The Finale of Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy is beginning its fifth hour of repeating in my brain so I finally faced down the ear-worm and found it on Youtube. Might as well familiarize myself with the rest of the piece, although I seem to be wed to the last ten minutes. It has been one of those lovely solitary days, with time to think or even stop thinking and let my mind follow its own lead. Being alone for an extended period is the perfect incubator. About being Scottish, it turned out.
Blame Bruch. He might have not have been Scottish, but he captured the sense of that nation by doing something inventive. While as a young pianist I loved baroque “ornamentation,” and the “turn” in particular, it never occurred to me that a classical composer could use one to evoke swirling bagpipes played by kilted warriors marching into battle. although the Scottish Fantasy was composed in 1880, it foreshadows the Balkan Campaign of 1916, where the 10th Battalion of the Black Watch won the nickname “Ladies from hell” ("Die Damen aus der Hölle") as a back-handed tribute to their kilts, their pipes, and their fighting qualities. Whether or not you are a Scot, you want to be, when Bruch is finished with you.
As it happens, I AM a Scot! Or at least three-quarters of me, if you can overlook the century and a half we’ve been in Canada. But looking back, I realize that I have consistently demonstrated my weakness for things Scottish — Sean Connery, shortbread, Skye terriers, good woollens, warehouse sales, red squirrels, formal dances with dates in dress kilts, cool summers, Jamie Fraser, peaty scotch, my two boon companions and best of all, a Scottish brogue.
So I'm entitled to think about Sean Connery, all right? His looks are okay but it’s his voice that slays me. I have been trying, without success, to download it onto our GPS, who has earned the name “Dim Bulb” for evident reasons. Sean would be unable to guarantee any more than Dim Bulb that I "have arrived at (my) destination,” but this time I might not care. The only occasion when I literally had too much of him was when the only seats for Dr. No were in the front row and his chest was thirty feet across. So I closed my eyes and just listened, mercifully released from the sight of Ursula Andress’s monstrous cleavage.
If you too love Scottish burrs, there’s Scott MacKenzie, the famous flyfisher who does master-class videos about spey casting, the double-handed method of presenting the fly. Or Davie McPhail, who ties magnificent salmon flies on line. I treat them both as podcasts and can practically hear my blood pressure dropping. I still regret that I’ve lost the brogue that a year with my Scottish exchange teacher in Grade Two bestowed. Thank heavens for Outlander, although I do keep an eye as well as an ear on Jamie.
Finally, there is the "Heavenly Breed," though the fierceness of Skyes has also won them the respectful moniker “Land Sharks." I knew that Jewell and Theodore are direct descendants of an ancient breed, but recently discovered that cairns and Scotties branched off from Skye terriers only within the last century. Skyes cover all the bases - comic-looking ("designed by a committee") but elegant; tough-minded (aka STUBBORN) but snuggly; prone to bizarre phobias (Theodore turning to jelly around any one of the bikes in Jon's stable) yet brave ( confronting a large coyote); dim (see "brave") but exquisitely affectionate and loyal. Not to gild the lily but I like to think that Theodore’s thinking voice is appropriately burry like Sean's, Scott's and Davie's. Maintaining this fiction is made a heck of a lot more difficult when he cries like a girl after an hour’s separation. Still, one tries.
The weather this week is autumnally blue-sky cool so today I am pretending to be in the Highlands -- feeling the urge to break out the woollens and the shortbread, and to go to the back garden to locate a red squirrel with whom to exchange insults. All the while, I'm gratefully aware of doing this in Canada, where Boris Johnson is mercifully irrelevant. So, channelling Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner" and Alex P. Keaton's hilarious "Today I am a woman," today I am a Scot -- albeit one who hasn't been home for a LONG time.