|2007-07-30 19:09:00||That’s Entertainment – The Jam|
On a much lighter note, my hostess and I were invited by friends to visit them on Saturday and then go with them to the Callander highland games. There were of course the modern fairground attractions of nasty machines to make you chuck up your candifloss (cotton candy) and luke-warm Scottish attempts to make lager but we (mostly) eschewed these for watching the dog-show and getting an arena-side stance for the actual highland games.
What’s worn under the kilt
It seems that these games have become an international sport: competitors came from as far afield as Poland, the USA, the Netherlands and the Kingdom of Fife! The first sport was called ‘the McGlashan stones’: it involved lifting smooth spheres of stone, about 3 feet in diameter, onto barrels whose tops were about shoulder-height. This was done against the clock – I believe an american was the fastest in lifting all four stones onto their barrels.
This was followed by the sport most known – and joked about – outside of the Highlands: caber tossing. The caber appears to be about 18 feet of smoothed-off tree-trunk. It’s slightly tapered towards the end the competitors hold. Two helpers carry the caber back from where the last competitor has tossed it and lift it into a vertical position. The next competitor then gets his hands under the narrow end and lifts it so it is resting against his shoulder, approximating the ‘slope arms’ position. Once he has his balance, he then runs with it until he feels he has built up enough speed and then flings it so that the heavy end hits the ground and, ideally, the light end goes up and over so that it falls in a ’12 o’clock’ position relative to the competitor’s ‘6 o’clock’.
Very few competitors managed anything like an ‘end-over-end’: the best was a ‘5 to 12′. The commentator would have had us believe that this was due to the wind being against most of the competitors. Personally I prefer the obvious reason: such a lump of wood is bloody heavy!
Then two events took place simultaneously: the log lift, where the competitors try to carry a frame of two logs about 3 yards long and over 2 feet in diameter along a 50 yard course and back. Quite often they couldn’t manage the full course and so the officials used a huge tractor to lift the frame and take it back to the starting point. However, at least two competitors managed the full course so I presume the winner was the one who took the least time. The framework was left in the arena and so quite a few spectators tried to lift it: we all failed dismally!
Dangerously near this course was the ’56 pound for height’ throwing contest: competitors had to single-handedly swing and throw over their heads and over a bar above them a lump of metal of the aforesaid weight. The competition started with the bar at 13 feet. Most competitors managed that and all managed to avoid the weight as it came crashing down perilously close to where they stood and where other competitors were carrying logs!
Quite a few dropped out at 15 feet: they had three attempts at each height. It appeared not to matter if the weight hit the bar so long as it went over. All the way through the commentary encouraged the audience to encourage the competitors and we duly did so as a huge dutchman and an equally huge pole tried for 17 feet 3 inches. The dutchman’s self-encouragement (lots of cries of ‘yeah!’) had most folk rooting for him to succeed. This was no longer a competition between athletes but two competitions between the athletes and gravity because we equally cheered on the pole.
Unfortunately the pole couldn’t achieve 17 feet 3 inches but the dutchman could. He then tried for 18 feet 3 inches: more than the height of three average people. He didn’t quite make this but still managed to be pleased with his performance. The pole was the first to congratulate him on his victory. Good sportsmanship and a damn fine show, methinks!
I then succumbed to the lure of a ‘plastic cup of used bath water’ which made the crafts tent quite appealing. By then the afternoon had nearly worn away so we departed for Stirling’s nightlife: a curry and the Simpsons movie. All in all, a fine day’s entertainment and a wonderful antidote to my domestic news.
And the answer to the above question appears, from what was revealed during the ’56 pound for height’ contest, to be ‘lycra cycling shorts’.