The Millennium In Scotland

Millennium 1

As I mentioned in the story about my exile to California, which ended December 17, 1999, I had decided to take a month off and tour Europe before getting serious about selling my house (along with all my other worldly possessions).  The cost of the flight would be covered by a travel voucher I had gotten on a previous trip to England (girlfriend and I gave up our seats in exchange for the vouchers).

On a trip to Australia and New Zealand two years before, I had met a young Scottish couple, Gary and Fiona.  We hit it off pretty well and stayed in touch by email in the interim.  I called them to ask if they'd be open to having a visitor over the holidays - they said they would be delighted.

So, on December 29, Gary met me at the airport in Edinburgh and drove me back to their flat in Lower Largo, on the eastern coast of Scotland.  We relaxed for a couple of days - exchanging stories about the past two years (after leaving New Zealand, they continued through Asia).  On New Year's Eve, Fiona's brother, Phil, arrived to join us for Hogmanay (which is what the Scotts call New Year's).

Gary and Fiona had been able to get four of the hard-to-come-by tickets to the Hogmanay celebration to be held in Edinburgh.  At about 8:00 (three-and-a-half hours after sunset), we all went to the center of Largo for the traditional bonfire and Ceilidh (pronounce KAY-LEE) dance.  Fiona actually managed to talk me into trying a Scottish dance.  It wasn't difficult to learn and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Millennium 2
Gary, Fiona, Phil

Around 9:30, we headed off to Edinburgh to see the fireworks.  We had heard that they had enough fireworks for a 45-minute show, but were going to set them off in only four minutes.  The streets around and below Edinburgh Castle had been blocked off to car traffic.  The fireworks were going to be launched from the castle, so we found a good spot on a street that came out from the castle grounds.  Phil disappeared for a couple of minutes, then returned with Scottish New Year hats for all (top photo).

As it got closer to midnight, and more and more people tried to push their way down closer to the front, we felt like we would be crushed.  Fiona, still sick with the flu, started feeling claustrophobic, so we moved back up the street and found a spot in front of some stores that was recessed a little and down a half-flight of stairs.  Hardly anyone was standing down there, even though the packed mass of people was only a few feet away.

Millennium 3
You can just see Edinburgh Castle on
the cliff at the top of the photo

When the fireworks started, we could see them just as well as anyone.  The show was quite good - though it was more quantity than quality.  I guess I was expecting something more spectacular for the Millennium.  Some of the shows we saw on TV from around the world were very elaborate and quite spectacular indeed.

Millennium 4 On our way back to the car, we saw a band playing on one of the other streets and stopped to listen for a while.  As we stood listening to the music, I noticed that most of the people in the crowd were looking up and to the right - instead of in the direction of the stage.  Following their gazes, we saw two men and three women in a third-story hotel room - looking out at the crowd through a floor-to-ceiling window.  The women were dancing provocatively for the crowd and, from time-to-time, Millennium 5 two of them would lift their tops to expose their breasts.  Other times, all of them would line up with their backs to the window, then bend over and moon the crowd.  It was a great floor show to go with the live music.  And for me, the whole experience was a very different and interesting way to bring in the New Year - made even more special by the fact that it was also a new century and millennium.