Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Ceilidh Night: Party Like it's 1799

I'm not much of a party animal, but every now and again I'll make an exception.

On Saturday night at Aberdeen's Carmelite Hotel, the School of Social Science held a Ceilidh (pronounced "kay-lee" because Gaelic makes no sense whatsoever) for staff and postgraduate students - a touch surprising since we'd just had a reception for staff and postgraduates a few days before, but who cares? A shindig's a shindig. CN Homeboy was particularly enthusiastic about the event, and CN Odin talked about going, so I figured it was a good opportunity to sample some Scottish culture. CN Sister showed up as well, so there was a group of four from our cohort. In addition to staff and families, most of the rest of the attendees turned out to be anthropology postgraduates (mostly young women). I arrived with CN Hoosier, who lives near me and asked if I wanted to travel together.

I'm not much of a dancer, so I was only guilted into one dance at the very end. There was a live Ceilidh band, and members of the troupe demonstrated and coached participants in how to do the dances before the music kicked off each time. I had intended to take a few pictures, but wound up being social, so the only picture I got of the festivities was this one. I'll assume that even though I've not yet gone through the Dramatis Personae of the Strategic Studies program, you readers can probably figure out who's who.

Some of the music was familiar, though the lyrics (if they exist for the original songs) are probably different. The two songs I recognized that come immediately to mind are "Little Bunny Foo Foo", and some other tune I mentally associate with pirates.

The event closed down at midnight - about an hour after I had intended to be in bed - but I had stayed in part because I was having a great time socializing and observing, and in part because I was planning to escort CN Hoosier back home. CN Odin suggested that we go to another bar after the event, and we wound up getting a big group consisting of the four of us, a bunch of the anthropology folks, and CN Hoosier (also an anthropologist) and her flatmates to come.

On the way, we ran across something interesting: open-air urinals. Yes, you read that correctly, and you can read more about it here, and see a picture of the units in use here. Unfortunately, the images are both entirely safe for work. No word yet on whether or not the implementation of such a system constitutes the collapse of Western Civilization.

Most of us made it to the club on Gallowgate Street (called the Blue Lamp), but as CN Hoosier's flatmates were somewhat unruly by this time, they ended up being unable to make it and went home early. That left four strategists and six or seven anthropologists to dance and/or wallflower near the loo in a tiny club that was probably a converted one bedroom flat. I imagine that most of the patrons were students, and there was a really peculiar mix of adorable young ladies who were dolled up, weird hippy types with dreadlocks and bohemian grunge clothing, and a gaggle of postgraduates (us). The music had the virtue of being recognizable, and apparently not loud enough to make my ears ring afterward.

At about 01:30, what would turn out to be the last song of the night came on, and it was one of my favorites: Don't Look Back in Anger by Oasis.

A German anthropologist whom I'd met at the Ceilidh was next to me at this point, and we started singing together, so I grabbed another of my cohort, and within a few seconds our entire group had formed a ring. Much to our surprise, one of the dreadlocked hippy chicks and some dude got into the circle and danced for a verse, then extricated themselves a few seconds later. So, I did what any self-respecting strategist would do: I jumped into the middle of the circle, and for the rest of the song, I belted out the lyrics along with a crude pantomime of various parts. (Let the record note that I was entirely sober at the time.) The song ended, the club went quiet, and as the anthropologists dispersed, the strategists and a few other patrons were the last to leave the club.

At this point, I needed to get a cab, as I was disinclined to walked the two or three miles back to campus. CN Homeboy and I parted company with CN Odin and CN Sister, and hoofed it to a cab stand I knew, then to another cab stand. CN Homeboy assured me that another cab stand "two minutes walk up Union Street" would be quicker. I guarantee you that we walked for at least ten minutes, maybe fifteen, before reaching this cab stand and parting company. I waited in line for about ten more minutes, got my cab, and was back in time to drop at about 02:45, sore and hoarse from the night's festivities.

I was stunned by how many drunken revellers were out on Union Street (essentially the High Street of Aberdeen) at two in the morning. They certainly weren't rioting or anything, but it was absolute bedlam, with people chasing one another up and down the pavements, women dressed to the nines, people carrying food in takeaway boxes and eating as they walked, shouting, crowds going to and fro. From having passed several clubs, I know that the Blue Lamp must have closed down relatively early by comparison to some of the other clubs in town. The cab driver said that this sort of spectacle was to be expected on the first and last weekends of every month, but that he wasn't sure why so many people were out in the middle of the month. I can truly say that I've never seen anything like it in my life.

Not surprisingly, I don't plan to repeat this sort of excursion on a regular basis, but it's sort of nice to know that as old and austere as I am, I can still go out and party with the best of 'em... And a bunch of hippies.

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