CENTRAL SCOTLAND: One of the great things about living in Scotland is the culture, I said happily to my husband about our new home as we set off to the Edinburgh Festival not so long ago. After all, it had been a weekend steeped in Scottish history and culture.
We had kicked off with the premier of Brave, the beautifully animated Disney-Pixar tale of family betrayal in medieval Scotland at our local cinema on Friday evening. Apart from anything, the enchanting scenery depicted in the movie was a reminder of how special Scotland is for preserving its natural beauty and keep pollution at bay.
Saturday was spent at the Wallace Memorial in Stirling, climbing through chambers brimful of fascinating historical nuggets about what makes the Scots superior and generally catching up on why it is that the Scots aren’t particularly partial to the English. You may recall Mel Gibson as Wallace, the hero in movie Braveheart that depicted a bloody battle for control of Scotland?
The National Wallace Monument is well worth a visit, not least of all because you get to meet a modern-day Wallace supporter. A ruddy-faced old Scot, dressed as one of the national hero’s henchmen, captivates visitors as he wittily delivers the potted story of William Wallace.
He gives small boys tips on how to hide and handle daggers and knives. ‘You can never have enough swords,’ he said to my sons, who nodded in agreement, their own weapons being flaunted as they worked the monument.
The actor shocked us all too, as he explained that the English were responsible for the worst massacre on British soil ever. Some 700 years ago just north of the border, in Berwick, thousands of innocent men, women and children were butchered, he said, emotion crackling through his voice in a moving outdoor performance.
After that, I was looking forward to my next Scottish cultural treat. After all, the Scots are known for being a nation of superior artists and thinkers.
But my husband moved quickly to lower my expectations. You see, my eight-year-old son had been given the opportunity to select the shows for the day’s outing.
After hearing all the options, here’s what Nick came up with: Mr Snot Bottom’s Stinky Silly Show, followed by Merlin’s Dragon. Mr Snot Bottom was promising loads of laughs about bums and boogers; Merlin was offering the opportunity to ‘vanquish evil knights with real battle axes’ in an interactive theatrical production.
Erudite these shows were not. Nor were they educational in that worthy War Horse kind of way. But they were tremendously entertaining.
Mr Snot’s jokes, as you might expect, were not the sort you’d like your children to repeat at school or in polite company. But, just for once, children – and parents! – were allowed to laugh at a wide range of fart varieties and rude jokes about big bottoms.
Snot, of course, was a major theme, with young members of the audience encouraged to pretend to blow their noses on a young man dressed as a giant hanky. You may find it hard to believe, but this sad chap on the stage flapping about in a large sheet – a part-time PhD student we were told – and the girl called Phlem were funny at the time (for more, watch stand-up comedian Mark Trenwith’s ‘deesgusting’ primer on YouTube, which includes him ‘blowing his bum’).
As winter moves in, I’m looking forward to loads more cultural activities. There’s a local Fringe event for Stirling and pantomimes are being staged in Glasgow and Edinburgh, both striking distance from here, as well as the local university theatre.
Also being diarised are children’s discos (yes, they start early here) and ceilidhs (pronounced ‘kay-lees’) – fun folk-dancing events at which you jump around, in your kilt if you’re male, and hold hands with fellow Scots to perform specific dance routines.