So last night I experienced my first Burns’ Supper. And not before time: this year we are celebrating the great man’s 250th birthday. The Aberdeen branch of one of the professional associations I belong to set up a swish shningdig at a posh hotel and hundreds of professionals and their (I am sure just as professional) partners put on their kilts and dresses and prepared themself for a night of eating, drinking, chatting, quaffing and poetry. What I of course didn’t know is that there is a certain procedure involved (I am too lazy to reproduce the whole shebang, wikipedia has a good summary) and that each Burns Supper follows a presumably century old template.
I was pretty much the only bloke without a kilt and the elaborate additional utensils that you have to wear on a night like that (I have never been in a room with so many men wearing knifes. I presume that’s what it’s like in a pub in Brixton ot Hackney) but at least I had pockets I could put things in.
After an excellent dinner of broth, haggis, cranachan and tablets there was much ceilidh dancing, and I continue to be amazed how all these laddies and lassies all know these elaborate dance routines by heart. Turns out they learn them at primary school. And I always thought it’s genetic.
If there’s a burns night around where you live, I would encourage you to attend. It’s good fun, the whole pageantry aspect is hilarious, there’s men in skirts and pretty good food.
Let’s finish this with my favourite little (alas rather sad) poem by the bard:
Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murdering pattle.
I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth born companion
An’ fellow mortal!
I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
‘S a sma’ request;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t.
Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s win’s ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.
That wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turned out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld.
But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
Still thou are blest, compared wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!