It was a kilt lovers paradise at the Braemar Gathering last weekend. There was action galore – running races, tug-of-war, highland dancing. But best of all were the big boys. They were all at least seven feet tall, great beefy sides of flesh with names like Thor, Killer or Hamish McHammer. They threw huge stones, tossed cabers and hurled heavy objects over high bars.
At times I feared for their lives. With nothing but a kilt for protection, these boys were swinging heavy blobs of metal back and forth between their legs, working up the momentum to fling it over the high bar. Watch out for your danglies, boys! I wanted to scream, Or the highland tradition stops with you!
The caber toss is equally freaky. According to my googling, the caber is about 17 feet long and weighs around 150 pounds. And these blokes just pop 'em on their shoulders and toddle along before throwing them into their air.
I can't imagine anything more difficult, but after a few hours of watching the sport you start to take on that armchair expertise. When one hefty fella messed up, the crowded groaned in frustration. "He waited too long!" I declared, finishing my third sandwich with a little belch. "He should have let go much earlier! Jeez."
All of this excitement took place beneath a perfect sky with lush heathery hills all around. Seeing the Highlands in September makes you fall in love with this beautiful country all over again, you could just hump the hills in delight. At the Gathering, the stands swarmed with kilted folk, whining kiddies and grotty backpackers. Next to me a crumbly Englishman in a tweed jacket nudged his wife and muttered, "Heh heh heh," every time someone fell over.
There were also a strong Down Under contingent, as we discovered during the Two Mile race. On the final lap, a scrawny man with a mullet came powering up on the outside. The announcer howled, "It's the wildcard entry Daniel McBlah all the way from Melbourne Australia, he's moving ahead of the pack!" Heads popped up from random points around the stands, whooping in unison, "GO YOU AUSSIEEEEE!". I'm sure back home they would have shunned this man for his lack of arse and questionable hairstyle, but today at Braemar he was a national treasure!
Speaking of apparent national treasures, The Queen shows up at the Gathering every year. By 3PM we were roasted and grumbling, but determined to wait. Seeing Her Majesty was the one thing the sentimental wrinklies in our family wanted us to do while we we're over here. One horribly digital-zoomed lemon-suited blob later, I had done my duty.
I was not amused by how Not Amused she was by the proceedings. Crikey, Lizzie. How can you not even muster polite applause when a hulky dude tosses a tree? I can understand the drone of yet another pipe band sending one to sleep, but come on! How can one not appreciate all that kilt candy?
Admittedly, the candy was of varied quality.