Friday, 25 January 2013

Burns' Night and A' That

In all honesty I've never celebrated Burns' Night - despite counting myself a member of the fine Scottish folk. I blame my parents - they moved away from Ayrshire, Scotland in the '70s and settled south of the border in London, and neither of them can stand the Burns Night stuff. It's often been described to me as "a night when fat, psuedo-Scots cover themselves in tartan and recite the same boring ol' shite." Actually they say a lot more than that - the tartan thing in particular pisses them off, what with it being a tourist thing, rather than something that all Scots historically wore. My folks are big on the whole "historical accuracy" thing. Especially where Scotland's concerned.*

Loving the colour co-ordination with the giant napkins.
By Kaihsu at en.wikipedia [GFDL (
or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (],
from Wikimedia Commons

So, not a big thing in our household. BUT my mum did talk about Robert Burns to me and gave me some of his more amusing poems for me to read when I was growing up, and I love the man's work. Very few people can claim to have written a poem in honour of a sheep gut stuffed with various meat. My mum has read probably everything that man ever wrote and is very knowledgeable on the subject of his interesting, if short, life. The family are also from the same area of Scotland as Burns resided in, so a lot of the places he talks about are places I've actually been to.

Despite not having tartan or a decent bottle of whiskey to hand, I thought I'd do something to mark the day, so here's one of my favourite Burns poems. It shouldn't need much of a translation for those of you not blessed with knowledge of the Scots dialect/language. But if you do need a little help I've done a little "Bill and Ted" style summary after it, which is entirely my personal interpretation of the text.

A Bottle and Friend

There's nane that's blest of human kind,
But the cheerful and the gay, man,
Fal, la, la, &c

Here's a bottle and an honest friend!
What wad ye wish for mair, man?
Wha kens, before his life may end,
What his share may be o'care, man?

Then catch the moments as they fly,
And use them as ye ought, man:
Believe me, happiness is shy,
And comes not aye when sought, man.


There's none as blessed of human kind,
But the cheerful and the happy, dude,
(Those that go) Fa, la, la, etc

Here's a bottle and and honest friend!
What more could you wish for, dude?
Who knows before their life comes to an end,
What his share of joy and love will be, dude?

Then catch the moments before they fly,
And use them to the fullest, dude,
Trust me, happiness is shy,
And doesn't always come when called, dude.

That doesn't come close to the beauty and simplicity of Burns but hopefully for anyone totally unfamiliar with Scots it makes a kind of sense. And though I may not do Burns' Night, I do highly recommend reading his stuff, and eating haggis: it looks disgusting in the skin but trust me - that stuff is amazing with some neeps and tatties. And no I'm not translating that. That's what Google's for.

Not the prettiest of food stuffs, but they taste sooo good.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia, c.c. license

Happy Burns' Night!

*For the love of all that's holy don't ever talk to my mum about Braveheart. Unless you've got a few hours to kill.

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