I certainly will remember this time as one of the hardest in my life: being stuck abroad, afraid to get sick, afraid to get fired and worried about my family.
But among all these ‘negative souvenirs’ I wanted to get something to remember this ‘forced’ time I had to spend in Scotland and so I decided to buy some ‘Scottish souvenirs’ to bring home with me, souvenirs I had never considered when I first lived here before moving to Canada.
First, I bought a Sporran.
A sporran is one of those strange words that everyone hears here in Scotland, but not so many people could positively say what it is (not even amongst British people).
It is a key component of the Scotland's national costume. But what is it exactly?
A sporran is the bag worn down on the front of the kilt (the word simply means bag or case in Gaelic). It hangs from the sturdy leather belt that keeps the kilt in place. Since the kilt is pocketless, the sporran was developed for the Scotsman to store his belongings.
Other than for this pure utilitarian use, sporran adds a bit of style too, especially if decorated in the clan’s colours.
Sporrans originated as a doeskin bag that contained daily ammunition or rations for Highland warriors. Records dating from the twelfth century describe it as a small bag hanging on the front of the body. Genuine sporran, however, did not come into being until after the kilt was developed in the 16th century.
Over the centuries, sporrans have become more elaborate. Leather was replaced with badger, ermine or seal skins and sporrans were then fitted with brass or silver clasps and sometimes decorated with patterned designs. Sometimes tassels made of fox or horse hair were also added.
The top opening of the sporran, known as the scoop, was attached to the top with leather straps. A vestige of this design remains modern sporran in the form of leather chains and tassels.
Modern sporran is now a highly ornamental accessory worn on formal occasions such as weddings and national holidays.
Sporrans are of three general types. Sporrans daywear are made of leather and are worn as informal clothing. Dress sporrans are more elaborate. They are made up of seal, rabbit, badger or otter skins. These are worn exclusively for formal events. Finally, there are the semi dress sporrans, which are a mixture of the two.
And how are sporrans worn? Sporrans are worn over the front of the kilt in the centre of the body. The top is placed one hand wide under the waist belt buckle. Some labels apply to sporran behaviour for formal occasions. For example, while sitting down to have dinner; the wearer must move his sporran to an unencumbered hip. This allows him to put a napkin and keeps the sporran out of harm's way.
Secondly, I bought tea.
Maybe because tea in Canada is imported but I really missed English tea and when I tried Scottish tea I liked it even more.
Scotland is renowned for its famous whiskey but from it must also be remembered for its high quality tea. There is a special quality of tea produced in the Highlands, Smoked White Tea, which has been judged as the best in the world, surpassing those of countries with a tradition rooted over the centuries, such as China and Japan. Scottish tea has even received the prestigious 'gold award' at the Salon du Thé in Paris. The news is even more extraordinary if we consider that the producer of the winning quality has started cultivation only a few years ago.
So I wanted to get some myself and I’m now ready to take home this ‘Scottish experience.’