Today was our town’s sixth annual Scottish Games, and for the past four years my parents have come up to attend the games with Jennifer and me. My step-father has a special interest in the games, being of Scottish descent himself (from Clan Ross, which comes from the area around Tain in Scotland — legend has it, I once heard, that Clan Ross claims among its proud ancestors Sir Mordred). He’s also one of the higher-ups in the Scottish Association in his part of California. I don’t know how one works the politics in such a group, though I am relatively sure it isn’t much like the Unseen University in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, where assassination is considered an acceptable means of advancement. I’ve met some of the higher-ups in that Scottish Association; my step-father, at twenty years my senior, is among the youngest of them by, oh, forty or fifty years.
This year, the event was a bit lackluster, in comparison to previous years. My parents arrived at 10:30 or so, and we all walked over to the Games, since our house is spitting distance from the fairgrounds where the Games are held (if the wind is at your back). The crowds were smaller than in years past, by a significant amount. There were only two bands this year instead of the five or six that are usually there. This I suppose I could blame on current events, though none of the bands, which are all based in Northern California, would have had to pass through New Orleans or Houston to get to the Games, so I don’t know what happened. Tempest, one of my favorite Celtic bands, is usually there, but this year they weren’t. Instead, we saw a band called Celtic Blacklist; they’re pretty good and Jennifer and I got to meet a couple of the members, since they’re friends with my parents and sister. Their bodhran player is, in his spare time, a systems administrator in Silicon Valley, so he and I spent some time chatting about Linux and Solaris and why Windows sucks while our respectives wives rolled their eyes and chatted about technical writing (when he said, “Let’s go find something dead and eat it”, we parted ways). Celtic Blacklist is good, but they don’t have the ear-smashing sound of Tempest.
There wasn’t much “gamey” about the Games this year, either. I didn’t get to see a single caber toss, and what’s the point of even going to a Scottish Games if you don’t see a bunch of guys roughly the size of a rugby team throwing telephone poles or big stones around? There isn’t any, in my opinion, though some of the vendors have some cool stuff.
However, we did get to see one of my favorite attractions from years past. Some fellow nearby (or maybe not so nearby — I actually have no idea where he comes from) has built a large dragon out of wood and scrap metal. It’s large and quite impressive, and he has it set up so that he can stretch out inside and move its head around with a series of lever and even send flames shooting out of its mouth (no flames today; it was far too windy today, since our part of the state is basically a wind tunnel at this time of year). I did take a couple of pictures of it; click on the thumbnail to see the larger picture.
The first picture is a closeup of the side of the dragon; if you look closely, you can see an old pistol welded to the other scrap metal that made up the beast’s body. The second picture was an attempt to get the whole dragon in one picture, but I managed, somehow, to cut off its head. No worries, though; I took a brief video of the head moving around, and you can see it by clicking here. You’ll have to squint; the videos I can record with my Sony Clié are pretty small.
That’s about it, though. After we found dead things to eat ourselves — my dad and I had bangers, my mom and my wife had chicken pies — we stopped briefly to watch the border collie trials (one of the dogs was tragically shy until he started herding the sheep around, and one of the sheep had attitude: “by God, if I had my brothers here, you’d be dead, dog”). Then we decided to go back to our house to relax a bit before my parents drove back home.
The Games are not done; if I opened the window next to my desk, I’m sure I would be able to hear the bagpipes still playing on the breeze. It’s possible that the cabers and shotputs are being thrown around right now, but at this point I’m far too settled in my house to go wandering back.