As a proud Scotsman (even though I do not have ginger hair, don’t really like porridge and have a limited grasp of the lyrics to O Flower of Scotland) I am fond of a jig now and again. By jig I mean ceilidh dancing; uproarious fun with little regiment or form to it, just groups of people coming together to dance to Scottish country dancing tunes. That, I would argue, is the true and realistic manner in which Scots love to boogie on a Saturday night.
Yet, as with many things, the three streets of St Andrews are a parallel universe, in this case a White Heather Club lite parallel universe. For those of you who have never seen footage from the glorious television programme which became a regular New Year TV fixture, the White Heather Club was a land of white tie, tartan trousers and people with terribly sounding Scottish names and terribly sounding Sloane Square accents. At Kinkell Byre on Saturday I entered the not dissimilar world of the annual White Tie Reeling Ball, put on by the St Andrews Reeling Society.
Bedecked in my white tie (much like a budget Sebastian Flyte; as an aside, I was once told by a rather drunken man in a bar in London that I had a similar bone structure to a young Jeremy Irons. I later saw him being escorted from the premises barely conscious) my set and I arrived at Kinkell for a generous champagne reception. In fact, so generous was the subsidised alcohol, stocks lasted for the whole evening.
As you may have judged from my previous comments I approached the event with a fair amount of cynicism for one so young. However, I will say that I had an absolutely fantastic time. In fact, a “reely” good time. The pomp and pageantry of the occasion contributed to a wonderful experience; there was something quite stirring in seeing this array of floor length dresses and tails twirling with such vim and vigour on the dance floor. I caught up with debonair man about town Steven Fan at the bar who commented as assiduously as ever that “This is so British. So British. I love it. I even think I’m turning British”.
The dances were excellent fun and incredibly friendly too. There were a couple of overly keen beans who took on the form of Chairman Mao in a kilt and would not hesitate to berate those of us who had two left feet, however, on the whole everyone approached the dances in the right frame of mind which contributed to a wonderfully clubbable atmosphere.
At midnight breakfast was served. Mass catering is a difficult trick to pull off, and while the scrambled egg was akin to the powdery mixture served on a British Airways flight, overall the lashings of bacon and sausage were ideal nourishment following a particularly vigorous session where I busted out a pretty sweet Dashing White Sergeant.
As we headed off back to St Andrews following a mass dance at the end, I had become very much converted to reeling. It is an event worth going to – although I would encourage practising the dances before to get the most out of it – and it is a tribute to the society who organised it that they put on such a consistently excellent event. A reely good time was had by all.
Photo credit: Ali Stokes