Sunday, 10 February 2019

Fashion and Fabric

Burns Night at Balintore Castle this year turned out to be unexpectedly magical. Internet influencer and Scotland fanatic par excellence, Solveig, wanted to take a few fashion shots at the castle and invited me over to her place for a meal afterwards. I told her she was welcome to take some shots, but that as my vehicle was out of action I would regretfully have to decline the meal.

fashion shoot at castle

Solveig insisted that this would not be a problem and arrived at Balintore, with her parents, her boyfriend and last but not least a 3½ pound haggis!

I had a good friend visiting that day who has a phenomenal appetite. However, as the day was so hectic, I never found the time to tell him that I wasn't making dinner myself. And it was only when I was driven by guilt to excuse my absence to him after giving Solveig's parents a rather lengthy guided tour did I blurt out: "Apologies, but the reason that I have just done the super de-luxe tour is that they have brought the evening meal". A broad smile spread across his face!

I lit the castle by candlelight, including some antique sconces in the hallway, which had just been installed the day before and Solveig's boyfriend Jonny piped in the haggis with his mobile phone. Having grown up in Burns country, I mumbled a couple of lines of "Address to a Haggis". Balintore wove her magic again that evening and it was the most special Burns supper I've ever attended. The haggis was phenomenal, even though we were uncertain about the cooking time for such a large beastie. The internet suggested "an hour per pound" but we figured that a couple of hours in the oven in a half-an-inch of water would do as a haggis is already cooked and only needs heating up, and so it proved.

the Balintore table bedecked with the out-sized haggis 

Conversation during the meal turned to tweed and I mentioned I had once photographed a page from a book on tweed which featured the tweed for the Kinnordy Estate which surrounds the castle. However, since then I had lost the digital image. Solveig and Jonny knew and have the book (how spooky is that?) explaining it has been out of print for years, and promised to send me a scan. There is a new edition apparently costing over £100 but the colours in the illustrations are all to pot.

So at long last I can blog details of the tweed local to Balintore Castle. It is a lovely one, somewhat greener in reality than the scan, and in consequence I have been lusting after the local gamekeeper's plus-fours for many years. 

Kinnordy Estate tweed

It was only relatively recently I discovered that each shooting estate in Scotland has its own tweed - this was from a small exhibit held in Braemar Castle. The book in question: "Scottish Estate Tweeds", I first saw in a small seating area in a hotel where my Canadian relatives were staying on their tour of Scotland. The book revealed that while many of the tweeds are 19th century, most date from the 1920's and 1930's which I found surprising. I guess this is when railways made the Highlands really available to the middle/upper-middle classes for shooting holidays.

One could argue that tweeds are more authentic than tartans: tweeds have a known provenance and are local to an area. Tartans on the other hand were originally not associated with a particular clan just a particular area and the whole "clan tartan" idea is a confection of the era of Sir Walter Scott romanticism.

Of course, tradition and living heritage are how we actually celebrate who we are. Even if the details are not factually correct, there is often a spiritual truth there. Shetland's "Up Helly Aa" celebration is also a Victorian confection, of around 1876, but there's no doubt that the men who dress up as Viking warriors and torch a longship every year have a lot of Viking blood in them.