Thursday, April 10, 2008

men in woolly skirts

It's a first for me.

Yesterday, I took my youngest son to be fitted for a kilt. We spent months dithering over what to buy our boys for their 21st birthdays - both turning 21 this March within three weeks of each other, so the family coffers have taken a wee bit of a battering. Step-son wanted some obscure bit of music making electronic kit, so that was duly ordered off the net and arrived and was wrapped and handed over, but frankly, both his dad and I are none the wiser. We're not entirely sure what the heck it was that we bought. Suffice to say, step-son was delighted with it. Whatever it is...

Youngest son was another matter. Not big on possessions, and dark green to boot, trying to get him to work up any enthusiasm for anything in the 21st birthday gift line was well-nigh impossible. However, inspiration struck one day last month when one of youngest daughter's friend's parents was round dropping or picking up her child and in conversation I mentioned how hard we were finding the choosing of a good gift to mark a beloved son's birthday. She said 'why not a kilt?'

Perfect. Why not indeed? It wasn't despoiling the planet, it's made by an individual artisan, it's part of a historical tradition, it's a fantastically practical garment and it ought to last my son for most of his adult life. Better than a watch, an mp3 player or any bit of modern and breakable, soon-outdated kit - a kilt may not be the most exciting thing ever to receive as your 21st birthday present, but I have the suspicion that it will grow on him. When we went to the kiltmaker's, she had a kilt-in-progress on her worktable, so we could see what a beautiful thing a handmade kilt is. All hand-stitched, robustly made, and as youngest son's girlfriend and I both agreed, the boy has the perfect thighs to carry it off . Must be all that football...oaks come to mind. He also did not want a big fuss made for a birthday party, so in the end we just had all of us round a table and invited his girlfriend too. I made my first sachertorte for his cake, but again, he didn't want candles and fuss, so we didn't do any of that stuff. It was a sensationally good cake, though. Phwoarrrrr. And the boy ate the last slab today and practically had to go and lie down in a darkened room to recover. Dense, rich and chocolatey, I could only manage slivers at a time, but my son's calorie consumption rate is prodigious to say the least.

He's gone now. Back to Aberdeen till the summer, with exams looming and football matches in the offing. Not to mention what Michael irreverently refers to as his 'tin man'. This is a triathalon involving a lot of swimming, running and cycling. Tin? Sounds like kryptonite to me, but what do I know? I'm a zillion miles off being able to do a triathalon. This weekend is the london marathon, and just thinking about it makes me feel inadequate. I'm still slowly working my way back to being able to run four times a week in easy, incremental stages. Actually, not easy at all. Wheezy and hot-making despite the rather arctic temperatures when I set out.

But the running is great. This time last year I was growing more and more injured while running, but I kept on going, convinced that it was just a passing phase.Now, a year on, I'm a lot more cautious. There's been a lot of rain recently, so the wee track in the woods is a quagmire. Tomorrow I'm going to try the old railway walk and see what that's like for running. Only problem is that I'll have to cycle to the start of it, and it's been months since I took my bike out. Urrrgh.

The only problem with the running programme is that once I've done my run and showered and am finally at my desk, trying to write 1000 words or whatever I'm aiming for each day, all I want to do is put my head down and snooze.It's not that I'm knackered - heck no, not me, see me, see bouncy - it's just that post-running I'm so relaxed my spine has all the tensile strength of a strand of overcooked linguine. But my inner personal trainer will not let me off for so much as a single training session, so tomorrow, out I go come rain, hail, shine or probably all three if the past week's weather is indicative.

Despite this, I can't sleep at night. I wake around 4 a.m. and lie there scratchy of eyeball and somewhat hacked off at being awake. If only I could toss off a small literary masterpiece while I lie there sleepless, but instead, I put the time to good use and have myself a little pre-dawn Fret and Nail-Gnaw. Then, twenty minutes before I'm supposed to be awake, I fall deeply, dribblily, deeply-dreamily asleep. Actually, asleepdoesn't even come close. Let's try coma instead. That's what I fall into.


Mel said...

I've half a mind to fill my wardrobe with kilts, but the purse is a wee bit bare to go down that road at the mo'. Still, I have my first handmade one on order and really, really want to try my hand at making a proper tartan one someday (again, when the pursestrings allow).

As a chronic insomniac myself, I can tell you that the Fret and Nail-Gnaw are absolutely counterproductive. Get up and putter, read texts on chartered accountancy, have a cup of chamomile, but for heaven's sake, don't lie there and worry about it.

Debi Gliori said...

As you can imagine, trying to find the Gliori tartan was something of a trial. We finally went for the nearest one to my Mum's maiden name, but even that was tricky since she had an Irish surname which didn't have a link to a tartan. in the end, we went for the Mcconnell ( modern) which for me was all about eating my words, since our last Scottish first Minister was none other that the arch plonker, Jack ( the lad) McConnell, famous for, amongst other sartorial crimes, wearing a pin-stripe tartan to Fashion week in New York.

Oh, the shame, the shame. A million clan chieftains turned in their graves - so much so that it must have registered on the Richter scale as an event of some magnitude.But hey, it now appears that I'm related to this guy, so my earlier unkind words are being eaten even as I type.

As to insomnia, I fear that my early puttering would disturb the rows of children whose bedrooms line the corridor between me and the kettle. Will give it a whirl, though. Anything has to be better than lying gritty-eyeballed while it seems that the whole world sleeps around me.

Despite the bare purse thing ( me too, also consuming lentils and beans...sigh) is there anything you'd like me to bring you back from the far far North and post over to your sunny latitudes? I'm off to Shetland again mid-May for a fortnight, so say the word and I'll do my best.

Mel said...

Since I'm not good about going back and rechecking comments, I've only just seen this. I've also just grafted the toe of the first kilt hose for the wedding (don't ask about the vest - at least it has potential as a publishable pattern).

My only "legitimate" tartan option is Baird, which was my great-grandmother's maiden name. The Shetlanders weren't part of the tartan system, so no options there. And the only other known Scottish ancestry - Goudelock - I think might have been transplanted Dutch Calvinist stock. At the very least, the Baird tartan is in colors (dark green, navy, and a bright thistley purple stripe) I absolutely love.

As for making my own, I discovered that Lochcarron Mills' US distribution is based not far from here, and there's a stockist very near them who have most of their tartans in stock.

My only wish of Shetland is to visit someday and see where my forebears lived. David's father's family all came from Bergen, so I'd love to hop around and visit both places.