Scotland the passionate?


Radio silence can be accounted for – I was in Skye (or is it on Skye? ON an island, IN a place. Lucky I’m not a copy editor or anything). A train up from La Belle Londres to Edinburgh, me and WalkChum, and then picked up on Sunday by a friend who handily works as a guide walking in the Highlands and his LadyFriend. The four of us then drove up the east coast and cut across to Skye. Heck, it’s a long way when you have to drive around every loch in Scotland, but what a heavenly heavenly view as you go.

Brows had furrowed during the previous week’s weather forecasts. ‘Severe’, ‘extreme’, ‘warning’ are not words I welcome, but by the time we’d got halfway to America the Mediterranean Fairy had parked itself overhead and we woke to day after day of cloudless blue skies. The sun didn’t go in until Thursday, and even then it was only coyly, briefly behind a chiffony wisp. On Wednesday I staggered off the hills with a blazing headache and feeling a bit sick – is this sunstroke? In Scotland? What the…? We stood on the mighty crags of the Cuillins and asked Martin which Hebridean island was which – is that Eigg? Could it be Rum? Until he had to admit that he couldn’t work it out because he had never seen them before. And, even more miraculous, the previous week had been so foul that the midges hadn’t yet hatched.

Martin’s LadyFriend, Caroline, is in the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra and was playing a gig on the Saturday night, so Kristin and I rounded off our holiday with a dose of purest Scottishness, in the Alhambra, Dunfermline. The average age of the audience was about 103, counting us, and we were a mite apprehensive. Gotta say, it was like going back to Hogmanay on telly circa 1974, but I love a bit of fiddle, and watching/listening to anyone doing something they do very well is always a treat.

But Scottish music. Hmm. What’s that all about? I know nothing about music, ok, so I’m perhaps not in the strongest position to comment, but what IS it with Scottish music? Unencumbered as I am with expertise or knowledge, I’ll just plunge in. Traditional music, folk music is a political protest, a pissed-up carouse, a heartbreaking lament, a bawdy roar. Whatever it is, it’s muscular, passionate and more alive than you’ve ever been without falling in love. Folk music is peasant music. It’s about wanting to get loaded and have a good time. It’s about attacking the ruling class, shouting with your best mates, getting drunk and, let’s face it, pulling. That’s what we’re all here for, isn’t it?

Another thing: maybe I’ve spent too long in Ireland, where any declaration of Irishness is instantly deeply political, but frankly I have come to expect a bit more kick-the-English in my trad bandery. The music that got the audience singing along in Dunfermline was fun and pleasant, but it didn’t make me want to jump out of my seat or cry maudlin tears into my pint. Except when we got a violin solo and the words of Burns’s My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose read to the music that Burns himself preferred, I felt, at last, my throat beginning to lump up.

So maybe it was the lyrics. Certainly all the stuff about sighing after Bonnie Mary of Argyll and hanging around in bluebell woods was a bit hard to take. To be honest, I thought it was all a bit tough on the girls. Scottish boys, take note. If we’ve gone to all the effort of pitching up to the woods/dingly dell/crag o’er the glen, we’re not just there to hold hands and have our eyes stared into. Got it? 

But having said all that, it was a great fun evening (and not only because Martin won two bottles of whisky in the raffle). If you get a chance, check out the SFO. Just seeing 50 violins, played beautifully, pipes, cellos, kettle drums, singers – marvellous. Just don’t think you’re going to pull.


One Response to “Scotland the passionate?”

  1. 1 richmonde

    Ha ha! Just listening to An Nighean Dubh by Susan McKeown. Not dull at all.

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