What fun.  A long day of seeing things I may never see again – piping bands, Highland dancing, caber tossing.  When I got home tonight I was so tired I could barely walk straight.  Happy tired.  The sound of pipes still playing in my ears.

The Highland Games began in the 11th century when King Malcolm Canmore organized a foot race up Craig Connish in Braemar to find the fastest courier for his court.  Soon other Kings and Chieftains copied the idea and the games expanded to include dancing and piping contests so the best entertainers could be hired.  Games of strength were introduced to find the strongest men for bodyguards.  In the 1700s the rulers of England did their best to destroy the Clan system for fear of uprisings from the Scottish people.  The playing of bagpipes and wearing of the kilt, among other things, were banned by Act of Parliament!  But the spirit of the gatherings was kept alive by the Highland regiments until by 1848, Queen Victoria herself was attending.  Now there’s a royal tradition of attendance at Braemar.  How things come around.

My favorite things about the games today were the Highland dancing and what they call the heavy events – putting the ball, throwing the Scots hammer, caber tossing.  It’s so cool because all the heavy events come from weights and objects that were used in everyday life on the farms – activities that they had to do in real life.  The caber toss originates from crofters transporting newly-felled tree trunks (cabers).  To get them across the river they would try to toss them into the center of the stream and make the trunk turn end over end till it landed on the other bank.  There’s evidence that Henry VIII participated in caber tossing.

Women now participate in the heavy events, and I have to say, I found this annoying.  First of all, they just weren’t exciting to watch because they weren’t as good as the guys.  And I came to Scotland to watch big burly boys toss logs, not girly girls.  Is it really necessary for women to do everything the men do?  :)  But it was amazing because there were competitors from all over the world – even two guys from the USA!  Bands came from such disparate places as North Carolina and the Netherlands.

I got lucky at the Highland dancing competition.  A dancer and her mother were sitting right next to me, and the girl got up and started practicing!  Got some great photos of her.  Even the wee ones participate in the dancing and there was the cutest little blonde boy – looked like he was only 3 – up there dancing with everyone else.  He slipped part-way through his dance, got up and kept right on going.

At the end of the day they get all the piping bands together for a mass march through town, but I had to leave before it started to catch my bus.  I was so disappointed.  And then the most perfect thing happened.  When I got to my bus stop I noticed there were lots of people standing around, sitting on the curbs, waiting for something.  And I realized the bands were going to march right past my bus stop!  Sure enough, after only about 20 minutes I heard the sound of the pipes coming down the hill.  All of the bands marched right past me!  The people loved it, cheered and clapped.  And as the last band marched away, my bus pulled up.

And that, my friends, is what they call a perfect day.

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Tossing the Caber

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Zell
08/12/2013 6:06am

Oh, Vicki, the games sound wonderful! I just read all the past few posts that I had missed as I prepared for and made my trip to Mom's. I didn't know all that history behind the Highland games, so thanks for the lowdown! Isn't Scotland gorgeous?! The Scottish Independence Referendum will take place in 2014, and personally, I hope they stay in the Union....but then, who am I to say? It's their lives and their country.... But still.

The castle you talked about sounds incredible!! Seeing all those ancient castles is enough to create a love of Gothic literature in anyone, I think, loll! Also makes it easy to understand how British tales like Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" arose. I mean, it might be hard to write comedy with those crumbling, foreboding castles out the window!

Thank you for sharing all these wonderful stores with us!!

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Vicki
08/14/2013 1:57am

Zell! Is it your birthday today? Or tomorrow? Happy Birthday on both days! :) Just got back from Edinburgh last night. Such a wonderful, wonderful trip. LOVED the games, LOVED Scotland. It is absolutely gorgeous. Just as I imagined it and more. I saw signs everywhere about the Referendum, but I don't know anything about it. Can you tell me more? Very curious.

I could not believe that castle I saw. Or that you can still walk around in it, all up to the top floor! Walking in the footsteps of medieval people - incredible.

Still struggling with deciding when to come home. Might sound strange, but it helps a lot getting these messages from you and everyone. Keeps me tied to home and less lonely! Love you much!

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Zell
08/14/2013 5:10am

Oh my, Vicki--today is my b-day; you remembered! How sweet of you! (Btw, I'm taking the day off from blogging. Now that I'm finally settled in at Mom's, I expect to start regularly again tomorrow.)

I'm so thrilled you got to Scotland! Isn't it amazing?! I could definitely spend some extended time there. As for their independence issues.... Here is a link to the most *brilliant* rap song that totally cuts to the chase. To get all the wording, you may need to listen to it a couple of times, but it explained the issues sooo much better than any article I've read on the BBC or elsewhere.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nu8ta_ECc5s

When you get back (whenever that may be!) remind me to tell you about purchasing the small tract of Scottish land. (Too much to go into here.) Weren't we just born in the wrong time and place, lol?

Do please keep writing! Am loving every single post!

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