Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Nairn Highland Games, 2008

... otherwise known as a highlight of my life!
Honestly, one of the best. weekends. ever. Not only was the weather on Saturday absolutely brilliant, but the company was smashing, the drinking delightful and the locale unmatched. But to tell the story...

Alpha and I drove up with Pandy on Friday afternoon as soon as I got out of work. After loading two crates of tennents (the local brew of paupers' choice) and the tent into the boot, we hit the road. A rather severe thunderstorm threatened to slow us down, but we would not be deterred. Friday night saw the construction of the tent village, some lovely homemade lasagna by our host, let's call him the Dear Scotsman (DS), and a lovely sunset over the Northern Highlands.

Saturday morning brought further arrivals as all prepped for the Games. Our little tented village, see below, added a few more neighbors and general conversation sprung up between the old friends and first-timers as we munched on various cereals and began tossing about the tins of brew. It was really quite refreshing to once again be amongst those hardy souls who do not smirk at the notion of the breakfast beer.

Due to our location, we had a lovely walk up along the shoreline, and arrived just in time to see the combined pipe and drum band march along the perimeter. Thus the games began! (To be fair, I spent a fair amount of time talking to DS's other guests in a beer garden directly adjacent to the games field, but I caught the major events.)

The atmosphere was far from lacking. While there were the requisite carnival rides and attendant riffraff, along with the requisite jokes and movie quotes pertaining to such folk, there were also stands selling highland tablet (how to describe?... if fudge and maple sugar candies had a love child? I think that's about right) and hand-knit sweaters, kids and dogs running about on leashes and free, completely unintelligible announcing, and this guy:

I know it may be hard to see, but there's an additional neck on that there guitar, and it kinda sounded like a ukulele. Translation: awesome.

There were several events that I'd never really seen before, and while I'm sure they're all part of a proud and useful tradition (as is everything in Scotland) I couldn't really tell the precise use of this giant game of tug-'o-war.

For me, the highlight of the Games themselves had to be the Caber Toss. I'd been looking forward to actually witnessing this for so incredibly long, I was giddy as a schoolgirl the entire time.

A caber mid-flight!

The action was intense, I can totally understand why DS felt the need to look away! Additionally, he looked quite dashing in his full kit, well done!

The rest of the weekend was spent drinking and laughing so hard my sides hurt, eating grilled burgers and toasting bits of bread over an open flame. Apparently there were bugs about, but they decided to pass on biting my flesh-- perhaps the gin and tonic therapy I've adopted has really and truly put them off! To be fair, I wasn't the one swilling the gin, I left that up to Clarkie. I did, however, sample several glasses of this:

The conversation ran a little something like this:
Alpha: What's that?
Miss Melville: Looks like sangria to me!
Queen of the Brew: I don't know if I'd go that far... let's call it punch and leave it at that.
Miss Melville: (takes a deep pull from her mug) Either way, works for me!

To be absolutely fair, the entire weekend came off without a hitch due mostly to the efforts of one man: our Dear Scotsman. Always moving about, seeing to things, popping in and out of conversations, finding flashlights, leading the way to the pub and back again, taking care of all the organizational pitfalls that plague large gatherings like this one-- he did it all with aplomb and skill. Hats off to you, kilted grillmaster! Please note the tankard: again, well done!

I was the last one standing come the end of Saturday Night into Sunday morning, and beyond seeing the last of the drunks to bed and tidying up a little bit, I gazed at one of the most memorable and spectacular sunrises of my young life:

We drove back to the 'Deen, slightly sunburned and very happy, later in the morning on Sunday. Le sigh. Back to the everyday worries of rent and submission deadlines, but I lived the dream for one full weekend, and that's pretty good by me. If you ever, EVER, EVER get the chance to go to the Highland Games, any of them, don't think twice. Don't even blink. Just go! And if they're in Nairn, look for me-- now that I know that they're there, I will be doing everything in my power to get back. :)

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