Monday, 24 January 2011

Who the heck is Rabbie Burns anyway?

Tomorrow is the 25th January, Burns' Night, celebrated by Scots the world over. We've got the Haggis and neeps laid in. Husband Tom has polished up his performance of Burns' poem, 'To a Haggis'

The English have Shakespeare. Everyone knows who Shakespeare is - after all, we quote his plays at every turn: 'eaten me out of house and home', 'dead as a door nail', come 'full circle', disappeared 'into thin air', 'play fast and loose', 'foregone conclusion', 'neither here nor there', 'bag and baggage, 'too much of a good thing', 'the long and the short of it', 'elbow room', 'there's the rub', , 'what's done is done', 'in one fell swoop' 'short shrift,' 'laughing stock,' ...and so they go on and on...

The English have Shakespeare...and... well, the Scots have Burns. And how many Burns' quotations are used in everyday speech? Well there's 'the best laid plans of mice and men', and there's...well that's it really.

On top of that, how do you take a man seriously who has written poems entitled: 'To a Mouse', 'To a Louse', 'The Twa Dogs', 'To a Haggis', 'Tam O'Shanter', 'My Nanie's Awa', and 'For a 'That and a' That'.
My Dad dismissed Burn's as a 'drunkard and a womaniser' (don't think he realised he was a failed farmer as well, or he would have been even more dismissive).

But for the Scots, he is a national treasure: poet extraoardinaire, lover of Don Quixotesque proportions, champion of the common people, champion of the Scottish language, champion of Scotland generally.

Yet, before you non-Scots dismiss him too, just remember this - we don't greet the new year with Shakespeare, but rather with the words of Burns, 'Auld Lang Syne'.

So, we're ready to salute the great bard again. We've already had round one of celebrations. Our friend Bill, has turned haggis and neeps into a gourmet meal. Tom has turned his rendition of 'To a haggis' into a performance of Shakespearean dimensions; all dramatic delivery, Olivier pauses, arm sweeping, knife welding, haggis stabbing. And in all of this, the guests sit in bemused bewilderment, wondering what the dickens he is saying.
Just as well really. One Burns' Night, I had a fit of the giggles when I realised that Tom was about to insult the French and French cuisine through the words of the poem -  as a French guest and restuarant chef - sat there listening (thank goodness) with no idea of what was being said!

So here's to you, Rabbie Burns!