June it is!
Well, it sure has been awhile since I posted here. Steve and I have finally sold the farm and started living full time in our motorhome. It has been a long time coming, but here we are. We spent a couple of weeks enjoying a lovely spot at the Kansas Pomona Lake State Park. However, I learned a valuable lesson while trying to use my own phone as a hotspot to access internet. "Oh, that should be no problem. Just plug it in and you won't use your data at all." Well, that was what our AT&T rep said to me. But I learned very quickly that she was not correct. I should NOT DO THAT! I ate up all our data time in just about one day. The days of staying online all day long are now over for me. So that is my excuse for not writing sooner (as I would often write in a letter to an old friend). And yes, I am looking for an unlimited data plan for 5 users.
Now that Steve and I have moved to a commercial RV park in Topeka for a few days, I have full access to the internet. Well.... that is not quite true. I have to share it with the other 50 RVs in the same park. So I either have to be patient while waiting for my internet to engage, or get up at 2:00 in the morning so that I don't have to share. I'm not keen to participate in either. But now that I have a few moments of internet bliss... I'm writing.
What brings Steve and me in to the big city and a commercial RV park, is the upcoming wedding for my nephew, Isaac. He is going to be married tomorrow. We only have a few customs at our family weddings. I am chosen to give the family toast to the bride. (Perhaps it is more correctly stated that I have assumed that role now that my parents have passed.). We have a long history of strong women, so I get to tell the bride and her family all about this and assume that she too is a strong woman, and we welcome her. Or some such toast along those lines. Then I launch into my mother's favorite toast:
"Here's to those who wish us well."
"All the rest can go to Hell."
She claimed she was taught that in Scotland. I have my doubts...
So of course when I started looking for a topic for today's Diaspora, I decided it would be a bit timely to talk about Scottish wedding customs during the traditional month of June brides. So here we go! (J. Drew McFarland - pay attention for your beautiful little girls.)
From the Visit Scotland website, there are some nice customs listed and discussed! https://www.visitscotland.com/about/scottish-weddings/traditions/
- The bride should step out her own door with her right foot on the day of the wedding.
- A sixpence in the bride's shoe is the custom from Aberdeenshire and Angus.
- A sprig of white heather in the bride's bouquet is a bit of good luck if you are from the Scottish Borders
- As the bride steps into the coach on her way to her wedding, her father throws a handful of coins out the window. This is known as the "wedding scramble." Children then scramble to pick up the coins. In Ayrshire, this is called the "Warsel."
- The bride has an older married woman wash her feet. This is the custom in Fife, Dundee and Angus. But note that in Fife, the young groom goes through a similar custom. But for the bridegroom, he sits in a tub of water while his legs are coated with grease, ash and soot. (Nothing is included with this note from Visit Scotland. No explanation for this tradition. Not sure how this is related to getting hitched.)
For the actual wedding and reception (Here, I will just copy and paste):
"Gretna Green Famous Blacksmiths Shop is where couples have been coming to tie the knot since 1754. Are you feeling rebellious? Follow in the footsteps of the countless runaway lovers who, lured by Scotland’s lenient marriage laws, eloped to the sleepy town of Gretna Green on the Anglo-Scots border. Say your vows over the original anvil used by the ‘Blacksmith Priest’ when presiding over clandestine unions."
"The Wedding Walk is the formal march taken by the wedding party to the church. Preceded by a piper or fiddler, the bridegroom leads the maid of honour while the bride walks behind with the best man. After the ceremony, the newlyweds leave the church followed by the best man escorted by the maid of honour. To secure good luck it was traditionally thought that the wedding procession should cross running water twice."
"A Penny Wedding is an ideal solution for those after a traditional yet budget-friendly wedding. Guests bring their own food and drinks to the reception allowing the couple to splurge on the wedding cake."
"The Scottish Quaich or ‘Loving Cup’ is a two-handled silver bowl which is topped up with whisky, usually by the bride, and then passed around for the wedding party to sip once the legal proceedings have been concluded."
I suggest visiting the website if you want to know more. But the customs are very interesting. And to my nephew and his beloved, Lisa - I wish them all the best!
(Just tried to find a good Scottish toast to use instead of my usual "strong women" one. Found the one below, but I will not be smashing the glass. I will, however, think about one leg up and one leg down. I will be in my best black floor-length formal with my Navy miniature medals on my red bolero jacket and my MacFarlane sash. Seems appropriate!)
Theatrical Scottish Toast :
Delivered while standing on a chair with one foot on the table. After the toast is given, the drink should be downed in one and the glass smashed.
Here's tae us;
Who's like us?
And they're a' deid!
Men and Women in Kilts Throwing Heavy Objects
That is usually how I describe a Highland Game to someone when they ask where Steve and I are going. We are going to a Highland Game. Of course it is much more than that, but most folks think about the men in kilts throwing things about.
To be honest, when Steve decided he wanted to "throw" for the first time, I said that would be great and I would fully support that idea. We were heading to Joplin, Missouri to add our support to our friends Joey Grieshaber and Jamie Channel. It was the first Game for Joplin. We were full in to help.
Steve put on his nice, made-in-Scotland, modern hunting green kilt, and we showed up at the local park. It took a couple of hours to put up the weight over bar, the bar for the sheaf, place the various stones, and then sort out the clipboards and trophies. But after a couple of hours, the games started.
I expected Steve to compete in the sheaf, and the caber. After all, he's a farm kid/cowboy. He knows one end of a pitchfork from another, and I've even helped him put up hay. The motions of tossing bales of hay are not too different from tossing a sheaf. Right? However, I was not prepared for the entire day. I truly thought athletes picked an event or two. Surely this is not the dicathalon.
Each athlete competes in all of the events. They work towards a personal best and they work to have the highest score among all the athletes competing in their category.
So I watched as Steve learned from the Masters, athletes in their 70's who had earned the repect of so many other younger athletes. They patiently gave Steve tips and instructions for each event. I was particularly proud of him when he picked up the caber and threw it for a perfect score. My Steve is 71 years young this year, and he has thrown at least 4 times in the past 8 years. I'm so proud.
Of course, at the end of that day, he was dragging. As Joey would explain to Steve, a former long-distance runner, Steve has muscles for endurance, but not the springy muscles for the Games. The springy muscles are with those guys and gals who lift weights and can have a sudden surge of power to throw those heavy objects. The endurance muscles are the ones that will carry your body across fields or across the swimming pool for long periods of time. Steve held a state record for many years, so yes, we understand the endurance muscles.
Again, Steve did participate at least 4 times at various games. He started and finished each time. What events did he complete at each game?
The Caber - that telephone pole looking thing that must be picked up and thrown in front of the athlete with the hopes that it lands perfectly at 12:00 o'clock to achieve a perfect score. You get a point just for picking the thing up.
The Hammer - a heavy ball on the end of a long handle that is thrown just like you see it in the olympics. It weighs about 22 pounds for men and the women throw one that is 16 pounds. One of my favorites to watch because the athlete will pick up the end, whirl it around his/her head and then let it fly. It isn't the throwing but the beautiful whirling of all the pleats from the kilt that I love to watch.
Open Stone and Braemar Stone - this is like the shot put. The athlete places the stone on their collar bone below their chin and attempt to launch the stone as far as possible. The open stone is 2 different weights. The athletes start with the heavier stone and then move to the lighter one. The Braemar stone is a set weight.
Weight for Distance - Same motion as the hammer. The athlete holds onto the end of a chain attached to a weighted ball. There is a spin and a throw for distance.
Weight over Bar - You might see some athlete approach this as they would the Weight for Distance with a spin and a release. The object is to get the heavy weight at the end of a chain over a high bar. Most athletes will lean over, pick up the weight and then rock it outside their legs and then between their legs to get momentum to throw it up and over a high bar located above the athlete. The toss is normally up and over the athlete's head going backwards. I once heard Joey say it is all with the hips.
The Sheaf Toss - This is where Steve's "putting up hay" days helps. Using a pitch fork (of sorts), the athlete pierces a sheaf of hay and tosses it up and over a high bar. This event is where I learned it isn't about your size, but rather your technique. There is an entire family from Manhattan, Kansas where all of them compete. One of the family members is Emily. She is this little tiny gal, but even with her diminutive size, I have seen her toss the sheaf higher than many male athletes. So don't let your size keep you from participating.
I found a great website for the BC Highland Games with a photo and description of each event. The descriptions there will likely be much better stated than mine. Enjoy that page here: https://bchighlandgames.com/competitions/heavy-events/
At some games, we have seen a tug 'o war. But we rarely see that event as that would be a team event. As Christina McFarland Helms, who also competes, points out, the tug 'o war is more common at the games in Canada and Europe. But what a fun event to watch!
To be honest, my descriptions do not give the sport true justice. But next time you wander out to a game, maybe you will have a better idea beyond just the telephone pole toss of what the athletes are doing. Would I ever participate? Nope. I'm a wimp. Bad back, bad shoulder, bad knees and ankles (too many years playing volleyball). If we were allowed to throw broom sticks (I know Steve has a joke with that particular item for me) instead of heavy trees, tennis balls instead of stones, and a bean bag instead of a heavy bale, I might consider it.
For now, my full respect to those who give it a try. You should be very proud. And here's to Jamie Channel (featured below), one of my favorite athletes.
What a great word!
Steve has 3 daughters. When one of them, in particular, calls him, I can always tell it is her. He says "hello" and then he doesn't say another word. But I can hear the constant buzzing of chatter on the other end. In the 23 years I've known him, this has always been the routine. The call is never short. Sometimes he will get up and wander around completing small tasks with the phone attached to his ear. But he rarely says a thing.
In person, it isn't much different. A very cheerful conversation that is driven by one line of thought process after another is the case. I too have a cousin that is fascinating to listen to. She's full of great stories, and somehow she manages to string them all together. The upside of this is I don't really have to participate. I just have to listen and give the obligatory nodding of the head from time to time. The downside of this is that although fascinating and wonderful stories to hear, I don't get to participate.
When Steve and I went to Scotland on our very first trip, and when we were standing in a typical tourist trap store packed with thousands of souvenirs to select from, I spied a tshirt on an upper hanger in the far corner. On it was the word: Blather.
The Blather tshirt was followed with the following definition: "To talk fooilishy at length -- often used with on."
Although I did not purchase gifts for everyone in the family, I convinced Steve to purchase this one tshirt. Now, don't misunderstand me. We love this child. She also has a good sense of humor. So she liked her gift. At least we believe she liked it.
And would I ever change the way she or my cousin chatter away? Never. So, child - Blather on!
Love, Mom and Dad (On this Mother's Day)