Sunday, August 26, 2012

I wish I taught at Hogwarts

It’s been nearly a year since the Harry Potter movie and five years since the last book was released. I have to admit that I’m suffering from Hogwarts withdrawal. Despite having health and safety practices that would make the average school administration run screaming (I mean, the health and safety issues in just a game of quiddich, let alone the tri-wizard cup tournament !) the ancient history that permeated Hogwarts bones, and the coziness of the school – four poster beds for students and common rooms with tapestries and roaring fire places.

Perhaps it’s because I went to a British boarding school (although I didn’t board myself), and went to university in the spired ancient, alcoholic gloriousness that is Oxford, and taught at a high school that is probably as close to Hogwarts as one can get without using wands (Christ Hospital School in West Sussex), that I felt at home with the idea of Hogwarts.

 Maybe it’s because I associated with the characters of the books too.  Although I was the spitting image of Daniel Radcliff when I was a tween, I probably associate more with Hermione: the clever, bossy smart-arse, and outsider, whose family background was profoundly different to her classmates. Although being a bit of a class clown, getting into scrapes, and for occasionally being oblivious to goings on, I had/have certain Ron-like tendencies. 

But despite trolls lose in the bathrooms, and basilisks in the basement, Hogwarts had a homey feel that I craved and missed. I wish I was teaching at Hogwarts. The university I’m at lacks the history, class and grandeur of Hogwarts, the student body lacks the camaraderie, familiness and school spirit, the president lacks the wisdom and drive of Dumbledore and the provost lacks the organization, courage and sassiness of MacGonnegal, although we have more than our fair share of Professor Trelawnes, Lockharts, Quirrels and Snapes. Class would also be so much interesting if you could wave your wand turn the student at the back, who’s been watching youtube all the way through class, into a skrewt. 

Don’t make me get Mr Knightley on your ass

One of my guilty pleasures is Jane Austen, and two of my favourite scenes from Jane Austen movies are when Edward Ferrers (Hugh Grant) tells Elinor Dashwood (Emma Thompson) that he isn’t, after all, married, and she makes that amazing “uhguffle” sound, of relief.


My second favourite scene (any version) is when George Knightly chastises (“badly done Emma, badly done”) Emma Woodhouse for snapping a witty retort that ends up insulting and hurting a friend. George chastises Emma even though she will take the criticism badly, he knows that she will get angry, hate him for it, but he criticizes her none the less because he loves her deeply, and knows she is better than that.

This is my favourite version of the scene ...

Now why am I bringing this to your attention? Well, to give you a bit of background, as I’ve mentioned before probably 90% of my closest friends are female, I have many of them, and they tend to be of a type: outspoken, witty, very clever, vivacious, go-getters. Most are outwardly seem super-confident (although often vulnerable beneath), and although a couple are shy, most like to be center of attention. They are often very willful. I love them all dearly. But sometimes being outspoken they go across the line. One of my friends behaved recently in a way that could have consequences, and would likely end up hurting people. She didn’t really mean to, but that’s the way she is, sometimes there’s collateral damage. And so I went all Mr Knightley and told her “badly done … badly done”. But it was because I cared. This made me start thinking about the all times when I should have called friends on what they were doing, when I should have spoken up, but I didn’t. Sometimes I thought I should just let things slide, sometimes I was worried about offending, or starting an argument. Well if a friend doesn’t appreciate when you are trying to help them, or to get them to see another point of view, even if they don’t like what they hear, well they aren’t really that good a friend after all.

Albus Dumbledore wisely said "There are all kinds of courage. It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends." If you can’t stand up to a friend when they are doing something that will reflect badly on them, or when they are doing something that could hurt others when they don’t mean to, well what kind of friend are you anyway. I’ve really appreciated it when friends have called me on some of the things I’ve done, even though it might have pissed me off at the time, it increased my respect for them. Boy, do I need reining in on my behavior at times! So if you’re a friend of mine and I see you doing something that might hurt you, or hurt others, don’t make me get all Mr Knightly on your ass !

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sage advice: Chimpanzee politics and alpha males

OK, I’m back with another article for my female friends about how to decipher how men think and behave. This post is about being Alpha.

Whenever men get together they are constantly, sub-consciously assessing each other and establishing hierarchies. Who is the Alpha chimpanzee, who is Beta, and who is the lowest of the low, the Omega*? I started thinking about this past weekend when out with a group of friends, to noticed that the guys were deferring to me – even though one was my age, and was ex-special forces and could probably kill me with his pinky, I was the one who was making all the decisions, and being deferred to (this was probably because I was the boss of his girlfriend, and the supervisor of many others there - and so was the one that most there were automatically looking to). 

Usually when men meet there is some subtle, or not so subtle jostling about who is alpha. This may involve non-verbal communication, such as posturing. Standing straight with legs apart, or sitting, leaning back, legs spayed, this are typical alpha poses. Me top chimpanzee, look at the size of my impressive genitals.

Even something like a handshake could be involved – my father taught me to try to give a strong, near crippling hand shake whenever possible. Some men however use this and close a handshake super-quick, so that before you can get a good manly grip, you are instead left grasping fingers of a firm hand shake you are – you have been up-alphaed by trickery.

Sometimes the posturing is verbal. Usually in the form of trying to out compete the other males by stories, tales of prowess, or mastery. Because, as I’ve mentioned before, everything is a competition for guys, and status is everything. In many ways, the tales of “how much I had to drink”, “she was so into me” or “I’ve just bought a new Bugatti” are no different to the tales of battles and cunning Vikings would tell around the fire place in their mead halls, all attempts to establish hierarchies. However, sometimes chimpanzees lie, and in due time you will see the other chimps testing this verbal posturing – can they back up their claims? Or will they be caught in a lie? The chimp caught out, will soon find their place in the hierarchy faltering and they plummet in status. I have a couple of relatives who were particularly bad at telling stories and exaggerating to promote their status, and they were easy to see through, however, to call them on it would cause them to lose status, cause embarrassment and ruin Thanksgiving.  

By agreeing with, or even bolstering the verbal bragging of a higher status, alpha male a younger chimpanzee gains favour with the elder, and also is seen as being less of a threat, subservient and less of a competitor. To see this in action just watch any (socially aware) guy who is meeting his girlfriend’s father for the first time.

Now, woe betide you if you get a group of established alphas in a room together. They will start jostling for superiority, and the inner chimpanzee may come out, and poo may be flung. In my world this is called “a faculty meeting”. The posturing and whatnot is usually more pronounced in academia, as many professors are used to being alphas in their labs or classes, and moreover often lack social skills or self-awareness to moderate their behavior so that it’s more subtle. Amongst so many wanna-be alphas, sometimes a chimp needs to get a bit stick and clout the competition – metaphorically of course.

Personally, at work I’m an alpha through and through. To adequately control a class of over 100 students, you have to make yourself their alpha. For graduate students, this is particularly important, as they may be used to being top dog in their offices – many of my graduate students, in fact I would say close to a half, are older than me and often have senior government positions, frequently out earning me, so you have to show them who’s boss quickly – and in an academic setting, this is usually through leadership skills, organization, and showing that you not only know what you’re talking about, but you know more than they do. You can tell a class where the instructor is not the alpha – students aren’t listening, they are always arguing and talking back, or getting obstructive. Being alpha is particularly difficult if you are younger, or look younger (as I do/am), so you have to exert yourself more and establish that dominance early. I also chair and organize multiple committees and groups of academics - which again is pretty tough when you are relatively young. This involves constant chest beating and alpha-ness trying to get squabbling academics to listen to you, to respect your opinion, to agree, with your plan; to stop their academic hand-waving and posturing and to concentrate on the matter of hand and get organized. In many ways, my short term as an elementary school teacher and as an uncle of a bunch of feral nieces and nephews was very useful, in trying to control the bunch of ADD children that are many academic faculty. 

Being alpha is particularly important in a field setting. You could be in a situation where carrying out a command could mean the difference between life and death, or at least a serious injury or problems. This past summer, although at times had a group of 50 or so students, if I said the night was over, we are going home, or “you will be at the bus at 7:30”, it was done. No arguing. Everyone left the bar as if a fire drill had been called. That’s alpha.

One of my students recently had problems controlling a class. That was because she tried too hard to be a peer and a friend, without establishing ground rules and dominance first. So that when things went south, it was hard for her to get control. When I was a high school teacher I was once told “don’t smile until half term”. This is a dominance trick. Look fierce, aggressive, look in control. If you try to be the student’s friends too soon, you lose our ability to rein them in. It becomes easier at university, but you still need to use similar tricks. I saw a colleague lose a class when they realized that he did not know the subject and was trying to bluff his way through. Come in strong, and knowledgeable. Set the ground rules quickly. Show that against wrong doers that you will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger” to quote the bible/Samuel L. Jackson.
Now, as I said before, for men, it's all about status and ego, and alpha-ness is part of that. Want to crush a man, you undermine and destroy his status, especially in front of others who are assessing him. You can sometimes see this happening in relationships that are collapsing. She openly contradicts his verbal posturing in front of others, especially males who he is trying to impress. It's also a staple scene in many sit coms (just think of the US, or especially the British, version of "The Office"). It's funny, because it strikes a cord, and you are extremely thankful that it's not happening to you.
Now women have hierarchies and plays of status and dominance too, and I'm not suggesting for a moment that they don't. It’s just men do it ALL THE TIME, and we are not as subtle and sophisticated about it. We are still chimps at heart. Women are a little more involved ... and evolved.

*The omega male is the lowest of the low. Imagine a colony of elephant seals on a beach. The Alphas and betas are the beach masters, controlling the beach. The alpha lies in wait in the surf until the beach master is preoccupied fending off a competitor, or a predator, to sneak onto the beach and force his unwanted attentions on the female elephant seals. In a night club, this would be the sleazy guy who waits until the end and tries to hit on the drunk and vulnerable, especially when the alphas are not there. If caught by the alpha and beta males though, the omega will get an ass-whuppin’.

It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life ...

Something to mellow out to ...

We can dance if we want to …

The past two days I’ve been indulging in one of my guilty pleasures: dancing. Now, the average British male doesn’t dance, or if forced, they dance like this:

I have many times been complimented on my fancy footwork, and my ability to ‘riff’ off another dancer. I like to think I dance like this:

Admittedly, when I really let go, I can end up dancing a little like this though:

My parents were dancing instructors (for Scottish / English country dancing), I grew up watching Grease and on a diet of Saturday afternoon repeats of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly movies, my first girlfriend was obsessed by Dirty Dancing and at one time i could pretty much do the whole routine, and these days I spend a lot of time working in Central / Latin America, which ultimately leads to evenings on the dance floor, in countries where it is not seen as odd, or unmanly, for guys to get up and go dancing. So this may explain where my dancing feet come from.

Anyway, this past Friday I went out with a group of my younger, more adventurous, besties for an evening of micro-brews and fun. The evening ended up at a club, and I found myself (a) the only guy dancing in a group of close to a dozen women and (b) the subject of some jealousy from the non-dancing menfolk in our group. So I had a little impromptu dance class, so now I'm imparting thios advice for the wider world:

Dance tips for guys who wanna dance wid the ladies

(a)  Move your frickin’ feet. Do not stand immobile like a tree rooted to the dance floor. Learn a basic salsa foot pattern, and move those feet.

(b)  Move your hips too. And your knees, bends them. Seriously. That’s what makes the sexy.
c)  Music has a beat/rhythm. Listen to it. Move with it. Don’t dance in a sequence of random movements that have no relationship with the music. At its base, most music has a rhythm that follows a heartbeat. Listen to your heart.

(d)  Relax. Don’t over think things. Don’t get self-conscious (actually that‘s probably good advice for life in general).

(e)  Be confident (ditto on the general life advice). Don’t let the stares from the non-dancing guys standing around the edge of the dance floor make you self-conscious. They’re just jealous that you’re dancing with the ladies.

(f)   Concentrate on the lower half of your body. Let your arms do what they will. Too many guys dance concentrating on their arms to the exclusion of everything else.

(g)  But … do let your arms move – unless you are riverdancing.

(h)  Shoulders should move sinuously and smoothly. Not violently popping up and down like you’re doing some sort of strange abs workout.’

(i)    Sometimes, less is more.

This has been a public service announcement …

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Beer and loafing in PA

So I’m back, if not from outer space, at least from outta this century. I’ve just spent the past two weeks at Pennsic – two weeks of camping amidst 11,000 card-carrying hardcore nerds, geeks and history/fantasy buffs. My people.

Two weeks dressed as a pirate, attending classes on mediaeval/ renaissance history, spending money I can’t afford on baubles and trinkets, and drinking quantities of alcohol that would make Robert Downey Junior go “hold on, that’s a bit much”.

I normally go every year for a week of escapism, but this year I went for two weeks. My liver is still aching.

Now there were some fun parts to Pennsic this year. I learnt how to roast coffee beans. I taught a couple of classes myself (about the history and folklore of marine mammals). I went on the annual “rum roam” with an old buddie, had some quality time and caught up, and enjoyed an excellent “pub” crawl to boot. I learnt how to play scrabble properly, so that I actually started winning games (this is the one board game I always get trounced at normally – I just used to like making cool words, instead of playing strategically. But now I get it !). I had fun drawing on people with henna (including a henna Cththulu and elvish phrases, that looked totally awesome). We had an excellent band visit camp, who sang us piratey/bawdy ballads. I also had some quality time with a male friend of mine I only see once a year, who is hilarious as hell, and one of the nicest people I know – such that there was teasing in camp about our bromance. Plus, I GOT TO WEAR PIRATE CLOTHES EVERY DAY !

I also: (a) nearly got into a bar room brawl with someone over the war of 1812 (one of my special skills); (b) got very drunk one day and embarrassed myself with a fit of bad singing and obnoxiousness; (c) got hit in the head by at least three tent/ridge poles while trying to help camp mates; (d) spent way too much money; and worst of all (e) dropped my glasses in the porta potty (ewwwww!) – luckily I had a spare pair.

Duckpocalypse now !

Sometimes you just have to catapult rubber ducks from one half of camp to the other. You need to keep the riff-raff in their place by raining ducky destruction down upon their heads. Unfortunately this led to some revolution from the other half of camp, with us finding one day, the heads of decapitated rubber ducks on kebab skewers lining the walkways – very ‘Game of Thrones’. Ducks were also placed into a pie and presented to “duckmaster general”.

The resistance was brutal

A woade design on a member of the duckie resistance

This of course spawned duck-hurling retribution, with the cry “release the quacken !” more rubber ducks hailed down onto the revolting camp mates. This then spawned a follow-on coup, involving the other half of camp painting themselves blue and reenacting the “Freedom” speech from Braveheart (I admit though, being a Beneduck  Arnold and switching side at this point, and helping to mastermind the revolution – hey I’m a British/American dual citizen, I sometimes get conflicted).

So you can shower me with ducks, you can drink my rum, you can hit me o'er the head with a tent pole, you can even gossip  and make up rumors about me all you want, but ... you can NAEVER TACK AWAE MA FREEDUM ! "

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mystic mumbojumbo

Now I am a scientist through and through. I normally believe what data shows me, but I am intrigued, if skeptical, by ghosts and the supernatural. But I had a tarot reading done last year, for fun, which turned out to be spookily accurate as it happens. Anyway, I just had a fun lunch with one of my besties and we were joking about a tarot deck I found in the basement. So we had a go. We were both a little freaked out at the results, as the lines in the tarot interpretation book were almost word for word the conclusions we came up with for the issue were were discussing. Now if any of my friends has spooky mystical powers, it's my lunch date. She has "gypsy princess" practically written on her. But anyway, the interpretation from the book was spot one.

Maybe I'm turning from Scully into Mulder in my old age. Pass me the tuning crystal, and fung my shui, I'm gonna get my ley lines done.

The King of Cups

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


So for the last few weeks, I've been in 'sunny' (not so much) Scotland leading a marine mammal biology course. Here's a few of the highlights.

Dramatis personnae

There were 56 students all together, 9 of whom were from the US from my university, which included:

Kathy 'the loud'. A nice student, but tended to "turn it all the way up to eleven" when she talked.

Wee hairy Dave (not to be confused with big Dave or wee not-so-hairy Dave)

Tracey 'the spacy' (imagine a brunette Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter)

"Mom" (one of my graduate students) 

Velma "the Pole" (whose contract required her to mention Poland every three hours without fail)

Connor aka "Luke Skywalker" - cos he looked like him, duh. Extremely sweet and wholesome.

Cody 'the douche' - not really, although his physical similarity to both Luke Wilson and an character from Jersey shore was astounding.

Sheri 'the quiet' (says it all)

Kev 'the spaz' - very nice guy, but, well a bit of a spaz, and he will agree to this. But nonetheless drew Scottish girls to him like midges to a ginger.

I have to say, this was a great bunch of students. On field trips you often have one or two who are a pain, deliberately or unintentionally. But we really didn't have an problems this time they were great.

(I should probably add that the above names have been slightly changed to protect the innocent, and also there was a strict no underage drinking policy on the trip before anyone asks and there were enforced rules of behaviour ...).

Our epic adventure in haggis land

To cut a long story short and to skip sagas over lost luggage. We arrived in Glasgow early in the morning to find that our hostel would in fact not let us into our rooms for another eight hours. What to do? We went to the pub. So began a trend that lasted rest of the day, in fact the whole trip. As a responsible adult, I should add, that thoughout the trip I did make sure that everyone behaved themselves, moderated their drinking and that Cinderellas went home promptly at midnight lest they turn into drunken pumpkins.

The next day, the jet lagged posse headed to the Isle of Cumbrae, a quaint little island in the Clyde estuary. The island was a popular location for holiday homes for the gentry of Glasgow in the 19th century and the 'capitol' of the island boasts a white sandy beach ringed by sandstone Victorian houses, many in the baronial  style. All in all, it looks a little like Hogsmeade-on-the-sea (and if you don't know where or what Hogsmeade is, you ain't no friend of mine).


After settling in and getting a general briefing, it was off to the pub, and to broaden the student's understanding if music and culture in Scotland, we hit a bar doing karaoke. Somewhere there are videos. There were "Abba wigs" at one point. It's best to cast a veil over the whole proceedings...

The daily schedule for the first week of so basically involved students taking boat trips to monitor seas, or do surveys for porpoises, or one of two lab projects - one of which very glamorously involved sifting otter poop for fish bones. Afternoons generally involved hours of lectures, with two or so hours of lectures after a huge and wholesome dinner. Then, invariably there was the nightly pilgrimage to the pub.

For those readers who aren't from the UK, student life is irrevocably pub-oriented, and universities pretty much accept this as a fact. So most of these pub visits had UK faculty accompanying the students and drinking with them. Compare this to field courses in the US, where students today are typically forbidden to drink. In my experience students on "dry" courses drink anyway, but do so in secret, drinking spirits, and end up getting into far more trouble. As I said, my students were all well behaved - at least while I was there. But anyway, back to the plot.

I'm on good terms with Robert, the publican of the main 'local' that we go to, and because we can invariably bring fifty thirsty students to his pub, he's very open to giving us the back room/bar of his pub over to us so we can basically have our own private events. He'll also organize pub quizzes, discos and karaoke for us, which he dutifully did. So besides various pool tournaments we had quite a few things to to in the evenings. The annual pub quiz is a particular favourite of mine, and this year in an act of deviousness, the faculty inserted questions from the course in the final round - now that's what I call an "assessment tool". I was pleased to see my students scored high marks, and it brought a proud tear to my eye when they answered the question "which whale has the largest penis, and how long is it?" right (for the record - the sperm whale and 15' ).

Another highlight was karaoke. What the students lacked in terms of having and vocal skill whatsoever, they made up in enthusiasm and a willingness to get up and look complete idiots. There were actually a couple of good singers (I highlight Lianne and Jenny in case one of them ever reads this), but most were dreadful ...

The next stage of the trip was to head off to the Isle of Mull - arguably the whale watching capital of northern Europe. But before I do so, I should give a call out to the infamous Andrew Campbell. Andrew is a famous and venerated marine biologist of the old school, and I love sneaking into his lectures during the course just to listen to his anecdotes. To get the idea imagine a slightly porgy country squire talking about doing surveys for turtles who suddenly remarks : "... So moving to a new survey site, we arrived rather too late, and had had a bit of refreshment en route, and so Rupert (another senior and famous marine biologist) and I rather blearily  staggered into what we though was a hotel, and we were rather the worse for wear and didn't register the interesting furnishings and staff until the following morning when we found we'd booked ourselves into a brothel". If you know me in real life, ask me about the "sea cucumber" story ...

So we decamped to the postcard pretty isle of Mull, where we stayed in a cute ecolodge overlooking the sound of Mull and a stone's throw from the picturesque village of Tobermory, and spent the next three days looking for whales, dolphins,  basking sharks and otters.

Evening at the ecolodge


For the record, on my best day we saw 27 harbor porpoises, 6 minke whales and 6 basking sharks.

A basking shark

A minke whale

The little stay on Mull was delightful, and "mostly harmless".

While I'm talking about Mull, here's an anecdote from a previous course about the infamous "shaggy" Thompson, who was last rumored to be running to be a member of Parliament ... (fade to scene) we were sailing down the sound of Mull on a blustery day, and we were confused at why passing boats were sounding their horns or shouting at us, until one of the crew looked up into the crow's nest and saw shaggy stark naked, and saluting passing ships. Bearing in mind this was a very chilly day ...

Later that night he tried again, climbing onto the top of our minibus (which was parked on the main street), stripped naked and had his arms out in a cross, pirouetting until his pale, white butt was suddenly lit up, by the headlights of a police car, coming down the hill. Shaggy then leaped off the front of the minibus, still naked, slid down the windshield, "catching" himself on the wipers, then ran down a side street and scrambled through an open window behind the local youth hostel -  again, still naked. Evenings in Tobermory have subsequently seemed a little quiet in comparison to that year.

The final stage stage of the trip, my American students said goodbye to the Brits, and we headed to Inverness.

Downtown Inverness

Inverness is a beautiful city, with many baronial style buildings, nestled on the banks of the river ness. Our hostel, not so beautiful however. We had to manhandle heavy luggage up several flights of spiral stairs. The rooms were so small that if the four boys stood up in their room at the same time, there was no space. It was like staying in Harry Potter's room under the stairs. Two of the girls ditched the hostel and went for a nice B&B, while the rest of us roughed it. We had to get out of the place though. So we headed for hootenanny's for some live "diddly- diddly" music. I introduced the students to the delights if chips and curry sauce & scotch eggs. We ended up in a club holding a "games night" where we played giant Jenga and jumped about in bouncy castles. Kev pushed over another group's Jenga tower. "That took a lot of time to make" <in broad Scottish accent> said man who was the size and hairiness of Chewbacca.

"I know, I was watching you" replied Kev. That comment warranted a quick and forceful extraction that seal team 6 would be proud of.

"There's a  m***** ******* platypus on this m***** ******* unicycle!"

 Close to the end of the trip, slight hysteria began to set in. We went to the Loch Ness visitor center and were told that ecologically, Nessie couldn't exist, to the disappointment of the students. Desperate to at least have a chance at glimpsing the monster, we went to Urquhart castle, on the banks of Loch Ness. No monsters, but plenty of idiots. Tourists lacking self awareness or awareness of others. Castle was nice though.

Urquhart Castle

The next stop was another castle, Doune Castle, where parts of Monty Python and the Holy Grail were filmed. This was a great site, with lots of rooms to explore, staircases to clamber up and  great view. Compulsory activities for us were to lean over the battlements and taunt the French tourists, and to 'gallop' around the courtyard with a pair of coconuts.

Doune Castle
"It's just a flesh wound!"

Final port of call was Edinburgh. To not give a list of bars and pubs visited I'll simply highlight a few:

Best beer: Brewdog
Best pub grub: Black bull
Best live music: Whistlebiskies
Best character (and most ghosts): Banshee Labyrinth

For the academic part of the Edinburgh visit, I took the students to 'the dynamic earth' - a great museum of geology, ecology and evolution. Stretching 'historical education' to the limit, we also visited the Edinburgh Dungeon to get the willies scared out of us by Sawney Bean, Burke and Hare and other Scottish horrors. For 'cultural education' there was the 'whisky experience' where we had fun having our palates educated about the differences in scotch (at least the over 21s did).

The final educational event was curtesy or Mercat tours. Which started with me being attached to the Mercat Cross and being flogged for being an Englishman, by our lovely guide Fiona (who flogs me every year, regular as clockwork). The tour took us into the creepy under city of Edinburgh, through crypts and spooky rooms. Sadly no ghosts were encountered - just creepy Mr Perkins the fairground owner.

The final night I shall draw a veil of modesty over, to protect the young, innocent and weak of heart (or liver). Highlights were, however, acquiring a number of horse masks and dancing in said masks, making a scene that looked like "equus the musical". Some time in the early hours I won a dance off against an Italian guy, mostly through enthusiasm and extravagance, rather than any skill.

And so ends my little Scottish travelogue. Next stop, the middle ages ...