Several years ago,
even before the Outlander, the Highlander,
and all the other ‘Kilt-dressed rolling in the heather
and stabbing Englishmen and Haggis,
whichever came first,’
romance figures were invented,
my Robbie Burns and Ivanhoe fan of a husband and I-
I’m more the Stevenson type-
planned and planned how we could get to Edinburgh.
So when a chance came,
we packed a couple of pairs of jeans,
socks, hiking boots,
black concert clothes,
and the scores –
never forget the scores- you never know when you can use them-
to wonderful vocal works like Robbie Burns’ Highlander’s Lullaby
(about stealing cattle)
and the absolutely fantastic Ralph Von Williams’ Songs Of Travel-
and headed out.
Only to discover that they heat with peat there,
or at least did in those days.
And that I am unfortunately not a happy singer
when kippered like a herring.
Which a tourist agent quickly understood,
and, after laughing at how I pronounced Pitlochry-
It’s just like it looks-
and sent us there.
Where we promptly had one of the most marvelous weeks of our lives.
And the Scottish highland games-
Yup, by sheer dumb luck, we arrived exactly on “that” Saturday afternoon,
and got to watch the last fling style dancing-
plus a most impressive group,
apparently Scottish telephone linemen,
heaving large heavy slightly too short telephone poles.
Maybe for the top of the mountains, where the reception is already very good?
before putting our fingers in our ears-
the international musicians’ sign of surrender,
as we attempted to negotiate the path to our bed and breakfast-
a wonderful woman named Mrs Ogg-
along a line of actual skirling bagpipes,
a parade of war bagpipes, to be exact.
And if you have ever wondered what a skirl of pipes is-
visit the Highland games.
The pipes were totally different from what we expected-
sort of like listening to a raging lion or an elk roar in the wilds-
although the gentlemen,
and ladies did definitely play well.
Just that the sound was so totally different from the beautiful soft and glorious concert pipes
that often replace the organ in a church,
or for concert work.
Or for the fact that every American with even a drop of Scots blood,
and there are indeed a lot of ’em,
has to get married in clan kilt, with beautiful white heather spray bridal bouquet,
and, of course, the pipes.
We tucked in safe and warm in our Bed and Breakfast,
only to discover the next day that,
as if by magic,
Pitlochry was suddenly a place of beautiful stillness,
Like the fish ladder,
and the magical mechanical chicken of Pitlochry-
more about that tomorrow.
And, of course, like the marvelous places to hike on the River Tummel,
the many small whiskey distilleries,
most of which you can only reach by hiring a coach,
or walking straight up a hill for twenty miles.
Edradour is our favorite.
And then, of course, the fantastic Festival Theater-
in those days, a sort of wood-covered circular stage
with hard wooden benches.
The founders wouldn’t recognize it now-
a rich red plush theater-
with a brilliant local ensemble that, in our opinion, rivals London,
but costs a whole lot less.
And, from the coffee-room, gives you a fantastic view,
Not to mention some of the kindest staff,
I have met in a truly long time,
while you take in the works of J M Barrie,
or Peter Barnes’ The Ruling Class
or an absolutely amazingly played musical version of The Philadelphia Story,
called High Society.
And now we were back.
In a snug white-stone family-run hotel,
a place of gentile Victorianism,
and the ultimate in kindness and attention to detail by staff,
including the chance to sit quietly over a fantastically cooked,
and not all that expensive,
or chat in the lounge over a coffee,
with the Scots up for a weekend-
discussions of politics,
with no wrangling,
which I especially adore in the Scots I have met-
No anger, no stress.
And the best was-
the other hotel guests, with the single exception of a couple from Manchester,
trying to manage a very mildly-simulated Scots accent,
were all Scots-
a wonderful linguistic spread of all the possible variations in the language,
and all the various “cultural and weather hot spots,”
as one lovely lady explained it to me over coffee.
And was given the cultural hot spot exchange of my German Husband, my Midwest accent,
and the East-bay accents of two fit gents from the San Francisco bay area,
who were on a mountain biking tour,
and had heard about the wonderful and gentile Acarsaid Hotel,
and the fascinating people who stayed there.
But that, also, is a story for tomorrow.
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