Sunday, January 25, 2009

Burns Supper 2009

Today marks the 250th anniversary of the birthday of Robert Burns. The national poet of Scotland is honored this time each year, at home and abroad, with the great tradition of the Burns Supper. This was our third year hosting the supper, and we were grateful to have our usual circle of Celtic (and Celtic-loving) friends to help us celebrate.

Becky once again came through with a delicious dinner of roasted lamb, neeps and tatties, with a fresh green salad, and haggis, of course!

I was responsible for making the haggis, and in trying to keep it warm in the oven, I chose a poorly-sized dish underneath it. The dish was much too small, and the spurting grease from the haggis caused a small fire in the oven. Becky was outraged until I stooped down to blow out the fire (and flashed Sharon from under my kilt). The smoke from the fire filled the house with smoke, and I lamely explained that I was trying to simulate a real peat fire for the effect.

It was going to be a fun night! Not even thirty minutes into the party, and we'd already had a fire and flashing.

We toasted our new president with a rousing chorus of "There's No One as Irish as Barack Obama". Sure, what's Ireland got to do with Scotland, you say? We take a few liberties in our Burns celebration, reaching across the Irish Sea occasionally for inspiration.

Then it was the standard toast to the Haggis and the toast to the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns. Upon this latter toast, I was to read from his song, "The Campbells are Coming!" But, not knowing the tune, we all discovered to our great delight, that pretty much any Burns song can be easily sung to the tune of Gilligan's Island. (Try it, you'll see!)

After these, we gentlelads lamely toasted our lassies. Honestly, none of us men had anything prepared, which speaks ill of us, since our ladies usually write original poetry for the night. Undaunted by this, both Sharon and Leslie provided their original Toasts to the Laddies:

Leslie's Toast to the Laddies
© Copyright 2009, Leslie Emery. All Rights Reserved!

The third time's the charm,
A toast to the laddies -- no cause for alarm.

Looking back o'er the year,
Our laddies were steadfast and stable, and so full of good cheer.

The election of 2008 sure captured our minds and attention,
Whether we supported Ron Paul or Obama or even Hillary Clinton.

We talk politics and religion among friends,
Over dinners and campfires with this close-knit group and one telephoto lens.

Our men know when to dive in and when to seek help
Whether with plumbing or car repair before their wives yelp.

Our men are supportive of their ladies' pursuits,
Ere running or cycling or swimming while they're off in their suits.

We are all lucky women and daily count all our blessings,
How we adore our laddies, so we treat them like kings.

To the Laddies!

And Sharon's:

Sharon's Toast to the Laddies
© Copyright 2009, Sharon Whelan. All Rights Reserved! (Or Sharon will hunt you down!)

To the men that I toast, I dare not to roast them about their many attributes.
In '08 I vacationed with you all, saw your contributions both great and small and grew to appreciate how unique each one of you are.

There is Ol' What's His Name?... Phil's far from a pill. He really loves his wife, though work keeps him absent from her life. Smiling, patient and kind, he continues to remind us,
That the turtle eventually beat the hare.

Scott Emery, though not here, is adventurous but still full of fear. Sliding down slopes and climbing up ropes. His wife never sheds a tear at his mountains of gear, 'cause he knows that she's the best gear that he's got.

Scott Harris, my brother, from a conservative FoxTV loving mother. Truly inspired and always too tired. He is ready for any trip or adventure, being thirty-something is our strength with these old folks we outrank, our youth and exuberance inspire them. Scott is early to bed and early to rise, Wifi his tool informing the wise. Nothing's too trivial to report. Though he missed my New Years party, I did not think him too foolhardy, his claims to be too tired were completely uninspired. I know that truth be told he is OK to be on the outside of gold and silver is he.

Then there's Desi, sweet Desi, who has taught us to cope for a whole week without soap. Relaxed and refined, he mumbles and he cleans, keeping us relaxed and at ease.

To the Laddies!

After these brilliant toasts, we moved into poems, jokes, and songs. Pam told us a nice poem on the nature of friendship, which strikes right to the heart of these parties.

And this year, unlike years' past, many of the older kids wished to participate in some way (with the younger ones content to act as hooligans in the basement). Gabrielle read to us from her portfolio of original poetry, and I especially liked this one:

A True Patriot
by Gabrielle Wolfe
© Copyright 2009, Gabrielle Wolfe. All Rights Reserved. (You know the routine.)

One, two
One, two
Forward march!
I can hear my heart in my ears
I know what will happen
I was right
The commander is down
Ragged, I run
I'm furious
My rage showing
Tears clouding my eyes
I may not come back
But that's a risk I'm willing to take

For my country!
For my brother!
For everything I believe in!
I'm down
Go on without me

One last time
For my country!
This time not on me

As the light fades,
March on
For freedom,
For justice,
For me, my son
You can do...

The battle done,
We have won
Time to rest in peace, Dad
For freedom,
For justice,
For me, my dad,
Your courage lives on

(Did I mention that the author is only eleven years old? Incredible.)

Maura shared quite a few jokes, but my favorite was the following:

Two men are at the bar drinking, when one man says to the other, "You know, I grew up in this town?"

"Really?!" exclaimed the other man, "I grew up here too!"

So they toast each other and drink.

Then the first man says, "Yup, I was born here, in 1964."

"No kidding?" says the other, "Me too! What a coincidence!" And they toast each other and drink.

"I went to St. Mary's school on that hill over there. Graduated in 1979."

"You have got to be joking!" says the second man. "Me too! What a small world!"

And they toast each other and drink.

At this point, the bartender grabs a waiter and says, "You see, the MacDonald twins are drunk again."

And I cannot forget this one:

MacDonald was poor in health. He asked his friend MacDougal if he would pour a bottle of scotch over his grave if he should die one of these days. MacDougal said, "Sure'n I'll be glad, laddie, but would you mind if I passed it through my kidneys first?"

Desi and Sharon provided a Scotland Quiz this year, which proved in a very entertaining way how little we knew of Auld Alba. The quiz was in two parts, the first part being trivia regarding Scotland, and the second being translations of Scottish words:

1. St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland and which other three countries?
a) Slovakia, Greece and Czech Republic
b) Norway, Greece and Latvia
c) Romania, Greece and Russia

Answer - c

2. What is the name of Scotland's national poet?
a) George Mackay Brown
b) Robert Burns
c) Robert Louis Stevenson

Answer - b (If anybody missed that one, they were asked to leave the party.)

3. What is the name of the Scottish flag?
a) The Lion Rampant
b) The Saltire
c) The Salt and Sauce

Answer - b (Though 'c' was compelling!)

4. How many Scottish islands are there?
a) 800
b) 30
c) 15

Answer - a

5. What connects Sherlock Holmes to Scotland?
a) The author Arthur Conan Doyle was Scottish
b) Sherlock Holmes was Scottish
c) Both Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle were Scottish

Answer - a

6. What are the three officially recognized languages of Scotland?
a) English, Scots and Gaelic
b) English, British and Gaelic
c) English, Gaelic and Glaswegian

Answer - a (But if you've ever been to Glasgow, you may argue for 'c'.)

7. What is the population of Scotland?
a) 6.8 million
b) 5.1 million
c) 5.8 million

Answer - b

8. How many people worldwide call Scotland their ancestral home?
a) Between 5 and 10 million
b) Between 10 and 20 million
c) Between 30 and 40 million

Answer - c (It appears I'm in good company.)

9. Which Scottish location did Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci Code' make even more famous?
a) Fyvie Castle
b) Roslyn Chapel
c) Abbotsford House

Answer - b

10. On which Scottish island did George Orwell write his novel '1984'?
a) Jura
b) Islay
c) Iona

Answer - a

For the following, match the Scots word with the definition:

Word 1: Sleekit
a) sensuous
b) soporific
c) sly

Answer - c

Word 2: Dreich
a) dry and bright
b) smart and fit
c) dull, wet and dreary

Answer - c

Word 3: Sonsie
a) attractively plump, comely
b) repulsively unattractive
c) off the wall, crazy

Answer - a (My love is as sonsie as my haggis!)

Word 4: Gowk
a) a babe
b) an idiot
c) a lad

Answer - b (My love just called me a gowk for comparing her to my haggis.)

Word 5: Jalouse
a) suggest, propose
b) surmise, suspect
c) provoke jealousy

Answer - b

Word 6: Hairst
a) Spring
b) Harvest
c) Winter

Answer - b

Word 7: Mingin
a) sweet sounding, mellifluous
b) funky, groovy, in the zone
c) smelly, rank, inebriated

Answer - c (We were all a little mingin before the night was through.)

Word 8: Wersht
a) cheery, happy
b) timid, shy
c) bitter, sour, uninspiring

Answer - c

Word 9: Haver
a) brood in silence
b) talk profoundly
c) talk nonsense

Answer - c

Word 10: Totie
a) huge, momentous
b) heavy, serious
c) wee, tiny

Answer - c

Both Olivia and Madeline recited some Robert Frost poetry from memory--they were very pretty reciting the lines together, like only twins could do.

And then, there was much music. Desi brought his guitar, and he and Sharon serenaded us with "Sally Gardens" and "Falling Slowly" (from the movie Once).

I tried "Danny Boy" on my clarinet and vocally. (I think I pulled off the vocals, though the clarinet sounded like I was taking liberties with a goose.) Eoin played a couple of jigs on his fiddle, and Eddie played a couple of his pieces on the piano. We sang and sang and sang some more. We sang the "Wild Colonial Boy" and a few other tunes.

Summing up, it was a magnificent evening. Thank you to all my friends for such a fun time.

© Copyright 2005-2014, Scott E. Harris. All Rights Reserved.
Please do not reproduce or copy without the permission of the author.