I Kilt It!

The Highland Games Heavy Events have one particular, immutable rule: ALL participants must appear and compete in Highland dress. That includes me.

Ohh, yes. Time to consider the kilt, my friends.

First, despite the slightly unfortunate coincidence of it being termed “Highland dress“, vastly the most important thing to grasp if you don’t wish to appear a complete moron: A KILT IS NOT A SKIRT. DON’T, JUST DON’T CALL IT A SKIRT. Not if you value your assets, anyway. It may seem like a funny thing to say (heck, even I, having a puerile sense of humour, am tempted to find it funny occasionally), but most kilt-wearers (unlike me) are male, have heard the joke a bazillion times from lips less charming than yours, and will not feel inclined to chortle along with you. Not even a bit.

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Secondly, every kilt wearer you will ever encounter has also heard the question about what he wears UNDER his kilt a bazillion times and finds it, if possible, even less funny than the ‘skirt’ remarks. Some may go on the offensive and offer to show you if you promise to kiss whatever you find under there; the smart ones just wink and say, “Shoes, of course!”

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Speaking personally, anybody who tries to investigate what I’m wearing beneath the kilt this summer is going to find themselves in a new world of pain. But hey. What’s a girl to do?

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Yes, the Alternate Universe Princess Fiona in “Shrek Forever After” really rocks the kilt! Also the battle-axe and the kick-arse boots. My heroine!

As soon as I had definitely decided to do the Games, I bought myself a secondhand kilt off eBay. Why not new, you ask? Because a decent new kilt would have cost me upwards of £300, that’s why! That’s also why I’m not wearing a clan tartan: if I ordered a kilt from a proper kiltmaker, I could specify a particular clan tartan, even a particular weaver, and get everything exactly how I wanted it. I could stride confidently into their showroom and say, “I’d like an 8-yard kilt in the Ancient Graham of Menteith woven by Lochcarron, with a 16″ drop and black leather straps and buckles, with a fringe end, pretty please.”

Alas for financial reality! My Aunty Doreen (our family’s one and only Scots connection for aeons in any direction) just had to go and marry a bloke whose tartan is scarcer than hens’ teeth. So, reluctantly, because I love the teal-blues of the Graham tartan, I abandoned my shaky claim to Scottish ancestry and settled for a secondhand kilt in a rather nice ‘generic’ tartan called “Heritage of Scotland” (or in my case, “No Heritage of Scotland”). I hung my acquisition carefully in the wardrobe, and forgot about it.

You will have seen my training efforts below. It suddenly occurred to me that, if I was going to wear the kilt with conviction (and without embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions) when the season started, I had better get it out and get used to wearing it now. So when my buddy Robyn called to ask if I wanted to go out for a drink the other night, I said, “Yeah, OK, but I’m wearing my kilt!”

The first thing that dawned when putting it on was that this was nothing – and I do mean NOTHING – like wearing a skirt. It’s more like strapping on armour for battle. Honest. In kilted circles, an 8-yard traditional kilt is known as a ‘tank’, because believe me, it’s built like one. Trust me on this. It feels very secure, and rather bracing. And when you move, it swishes. I think it’s something to do with the six yards of fabric folded into knife-edge pleats behind you! Wowza, does it move! Swing your hips, and you could take out a small child or an elderly aunt without even realising.

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Kilts: weapons of mass destruction? Stand well clear until the pleats have come to a halt, ladies and gentlemen.

Robyn captured the event for posterity (yeah, sorry about that, posterity…). Excuse the specs and slightly crazy hair. I had done battle with fibre putty hair-product earlier that day and the outcome still wasn’t decided, so I rammed the lot up in a bun and went forth as is.

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Schoolma’am-meets-Kilted-Warrior-Woman. I think.

Or there’s always what I’m calling Attitude: Kilted.

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I’ll be keeping this kilt as my reserve/pubbing/ceilidhing kilt, as it’s a tad long for athletical endeavours. I’m ordering one in the same tartan from an eBay shop, it’ll be 8 yards, like this one… just a fair few inches shorter – a girly throwing kilt, inspired by my friends on X Marks the Scot.

As I’m sure I heard someone say on the forums one day, “Swish happens!”

And when it does, I’m going to be wearing bullet-proof Lycra leggings under my kilt. ‘Cos, seriously, nobody’s been quite bad enough to deserve the sight of my nekkid thighs on a summer’s afternoon.

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger…

Did you ever wish you hadn’t started something?

That’s me every time I head for the gym. As I shed jeans, wellies, and fleece in favour of trackies, teeshirt and trainers, I get PE flashbacks. This is unfair of my brain. I mean, who wants to relive school? Wasn’t one go round enough?

So I ignore the feelings of doom that invade my psyche, and lace up the trainers anyway. If my brain is in top form, it finds tiny, stupid things with which to sidetrack me from my purpose. My one and only pair of trackies have Plumber’s Mate smeared on the right knee after helping (read: hindering) my friend Rob when he was fixing my sink the other day. I meant to stick ’em in the wash and forgot. Now what am I going to wear? Cargo pants? Too small, and they don’t stretch either. I can do without splitting the bum of my trousers while I’m trying to resemble an athlete. I haver round the bedroom for several minutes in my polka-dot underpants before grabbing the trackies out of the laundry basket and putting them on anyway. My brain is smug: ten minutes not spent in the gym. Gah.

My subconscious mind whines like a reluctant toddler as I get changed, slowing me up, distracting me – anything to put off the moment when I step out of the front door. Today’s sneak tactic, just as I finally grab my keys, sling my snazzy yellow plastic gym bag over my shoulder and reach for the front door latch, is to suddenly hit me with the realisation that I haven’t eaten all morning. I got up at six and crawled straight from bed to computer chair. Doom. Dooom. I’ve tried being tough and working out on an empty stomach, and let me tell you, it’s not tough, it’s stupid and ends up with you dry-heaving beside the rowing machine. Ladylike and elegant? Meh, not so much.

This time, I was wise to my brain. Yes, I am aware of how loony that sounds. Hurtled down the kitchen stairs and flung open the fridge, muttering, “Right! Protein!” Five slices of roast chicken and three heaped spoons of hummus later, I lurched to the cupboard, stuck a big teaspoon of Nutella on my tongue to kill the taste and smell of the hummus, and fled.

And what do you know? It worked out just fine. I got on my cross-trainer (the one where the number buttons don’t work) and spent ten minutes having fun rocketing my heart-rate and getting everything in working order. Hit the weight machines and worked my way right through the personal torture programme Sadistic Eddie worked out for me (hey, I even moved the peg several notches down from the ‘WIMP’ end of the stack today), spent a few happy minutes in the free weights room doing some thing I’ve forgotten the name of but which feels really great and athlete-y.

I even did extras on some of the machines – got to the end of my reps, then did (grunt) ONE more just to show I could, and (extra grunt) ONE last one just to show my brain who’s boss round here. So maybe Kelly Clarkson is right (or was it the depressed dude with the giant moustache? Hmm…), and if this doesn’t finish me off, it’ll make me stronger.

Perhaps, to quote my buddy Ethel The Dean, sweating like a glassblower’s arse several times a week isn’t so bad.