It is mine!
Mo luachmhor/my precious is probably what Grumpa is thinking right now. He wasn’t keen to give his prize up in the first place. After all his book did win the best young children’s book of the year before lockdown. No competitions for a few years so I didn’t need to return the Quaich until now.
Finally, a trip to the big city. Ok, Inverness isn’t that big to some with a population of just over 47,000 but it is still one of the fastest-growing cities in Europe. And to me it is big, it houses almost a quarter of the entire population of the Highlands.
Quaich polished, checked for bumps and dents it was carefully returned to its box and stored away once we had got over all the excitement of the initial win. Everything was done again before it was placed carefully in the car for the return trip. This time to Inverness instead of Glasgow.
I realised I should have taken more pictures and probably had it out at stalls and events but the thought of denting it and then having to return it was always on my mind. Never mind how careful I try things fall and break at my mere passing. Door handles jump out and snag my pockets pulling me backward as I exit a room. Things slip through my fingers never mind how securely I carry them. My bairns thankfully managed to grip me firmly with legs and arms when they were young. It is amazing how the need for survival kicks in at such a tender age. Taking a Quaich to events, especially one that needed to be returned was not something I intended to do.
It was with an audible sigh of relief that I placed the prize down on the table at An Comunn Gàidhealach. Once I had found them of course. They worked from, as far back as I can remember, one of the National Trust from Scotland properties, Abertaff House. It is situated right in the middle of Inverness. Built in 1593 it is a bonnie, white, interesting building. Though unfortunately as it turned out no longer offices for An Comunn.
Thankfully, I re-read my email and realised that they were in one of the buildings I am familiar with. Without as much history and far more modern but with a strong connection to Gaelic. It already housed CnaG a Gaelic Development Organisation that has done a lot to promote and help the Gaelic language and culture over the years. I knew where I was going.
However, it turns out I didn’t know what I was doing. There I met a nice wifie who informed me that the Quaich was one of the few that didn’t need to be returned. A new prize was given out each year. The winner was allowed to keep the Quaich forever.
I wanted to slink out the door but that is not what happens in the Gaelic world. You always have to include a few moments to find out your connections to Gaelic, the Highlands, or the Islands. Your family and friends or history of involvement. In the Gaelic world making connections are always important.
This is a bonus when you are part of the culture. Time to get to know each other a little. Finding something you are both in touch with. Many things have moved forward but this remains the same. A need to take out time in our lives to connect.
Did we find our connection apart from the language itself? Well of course we did. The second time in a week that Rena’s name came up. My old colleague, we spent many a year working, laughing, and developing Gaelic around the Highlands. We worked hard, found ways around many challenges, and our infectious joy I’m sure filtered through to others. The word fun was also linked to the first time her name came up this week when I was visiting a Croileagan (Gaelic pre-school group). It turns out one of the leaders is her cousin.
I don’t know if the new generation of Gaelic speakers will be able to take this time out of what is becoming a very busy world. But I hope they do. I hope they can pencil in that extra five minutes for a chat when they met a new speaker. I hope they can allow themselves that time to connect. Hear that other Gael’s story.
If I’m honest I should maybe say perhaps fit in an extra 10-15 minutes, you never know where that could lead you one day. Your life will certainly be enriched if you can.