My childhood home is littered with tarnished, saliva-filled tin whistles left over from the fèis; old sheet music written in a crabbed hand and songs with words that I don’t understand anymore. I grew up near Oban, although I was born nearer Cumbernauld. In High School, I chose French, not Gaelic. I have spent next to none of my adult life in Scotland and, on meeting me, a person’s mind does not leap so easily to the Highlands and Islands as it does to the uncomfortable thought, “What the fuck is that accent anyway?” and all the social difficulties that this implies.
Still, I went to Fèis Latharna every year and I had a yellow sticker on my name tag that meant I knew a wee bit of Gaelic (Is mise Ally; pòg mo thòin and such…). My poor parents suffered through two daughters learning the fiddle and endlessly repeating songs about some truly shite sounding porridge. My childhood was lost wellies and being forced to sit on a poly bag on the way home to keep the car seat clean. It was that horrible, cringy feeling you get swimming over rocks, lest your hand brush through the weed and touch a jelly fish or…God forbid…a RED one! It was going camping on Lismore or Kerrera with the comfortable awareness that someone, usually a younger sibling, would track sheep shit into the tent. Above all, it was the long, slow, itchy summer of the ceaseless midgie.
I live in Canada now, after three years in New Zealand and every time someone asks me where I’m from, I say Oban, Scotland. I have left as many wellies preserved in peat bogs for future archaeologists as anyone so, really, what else can I say?
I am The Prodigal Teuchter so leave your flat cap at the door and settle down with a dram for yarns about beasties and bogles and Brexit, misty-eyed reminiscing and, above all else, indecipherable grumbling into a pint about everything that doesn’t really matter.