but firstly, some cultural background. as the photo shows, what is worn under the kilt (or more accurately, not worn)is considered the test of a true Scotsman. the gents in the photo are, indeed, true Scotsmen. here they are seen marching in a parade somewhere or other. a military tattoo is much like a parade, but it's all done on a parade ground instead of down the streets of town. the groups involved are in full military dress. they're immaculately groomed, attired in perfectly matched uniforms. they perform complicated choreographed maneuvers on the parade ground, marching in time to the music they play, to the admiration of crowds or visiting dignitaries. today's story, boys 'n girls, is about one such true Scotsman - a piper, participating in the Edinburgh Tattoo.
to the unwashed masses, a uniform is a uniform is a uniform. those encased in the things, however, know there are specific, and distinct differences, which serve as identifiers to the indoctrinated eye. there's a lot if available information in a uniform, if you speak the language. from small details one learns the rank of the wearer, where the regiment is from, how important the event they're attending is, etc. etc. i don't pretend to be uniformally literate, but i do have a glimmering of understanding of how much i don't understand.
the uniforms of Scottish regiments are unique even to the untrained eye. the most noticeable difference is the kilt. Scottish men are, we're led to believe, so very certain of their masculinity, that they can wear a skirt into battle. they'll also knock the head off of anyone gauche enough to call it a skirt. another take is that they're so insecure about their manhood that they need to be able to lift their skirts to prove it on a second's notice. the jury is still out on that, and i'll confess to a certain amount of cynicism which i cheerfully blame on the former spouse. The fellows below are at the Edinburgh Tattoo, one of the most famous and extravagant of its kind, performed on the parade grounds of Edinburgh castle each year.
on the front of the kilt, you'll usually find a sporran. this is the original man-purse. (calling it a purse is also grounds for having your head knocked off) the kilt has no pockets, after all, and a fella has to put his pocket knife and coin for beer somewhere. this can be a simple, flat leather bag on a string run round the waist, but it isn't usually. there seems to be some sort of competition to see who can come up with the most elaborate or outrageous sporran. you'll find everything from tastefully tooled leather to grotesque carven ram's heads in 3D. most common are bits of fur and tassels. yes, the Scots assure us, real men can, and certainly do wear tassels. they also wear a wee bit of lace at their wrists, to formal balls, which, i'm here to tell you, looks absolutely smashing. in addition to serving as a container for needful items, the sporran helps hold the front of the kilt down in a breeze, and while dancing. the back, it seems, is fair game for gusts and curious onlookers.
a certain middle aged lady of North American extraction was attending this particular edition of the Edinburgh Tattoo. she was clearly enamored of all things Scottish, and was having the time of her life, snapping photos and chatting with the locals, who described her speech as having a very nasal and high pitched 'twang'. after the grand finale, with fireworks and deafening cheers, the contents of the parade ground swarmed into pubs in the neighborhood of Edinburgh Castle. participants and onlookers mingled, celebrating the great event.
the hapless hero of our story was a strapping handsome young man - a piper in a regiment whose sporran was made from the head of an equally handsome badger. it may have looked something like this. he stood at the bar, with his foot up on the foot rail that is often found in such places. he was a fine specimen of Scottish manhood, striking a most appealing pose in 3/4 view of our lady tourist, as he chatted with a friend. she appeared to be fascinated with him, and most especially with his sporran. as the evening progressed, and she enthusiastically sampled the local brew, she couldn't take her eyes off of him. it took her some time, and many brews, to screw up her courage, but she did it. tottering unsteadily up to the object of her attentions, she laid her hand on his arm. he turned toward her and smiled politely. taking a great breath, in order to speak loudly enough to be heard over the ear-numbing noise of music and conversation, she shrieked, "oh, i just love your scrotum!" she had an excellent set of lungs, so was heard by everyone in the room, which now echoed with silence. all eyes turned to question what the ears couldn't believe they had heard. the poor fellow's ruddy face paled, his foot dropped convulsively from the rail to the floor. in total silence, and to the glee of the hundreds of eyes following him, he bolted from the room.
whether she intended to say what she said remains a mystery. no one else had seen anything but his sporran, and the lady was in such a state of confusion afterward that she required assistance to find her lodgings.