Sunday, July 28, 2013

So what do you do for fun around here?

The Scots are not appreciated enough for their creativity. Perceived to be a serious bunch, the careful observer will notice their subtle brilliance in creating new activities out of mundane routines.

Imagine that day around the farm when Angus and Fergus  were winding up the afternoon chores. Angus picked up a thirty pound anvil and said, "Ye think I can toss this stone over me head and into the hayloft?"

Fergus replied, "Isn't it a bit early to begin drinking yer whisky?"

Angus said, "No whisky yet, but I will bet ye a pint that I can do it." Fergus nodded, and thus began one of the competitions that some Scots still continue.

Send a stone flying!
This is creative stuff. Serious, too. The Big Guys toss stones into the air for height or distance, or run down a field balancing an upright telephone pole and then attempt to hurl it end over end.

All the time, there are piper bands scaring away flocks of sheep, little girls twirling in highland fashion, people running in big ovals or cycling after one another, while proper ladies in print dresses sell cupcakes and all forms of fried delicacies.

Welcome to the Highland Games, one of the oldest forms of Saturday fun in Scotland. Today we visited Airth, a small village that hosts a huge competition on the fourth Saturday of July each year. It was an extraordinary day for all of us. We had a wonderful time.

Aye, the lassies are pretty in Airth!
The weather was terrific. The small village was welcoming. The event functioned like a three-ring circus, with constant activity on the community soccer field. There were activities for kids - and plenty of kids.

At the end of the afternoon, a number of students stormed the field for a huge tug-of-war competition, while the Big Guys competed by hauling around a huge stone, once used for tying up horses at the market. We were enchanted, and stayed all afternoon. It was great fun.

And then came the most surreal moment of all. Lauren struck up a conversation with a villager, who told us about an unusual landmark nearby. So rather than run between the raindrops for the bus stop, we walked out of town, turned down a country lane, wandered through an overgrown garden. There it was: the Dunmore Pineapple!

Architecture can be stranger than fiction!

Seems the Earl of Dunmore had too much money on his hands in 1761. In an extravagant display of affluence, he built a mansion shaped like a pineapple, which was a rare and costly fruit at that time in Scotland. He wanted the neighbors to know he was rich enough to do whatever he wanted - but the Earl didn't stick around to receive their feedback. He took a ship across the sea to become the colonial governor of Virginia, until those pesky rebels convinced him to return in 1776.

When we returned to Glasgow and wi-fi, we discovered the Dunmore Pineapple has its own Wikipedia page, if you wish to learn more. There you find it described as "the most bizarre building in Scotland." That may be a harsh judgment; I think some of these Scots are very imaginative and fun.

I mean, who else would have ever created a delicacy out of a sheep's stomach stuffed with oatmeal? They are a most creative people.

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