Monday, September 3, 2012

Scottish games and silliness

You know that when I go on an outing with my family, I'm likely to find something to write about.  Sunday's trip to the 147th Caledonian Club of San Francisco's Highland Gathering and Scottish Games (all of that is a mouthful, so everyone just calls them the "Scottish Games") was no different.  In fact, I saw, heard and thought of so many things that I'm having trouble deciding which ones to share and which ones to keep to myself.  Between parenting fails, anachronistic moments, and the whiskey tasting, I'm pretty amused.

I should probably start by saying that this event is not actually just the Scottish games; groups from all over the world come to compete in the piping competition. Vendors selling goods from the United Kingdom and Ireland, as well as many, many American groups show up.  It's part family reunion, craft fair, Renaissance faire, music festival, and competition- pipers, dancers, caber tossing.... A small part of my family is from Scotland, but mostly, I'm of Irish, Welsh and English ancestry. My husband is a mixture of Italian, Norwegian, English and Native American (we don't know which group). We're not the hardcore Scottish descendants that many people at this event are, and that's okay.  Our ancestry doesn't define us the way some people feel it does.  This event is about showing our children a little bit of where they come from, celebrating one of the ethnic groups that has shaped California, and having fun.  I'm also aware that my ethnic identity is properly American.  Very little of my family's origins is seen in our lifestyle or traditions.  We've simply been away from those origins too long.

All that being said, I have a few observations to make, and you are welcome to take them any way you like. They were moments when I had to laugh at myself or thank all the gods that I have learned to keep my mouth shut (yes, occasionally, it happens).  Some of them are little lessons in living; all of these moments are memories that will linger, for at least a while.


  • While admiring the Clydesdale Horses, which I adore, we discovered that somehow, our eldest son had missed the memo about how to tell males from females among most mammals.  The realization left my part horrified and trying desperately not to laugh hysterically. I thought the kid already knew this, especially since he's pretty familiar with anatomy.  Of course the realization probably wouldn't have been quite so shocking if the part in question hadn't been a foot from my face on very large horse while surrounded by many people who heard the "Is that a nipple?" question (while praying that the little guy didn't make an exclamation about the size of the thing).  Time for the birds and the bees talk, I guess.
  • I actually overheard a young woman say "If I had a TARDIS, I would definitely vacation here" while walking through the living history area spanning both most of Northern Europe and centuries.  She was perfectly serious and didn't notice that "here" would be pretty hard for the TARDIS to find, as it never existed.
  • The Elizabethan women would likely have killed for some of the fabrics the re-enactors were wearing. Polyester double face satin is very shiny and colorful.  On the other hand, watching grown men play swords with bamboo weapons is just a little bit sad, especially when they're wearing their costume with Nikes.
  • Tell me again why Vikings have nothing to do with Scottish history.  Oh, the Scottish are really the purest group of Europeans.  How fantastic!  No really, that's all just a fantasy.  A few people really needed to crack open a history book.
  • One of the sweetest things I saw was the guitarist of Tempest hop off the stage to dance with a little girl who had Down's Syndrome.  She was having a blast.
  • You can take the master tech out of his shop, but you can't make him stop looking at vehicles.  My husband checked out the Clydesdale's truck and carriage, but not them. He also had to walk away from the moron mechanics with their Rolls Royce's that were putting themselves out as experts on  Bentley and Rolls'.  Too bad my historical knowledge of the lines was more accurate than theirs, and that my husband has made quite a bit of money repairing their repair work.
  • My kids are grossed out by baby cow snot.  I thought it was cute.  I guess it shows a marked difference between where I grew up and where they are doing it.
  • The whiskey tasting building was easily the most crowded and loudest part of the entire event.  Not even pipe bands could top the noise level in there.
  • Kilts for kids are terribly expensive.  They are awfully cute, though.  My kids even agreed to wear them.  Guess it's time to look online.
  • I got to see a lot of local artists' work.  This year's event was mostly vendors from the area, a few I knew of, but didn't realize were so close.  I'm excited to be able to see more from them.  I also love to see artists who preserve old techniques like foundry work, shoe making, and weaving.
  • My younger son will stop dead in his tracks and be silent to listen to music.  He listened to pipers, fiddlers, a hammer dulcimer, and a couple of folk/rock bands.  The other kid likes dancing.  Caber tossing is also very exciting to them (and their daddy).
  • When you attend events that are celebrating your ethnic group, remember that finding the people you were with is much more difficult, because you all look the same. Their all named the same, too.  Every other woman was yelling at her Colin, Gavin or Aiden to behave. Of course, It's nice to not be the only person wearing a big hat and dripping sunscreen, even under the shade nets.  
I hope you all had a fabulous weekend!  

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