The whirlwind trip to Thurso for the Mod was successful for my daughter and her clarsach duet partner. They won the duet competition for their age group, gaining a trophy and the coveted gold badge, above. The wording round the top says, 'The Gaelic Association', and below, 'Our Language and Music', and at the foot, 'Royal National Mod' (the Queen is the patron).
The pieces the girls played were Crodh Chailein (Colin's Cattle) and Tha 'Bhuaidh aig an Fhigheadair (The Weaver's Triumph).
As a family we do not speak Gaelic. My husband and I both hail from the east coast of Scotland, where Norse is the greater linguistic influence in local dialects of Scots. Our children have learned several European languages at school, and our son has made inroads into Mandarin Chinese, but Gaelic hasn't featured in their schooling. There is Gaelic-medium state schooling in Edinburgh, but it's not a route that we chose.
At the Mod we had the unsettling feeling of being foreigners in our own country. We found ourselves deciphering signs and making (very) small inroads into understanding Gaelic. There were some sweeteners in this process - literally:
Mint Mod sweets, saying 'Caithness Mod'.
Easy readers, such as 'Spot's Snowy Day':
That quintessential English children's book, 'The Tale of Benjamin Bunny':
I even came across a personable young lady selling my husband the idea of taking Gaelic evening classes one day...