Standard Issue writers are penning a letter to their hometown. In hers, Dotty Winters salutes a Scottish village with an unusual penchant for fancy dress.
You are a tiny corsage of pretty village clichés pinned on a hillside near the edge of the Trossachs. Such is the unbridled quirkiness of your residents that I was in my 20s before I realised that “eccentric” was a word that was usually used to point out an exception, rather than to describe almost everyone you’d ever met.
I’d list some of these characters here, but they are all so distinctively batshit that it would be impossible to anonymise them. Many of them are still there and have access to the internet. Suffice to say that there is barely a person I remember from the village that wouldn’t require considerable advance explanation were you planning on introducing them to someone from the real world.
Your people, Drymen, have an almost all-year round uniform of chunky knitwear and statement jewellery (mostly the women) and tweed, denim and flat caps (mostly the men). I say almost all-year because the residents also have an unhealthy obsession with fancy dress.
Cheers may be set in the bar where everyone knows your name, but Drymen (pronounced “Driimun”) is the village where everybody knows your business. As a result, on high days and holidays everyone dons fancy dress and pretends they don’t know each other.
Despite your tiny population (a soggy, knitwear-clad 800 or so) the village boasts a large number of venues where you could engage in fancy-dress themed activities: a church hall, a village hall, several pubs and two “show” fields.
My parents’ impressive commitment to non-gender based parenting and papier-mâché has resulted in photographic evidence of me and my sisters being dispatched to events dressed variously as a dice, a mechanic (with a person-sized spanner) and a toadstool.
Oh how I longed for a supermarket-bought slutty witch outfit.
I also remember attending events that found whole troupes of local schoolchildren dressed as Aunt Sally or Worzel Gummidge. It’s traditions like these that truly give rural communities their terrifying reputation: somewhere out there is a director’s cut of The Wicker Man featuring a reluctant seven year-old toadstool.
The zenith of all fancy-dress activity was the annual village pantomime: two weeks of set-construction, rehearsal and singing, culminating in five performances. As everyone in the village was involved in some capacity with the production I can only assume that the audience were visiting sociologists studying our ways.
Of course, it wasn’t all dressing up; sometimes it rained on our everyday clothes too. Still, we were never short of entertainment. We had a sledging hill, Jock’s burn (a drainage outflow pipe), a derelict castle and a haunted school. We were always just one mysterious janitor away from being in Scooby-Doo.
My dearest home-village: you may look exactly like what would happen if someone painted Balamory grey and turned the sprinklers on, but there is no place I’d rather have developed a lifelong addiction to fancy dress.
Love and kisses,
Nascent stand-up, fan of fancy words, purveyor of occasional wrongness, haphazard but enthusiastic parent, science-fan, apprentice-feminist.