Ok, so I have a confession to make. Until just a couple of weeks ago I'd never been to a Highland Games.
I know, I know! Shameful. I've no idea how I reached this ripe old age without making the effort at least once, but at least the situation has been rectified now, and the Braemar Gathering was the perfect place to do so!
It was quite an eye opener, with several events taking place around the field simultaneously, lone pipers practicing under every second tree, dancers milling around in immaculate dress despite the torrential showers and dozens of athletes of all shapes, sizes and ages all milling around and on top form.
After the epic security and formal crowd control of the commonwealth Games in Glasgow this year, the Gathering felt like a chilled out, easy going distant cousin of the Games. Both events offered excellent atmospheres, both offered a great community spirit, but both were so far apart in almost every way that it is difficult to draw direct comparisons beyond the most banal and obvious: people having fun and people competing at sports.
I was fortunate enough to be there officially, to photograph the Gathering on behalf of one of the corporate sponsors, and enjoyed excellent access to the whole site and the field while the games were taking place. It was the sort of access that photographers at the Commonwealth Games could only dream of: go where you like, just try not to get underfoot or flattened by a flying hammer.
It was a wonderful way to see my first games. I don't imagine that I'll have that sort of access at my next Gathering, but I'll be there anyway: I've no idea how or why I waited so long to get to my first!
Canne beat it.