Wanted: Manskirt

Getting post swim attire requires some consideration and most of my previous posts contain at least one paragraph on that week’s favorite wooly item to get the body’s bunsen burners firing.

What is the warmest article of clothing you have?

Please don’t say one of those ridiculous oversized jackets.

A couple of posts ago I described a conversation, in fact it was more of a accosting of a poor jacket wearer in Tescos, where the thermodynamic properties of lambs wool were discussed. It doesn’t make you shweeat and it doesn’t let you freeze.
Wool is fantastic.

A few weeks ago the seeds of this post were planted, not the writing of it but the reason for it. Anyway, the crew of both boats were sitting relaxing and chatting, enjoying a beer on a quay in the quiet bay in the Adriatic. We were pretty exhausted after completing 4 hard weeks of work. Randomly, I was asked how you have a number 2 in a kilt? I described the relaxed, carefree, sober procedure before pints and hip flasks are battered. This has to be conducted in a large clean area where removal of the colourful manskirt is mandatory, so it can be stowed safely. The description continued on to the risky technique that after several alcopops would be frought with danger and if failed, require a trip to the dry cleaners. I went onto describing the effects of wearing the Scottish national dress constantly for a full on weekend and the resultant slight chafing to sensitive areas. I think like a wee plum tomato was mentioned.

The seed was planted.

You know it takes 8 yards of wool to make brides in Scotland the most attactive girls in the world. For sure. Even a plain girl looks amazing beside a ginger headed bloke in skirt and sash of muted tones.

Weddings are all about the burds. It’s what all girls, well at least some of them, dream of from being wee lassies. I know that is pretty bad stereotyping with a fair size brush covered with tar and I apologise if you have not dreamt of horse drawn carriages and 50m long dresses.

At weddings the main burd, mostly known as the bride, is the main attraction. Blokes really only turn up for the free booze and check out the bridesmaids. So why do Scottish dudes have to dress like Peacocks, pheasants or even mallards? Even our socks get a flash of colour. Surely if we’re getting married then all the hard work has been done and fancy colourful courtship feathers are not required anymore? Across the border the brides have it easy. They only have to contend with long penguin tailed suits and a tall daft hat and maybe a red rose, if the groom is being daring.
Sorry, you never signed up for ancient stereotypes or down South bashing. I have not really been swimming for a couple months and I think this is my way of filling the empty space with nonsense rather than non existent swimming adventures.

8 yards of material…that’s a massive amount of wool to keep you warm. I am not talking about the traditional kilt, the cool one you wrap yourself up in. I’m talking about the one you see at weddings. The one Sir Walter Scott made famous. I suppose with the right amount of patience and effort, a traditional kilt would be easy to fire on and look much better. But after an ice breaking swim even tying shoelaces is too much strain on cognitive powers and buckled fingers. Hopefully securing three buckles on the side of the kilt should be easy enough.

The seed was nurtured into a clothing plan and before I knew it my wedding kilt would be my new keep warm experiment. It’s 17 years old and only been adjusted once because I’m fitter now than I was back then, which is something to do with the realisation that every day could be my last and also discovering the delights of wild swimming.

With a wee bit of research before my wedding we discovered the Gaelic translation of my name.

Smith….. Awe yeah.

Nothing fancy like related to big Bertie Bruce or Billy Wallace. My friend has traced his ancestors back to Niall the dude with 9 hostages. Basically the he is the Celtic king. Not bad.

Me? Nope.. Smudger… Basically I’m from a line of blokes that shaped metal.
Mc = son
Gow = smith
an = little

So the story goes, back before cars and mobile phones, Clan Chattan and the McPhersons were having a bit of bother with the neighbours, those Macintoshes. We’re not talking about wishing they would cut their side of the grass, loud BBQ parties or getting the ancient council to ride into the next Clan’s territory to serve a ASBO on a yappy wee terrier.

Awe naw.

These dudes were running about with big 6 foot claymore swords smashing each others craniums in. It got to the point where the Elders considered there was too much bloodshed and decided a battle in a field would finalise it. There were 30 tooled up skirt wearing dudes from each side. Kind of like football or soccer without the VR stops or rolling about on the deck for 15mins after a non existent foul. The McPherson’s were a man short so they asked a passing Smithy (some dude walking about looking for some metal to manipulate) to back them up. The Smithy bloke agreed, jumped in the field and done the damage. From that day, Gow, Gowan, McGowan have all been looked after by the McPhersons hence the muted tones of my McPherson tartan.

Just incase you’re confused now, Harry Stainpoke is my nom de plume, (in more ways than one.)

8 yards of toasty wool. Scotsmen are not the only bunch of blokes thinking they are the bees knees in a skirt. Indians wear a Veshti. In Sri Lanka dudes wear a sarong. I received a Shúkà as present in Tanzania and had to wear a Sulu when visiting the Chief of an island in Fiji. These are mainly big squares of light weight material for keeping cool in roasting temperatures, they are not for keeping you warm.

The Scots only started wearing manskirts because traipsing over the hills covered with heather made our trousers slightly damp. They found removing the bottom half of the trousers worked out better. This conveniently brings us to the other half of the plan.

Ugg boots…… I now have a suede pair for good days and a leather pair for most of the year.
A Kilt and Ugg boots ya dancer.Nearly as much sheep’s wool as a New Zealanders erotic dream.

One of the problems I considered was the complete lack of pants or briefs that you have when wearing a kilt. It’s not a problem until you forget yer trunks. I swim regularly in my pants because, I would forget my head if it wasn’t attached and sometimes you just find yourself near water and have to swim.
The main problem is the draft. Eight yards of wool if yer sitting down is a mighty insulator but if yer walking about it’s a big fan. I am considering Long Johns. Are they acceptable in the nothing under the dress rule? What about if they stick out the bottom of the skirt? Surely it’s alright if I’m advertising the fact I’m a wimp?
What could possibly go wrong?

The first chance to try out the winter attire was a solo mission within an hour of landing back in Scotland after 7 weeks of adventures in the Mediterranean and Adriatic. I arrived at Loch Venechar to discover the tide had went out or so it seemed It looked like they were still feeling the effects of the lack of rain from when I was kicking about at the start of summer. The wind was blasting right down the Loch and creating rollers. Not bad for 5km of water. I headed round to Lubnaig.
I don’t really do the black cat superstition, the number after twelveteen yes, but black cats, no. In saying that you know it’s going to be a good day when hurtling round the twisty turny road a wee ginger squirrel bounces across the road in front of the car. Ben Ledi sheltered most of the westerly wind and the water at Lubnaig was calm. Putting trunks on under my manskirt was easy . I was loving the kilt already. I managed to swim down to the flag which was much further than I was expecting and it wasn’t a struggle after so many weeks without a good swim. On the way back I was filled with a sense of euphoria. I had to swim deep under the surface screaming my lungs out returning to the surface with a massive smile. In fact days later I was still splashing about giggling like a wee dart laddie.

I used to really look forward to the first beer on the way home after six weeks of offshore graft and prohibition, relaxing knowing that the job was complete and money was in the bank. The feeling after the first pint was amazing. You could feel the pressure lifting from your shoulders and feel your lungs expanding allowing a bigger breath. Kind of like that feeling on a Friday evening after a glass of wine but multiply that by a fathom. I don’t get that anymore. There is still hard graft, in fact harder now, the prohibition is constant and on my terms not an oil companies. I honestly don’t miss it. If I was drinking I would never be able to be swimming in a loch within a hour of getting off the plane and gain the feeling of complete joy, submerged in the cool waters of Scotland. It is emensely hard to describe. Swimming makes me happy.

A few days into the man skirt experiment, I can’t lie, I don’t think it’s any warmer than a pair of trousers, but it does make changing so much easier, for real. I refuse the big daft jacket and sometimes a towel is a struggle, buckling the kilt up is easier than wrapping in a towel.

I think the reality is that conversation in Croatia reminded me that the kilt shouldn’t be for watching the national team, New Year or pulling out the plumage at a wedding. The kilt looks amazing and you feel amazing wearing it. All the extra length of wool does add some warmth, but the weight and length, makes it flow and gives it a life of it’s own. It looks Gallus. (a word used in Stirling to described brilliant, but multiplied by several Fathoms)

So, anyway the long and short of this post is I am feart of vandalising my wedding dress and looking for another one to wear up to the Lochside. If you have out grown your heavy weight kilt and it has a 30-32 inch waist with 22-24 inch drop and it is taking up cupboard space give us a shout.

Thanks to Andy for transport and photos the last week.

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