Saturday, April 21, 2007

Long Live Scotland!

One thing I love about living in Edinburgh is the fact that it is really two magnificent, contrasting towns; the Old Town and the New Town, put together to make a city.

The old town includes the Royal Mile; Edinburgh’s oldest street joining the castle at one end and the Palace of Holyrood House at the other. The Royal Mile has cobbled stones, dark, winding closes (alleys), buildings dating back to before the 1600’s. For the tourist’s pleasure there are men in kilts playing traditional Scottish ballads on the bagpipes, whisky shops selling bottles hundreds of years old for £10,000, tartan kilt shops, ‘See You Jimmy kitsch…

So last night a friend and I took a walk along the Royal Mile, towards the castle. We were simply walking in comfortable silence, the sun setting, creating pink and lilac art in the sky, the traditional Scottish pubs spilling over with lads in kilts, faces painted with the Scottish flag.

“Do you ever stop and appreciate how lucky we are to live in such a historical, beautiful city?” My friend asks, speaking so softly I thought she was asking herself.

"I do...the beauty always overwhelms me.” I reply.

When we reach the castle, there stands a lone bagpiper, who has attracted a small audience consisting of rowdy 20- and 30- somethings. Most of the men are in kilts and white t-shirts, dressed like the man on the Scott’s Oats box. The men look like burly rugby players, the girls, all blonde or red haired wearing high fashion arab scarfs, leggings, denim skirts, stilettos. Another contrast of new and old.

The bagpiper is playing Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go. Each person crowded around is singing along with his beautiful melodic play, striking up endorphins of overwhelming pride inside of me.

Joining them, my friend and I stand in the half circle, swaying, humming along, and eventually singing.

Realising he has a captivated audience, the bagpiper changes tune to O’ Flower of Scotland. Cheers follow from one and all.

Pride is in all our voices as we sing those words we all know by heart with passion. I look around me, an enormous grin spread across my face. Each of us strangers reunited by pride for our country, passion for our people, love of a nation, and for some, the love for a stranger brought on only by a good whisky.

And I realise I am actually doing something I said I never would; I’m singing with my eyes closed.

Scotland is my home, my first love and my nation. I take it for granted, the beauty of it, the small communities united by patriotism, the traditions, the kilts, the ceilidhs, the history, the whisky, the haggis, neeps and tatties…

As I stand, singing traditional Scottish ballads that pull at my heart strings, with an old friend and several new ones, I become aware of how much I will miss this when I move to France.

Fifteen singers and a bagpiper unite together in song while standing on the grounds of Edinburgh Castle, on top of an ancient volcano, looking across rooftops and down onto the bustling streets of the New Town.

There is no punch line today, instead I leave you with some light entertainment and out of curiosity I ask you this; what do you think of when you think of Scotland?


Sebastien said...

What a beautiful post! I'm not all that patriotic, but I'm all for moments where something brings people closer together in a nice way... And how I want to go to Scotland! I have a friend who studied there, she loved it of course...

It's so true, getting to live in a beautiful, historic city is great. Unfortunately, many cities in the US, specially outside the east coast, have very little history, and have been built around the automobile, which is a little sad, makes it hard to walk around, or even bike around :(

I hope you don't mind if I ask, what will you be doing in France? Teaching English? I've had a couple friends who have done that...

FP said...

i think about you...

Princesse Ecossaise said...

thanks Sebastien, glad you appreciated this post! I'm not insanely patriotic myself, not compared to some, but sometimes I experience something like that and my love and pride for my heritage manifests itself!

To answer your question, frankly I'm not sure! My plans are just to go out there, find a wee job of any type for a year to de-stress myself after 16 years of education! Then, in the future, I would love to become a teacher,if it's possible, yes. But who knows?! My main priority right now is to get out there, be with my French Prince, and get my french up to scratch.

FP - ...Oh comment je t'aime mon coeur, tu es si mignon...tu me manque trop ce soir, viens chez moi! (Sinon, je t'ai envoye un email.) C vraiment sympa de voir un message de toi ici, bisous bb

Miss Despina said...

The music, the childhood holidays in Glencoe and all that history. The countryside, the wonderful accents, hearing my name pronounced properly. The seafood!

Lis of the North said...

You will miss it all when you move to France. You'll almost certainly enjoy France hugely, I do :)
But Scotland and Edinburgh will be even more special on trips home. I never in fact realised how much I loved Edinburgh until I moved away, first to Salford then to France.
Absence makes the heart go stronger? Living away makes you more patriotic, that's for sure.

Princesse Ecossaise said...

You are totally right, Lis...I noticed this in 2005 when I lived in La Rochelle for a year. All of a sudden I was hugely patriotic! I was so proud to tell all the french people I met about Scotland, to teach them about our history etc.

I will always love Scotland and will return as often as I can to be with my family etc, and when I have children, I would like them to know both France and Scotland as their heritage and culture (I'm hoping for half frogs half haggis babies!!)