Tag Archives: Bagpipes

Worth a second glance

My friend Ann loves browing in charity shops. Walking up Arbroath High Street, and passing the OXFAM shop,  she spotted the face of Mr William Gladstone, a Victorian Prime Minister, resplendently gazing out from a china plate. It brought back memories of her childhood home and a similar plate that hung on the sitting room wall.

Mr. Gladstone was carefully taken out of the window. The price tag said £2.00. The assistant smiled, adding, “ I wonder if you’d be interested in Mrs. Gladstone ? We left her in the back store room!” I’m delighted to report that Mr. and Mrs. G have been happily re-united for the princely sum of four pounds and hang side by side with a view of the North Sea.

You have to be quick and decisive in local charity shops. Last month I spotted a large, shiny, copper kettle for seven pounds. I hesitated, after all my ordinary electric kettle is going strong and only needs plugging in for a quick cup of tea. This copper one would require a lot of elbow grease and maintenance. However, overnight I reflected on howbeautiful it looked and warmed to the idea of it sitting in my kitchen- even if I needed to polish it regularly.  When I went back the following day it had already gone to another hearth in Arbroath.

My daughter on the other hand was much more decisive. Browsing around the charity shops in St Andrews she found a solid silver tureen ladle with a 1906 hallmark for £6.00! She bought it immediately and their Cambridge family meals now have a special splendour.

Recently I was searching for a cummerbund for my grandson who was about to ‘step out ‘in his great grandfather’s dinner jacket. A casual enquiry at the local Heart Foundation resulted in an invitation into their storeroom where boxes of labeled and tidied articles were waiting for focused shoppers. Out of the first box tumbled an incredible range of neckwear; funereal black ties, exotic night-club dazzlers; thin shoe-lace styles, kipper ties, and a psychedelic selection from the 60’s. The next box was overflowing with bow ties: ones that clipped, others that hooked and a few classic ones that need an extra helping hand to tie manually  Finally, success, a scarlet cummerbund surfaced and is currently being worn  with a vintage dinner jacket.

It’s the stories behind these objects that fascinate me. I wonder where Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone were living before they were dropped into Arbroath’s High Street?  What amazing parties have the cummerbunds  attended?

This week I’m off to the monthly auction at Taylor’s auction house in Montrose. On my first visit, a couple of years back, I watched open mouthed as assistants manhandled magnificent stags heads off the walls. The bidder was ecstatic. Where were they bound for?  A restaurant? A banker’s Scottish pile?  America?

Other unusualeccentricities for auction have included Polynesian figures, swords, antique pistols, bagpipes, Russian great coats  and bottles of very old whisky. it’s amazing what some people collect.  I feel another blog coming on.





The Spirit of Burn’s Night

This week I looked back and thought about my first experience of Burn’s Night in Scotland.  I was new to Arbroath and was invited by neighbours to join the festivities in one of the local church halls.

We gathered in the early evening and sat on hard stackable chairs at trestle tables. I remember thinking this would be a very authentic Burns experience.

Suddenly the chatter in the room was silenced by the penetrating wail of bagpipes. It was as if a reluctant sacrificial animal was being dragged screaming from its lair. The volume of the pipes increased and our haggis, (a seemingly wee timorous beastie )  held aloft on a silver platter, was ceremoniously carried around the room. Displayed in all its glory it appeared ready and waiting for the congregation to worship.

An upstanding chieftain of the town stepped forward, addressed the haggis respectfully and, with one spectacular thrust, plunged his dagger deep into its heart. The deed was done. The haggis was carried away and the revelry began.

Double doors leading from the kitchen were thrown wide open. A small army of elderly ladies, wearing their Sunday best pleated tartan skirts and hand knitted jumpers tottered out carrying trays of plates piled high with haggis and dollops of neaps and tatties.

A plate was set down with enthusiastic firmness before each guest, knives and forks were lifted and the beastie was devoured.

There was poetry and then we lifted our plastic glasses for the toast to Burns. As the orange juice drained down my throat I smiled with bemusement and enjoyed the curious spirit of the evening.

There was a beautiful interlude of Celtic singing of such haunting quality I was moved to tears. I recognised the soloist as the young nurse from my local doctor’s practice. This was a truly local community Burn’s Night.

The mood changed and an accordion and fiddler began the first chords of a Scottish reel. The room was filled with latent energy; sedate upright people surreptitiously tapped their feet, pensioners nodded their heads in delight, kilts swayed rhythmically on chairs and a troupe of young girls danced enthusiastically.

I enjoyed the fellowship of the celebration and this feeling of community but, there was one thing missing. I left quietly and headed down the High Street for the Commercial Inn.

“I need a whisky “ I said to the land lady. “I’ve just been celebrating my first Burn’s Night and it was ‘Dry’” She looked at me with incredulity and poured me a generous double. I’ve enjoyed many Burn’s Night since but I always look back with great affection to the spirit of that first one.