Made in Scotland

November 21, 2019

There’s real pleasure in looking at the ‘genuine article.’

Haggis: (‘haɡəs’)The national dish of Scotland, a type of pudding composed of the liver, heart, and lungs of a sheep (or other animal), minced and mixed with beef or mutton suet and oatmeal and seasoned with onion, cayenne pepper, and other spices. The mixture is packed into a sheep’s stomach and boiled. 

The above will explain why our first meal in Scotland was Italian, and the closest we ever got to haggis was to quickly dry heave past it whenever it appeared on the menu. Nevertheless, our week or so in Scotland remains one of the fondest of our entire trip to the UK. The word that comes to mind to describe Scotland is: genuine.

Even the sheep would be proud knowing what their children produced

The Scots speak English. That much of it was unintelligible to Carol and I is more a function of our ears’ calibration, rather than a fault of their speech. When the gate attendant at the Aberdeen train station said to me: “Ta day day ta day ta day day,” she was quite distinctly and succinctly asking if I had marked my eurail pass with that day’s date. Had she been addressing a Scot, it would have been understood distinctly and clearly. I could only nod politely and hoped I guessed right.

You wouldn’t mind working the extra hours, if you knew haggis was for supper

And they still make things in Scotland. Beautiful wool things in bright colors and sturdy pleats. Scottish sheep are sheared, Scottish looms are spun and Scottish kilts, sweaters, scarves and Tam O’ Shanters proudly bear the Made in Scotland label. You acquire this strong sense as you walk the streets of Aberdeen and Inverness that the Scots can take care of themselves in a hale and hearty manner, with no help from anyone but themselves.

It’s a good thing, too, because the weather can be quite rotten. It’s one of the fondest memories I have that the gray seas, windswept coastlines, thick fog and steady, cold rains did not disappoint our expectations. We had prepared, and we were rewarded by needing every piece of rain wear, sweaters, coats and gloves that we had thought to pack. It’s very reassuring when your worst expectations are met, and you have the clothes for it.

Carol, seen here wondering if he had any dinner plans

So bad was the forecast for the day we were leaving Scotland that Carol had noodled out a kind of Northwest Passage through a covered shopping mall between us and the rail station to better keep our luggage dry for the schlep. We were very happy we found such a passage, and even happier we needed it. We would have been disappointed had the Scottish weather more resembled the French Riviera,  rather than an episode of Deadliest Catch.

Out of Inverness, we made another of our harrowing bus trips along Loch Ness to the remains of a medieval castle. That’s right. I visited ruins. Somehow, the location of that pile of rubble (that cost £20 to kick around) in a stinging rain and gusty wind, alongside the home of a mythical sea monster, created a gothic atmosphere that was worth the price of admission.

As far as that mythical sea monster, that characteristic genuineness to which I attribute all Scots, leads me to think there really is a Loch Ness monster. And that it would feed on haggis would also explain a lot about Scotland and the Scots.


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