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Sunday, December 02, 2007

2007 Scottish Christmas Walk

Clan Henderson Bodyguard

Clan Henderson Banner

Russell Henderson, editor of AN CANACH,
and I, enjoying supper at the ceilidh.

The Sing Out Jam Out Folksinging Group

Me and the Scottish Santa

Greetings and Salutations to All my Kith and Kin and All the Ships in Outer Space:

First of all, I have posted a video on the Internet of me singing my Scottish Christmas carol, "NOLLAIG CHRIDHEIL".

It can also be viewed at America On Line, You Tube, My Space, and the Clan Henderson web site.

Saturday 01 December 2007 was a VERY long and busy day for me, as I am rather reclusive and seldom leave my room here at the Old Soldiers' Home.

After a long night of tossing and turning (because I can't relax when I'm anticipating a pending obligation), I got up really early, so I would have plenty of time to get myself dressed and not forget anything essential to be loaded into my pickup truck.

John Smith, retired from the United States Marine Corps, and also a retired deputy sheriff from New Hampshire, went along with me.

Enroute, I had quite a bit of trouble when I missed turns directed by my Tom Tom GO 514 portable GPS, as I got confused and intimidated by the normal flow(?) of traffic in the District of Columbia megalopolis area, and as road construction caused unscheduled detours.

Ah, but without my portable GPS, I could never drive anywhere in this area.

Finally, I made it to Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, but because of the height of my full-sized four wheel drive pickup truck, I parked several blocks away, in a paid parking area next to the river, rather than chancing the free underground parking garage, which posted a height restriction of six feet.

I began by meeting with fellow clansmen at La Madeleine for breakfast, but it was far too crowded for me to be comfortable, so I eventually wandered back out into the chilly morning air.

At the Market Square, in front of the courthouse, farmers and bakers had set up their wares, and there were free samples of fruit to alleviate my thirst.
The greatest difficulty to be endured when marching in a parade is standing around waiting for the parade to begin, especially if it's cold.

But, I did enjoy spending some time in out of the cold, looking at model railroads in Whistle Stop Hobbies, which had opened unusually early just to accommodate the parade participants.

Clan Henderson gathered at the corner of Wolfe and Pitt Streets, and it was a HUMONGOUS turnout, the largest gathering of Clan Henderson I have yet witnessed.

As we waited for the parade to begin, the sunny day began warming up to a more comfortable temperature, and everybody enjoyed greeting old friends and socializing.

I had brought my sword, thinking I would be carrying it in a traditional salute during the parade, but I was instructed to loan my sword to another clansman, as he would be one of our bodyguards, and I, as bard of our clan, would march with the appointed officials.

Because of the type of frog that I have, it is impossible to actually wear my sword, due to the bulk of the hilt interfering with the side of my Argyll jacket.

So, I just carry it in my hand, and when marching, wear only the scabbard, as the unsheathed sword is held forth in salute.

At least one individual who observed me walking about with my sheathed baskethilt sword in my hand mistakenly thought I was carrying a ceremonial mace.

Finally, we got started, and it was a very nice parade through a pleasant and historic community.
As we marched along, parade participants would yell "Merry Christmas!" to the spectators, and boy, were there ever a BUNCH of spectators!

It was a massive crowd.
When we reached the end of our march, I quickly doubled back to watch the rest of the parade, as it was quite long, and had numerous entries.

I was attired in full Highland regalia, wearing both kilt and plaid, my full-sized medals arrayed on my Argyll jacket, my dirk on my side, and with my sheathed baskethilt sword in my hand.

Based on previous experience, I suspected some folks would want to take my picture, and sure enough, that's what happened.

My sister had made me some business cards, so I could request the various individuals to e-mail me a copy of the photograph.

Thus, two (02) of the photographs are included with this message.

I like puppy dogs, and there's always plenty of dogs marching in the parade.

I petted several dogs with my gloved hand, and later, when I wiped my glove across my mouth, I got an impromptu snack of dog hair, and spitting and attempting to clean my mouth turned out to be futile.

The final entry was a firetruck with Santa Claus riding on top.

A reviewing stand for various officials was set up in the intersection of Cameron and Fairfax Streets, and now that the parade was over, several pipe bands marched over to give a massed performance in front of the reviewing stand.

From where I stood, I could also see some Highland dancers, but only the tops of their heads.

John Smith showed up and told me that Greg Moore, who works at the Soldiers' Home in the Public Affairs Office was also attending the parade.

John was planning to go enjoy some pints at the pub, so we decided to separate, and he would find alternate transportation back to the Soldiers' Home.

After the spectacular departure of the pipe and drum units, I walked about on Market Square, where a local group of Continental soldiers re-enacting the American Revolutionary War were firing volleys and beating drums.

As I walked down to the river to retrieve my truck, I was questioned by a curious passerby who was unaware of the annual Scottish Christmas Walk.

Boy, was I tired and in pain!

But, my day's activities were only just starting.

Using my trusty GPS, I drove to the Crystal Plaza Apartments in Arlington to meet with a group of local folk singing aficiandos, the Sing Out Jam Out (i.e., "SoJo") from the Internet.

Even with my GPS, I still had trouble finding the place, due to the confusion generated by all the rushing traffic which surrounded me, and the difficulty in determining building numbers and street names.

But, I eventually got there, and boy, was it ever a deal of fun!

It really lifted my spirits to sit there with a bunch of musicians and singers and try to strum along with them, as we played and sang songs I knew, and songs I have yet to learn.

Everybody in the group picks a number to perform, and being unfamiliar with them, I abdicated my first opportunity, but later, I chose "TODAY".

We're meeting again on Sunday 16 December to sing Christmas songs.

Because I seldom leave my room, generally avoiding human interaction, and have been struggling with increasing depression, which resulted in me gradually losing interest in my music, thus seldom touching my guitar, this jam session was really good therapy, though it appeared rather evident that we were polar opposites politically and philosophically.

After the jam session, I once again used my invaluably essential GPS to navigate to Saint Mark's Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Virginia for the Clan Henderson ceilidh.

That was a pleasant visit, with plenty of good food and entertainment.

This time, we didn't have a group dance, but we did have a charity auction to raise funds for the children of military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Scots have a military heritage, and in fact, by definition, Scottish clans are traditionally organized military units, so as you might guess, just about everybody there was either still on active duty in military service, or they were decorated veterans from old campaigns.

I have seen numerous Scots who publicly deny it, but the kilt IS a male military uniform.

Our clan had a couple of birthdays, including Russell Henderson, the editor of our clan's quarterly newsletter, AN CANACH, so there was a nice birthday cake, plus ham, beef, and all the trimmings.

We had a contest where blindfolded lasses guessed by feel which of the lad's knees were the most attractive, and I and one other were selected.

When it was my turn to perform, I sang "LAND OF LIGHT", by William Jackson, and "CHRISTMAS EVE IN WASHINGTON", by Maura Sullivan.

Now, I'm safely back in my room here at the Old Soldiers' Home, where I'm - - - sick!

No, it wasn't Saturday's activities that has me ill.

It was the combination of those old cold cut sandwiches in my refrigerator, plus my hiatal hernia, plus not taking my medication, plus - - - foul CIGARETTE SMOKE coming into my room through the ventilator duct!
I keep reporting the problem, but the administration won't do anything, so I just keep getting sick at the most inconvenient times.
Personally, I think somebody ought to go to jail, and I wish I could sue them for ruining my health.

Tomorrow, I'm supposed to sing some solo numbers for our annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony here at the Soldiers' Home.

But, right now, I'm too sick to even try to sing, and I doubt I'll get well in time for my performance.

I'm very susceptible to respiratory infection, and when I get sick, I stay sick for a very long time, with each subsequent bout having a progressively worse effect on me than the one before.

Oh well, I can still enjoy my little Christmas tree and the crackling fireplace on my television.

Thank you.

Official Bard of Clan Henderson
Washington, D.C. 20011-8400

NOTE: "My unpopular and controversial personal opinions are independent of my Scottish clan."

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