Morag told me about the Celtic Festival going on at Newbattle Abbey, on Saturday past. It all sounded rather interesting so I was keen to join them in going along. The Abbey, like Glenbarr in Kintyre, isn’t an Abbey as such, but a splendid big house, not too far from Dalkeith. Oops! Just discovered there was a Cistercian Abbey on the same site in the 12th century, but the present house dates from the 16th century.
For years now it has been a college running courses in all sorts of subjects, which are open to adults wishing to gain extra qualifications . Their variety of short courses interested me quite a bit. I fancy the Creative writing, Oral Story telling, Gaelic, and Genealogy.
The Celtic festival was a “celebration of celtic culture and woodland heritage” offering various activities for all ages, and the chance to learn new skills. I signed up for a workshop on Story telling, and one on Breton Dance – I thought it was a bit more genteel than the Scottish and Irish dancing and that it would minimise my aches and pains! Ah, read on, dear friend, read on!!!
The story telling workshop, held upstairs in a small classroom, was fun. We all had our own reasons for wanting to learn how to tell a good story, some of the group working with children with disabilities – is that PC these days? – and learning difficulties, myself because I have tended only to read stories to kids when I was a baby sitter and later a primary school teacher – in a former life! I love traditional stories, fairy tales and the like, especially from the Scottish tradition, and would rather like to become a story teller professionally!! The first activity was given over to making up a story about an object we picked at random out of a “goodie-bag” handed round by Bea our tutor.
My object was, strangely enough, a little leather boot of the type associated with the “Wee Folk ”. the Little People, and we all had the chance to tell our story to a partner. Now, I’m not very good at making up stories – I write better, and about things I know - so with only a minute to think up what to say proved quite hard. My story ended up consisting of stolen bits from a variety of existing fairy stories, but I think I told it well enough. Next activity, after a bit of discussion and some hints and ideas from Bea, was to read a typed story given each of us, and after 5 minutes of studying them and planning how we’d tell our one, we each had to tell the group in our own words. My story was another fairy story, while Nick had a sort of Arabian nights one. Mags had a kind of environmental story, and these were the only ones we had time to listen to. Bea talked about our stories and evaluated the way we told them. Nick actually had applause for his rendition! I dried up in the middle of mine and had to have a reminding look at the cribsheet, but I did alright otherwise.
Then I headed down from the first floor tutorial room to the vaulted crypt where the dancing seminars were held. A couple of musicians with hurdy gurdy and a set of bagpipes provided the music and we were instructed on the basic steps of our first dance, a linear dance all holding hands and linking arms and moving round in a follow-my-leader fashion, round the pillars.
By the time we had gone round and round and in and out a few times, I realised that even though it was a gentler form of dance, my left hip was not going to stand up to it so I dropped out and watched instead. What a shame! It looked like a lot of fun!
After exploring the Crafts marquee in the gardens, I found Morag, Mike, and Morag’s mum in the ceilidh tent (KAYli –a ceilidh is a gathering of people for the purpose of entertainment such as singing, dancing and story telling) listening to some folk bands and watching some Scottish dancing, but soon we opted for finding a cup of tea, and ended up eating icecream and listening to a couple of young buskers. Not sure what the third one was there for though!
There were several stalls in the gardens devoted to some woodland and other outdoor activities, but there were a few items on the flyer that I didn’t find at all. I think maybe they were subjects of workshops held in the morning so we missed them! However it was an interesting afternoon that may lead to something more in the autumn when the college session begins again! Who knows!
Talk again soon.