Riding of the Linlithgow Marches! or: What an odd town we’ve moved to

A horse-drawn carriage, of which there were more than one

It’s the first Tuesday after the second Thursday in June, and everyone knows what that means.

What’s that? You aren’t familiar with the great significance of this day?

Admittedly, this is probably something that would never have mattered to me at all, had fate not sent me to live in the Ancient and Royal Burgh of Linlithgow. Such places are so old and steeped in history, that they are bound to develop eccentric mannerisms.

The particular oddity in this case is that it is a local holiday, all the shops closed, and people wished one another a “Happy Marches.”

Was this the inspiration for Lewis Carroll‘s mad March Hare? That is my theory at the moment, at any rate.

If you want to read more about the oddness, it is explained in detail over at the official Linlithgow Marches and Associated Madhatters website. If you click about a bit there are videos of previous years’ events to be found.

Alternatively, just have a look through the sample of the photos I took:

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Recycling People is Discouraged in Edinburgh

Recycle your textiles here!
Please separate your textiles from people before inserting. DO NOT INSERT PEOPLE

This is not the sort of warning sign that gets erected without a prior incident.

Hullets Helps Tourists by Stating the Obvious

World Cup is happening in South Africa, and the Hullets sugar-manufacturing people think tourists are horribly ignorant.

They use to put trite quotations on the back of their sugar sachets, along the lines of “You miss 100% of the slit wrists you don’t cut” or something. Now it’s mundane facts about South Africa, as illustrated.

Hullets. Sugar for Dummies

Little Neil’s 3rd (Decade) Birthday Party—Story

3rd Birthday InvitationLittle Neil, being me, is actually all growed-up now. I suppose that, despite what I like to think, I’m not all that happy about being 30 years old. This conclusion is obvious when one considers that I hired a jumping castle for my 30th birthday party.

But so what? Jumping castles are awesome!

If you couldn’t make the party because you’ve gone overseas (or just never made the migration to Joburg) I missed you. The more jumpers on the castle, the merrier it would have been.

Not only was there a jumping castle, we also had Zoo Biscuits, Chomps, Creme Soda, and Sparberry. Adam and Nadia seemed to think that Pick ‘n Pay’s No-Name brand Creme Soda and fake Raspberry soda didn’t cut it. “It just doesn’t taste as good,” they (especially Adam) argued.

“Elitists!” I labelled them.

As retribution for my venemous attack, they left behind the bottle of Sparberry they brought. Now I have a full bottles of both varieties of imitation raspberry drink—disgusting. Why didn’t people drink the stuff? It was a 3-year-old’s party. At least the Creme Soda was polished off.

Even 3-year-old children cannot survive on crisps and sweets alone, so we also provided a vodka-soaked fruit punch. To this day the remains of it lurk in the fridge, although about two-thirds of it was consumed on the day.

Hamburgers were prepared as lunch. Since 3-year-olds should not be allowed near fires, the grown-ups cooked the burgers on the braai. By grown-ups I mean, my dad Tony and Angie’s dad Bill. None of my friends complained about the burgers, so good work Dads!

Launch 2
Peculiar jumping castle sports

The jumping castle provided plenty of laughs, but kids these days have such short attention spans that they were quickly looking for something else to do. Fortunately the party organisers had prepared for this eventuality by arranging for incredible party games—with incredible prizes! Of course, along with the short attention span, these kids have become so cynical and they disputed the magnificence of the Made-in-China Bought-at-Crazy-Store plastic toy prizes. I guess they all want cell phones or something.

Pass the parcel
Pass the parcel about to be initiated

Game playing did take place, and the worthy games master, my mum Annie, made sure that no cheating took place. We had Pass the Parcel (won by Jenny) and Pin the Tail on the Donkey (won by Rachelle). The parcel was thoroughly wrapped as only Mum could do—layers within layers within boxes within other boxes within more layers. Every seemed to expect the prize to actually be in the parcel, and so it wasn’t long before they were complaining that the “incredible prize” was most likely to be a small piece of fruit, or possibly a nut of some sort.

Ungrateful bunch.

Mother pins the tail
Pinning the tail on the Donkey Ass (despite treachery)

Pin the Tail was no less tricksy with my mother at the helm. The donkey was twisted and turned and cunningly rearranged so as to fool the participant. Expecting such trickery, I pinned the tail on the donkey’s neck. The trick for me was that there is no trick. Very Zen. Thanks Mum.

On the cutting of the birthday cake, I was compelled by those gathered around to make a speech of some sort. Boy did they regret that. I think I make good speeches, but I’ve never been too fond of impromptu speeches. They need to be prepared. Plus I was fairly tipsy by this point in time.

So basically I complained that everyone liked me too much because they had all accepted my invitation (almost no-one declined it), thus destroying my budgeting for the party and rendering me insolvent… but it was worth it I quickly added, realising how piss-poor the preceding sentiments sounded. But if you cut through my issues with spending money, you’ll see how I was actually really pleased with the turn-out. Hopefully everyone who was there had a lot of fun. I know I did, and the fun would’ve been diminished if it was me alone with a jumping castle (fashioned after a clown, so in fact the fun would have been creepified).

Although I ended up not hiring a clown, Dave provided a clown service absolutely free, and provided a beautiful demonstration of how to use the jumping castle in a most exciting manner. Thank you Dave!

There was also the incident of the destruction of my son’s favourite soccer ball, and I have the ruffians Quinn, Gareth, and  Chris to thank for this. They devised a number of peculiar jumping castle sports, and one of them seemed to involve the ball. The ball rebounded off one of their heads, struck a rosebush, and deflated. Their excuse-making is best illustrated in pictures. The rest of the party pictures reside on Flickr. Click here to see them

Saga of the burst soccer ball 1

Saga of the burst soccer ball 2

Saga of the burst soccer ball 3

Saga of the burst soccer ball 4

Saga of the burst soccer ball 5