I have been married to a Scotsman for many years and I have only now had the pleasure of feasting on haggis ! I am also re-learning Scottish Country Dancing which I first learnt in Africa ! This is all happening for me “nowlivinginFrance”.
Being part of an expat group of friends we celebrated our first Burns' Night last week-end. It was preceded by a flurry of searching for tartans either real or imaginary. French friends, who had never thought of adding kilts to their chic French “armoirs” were trawling the internet for kilts in ever more vivid colour combinations. Ebay was put to the test by those who might not have gone down that shopping route before. Vivid was the choice, anything less would be termed as “triste” (sad). A shopping style was developing which was not particularly French. It made a change from their local couturier and family favourite boutiques.
Starting in September there was the task of learning Scottish Country Dancing by both French and English/Irish friends. This was greeted with the same enthusiasm by everyone especially as it was being taught by a bone fide Scotsman. “Repetitions” (rehearsals) were being held almost regularly and even a “dress rehearsal” took place. Dinners were given by kind hosts with sufficient space for “le repetition” and dances learnt between courses. One got the feeling that people were pleased to dance off any excesses eaten or drunk.
Burns' night supper was celebrated on 30th January, being the nearest convenient Saturday to the actual date of 25th. The celebration evening took the form of a big dinner party in the chateau of one of the friends. The chateau was perfect as it had been designed originally to look like a Scottish baronial castle.
Guests arrived attired in ever increasing variations on Scottish themes. Imaginations ran riot with some sporting red haired wigs and tartans in any and every hue. Styles of every era were entering the hallway and reception rooms and finally the ballroom where the dancing took place. The French were whole heartedly enthusiastic and affected mannerisms vaguely Scots and danced as though they had been doing it all their lives. It was especially impressive as some people had never been available to come to the rehearsals yet picked up sufficient moves to make the patterning of the reels look almost convincing on occasion.
The dances were executed between dinner courses and the dinner courses were eaten between recitations of the writings of Robert Burns. These verses pronounced in a French accent were indeed very special. Well known phrases, such as “of mice and men” and the beautiful poem of “My love is like a Red, Red Rose” were read out in endearing Gallic tones. If we couldn’t understand the recitations, usually read with a strong Scottish accent before, a French rendition was even more extraordinary. Luckily we had the words written out for us on beautifully presented menu cards.
Much praise was heaped upon our host whose enthusiasm never wavered and in turn he heaped praise upon the dancing master who having never taught dancing in his life before, enjoyed his newly found hidden talent.
Such fun, what a build up and what a party!!