I recently went to the 21st birthday party of a friend of mine from university which was held in Aberdeenshire. The birthday boy and girl (joint celebration as it was) decreed that, as well as it being black tie dress, all guests would be required to wear a ‘hint of Scottish.
In fact, the entire event was Scottish themed, and altogether the fun I had made me realise something which I had been studiously ignoring for a while: Scotland is amazing.
We arrived at the house early in the afternoon and were almost immediately summoned to one of the fields in order to partake in the Not the Lonach Highland Games 2010. For those of you unaware of Scottish culture, this is essentially a piss-take of the Lonach Highland games which are held at Strathdon, Aberdeenshire every year. At the real Lonach games, men compete in manly sports such as the caber toss:
Luckily for me, the Not the Lonach Games were mildly easier, with games such as Wellie Toss and sack races to keep us super busy until dinner time. The whole thing was done with much pomp and ceremony with one cousin piping the entire event, and anyone with any claim to a clan tartan wearing it with pride.
After dinner, the reeling started. Now, the whole point of reeling is that it is social. Generally in a reel, all the men involved will at some point (albeit briefly) dance with all the women. The whole point is to encourage participants to socialise, and when mixed with alcohol, it is extremely effective. This style of dance became popular in Scotland in the 18th century and has been one of its great traditions ever since. It is, in my opinion, the best Caledonian activity of them all.
All Scots are taught to reel from a young age and it is up to any non-Scots guest at a reeling dance to familiarise themselves with the choreography before going. Of course, sometimes we forget the moves, or indeed we only learned them last time after a few pints and need ‘gentle reminding’. My partner for three of the dances was a girl who had been a member of the Caledonian Society at school and she did something incredibly useful if sometimes mildly frightening. Any time it looked like I was about to mess up the steps, she would roar an instruction with great urgency: “NOT LEFT, RIGHT!” and I would immediately jump to do as she commanded. Thus, I made it through Hamilton House, The Duke of Perth and the Eightsome Reel.
The final reel of the evening was, as is usual, Strip the Willow which essentially involves all the girls standing in a long line on one side and all the boys on the other. Meanwhile, a pair dance down between the two lines, swinging each other and a member of the opposite sex as they go until they get to the end. This may sound fairly easy, but I assure you that I nearly collapsed at the end, having swung about 40 girls round the room.
Nonetheless, I still managed to get a lovely photo with the birthday girl.
Happy birthday, V!