Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Bit of Variety

Over Labor Day weekend, I was delighted to have the time off to drive up to Pleasanton (near San Francisco) to see the Highland Games there. My main intention in going was to watch the professional piobaireachd, which was held in a hotel in San Ramon. That was worth every inch of the drive. They had five competitors who had to deal with a very pervasive air-conditioning system, and who all did so. . .well, professionally. I didn't even think of getting pictures there, though to be honest, a picture would have hardly conveyed the music that was eddying about the room.
Therefore, aware that I am presenting you with something a good deal less than the full experience, I offer a few pictures of the Games on Saturday. It was by far the most varied Scottish festival I had ever seen. . .and, yes, I had haggis for lunch.
First of all, the reason I go to Scottish Games (beyond the piobaireachd):

Unless I am much mistaken, this is a Canadian band, Edmonton and District.
Quite a treat to listen to, and I hear they were in the top 2 of both events in the Grade III competition.

This is what many people refer to accurately as a "hairy hielan coo," or, in broader English, a Hairy Highland Cow. They had a pair of them there, ingeniously named Bonnie and Clyde. The presence of Scottish animals did not stop there; somebody had also brought a few Scottish Fold cats, and of course there were Clydesdale horses, which are a good deal more pleasant (in my opinion, which nobody asked for) than any cat, Scottish or otherwise.

Even though there were several million pipers (or at least it sounded like it) there were bands of other kinds too. It was certainly a first for me to see so many harpers in one place at once--there were probably a dozen harpers in this circle, playing different parts, as you would expect in any orchestra.

The wonders would not cease. They had soccer matches! It was five-a-side teams, on a field to match, and games limited to half an hour. I spent a very pleasant hour. . .how often do you get a pipe band practicing at the end of a soccer field? (It is hard to see in the picture, but that white pole in the background is supposedly holding up a very high net which would prevent overly ambitious goal kicks from braining pipers. No pipers, that I know of, suffered any injuries, but at least one kick missed the net.)

I had to watch this team--they're from San Jose, but they wear Celtic FC jerseys.

Well, that's a round of pictures. Now to tell you what you missed, as far as a comprehensive presentation goes:
  • They had several shinty matches over the course of the day. I kept trying to make it over to watch, but every time I reached the field, there was a break in progress. I did run into a gentleman who mentioned he was writing this article, however, so you can get an idea of what went on.
  • Highland dancing. I'm sure there was plenty of it, but, like the shinty, I was always somewhere else at the time. It is certainly a beautiful art, and I was sorry to miss it. I did catch a bit of the Scottish Country Dancing competition. (I should know something about Scottish Country Dancing, as I spent a semester with a club at school, but I was kept so busy trying to tell my right foot from my left foot that I missed all the finer points.) The set I saw competing was all children, none of them over twelve, I would guess, and the smallest boy was probably about six. They were being presided over by a judge with the most trim and impressive white beard and the most contagious smile I think I have ever seen. It would be very hard to find a soul anywhere who looked so delighted; the only people who might come close were the children who were doing the dancing.
  • Heavy events. As hard as it is to miss the sight of a man tossing something that resembles a telephone pole, I did somehow manage to miss it here.

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