The Awkward Guide

In every situation in life, there's always a way to make a tit of yourself

The Awkward Guide To Ceilidhs (for the English)

I am, by now, well into my 4th year of being an English person living in Scotland. And most of the time, it has been absolutely no different to being an English person living in England, apart from the fact that it’s a bit colder, and darker, and the people in Gregg’s seem to think it’s ok to put macaroni in pies – an opinion I’m 90% sure isn’t shared by their south-of-the-border counterparts.

But there is one occasion on which any English person living in Scotland will never feel more English, and that is when attending a ceilidh.

At a recent Hallowe’en ceilidh, my equally English friend and I decided to join in one of the dances together. Now, we were in Scotland, Scottish music was being played, we were dancing a Scottish dance, and yet somehow it was the most English thing that has ever happened. It can only be described as a bumbling and profusely apologetic display of how to be going in the wrong direction and doing the wrong thing for the entire duration of an organised dance.

So, for the benefit of all English people living in Scotland, and all English people who might at some point attend a wedding, here is my advice on the complicated art of ceilidhing.

1. To save everyone a lot of time, from the off you must acknowledge and accept the first rule of ceilidhs – there will always be a few people who know exactly what they are doing and execute every step, stomp and dosey doe with borderline professional ease. If you are English, you will not be one of them.

2. It is not in our national nature to whoop, holler, stamp, or generally show enthusiasm in any way more emphatic than a slight nod and some brief applause. At a ceilidh, whooping, hollering, and stamping are all obligatory forms of behaviour – we just have to give it our best shot.

3. Again, it cuts against every natural instinct we have, but don’t apologise every time you step on someone’s foot. We spend a lot of time apologising, and we’re really rather fond of it – in most other situations we apologise to people when we bump into them, we even apologise to people when they bump into us, and to be honest we have sometimes been known to apologise to inanimate objects like cupboards and shop mannequins when we inadvertently collide with them in public. But at a ceilidh, if you apologise to every person you accidentally tread on then you will spend the entire evening uttering a continuous stream of “oh, pardon me, sorry, I think that was your foot, I am sorry, excuse me, I do apologise, oh that was your foot, sorry!”

4. Bruising seems to be a desirable outcome. I know we often find it difficult to do anything (anything that doesn’t involve tea, anyway) with sufficient vigour to create even the smallest of bruises, but when ceilidhing, if you and your partner fail to swing each other round with enough force to leave marks then apparently you haven’t been doing it properly. Bruises are post-ceilidh badges of honour, and without them we may begin to feel vaguely inadequate. But then, we’re probably quite used to that by now.

5. Finally, and most importantly, even if you don’t manage to maintain your grip on  your partner or your dignity, hold on tight to that finest of national traits – the ability to laugh heartily at your own ridiculousness. Because, believe me, by the time you have whipped someone in the eye with your hair, trodden on their foot, tried to spin the wrong way, and gone careering to the floor in the manner of a felled water buffalo, this is something you are absolutely going to need.

The best way to deal with a ceilidh is to leave all semblance of Englishness aside, plunge in, and succumb to the sweaty, uproarious chaos that ensues. Or you could stand awkwardly to the side and tap your foot slightly out of time with the music, that also works quite well.


The Awkward Guide accepts no responsibility for adverse reactions to the implementation of advice supplied herein. Side-effects can include: smug laughter, mild disdain, and temporary irritation.


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This entry was posted on 19/11/2012 by in Sport and Leisure and tagged , , , , , , , , .

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