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We are driving from Pitlochry to London to start back to work tomorrow. It’s been a great New Year break or ‘Hogmanay’ as its called in Scotland.
Yesterday the main street of the town was closed to traffic as a large highland dance took place.
Tweedy, blue-rinsed ladies danced with baffled Italian tourists while white haired highlanders in regulation kilts gave novice dancers a crash course in rock-n-reel.
As I ordered a haggis roll, (yep that is haggis in a white bread roll) I met a man who knew my Aunt. She used to be a teacher in small highland schools.
The man and I didn’t spend long reminiscing, he was particularly concerned that he’d seen a number of men with kilts that were ‘too long at the knee’.
He was shocked that people nowadays didn’t know (or worse care) how to wear the kilt. So top tip from Pitlochry pie shop is: when you next put on your kilt to go dancing in the streets you should kneel on the floor and swipe two fingers between the hem of the kilt and the floor before leaving the house.
And the good news is that even if your kilt is a little long, you are still allowed to enjoy yourself. At one point there must have been around three hundred dancers all bouncing, whirling and laughing around the street.
Highland hospitality, culture and community at its very best.
That Calvinist streak in me is having a feeding frenzy right now. My twisted psyche demanded a guilt-laden price tag for six weeks of bliss. But despite the last month being about getting up to speed with this new job it’s not all been about work. Taking time off has reminded me how important friends are. A diary of promises and engagements made during my holidays has meant it’s taken time for the work life balance to level itself out. There have been lots of great meetings and greetings with mates and colleagues but what follows is some pictorial evidence of the importance of friends and family.
At the start of the month I had a night out in Victoria Park that was supposed to be a quiet drink with my brother-in-law, Rob. Instead I ended up meeting so many old friends I felt more than a tad nostalgic. It is nostalgia that leads to a loss of balance, third degree burns to your leg and an inside out head, isn’t it?
Highlight of the month has to be flying up to the Hebrides to Malcy’s 60th birthday party. Malcy is one of my oldest pals and fellow founder of An Lanntair art centre where his party was held. Despite the horrendous weather outside, inside I was reminded of how many good friends I have from my time in Lewis.
Be it pain avoidance, wisdom or appreciation of family, I managed to make a relatively sensible exit, which wasn’t in keeping with our past record for long nights. I knew that my grandson Drew and my daughter Laura would harbour no excuses the following day and I was right. Drew jumped on my head from the top bunk at seven in the morning, and I gave thanks at the altar of common sense.
From old friends to new friends. Mikael Strandberg is one of the world’s leading explorers and has been on some madcap expeditions in his time. However his latest plan to become the first person on record to walk unaided across the Arabian and Sahara deserts puts all his previous exploits in the shade (pardon the pun).
Jen and I saw him talk this week in the library of The Travellers Club on the Pall Mall. Now there’s posh! Surrounded by dusty first editions of Thackery, Dickens, Thesiger and shelfloads more, Mikael held the slightly worn travellers in thrall. He is an amazing speaker and a very brave man.