Four thousand years ago at this time of year, the winter solstice, all across Scotland there were people, more or less intoxicated, huddled inside a stone structure watching a screen as the sun went down into the pit of the year. They probably thought about the year they left behind and the people gone from their midst and looked forward to the plans for the year ahead. Outside there were groups of people in party mode, but the whole thing depended on the weather.
Then, these viewers were the shaman reading the last rays of the sun’s dying year on the micah-glittering screens of the cairns. Behind the screens in the body of the cairn the remains of ancestors resided. Now we are all the shaman with our samizdat screens behind which is our cultural inheritance and corporate capital. Does the world still care?
At 5.30 pm on Auld Year’s Night, yesterday, the celebrations got under way with some fireworks from the castle in Inverness. The unkind might think of damp squibs, but in fact the fireworks were fine – rockets and roman candles in the main which sent 2006 off in style. OK, Sydney Harbour it wasn’t, but it did give me a lift and made me feel that it was a special evening that was about to happen.
I watched from the terrace of my house which afforded a great view of the proceedings. It took me by surprise so I didn’t have a glass in my hand, but that was probably just as well since a long night lay ahead. I’ve seen the same kind of show done no better in Nice at this time of year. The big rockets, spreading as they explode always remind me of palm trees down there. Up here in the rain and wind, they just looked like big rockets, but they do give you a lift. The other lift I got was seeing Inverness Castle shrouded in smoke. Shrouded in anything would be an improvement to our battenburg-cake, fluorescent-lit castle, but the smoke suggested terminal destruction. Wouldn’t that be great? We could then build a 21st century castle. Now what might that look like?
As the squibs went off, somewhere at the back of my mind was a link to the execution of Saddam Hussein. It felt a little like some kind of modern Guy Fawkes ceremony, but that’s probably just me. Somebody dies and someone else celebrates. How sad is that? I wonder who celebrated when James Brown died? No doubt someone did. Corporate capital would certainly cash in on both events. If they (whoever they are) cash in on Scotland’s Year of Highland Culture, that could be a good thing.