Since I didn’t get round to writing a Burns night post yesterday, I felt I should post a wee something today!
I felt like something was missing yesterday when I didn’t actually celebrate Burns Night. All the talk of haggis made my Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall veggie meal seem a little disappointing. I had haggis at New Year so it wasn’t like I’ve been desperately haggis-deprived, but I did feel a little left out.
While I was living in England, I hosted quite a few little Burns suppers. Not proper events with speeches. Just a few friends round to try haggis and maybe a little whisky. They might have to suffer a wee few verses of poetry, if I’d taken the trouble to re-learn anything beforehand.
I never met anyone who didn’t like haggis when they were given it! Many of my international friends, and some of my English ones, tried haggis for the first time at my house. I’d always buy some veggie haggis too in case anyone was disgusted by the lungs-and-heart aspect, and then end up eating the veggie stuff myself while they all dived into the meat.
I always thought it was a good excuse to have people round. Normally you couldn’t get away with such an easy dinner party – a big pot of tatties, a smaller one of some neeps and a haggis untraditionally heated in the oven. I experimented with cranachan, but could get away with shortbread at a push (the main course is quite filling, after all).
My first experience of a Burns supper was speaking at our Primary 7 one – I can’t remember much except that the tables had be arranged in a ‘wedding style’ arrangement with a top table that Yvonne and I were in the middle of! And I think there was a bag of kilts for people to wear!
Our secondary school Burns supper was quite a convincing affair with lots of musical entertainment – so I started attending early as part of the music groups (it was really for older students). In fifth year, I was asked to give the Immortal Memory. I was studying for 6 Highers (with prelims around that time, surely?) and I was terrified of public speaking – but somehow I agreed to do it! Mr Murray must have been very persuasive. Or, more likely, I was in full-on academic show-off mode.
I learnt my speech by heart, 100%, practising it daily on the way to the bus. It’s not the way I’d give a talk now, but it worked! I found my talk recently, stuck inside my copy of Burns, and I realised that I’d done a pretty good job of it. I remember doing loads of research, and digging into my Complete Works to get some less-obvious quotes.
In sixth year I was the chairperson, with a whole load of index cards to make sure I linked everything in order. I remember enjoying the school Burns suppers, though ceilidhing after the full-on meal provided by the Home Ec students was not particularly easy.
But I’ve never been to a proper Burns supper since! Maybe that’s something I should remedy now that I finally live in Scotland!