A cat by any other name

You want me to do *what* with that tree?



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They look like a telephone pole, except slightly thinner on one end, and they're not exactly the first thing I'd think of for tossing through the air. But today we watched a handful of grown men dressed in an oddly amusing combination of T-shirt and kilt, heft those telephone poles into the air and flip them over. Amid the crowd of caber throwing athletes were women, one in particular who tossed it with such ease that it seemed she was only flipping a toothpick, not a pole several times as tall as herself and even more times as heavy.

The Scottish games in Pleasanton is the largest of its kind in the country. Naturally we had to go, since we were in the area anyway. Saturday, Richard and I drove down to have lunch with his family, and then we headed off to check out a fabulous little store in Campbell that sells gargoyles! Shelves and shelves of them! Richard and I wandered around, oohing at all the stone figurines inside. We (very reluctantly) limited ourselves to one each - he chose a guardian statuette, and I was drawn to a candle holder. Not necessarily a gargoyle, but the ring of seven stone cats couldn't stay there. It needed to come home with me.

We were down in the area because we were going to go see a play that night, Godspell, which was being put on by a little theatre company his parents run. I'd never seen the play before, so I didn't know quite what to expect, but I was quite pleasantly surprised. It was very enjoyable, and quite funny. My parents drove down that evening to attend the play as well, so afterwards both families gathered for desserts at Richard's parents' house before we all headed off to our hotel. Today we spent at the games.

When we arrived Saturday afternoon, his mom greeted us with a catalog and a gleeful discussion of these oh-so-lovely outdoor lights she'd found for us and our new house. They were statutes of angels, holding lamps, meant to be placed in the yard. Life-sized, no less. And ours for slightly over $1000. Uh. Not! They were hideous, and so not-us that I was practically crying I was laughing so hard. Of course, later on, we flipped through the catalog, and amid the items that fell under the category of 'why on earth would anyone want to put *that* in their house/lawn/wherever", we found - yes, I'm sure you're surprised by now - more gargoyles. And I did make a point of pointing out those same oh-so-lovely statues to my mom when they came down later. She had just about the same reaction I did...

Then, at lunch, his dad suggested that we could call my parents Mumsy and Daddums. I'm not sure exactly what prompted the suggestion, but I replied that if we did that, we should call *his* parents Mamsy and PapPap. The look of sheer horror on his mom's face was worth it as the rest of us subsided into laughter.

Anyway, back to the kilt-wearing people tossing trees, and the rest of the festivities at the Scottish games. Bagpipes are a rather unique instrument in that they only have one volume - and that is loud. My dad and I think that bagpipes would be fun to play but my mom, sensing the disaster of having one or more family members attempting to play what essentially sounds like someone is torturing the poor contraption, inside her house, declared years ago that bagpipes were an outside toy.

We had the opportunity to hear bagpipes. A lot of bagpipes. There were the bagpipe and drum competitions. There were lone bagpipers playing. And then for the closing ceremonies, over five hundred of them gathered in the stadium. That's more bagpipes than I've ever seen in one place. Don't get me wrong, I do like bagpipe music (in small quantities), but more than 500 of them in such a small area pushed the saturation level to the extreme. The amusing thing was - even with that many bagpipes, the volume was *still* the same. What other instrument can boast that?

As we wandered around the games, we saw a huge banner proclaiming 'British Food Here!' as if this was something exciting. That says more about Scottish food than anything else, considering that British food is not well known for much except its blandness. A Scottish friend of my father's once joked that most of the typical 'scottish' dishes were the result of a dare. Somehow, considering haggis, I can almost believe that.

One would have to wonder if that is how their traditional sports came about too. One day a couple of brawny men were sitting around, and one bet the other he couldn't flip that tree over through the air, and the next thing you know.... Hey, it was impressive. Amazingly so. I'm not knocking the games. It just makes one wonder exactly *how* they came up with this sort of thing in the first place, ya know?