The mossy, rain-swept roots of my Celtic heritage were calling; the magestic sound of bagpipes tumbling over heather-coated hills; the sound of porridge bubbling in a black pot over a wood fire; sheep baaing, their costs soggy in all this rain-swept Celtic weather.
Emily Shah, sister of one of my favourite friends from Birkenhead Sixth Form, Sarah, invited me along to what was promised to be good, wholesome Celtic fun. Images of that Scottish party in Sex and the City were conjured – a blue-blooded me in the finest of Celtic couture, the darling of kilt-wearing society.
Since I started my expensive career of vintage collecting, a wide array of Blackwatch tartan and its coordinating accessories has been piling itself into my wardrobe and shelves.
I looked from my Blackwatch jacket, a 1980s’ M&S Oxfam find, with gold regimental buttons, to my matching silk scarf, to my equally matching oversized bow, set to adorn the back of my fusilli-shaped coiffure à la 1980s’ Chanel à la Louis XV, faux-Elizabethan, faux-emerald, faux-pearl earring set off by my fabulously ostentatious equally faux-pearl brooch.
A dashing dandy is nothing without his jewels. A stern expression from me, begging someone to dare snatch them!
Aboard my carriage, en route to get sweaty at the Celtic ball(s)
Emily and I, both hailing from The Grand Wirral Peninsular, were yet to meet, our only connection being through her sister and the world of Facebook. Funnily enough, despite having no intentions to marry this charming but sexually incompatible lady, I had already met her parents, slept in her brother’s bed and eaten muesli at the family table!
Going to the same college as Sarah meant we also shared many of the same night-time haunts in Liverpool. Sarah had invited me to her birthday night out in Garlands and when we eventually stepped out of the club, the streets were bathed in daylight.
The hilarity of not being able to get a taxi, illegally piling into an unlicensed car, and as if we weren’t naughty enough, six of us squished in the car, Sarah hidden under a blanket and another sat on somebody’s lap, the driver obviously horny and not entirely sane (he was applying Lynx Africa whilst driving, asking the girls’ for their numbers) narrowly escaping doom on the motorway, culminating in arriving at Sarah’s house in Merseyside’s deepest suburbia in West Kirby is an unforgettably bizarre experience. The effect of recreational poudres still with us, the juxtaposition of booming speakers in a smelly pit of hedonism such as Bedlam, Gardlands, and the busied Sunday morning of Mr and Mrs Shah, about to walk the Wirral Way as we plunge into bed – not before having a bowl of delicious muesli!
I knew I was to expect an evening just as civilised as I hopped off the bus and headed to Emily’s home in a Muswell Hill mansion block (not before visiting Mr Sainsbury for Scottish-themed offerings for the hostess, Scottie dog finger biscuits included.)
I knock on the door and an elegant Emily opens. Her joke is wonderfully eclectic space, with antique pieces, inherited and hunted down in charity shops, creating a timeless aesthetic. I would not have expected any less!
I’m offered a drink. The obvious choice was whisky, so obvious we stayed!
We took our places in the sitting room, making the very necessary introductions and explanations of backgrounds (Emily’s flat mate’s mother is a mutual friend of my aunty’s best friend; the Wirral is a small place!) Traditional Scottish dance music set the tone for the evening, a hilariously corny CD that gave the highland jigs we all know and lo(v/ath)e, but included absurdities such as jigs with Hawaiian and Deep South influences.
Impressed with my host’s tussle-free tartan, we compared looks, everyone having their own take on the style (I went for a more high fashion take on tartan, á la Hilary Banks.) The conversation flowed along with the ticking of the clock, and it was soon time for our Burns’ Night feast to be devoured!
The neeps, haggis and tatties were served, but before the meal could commence, we enjoyed a sermon from way up in those windy highlands, even performed in a l’ecossaise, the words tumbling down as though on a brae.
A hearty, delicious meal, of which I happily devoured seconds and thirds. Deep-fried Mars bars and ice cream followed for pudding, which I of course polished off everybody else’s plate, too.
The Wirral is, in parts, a vigorously intellectual place, and I was reminded of this when a debate on the pros and cons of the selfie stick was announced. It brought back memories of the heated arguments in debate club in my Sixth Form, fuelled by adolescent pride and a desire for classroom glory!
Rather than horse and carriage, which some would argue a more traditional choice, Uber took us from Muswell Hill to happenin’ Hackney. We thrilled our taxi driver with yet MORE jolly Scottish music, courtesy of Spotify. Interestingly, he said Afghanistan, his home country, has similar music.
We asked him if he enjoyed it.
Silence was our response.
We arrive to the boom of a shouting compère, giggling smokers parting for our grand entrance to the ball. A ring of people are dashing around the room like mad men, and we can’t help but we swept up in the madness!
I was warned of the tough choreography, and am soon dosey doeing (I know I’m taking the piss, but an interesting guestimation is the Texan dance originated from Celtic settlers!) with anybody who wants me.
And surprise, surprise.
Delia, a lady who’s known me since I was five years old, is my partner, and in the middle of the floor, we scream and hug, incredulous and elated!
In North Wales, I used to go to a festival called Spirit Horse, my childhood summer away, spent tramping about in wellies, coated in mud but happy as a mucky kiddy can be. Funnily enough, whilst on a run in Hackney, I went straight past Delia and I thought to myself “that… I think so. But I’ve already ran half way down the road. I’ll see her again!” and fate had her way!
Her brother is actually the organiser of the event, and I even meet their ma’, Erika, whom I’ve known just as long, who also ran Spirit Horse! There really is a jolly Mafia in the world of North Wales and Wirral. But there are folk up there who are pushing us all in the right direction, I’m sure!
In fact, the last time, and only time, I ever went to a ceilidh WAS in Spirit Horse, where I have memories of doing my own little performances (one time was my own rendition of the ‘Sunshine, Lollipops’ song from The Simpsons (Sky 1 at 7:30pm after school was a childhood institution.) I do believe those self-help books that say do what feels right and massages your inner child do have a lot going for them, because this evening (as well as this year) felt like the end of my turbulent adolescence, and a second, blissful childhood where I’m truly at peace, aware but impervious to negativity that threatens my vibe!
The evening went on as we all intended – much merry-making, with old and new friends cuddled and kissed.
A quote from Emily early in the evening – “It’s good, wholesome fun. It’s something lacking in our world!