Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Sat 8th Apr, 2006

Strange transformation of town occurs not just every 100 years!

On Saturday, Kate and I and a small selection of our relatives went to the little hamlet of Bundanoon, in the Southern Highlands about half-way between Canberra and Sydney. On one weekend during April every year, a bizarre transformation occurs there which transforms the town oval and surrounds into an enclave of Scottishness the like of which rivals Scotland itself. Everywhere, people are wearing kilts and tam-o-shanters with attached red hair, saying "Arrrrr the noo!" in a rustic brogue, and eating the traditional Scottish dishes of Haggis, neaps and tatties, pancakes, kebabs, meat pies, and vegetarian thai curries.

Yes, it's the 29th anniversary of "Bundanoon is Brigadoon". It doesn't happen only every 100 years, folks! After the traditional traffic jam for parking in the morning (light this year), we had the traditional march along the main street of all the traditional scottish pipe bands (measuring 2.3 on my Skirlometer) and associated hangers-on: the fake fencing school, the utes full of dressed-up preschoolers, fire trucks and old tractors (which are presumably scottish because they've been kept going by spit and ingenuity for far longer than they deserve). Then we had the traditional scottish country dancing, in which Kate and some friends did very good demonstrations of how to recover after someone's made a mistake during a dance, and then the oval filled up with people partaking of traditional scottish sports of caber tossing, stone-lifting, haggis-throwing (using a simulated haggis filled with shot) egg-throwing and water-balloon throwing.

Then comes the real fun: four or five large men lift the "Stones Of Manhood": 100Kg, 115Kg, 130Kg, 145Kg, and 165Kg spherical stones to be lifted onto full- sized beer barrels (over one metre in height). One of the competitors was from New Zealand and is a fully qualified surgeon - he was the tallest and also the one without the noticeable gut. Finally it's all capped off with a massed playing of the bands: 750 people in 21 bands all marching up and down the oval playing traditional scottish tunes (measuring a peak of 7.6 on the Skirlometer). Then we engage in the traditional traffic-jam to get out and the traditional headache and that accompanies a trip out into the Big Blue Room without sunscreen (despite me being very good and wearing my hat and sunglasses all day).

I know I'm mocking all of that, but I do actually enjoy the day. I'm ridiculing the people who want to pick up scottish heritage when it suits them, and the hawkers who go around such fairs selling rainforest trees, painted ceramic tat, T-shirts, essential oils and soaps, and ironing board covers. I love the shortbread and tartan (if only I could afford a kilt in the Queensland (being a Queenslander) or Stewart (which I'm actually allowed to wear as my maternal grandmother is one of the not-royal ones) tartans - $900 for a handmade kilt (which means every part is hand-stitched except the belt-buckles) - ouch! I'm not quite sure if I want to go the full hog - which will cost you another $900 for the Prince Georgie jacket, the skean dhu, the socks, the little tags for the garters, etc. etc. etc. The scots do know how to part a person from his money...) And there'll always be a part of me who is moved by the calling of the pipes - and not to plug my ears.

And it was a nice day out with the nieces, who don't yet have my cynicism regarding tat-vendors and who can encourage me to put the boring adult side of me aside and enjoy the spectacle and the fun.

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