Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas In Scotland


I suppose every nation spends the mid-Winter festival in a different way, even those that share the same religious sentiments. Would Scotland be so very different from its next door neighbour I wondered? In small and subtle ways it indeed has its own character. I had heard the rumours but nothing quite prepared me for the liquid nature of the festivities. The supermarkets were heaving right until Christmas Eve. Struggling shoppers bent double and tempted back injury heaving extra large trolleys out to their cars. But it wasn't obscene amounts of food that weighed them down, it was prodigious amounts of booze! Vodka shots and beer seem to be the new national drinks and every trolley had its share of luridly coloured multipacked glass bottles. It wasn't unusual for a third of each trolley to be stacked with alcohol in various forms. Its hardly surprising as the TV was running a concerted campaign to market Gordon's Gin and Smirnof Vodka; the latter made to the authentic Russian method. I wouldn't be able to vouch for that but I do know its made here in Leven in Europe's biggest distillery. Huge tankers of gin and vodka leave from the giant complex every few seconds to keep the entire nation insensate over the holiday period.

Having booked a late lunch out, we headed for Elie and the rocks by the sea wall. Out came the little camera and we tried to take a picture on the timer.With just a few minutes to accomplish this we did a rapid about turn and headed for our hotel Christmas Lunch.

The Scottish Turkey Dinner has its own variants too. Gone are the Yorkshire Puddings of old and the roast potatoes and parsnips that I used to look farward to with such enthusiasm. Instead there was a curious bright yellow roll of......well that's the whole point. I had no idea, although Chris thought it might be swede by its appearance. But we were both deceived. It turned out to be some form of potato, neither grated, mashed or steamed. And then this curious item was dippped in a bright yellow dye that might have been turmeric. The turkey itself came in three half inch thick slices that bore no resemblance to an actual bird but seemed to have nicely rounded corners and a uniform size. Was that stuffing or the dreaded Lorne sausage on top of it? There was far too much pepper to tell. My mouth burnt and I surrendered the battle, laying down my weapons. The hotel staff couldn't have been kinder and didnt want me to be disapointed. I was offered anything I wanted - some roast beef perhaps? My mouth screamed "No!" at the thought of heavily peppered beef. I opted for a dish of sliced melon - which brings a whole new main course to traditional Christmas Lunch.

This years must have gift is the 3G Mobile phone. Across the large room two small children couldn't contain themelves for the length of the meal and began to text each other as their meal was consumed. Chris is electrosensitive and his severe headache began as the gibberish texting occupied the giggling kids. Eventually he asked the waiter to speak to the parents and the phones were put away whilst we ate. But they were clearly angry that someone had stopped the children amusing themselves quietly, so they finished their meal and moved into the next room to begin again. Microwave radiation is not stopped by internal walls and so we left soon after. The saddest thing of all is that we at least know how vulnerable young children's brains and immune systems are to these powerful phones. I do hope none of them go on to develop leukemia from their Christmas presents.

Despite the minor disappointments its been my best Christmas in decades. The big and mysterious box wrapped up in silver and gold turned out to contain a wonderful telescope - my dream for many years. Its cloudy tonight but we shall go to the beach tomorow and try it out in daylight. If it can see craters on the Moon and the rings of Saturn, what detail will we see across the Firth of Forth?