It was the idea of Simone's soccer coach, Mr. Fern, a lively and fun Scotsman, after having been duly impressed with by the soccer parents wild abandon at the nightclubs of Cairo during the girls' varsity tournament in Egypt: We should have a post-season follow-up in London, celebrating Robert Burns' birthday at a traditional "Ceilidh" (kay-lee), a scottish dance party.
So just 8 hours after my arrival at Heathrow, Pam was slipping on her highland plaid stockings (which were summarily vetoed by Simone). Soon we were on the Piccadilly line, headed for the appointed rendezvous at Hammersmith Town Hall. The public event was well-attended, with some 300(?) eager-to-party types, mostly in their 20's and 30's, most claiming some scottish heredity or affiliation. Quite a few of the men, including Mr. Fern and his friend from ASL were sporting kilts. To Pam's dismay, the many plaid stockings were on display by the lasses.
I would describe the event as "square dancing on steroids", with live band and a 'caller' walking us through each rowdy number. It started with a cafeteria-style dinner featuring Haggis (per Wikipedia "a traditional Scottish dish made from minced offal and oatmeal etc, boiled in the stomach of a sheep etc; traditionally served with neeps and tatties and accompanied with whisky"). Many of the men, who were mostly in their 20's and early 30's, were dressed in kilts. At one point the whole show was interrupted by a bagpiper, leading a processing with a plate crowned with a Haggis. Then one kilted gent stepped on stage to perform a recitation of Burns' Address to a Haggis (English translation below...note the pro forma insult of the French) in the most amazing, fully incomprehensible brogue. At the climax of the poem, he violently pierced the Haggis with a blade, and downed several shots of whiskey. Apparently this whole ritual is part of the traditional Burns Dinner, a favorite holiday in Scotland through which they celebrate their national bard.
We whirled and twirled, swilled beer and wine to chase down the Haggis (surprisingly tasty, IMHO), and had a thoroughly excellent time. Welcome home -- gotta love this place!