Being English born and bred (Mum born in Peterborough and Dad born in Epsom) I should be at my happiest walking the Pennine Way reading Shakespeare whilst eating scones with jam and cream, and singing ‘Jerusalem’ at the top of my voice. But despite expressing national pride for our oft failing sports teams, and liking a pint of fine English real ale, I’ve always been strangely drawn to all things Celtic.
From my formative early teenage years I’ve been a mad keen music fan, liking everything and anything but the Country Music genre. As well as good old mainstream hard rock (through the likes of Led Zeppelin, Genesis, Hawkwind, and Pink Floyd) my eclectic musical collection reveals a leaning towards violins, flute, and at the extreme the bagpipes so synonymous with Celtic music. Whether it was the Pogues, Clannad or the Scottish twang of Marillion it was the Celts who got under my skin.
When I worked in Madrid in the eary 1990’s a colleague there (from Galicia) introduced me to Milladoiro the leading Galician folk band. The first listening to the crackly tapes that he lovingly prepared for me, opened up a whole new world and as soon as I got back to England I upgraded the tapes with CDs directly ordered from Green Linnet in Nashville USA, for it was the days before the Internet and e-bay.
My tipple of choice is a wee (or sometimes not so wee) Scottish Dram. I was weened onto the hard stuff after starting off sipping Drambuie from my Dads liquor cabinet, which was actually the case of an old TV set with its innards removed and a door which slid around the front to hide the contents. Each time I took a sip I took note of the pre-drink level and then topped it up with water to avoid detection. It worked a treat until one of those rare occasions when Dad decided that he’d take a drink only to find that the dark bottle contained nine parts water to one part spirit.
I have a small (30+ bottles) whisky collection, of unopened and laid away bottles. Most are rare, some are old, and all will be enjoyed at some point in the future when I have the time to do them justice. Amanda, my brother, and anyone else who knows of my collection can’t quite understand my reticence to get stuck in. Perhaps it is a Scottish tightness?
We’ve frequently holidayed in Celtic areas. The vacations during the early years of our marriage were spend exploring Scotland, working our way up the west coast and enjoying the highlands and islands. I’ve spent time in Ireland, and as a youngster we often holidayed in Brittany. I loved all these places and felt almost ‘at home’ with the people, the food, the traditions, the music and the pace of life.
This was also how I felt the first time we visited Galicia, just under a year ago. The countryside, people, food, music and traditions all played their part in helping me to decide that this was the part of the world where I want to spend the rest of my life. Every time we go it feels like we are ‘going home’ and now that we own our two acres of it, I guess that we are.
There is some evidence that my ancestral lineage may give some justification to my sense of Celtic belonging. There are Robsons down my Mums side of the family, a traditional surname from the north-east of England up to the Scottish borders.
Despite my leanings there is one common Celtic factor that I don’t get on with, and that’s tartan…it’s just too damn itchy!