponsored by the Scotsman, an Edinburgh newspaper. If you’ve never hunted haggis, here’s how it goes. The Haggis is hunting season runs from St. Andrews Day until Burns Night in January. To join the hunt, simply go to the Official Haggis Hunt Website where you will find all sorts of lore about this wee tasty beasty as well as recipes for properly preparing the rascal. You will also find a set of 10 webcams. It’s your job to check these cameras on a regular basis if you hope to espy a haggis. (This is their season for migrating, mating or something like that so the haggi – the plural of haggis – should be out in force!) If you are indeed lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one of the elusive buggers, simply follow the instructions for reporting your find. Who knows – you just might win something!

A kilt is not required to hunt haggis but a flask of a certain amber liquid – to keep yourself warm, of course, and repel any lingering midgies – is highly recommended.

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!

Before you think that I’ve lost my mind, allow me to explain.

This is the first day of the Celtic year and yesterday was the Celtic version of New Year’s Eve. The ancient Celts believed that at the close of the year, all the spirits of the departed would try to return to their mortal homes. Obviously, this could rather unsettling. It was bad enough that the deceased had departed this mortal life; but to have them come back?

In anticipation of these unwelcome visitors, the Celts would disguise themselves so uncle Angus or cousin Fiona would not be able to recognise their mortal relatives. The Celts would also try to frighten these unwelcome spirits away by doing things like carving a face into a turnip, hollowing it out and placing a lit candle inside. The sight of this glowing, menacing turnip was a sure-fire way to send uncle Angus and/or cousin Fiona packing.

When the Christians arrived on the scene, they co-opted the Celtic New Year’s day and renamed it “All Saints” or “All Hallows” Day. The day before was called “All Hallows Eve” or as it’s known today, “Halloween”. The scariness remained but the disguises became costumes and the carved turnips turned in to jack-o-lanterns. It became a day when the bairns – wee and not so wee – would don costumes and go from house to house where the owners would bribe these fearsome apparitions with candy so they would go away  and not play wicked tricks like haunting or turning  their privy over on its side.

And now you know the rest of the story. In the UK, there is some amount of grousing that Halloween and trick-or-treating is an unwelcome American import. This is rather unfair since it was their ancestors who started the whole thing in the first place.

Last night, we had four kids turn up st the front door of The Parsonage. This was cause for celebration as we have not had a single one for several years. As is his custom, Dr. Data wore his kilt and a good time was had by all.

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:

This is not going to be a full-fledged movie review like Roger Ebert would do. It’s simply a few comments on the movie, Brave.

You may remember my recent post concerning Disney’s registration of the DunBroch tartan that was used in Brave. Well, I’m in Hopewell, VA this weekend and since Hopewell has not been a “happening place” for 45 years – some folks will say that it never was to begin with – I decided to catch the late screening of Brave over at the Regal in Colonial Heights.
I chose the 3-D version and while there was nothing really spectacular or unusual in those effects, it did add to the overall experience.

I must say that I loved Brave from the get-go and not simply because two of my favourite actresses – Kelly Macdonald & Emma Thompson – were voicing the heroine and her mother. (For the sake of full disclosure, I will confess that I wouldn’t mind listening Kelly Macdonald read the Glasgow phone directory.) The CGI work was superb and the backdrop for this tale did make me rather hame-sick. The story line itself will be familiar to most daughters & mothers – at least to my wife, anyway – and that is the age-old battle between the two when mother tries to inculcate mature, lady-like qualities in her daughter who has other ideas about what a lady should be.

While the story will, no doubt, resonate amongst the fairer sex, there is enough comedic fodder to be found in the male characters that most laddies – wee and not so wee – will enjoy it as well. I read the review on the Common Sense Media website and found that in the “Sexy stuff” category, the movie was noted for its clansmen being naked under their kilts, (Aren’t we ALL naked under our clothes???) a few bare bums and a servant with a generous helping of cleavage. All this is hardly ground-breaking and only full-blown prudes, members of the Family Research Council & the totally sheltered will find anything to be offended by. [Yes, I know I ended a sentence with a preposition but, actually, that rule applies only to Latin so get over it!!]

The film is definitely kid-friendly though 8 years should probably about the youngest age of potential viewers. There are some scary sequences that might upset your wee bairn. On the other hand, I’ve seen 6-year old’s thrive on scary stuff and beg for more. At the end of the day, parents should take in to account what their children are used to seeing or reading about before making a final go or no-go decision.

There are a few factual errors, though. For example, the queen is seen eating with a fork centuries before such implements actually came into use. Another is the allied clan chiefs bragging about their eldest sons’ valour against Romans and Vikings when the individual presence of those two groups in Scotland is separated by about 200 years. Finally, there is the notion of  kilts and clan tartans well over half a millennia before that sort of thing made its appearance in Scotland.

Nit-pickers should get over it as Brave is e-n-t-e-r-t-a-i-n-m-e-n-t   and not a   d-o-c-u-m-e-n-t-a-r-y.  Moreover, Disney Studios have a habit of playing fast and loose with the truth. Just ask them about Lemmings!

In the final analysis, Brave is a good and entertaining family movie as well as a fun way to escape from the heat. Older viewers will enjoy the humor to be found in such things as the strong dramatic resemblance between Lord Dingwall’s son – Wee Dingwall – and Terry Jones’ portrayal of Prince Herbert in Monty Python & the Holy Grail.

My Rating:

As I might have mentioned on the front page of this site, I am somewhat Scottish. (I’m also somewhat Native American but that’s a story for another day.) I even march in the occasional parade.

Being of that persuasion, I keep an eye on things like single-malt whisky, kilts, more single malt whisky and . . . tartans. The Scottish Government maintains a registry known as The Scottish Register of Tartans and ordinary folks like you and me can use it to search for tartans associated with your family name, school, organisation, company, etc. Any person or entity can register a tartan provided that it is a unique pattern and colour palette. (Just ask me about the red Grant tartan sometime.) You’ll see tartans that were designed to commemorate things like weddings & other events, holidays, someone’s fancy to have a real family tartan and . . . movies.

The movie in question is the Disney/Pixar release known as Brave and Disney has registered a tartan known as DunBroch which is representative of the tartan worn in the movie  by the royal family of the kingdom of DunBroch. Tartans may be restricted to use by members of a Clan, a family, organisation, company etc. With regard to the first for categories, enforcing the restriction is kind of hard especially if the tartan is one of the very many that are regularly woven by the commercial mills. At most, there is some grumbling and sometimes a bit of  pride; your choice of the particular tartan in question is taken as a complement. The last category, though, can be a bit dicey as corporations carry a  good bit more clout (and attorneys) than the typical Clan association. Disney is no exception. DunBroch was registered with the restriction for exclusive use by Disney. So, unless you find neckties or scarves for sale at Disney World, you would do well to steer clear.

By the way, Princess Marida – the character you hear in the promos – is voiced by the talented and lovely Kelly Macdonald. You may be familiar with her work in Boardwalk Empire or No Country for Old Men.

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