Royalty continues to attach itself to me. I discovered that the organiser of my annual malt-tasting in
Minneapolis is announcing in his posters that I once performed for the Emperor of Japan. This complete untruth must have arisen from a quite different episode.I once gave a beer-tasting at the Belgian Embassy in Japan. At that event, the newly-appointed Belgian Ambassador wore a tee-shirt announcing that his country was 'Beer Paradise'. After two or three drinks, he changed into a morning coat and striped trousers and went to the Imperial Palace to present his credentials. He did not take me, or any whisky, but he
probably breathed the sweet aromas of fermented barley malt over the Emperor. More on Japan next time round.In Britain, my attempts to distance myself from the Queen Mother have failed. She sat next to me (well, in the adjoining box) at the Braemar Gathering (known as The Highland Games), to which I was taken by some friends from
Glenfiddich. Her face was hidden behind a large pair of dark glasses but I knew who she was. She arrived in a convoy of Range Rovers, with The Queen, a troika of princes (Philip, Charles, Harry), Prime Minister Blair and his wife Cherie. If further clues were required to the identity of the lady in dark glasses it was provided by approximately 100 pipers playing 'Happy Birthday'. The Queen Mother had recently celebrated her centenary. I rest my case. On the day in
question, it was a mixed case of Glenfiddich and its sister malt The Balvenie, in various incarnations.The stash was in the Glenfiddich hospitality tent, which seemed safer than the main arena, where endless bands played and marched – often led by very fierce-looking elderly men who were about seven feet tall with feathers in their hats, medals on their chests and daggers in their socks. Both the spectacle and the music was obviously distracting for groups of small children who were trying to listen to their own lone bagpiper in order to dance to his Scottish folk tunes while being scrutinised by very severe-looking judges.Clearly, everyone was having a good time. As if enjoying themselves in this manner was not sufficiently intimidating, the children had to dance on top of swords. If you are born in Scotland I suppose you get used to all these daggers and swords. It can be unsettling for a visitor. A mixed party of adults left the stadium en masse and raced up a 2,500 ft hill. "We can’t see the top of the hill today because of inclement weather," the stadium commentator said apologetically, "but I can tell you there’s a lot of scree up there. When they come down they'll be moving very fast."It’s alarming watching a man whirling a 'hammer' (well, a very heavy weight on a chain), then hurling it backwards over his shoulder to land heaven-knows where. 'Heavy stones' and cabers look a trifle perilous too. Such bizarre sports are part of Scotland's individuality as a nation – along with whisky, of course. We foreigners go to Scotland to taste both, and somehow never escape, just keep slithering down the scree and back into the glass.The part of the games that involved throwing things was sponsored by Glenfiddich. Long may this continue. A marketing person agonised to me whether it was “modern or relevant.” Anyone using such meaningless language should be thrown backwards over their own shoulders.The chucking of heavy objects was the high point of the day for royals and commoners alike. After the last throw, the queens and princes went home for dinner, taking Mr and Mrs Blair with them. I wonder what they talked about over the Brown Windsor soup. Perhaps Mr Blair, who was educated at a famous school in Edinburgh, told them about the day he climbed over the wall to go to a rock concert. His getaway driver was a salesman for a famous blended Scotch. Wild game birds would not drag his name from me, but the whisky he sells rhymes with Seamus Mouse.Our lives are made of memories. Mine will long cherish a day at Braemar, insulated from life's daggers and swords, hammers, stones and cabers by the Fiddich's water of life.