When the festivities are over and a new year has begun, it's time to shed the greyness and have a little fun. The first month maybe SAD but it also is a hoot because in Scotland, it starts the haggis shoot. Now this bonnie beastie, is quite shy and lives on hills it's breeding's quite prolific, (it's never heard of pills). It's small, and round with a tail - and a little snout it's sight and hearing is superb and that's without a doubt. You stalk the haggis carefully, one move will see them scurry you take your time and quietly wait, no need for you to hurry the culling of the haggis has become a national sport not yet banned by parliament, nor in the news report. To disguise this whole event was thought to be quite hard 'till thanks to Rabbie Burns, known as our national bard, and now the annual shoot, there is no need to scupper hence the lesser known history of the Burns's Supper. The haggis held with all due honour, as befits the beast. It proudly makes it the main attraction of this feast piped in with pomp and style, and with great ovation await savouring each tasty bite, with anticipation. Many, many moons ago, the haggis was quite happy 'till huntsmen came along and chased this little chappy they soon learned that haggis was a tasty bite so they hid away in daytime only coming out at night. The haggis is quite clever, and they devised a plan which would confuse the hunter, since he was merely man. Some ran round the mountain, running left to right some went round the other way, they did this most the night. Evolution then stepped in and changed this little breed since running round the mountain, they ran at quite a speed if you look closely at a haggis, you will see their little legs on one side they are longer and the other, little pegs. Depending on which way they ran, whether right or left determines which side is the shorter, which side is bereft now there are two species and alas they cannot breed to complete the breeding process, it's equal legs they need. It is indeed quite sad to learn, these species cannot mate they'd fall off the mountain and both would meet their fate. Their hair is long and shaggy, to keep out winter chills and can hide amongst the heather, safe from raptor's bills. Now capturing the haggis, is a skill that few possess so fresh meat on the table is getting less and less. It's taken years to shield them from men's hunting sins that's why you see the haggis, now on shelves - in tins.
Having been brought up in ‘Burns country’, I have been used to the wide plethora of Burns Suppers celebrated from any time soon after New Year. Although the date should be January 25th, it seems to be acceptable throughout the whole 12 months. However, it does reach it’s crescendo around the 25th when quite honourable, intelligent, well adjusted men exchange that embodiment of self-esteem for some strange alien being, since copious amounts of whisky are the perfect accompaniment to the haggis.
There are certain rituals to the Burns Supper, it is an evening’s entertainment and if you get good entertainers, good speakers and good food, it is an excellent night. The other notable piece of information is if you have a kilt, you wear it.
It is an evening of song, recitation, speeches and tales. There is an order to the programme of course with plenty of pomp and circumstance. The chairman greets the guests and introduces those taking part. This is followed by the ‘Selkirk Grace’;
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.
Normally everyone would stand while the star attraction gets piped in, a steaming haggis served on a silver platter. It is then addressed by Burns’ recitation “To A Haggis”. Once completed, it gets taken to the kitchens for serving and the meal can begin.
Cock-a-leekie soup is a good starter but it can be lentil or Scotch broth or similar after which haggis, neeps (mashed swede) and tatties (mashed potatoes) are served. Only a small portion is served as this is followed by a heartier meal, perhaps of steak pie. The dessert can be traditional Cranachan, a delicious dish of whipped cream and toasted oatmeal, whisky and raspberries. but like the other selections on the menu, there can be alternatives such as apple pie and cream etc.
There are two other poems which are part of the celebrations and those taking part will be happy to slip into the part.
Old Father Time took up his scythe, his cloak was worn and grey
his weary limbs rejoice to see, the end of his final day.
His tired old eyes, once bright, but now had grown quite dim
his beard in unkempt strands, fell down the front of him.
He trudged along, a well worn path, of those who’d gone before
not sad to leave this world behind, he wanted it no more.
The time he gave was not well spent, his moments quite abused
Every precious second that he gave, saw them badly used.
We’ll never get them back again, they’ve gone and what a waste
His work on earth was done, and walked off quite disgraced.
The midnight door lay just ahead, and twelve, the clock was striking
his hand upon the handle turned, this world was not his liking
But there before him stood New Year, with a face that’s all aglow
just as he had stood there anxiously, no more than a year ago.
His wrinkled hand reached out to greet, this young bright New Year
a forlorn smile upon his mouth and in his sad old eyes, a tear.
Good luck my friend, the Old Year, said as they momentary met
This world does not deserve the gifts you bring, this is the worst year yet.
The New Year looked up and said, “I have hope within my heart
and one year to make good use of it, before I too must part”.
This New Year has given hope to us, and time to make amends
it’s up to us to use these gifts, on this our lives depends.
Wishing one and all a guid New Year, for health and hope abound
Let’s greet this New Year with a smile, that hope and peace be found.
Agnes M Wilson
Some of this is written in Scots vernacular so I have added some translation.
If we could ever go back in time
Back to the days of the washing bine. (wash tub)
The mangle, the Acme wringer clamped to the sink.
The scrubbing board and the bath made of zinc.
Baring the feet and girding the skirt
Tramping the blankets, removing the dirt. (bare feet in a tub to ‘tramp’ blankets)
Inside the house, though simply furnished
We’d see the grate, blackleaded and burnished.
The kettle on the fire, kept hot for the tea,
That was masked in the pot that sat on the swee.(brewed, a metal plate on a swivel attached to fireplace)
In a corner would stand, a grandfather clock
And up on the brace, there sat the knock. ( mantle shelf, there sat the clock)
We’d hear the birds, cheepin’ outside,
The Robin, the Speug and the wee Yellow Yite. (Robin, sparrow and Yellow Hammer)
You could guddle for trout ‘till caught by the grieve, (tickling trout, game keeper)
He’d gie ye a flightin’ while shaking his neive. (he’d give you a ticking off while shaking his fist)
Under a stane they’d be speeders and gullocks (spiders and black beetles)
And the fields would be riddled with wee mowdie hillocks. (mole hills)
In the back yard were clugs for the fire (logs)
The weans would be playing and they’d never tire (children)
Of kick the can or hide and go seek
Or peeries or peevers or a gird and a cleek, (spinning tops, hopscotch, hoop and stick)
Then a window would open and someone would bawl,
“Jimmy”, “Jock”, “wee Eck,” “yer tea’ll get caul”.
Hard work and poverty we never want back
But somehow there’s something our lives seem to lack.
Warmth and companionship developed through strife
Has made way for machines controlling our life.
Fond thoughts of the past, I know I would wish
That they’d be a bit more than a satellite dish.
© Agnes M Wilson
My Teddy Bear
If you are ready, I’ll tell of my Teddy
Which was old and was missing one eye.
His coat was threadbare, he was short of some hair.
But he still was a lovely old guy.
His growler was strong, deep throated and long
All it took was a tilt to and fro
Then you could hear, his growl loud and clear
That’s when with pride, I would glow.
I remember his paws, which were soft, without claws
And his body with wood shavings was stuffed
No matter his filling, I always was willing
To hug him and show he was loved.
His face was cute I suppose, with a little black nose
And he had this incredible smile
I’m sure this little chappy, was really quite happy
To stick with me, mile after mile.
But this story is sad, in fact really quite bad
As he’s lost and nowhere to be seen.
But alas and alack, if he ever comes back
Will he tell me of where he has been?
I feared it too late, and he met his fate
when he was accidentally misplaced
but the charity shop, would care not a jot
and think him a bear quite disgraced
As it happened one day, down granny’s way
When I left poor Teddy behind
she stitched and she patched, though nothing quite matched
he became in fact, re-designed.
A button replaced, the missing eye on his face
his body, a mix of her crafts, very neat
his face was now knitted, and crochet now kitted
his little paws (both his hands and his feet)
To add to his charms, he had black woollen arms
From the rag bag, he had the best
purple velvet on bum, and covered his tum
matched the purple crochet on chest
He was a model quite fitting, to my granny’s knitting
Each stitch she created with love
So you see my dismay, when he went away
He’s special, unique, a ‘one-off’
He’d been born long ago, what date, I don’t know
but around 1890 I believe
No label had he, he was worth more to me
that’s why for dear Teddy I grieve.
©Agnes M Wilson