The Ceilidh

Right, guys, I know my blog post is two days late. You vultures! I have had an extremely busy week. I got some family news at the start of the week that may lead to my dropping everything at the drop of a hat to get to the opposite end of the country so I’ve had to be extra-efficient and organised at work, meaning less time for faffing about. I also got some excellent news from two very dear friends, leading me to need to be organised to get to the other end of the country at a more leisurely pace in the autumn, but still with mega-organising needing to be done. I’ve had a flat inspection from my landlord (I was up at 5:30am last Friday cleaning the bathroom and mopping the kitchen floor). I had a retirement lunch to go to for someone at work. I went to a ceilidh and spent a lot of yesterday looking for decent shoes and a new pair of crop leggings (I don’t want full length ones! Damn you trendy shops…) and most of last night hollering and stamping and twirling in the finest Scottish tradition.

I’m also looking for somewhere to live, with a friend, and 2-3 bed unfurnished flats in the town that don’t cost a king’s ransom and are not manky are few and far between. So we’re umming and aahing about a flat in a village about twenty minutes drive/twelve minutes by train out of town, which is closer to the town I work in but I’d have to get the train instead of car-sharing. It’s all swings and roundabouts, really, because there are pros and cons to living in both places although clearly being in town is more convenient because CIVILISATION and most events (and my fave cafe, where I am right now, Velocity) are in the town. The village has food shops and a post office and a few tourist shops for postcards to cover my addiction to Postcrossing, but I’d have to be a lot more organised. That frightens me a little.

I mean, I’m approaching my late twenties like a bull at a gate, but the thought of actually being an adult and having to get a weekly shop in and stick to it, and do things in a goodly time without the safety net of everything I need being on the doorstep is a bit disconcerting. I think it’d be good for me, and a week of eating nothing but rice because I was too disorganised to get some real food in would be good for my moral education.

Speaking of a moral education, I’m listening to The Lies of Locke Lamora on audiobook at the moment. I’ve read the book and its sequel (Red Seas under Red Skies) a few times, so it’s quite relaxing because I don’t have to concentrate too hard. The narrator is excellent; he does good character voices and he speaks at a reasonable pace. I can’t stand audiobooks that drag. I’m in that position of remembering what’s going to happen and looking forward to it. Listening to the foreshadowing, and the bravado of the characters and knowing what’s going to go hideously wrong for them is sort of gleeful on my insides. Can’t wait for the Republic of Thieves to FINALLY be released this winter. We hope.

So that’s keeping me going a bit.

The ceilidh I went to last night was a charity one organised by a friend of mine and it turned out to be a small but enthusiastic gathering. My soon-to-be-flatmate and I arrived early and were a little worried that not many people would show but there were a fair few people there by eight. The band was excellent, which helps; two fiddlers an accordion and a guitar. The caller was friendly and got the group going, and they mixed traditional Scottish dances with a couple of folk dances from around the world.

It was a really fun night. We didn’t really know many people there (other than the organiser and a few of the cafe people who also know him) but everyone was really friendly. There were also a few teenagers there which was a little surprising. This weekend Rockness festival is in full swing. There they were though, jigging and step kicking with youthful abandon. The kids up here are brought up on ceilidhs and tradition and they take it quite seriously. There’s a weird mix of tradition and striving to be cool and ultra-modern in Highland kids, but they don’t half show up the adults when it comes to an eightsome reel.

It felt like we were at a select private ball from some Austen novel. There was a mix of ages and abilities, and tea and beer and social hierarchy based on who could spin each other the hardest and not fall over. I did a Military Two-Step with the only guy to come along in a kilt and for such a simple dance it doesn’t half take it out of you. We finished with Strip the Willow, which is traditional and the most tiring thing you’ve ever done because the band go on forever just when you think it’s done. It stings the pride a bit. You do all the whirling and prancing down the middle, and it is knackering but you’re too busy trying to keep up that you don’t notice. Then you have to wait your turn to go again and that’s when you get the stitch and feel like you can’t possibly do it again but then you’re at the top and you can’t let the side down so you have to give it your all even though you might fall over.

I’ll put a video at the bottom to demonstrate a Strip the Willow if you’ve not seen one before. It’s a very simple dance: two lines with partners facing each other, and the top couple spin each other and then each person down the line in turn, spinning each other in between.  We did it at my grad ball with about forty people on each side and it was the most daunting prospect ever. Last night there were maybe ten people per side so we all had about eight turns each at doing the run, or “Stripping the Willow” as it’s known in the game. It all goes a bit mental because when the top couple are three or four people down, the new top couple start. So you have to keep going or bust otherwise the ones behind catch you up. The two lines get further and further apart as people exit the spin so it gets more tiring with every run.

Great fun, though.

I could make some tenuous and sickening link to writing on even though you feel tired and daunted, because the feeling while you’re spinning (on a roll) makes the stitches and faint feeling while you’re clapping away up the side (the writer’s block or slow progress) worth it.

But I think I’ll let these crazy dancers speak for themselves. Bear in mind that they are dancing for six full minutes and while that might not seem like long, it feels like forever, and the video stops before they do. This isn’t us, it’s just an example from Nottingham Ceilidh Club (thanks, YouTube!)

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