Strip the Willow, Daglan-style

It’s a bit nerve-wracking to organize a party for neighbours in Daglan, strictly for linguistic reasons.

Since the Greater Daglan Area has so many holiday home owners whose first language isn’t French, how will the party chatter go? The risk is that the party will simply divide into separate and awkward clusters — French-speakers standing together, English-speakers in their own groups, and so on.

But our Scottish friends Suzanne and Mark bravely took on the challenge last Friday, holding a wonderfully successful early-New-Year party, and had a brilliant idea for getting everyone together — Scottish dancing.

Of course there were lots of other elements to the successful party. The venue was their large, renovated home with a gorgeous view; the drinks table was covered in bottles of Champagne and wine; and there were trays and trays of wonderful foods, including a number of appetizers from the boutique of Fabrice le Chef in Daglan, plus some foods that Suzanne made.

(Best idea of this past holiday season: A “samosa” made of phyllo pastry, and filled with those Scottish classics — haggis, neeps and tatties. I believe credit for the idea goes jointly to Suzanne and her sister-in-law Morag.  In any case, I lost count of how many I ate.)

Early on, the guests did make an effort to mingle and mix, with English-speakers doing their best to speak French, and vice versa. (To their credit, the Dutch seem to be generally the most comfortable in French as well as English, in addition to their native tongue.) But things really got rolling when the furniture was cleared from the living room, to allow for  dancing.

And to the surprise of most guests, the dancing wasn’t the usual Gangnam-Style hopping around, but a succession of Scottish dances.

It may be obvious that my Scottish-born wife, Jan, would know her way around Scottish dancing, but even I know quite a few of the numbers. For years, Jan and I attended the annual St. Andrew’s Ball in Toronto’s huge Royal York Hotel,  dressed in full Scottish gear and sharing a table with six close friends. (My kilt, by the way, is Ancient Dress Macdonald, since Jan is a proud Macdonald.) All through the evening, some 1,200 people danced everything from the relatively simple Gay Gordons to the tricky Eightsome Reel.

The mix wasn’t as complex at last Friday’s party, but there was still a good bit of variety. There was the inevitable Gay Gordons, the Dashing White Sergeant, a pretty ragged Eightsome Reel, and the dance that’s probably the most fun of all, the speedy Strip the Willow.

It was great to see everyone joining in — people whose home countries included Canada, France, Holland, Scotland, South Africa, and the United States. Here’s one look at the fun:

Nothing like some Scottish dancing to get the party going.

Nothing like some Scottish dancing to get the party going.

Today we received our invitation to the village’s annual get-together to offer good wishes for the New Year — la traditionelle cérémonie des vœux — which takes place on Saturday, January 17 in Daglan’s Salle des Fêtes.

Maybe this year, Scottish dancing could be added to the celebrations.

A side note: One of the most pleasant personal surprises at the party, for Jan and me, was the number of times we heard this blog being discussed. One French man who recently became a neighbour of Suzanne and Mark started telling Jan and me about a blog he’d discovered — and was amazed when he found out he was chatting with the author. His girlfriend says she enjoys reading it while sipping a glass of wine at her home in Versailles. Later in the evening, a French tradesman made a point of writing down the blog’s address, because he said he’s heard so many of his clients mention Radio Free Daglan, and wanted to have a look. Well, we’re delighted.

 

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5 Responses to Strip the Willow, Daglan-style

  1. Simon Wheatley says:

    Any chance of a Cazals house-owner getting into the Daglan celebrations?

    • loren24250 says:

      I’m pretty sure that if you showed up at Daglan’s salle des fêtes on January 17, some time after 5:30 p.m., you could slide into place at the celebrations. There’s not usually an ID check. Just don’t count on Scottish dancing.
      Another route into Daglan celebrations in general would be via a personal word or two from Fabrice le Chef, whose roots are deep in Cazals culture.

  2. Robin says:

    Love the descriptions. Sounds great. This American spent a year in Scotland as an 11-year-old. In addition to highland fling lessons, at school we learned all those Scottish dances and reels. It was terrific! I also realized, much later in life, that learning British history from the Scots point of view was quite a bit different than the English version!

    • loren24250 says:

      Thanks Robin.
      For me, many of the basic moves of Scottish dances are like the moves we learned in the U.S. as “square dancing.” I think we did square dancing in late elementary school or else junior high school. Maybe grades 5, 6, 7 or 8.
      Can’t say I loved it at the time, but it all got to be more fun as we got older and wiser — and could have a bit of single malt during breaks!

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