Christine Grahame: Heartburns night is over for another year
You'll have had your haggis? Actually, though, the only thing I have to say to a haggis now is that I like you but you don't like me.
Yes folks, there comes a time in life when haggis is too much for the digestive system. It’s a bit difficult, then, being a MSP and attending several Burns Suppers and speaking at the odd one or two, but I manage the neeps and tatties fine and can be quite subtle at shoving the haggis around the plate.
Speaking of Burns suppers, I’ve been at a few I’d rather forget. Many years ago I attended quite a sumptuous do in Dumfries and was last speaker of the evening doing the Toast to Scotland. The Master of Ceremonies had a wee bit too much of the free whisky at the top table and quite early on in the proceedings nearly decapitated the man delivering the Immortal Memory as he birled his dirk too wildly during the Address to that Haggis.
The man who nearly met this gruesome end is now a top politician but only because he ducked fast enough.
The night could only deteriorate further, as it surely did, and during Holy Willie’s Prayer some of the assembled took advantage of the dimmed lights and commando-like made their escape below the radar. Of course, our chairman was too far gone to notice the vacant seats.
Another Burns do was at Wanlockhead, where I drove up through frost glinting on the snow-covered hills jewel-like.
It was quite magical and it put me in a grand mood, but when I arrived there was not a soul to be seen. Lights glowed in the village cottages but at every door I knocked, and I knocked at quite a few, there was no reply. It was like a deserted stage set.
The moon sharp and bright in the sky. Snow piled up by the road side. And this eerie silence.
As my imagination took over I began to have concerns. What had happened to them all? Just about to turn and descend to civilisation I came across the community hall. Opening the door, the heat rushed out to meet me, and everyone, but everyone was gathered inside, with banners draped from the rafters and lots of all round jollity reminding me eerily of the lines ‘Kirk-Alloway seem’d in a bleeze, Thro’ ilka bore the beams were glancing, And loud resounded mirth and dancing.’
And there have been other Burns nights over the years from the sublime Jim Calder at Peebles forgetting the words to the ‘Address’and converting it into Holy Willie’s Address. It was a hoot.
Then there are the ridiculous, pompous Immortal Memories that ramble on for hours. I suppose, however, the most lasting memory was of an Immortal Memory where the misguided speaker thought we should be treated to his poems with only a passing reference to the Bard.
He too spoke too long and one guest did what I have only seen once, but wish it happened more often.
A usually courteous man, he rose up, waved his watch in the air and shouted “Good God man, you’ve gone on long enough. Sit down”.
I think it should be said more often and I think Burns would have approved. By the way, pass the Gaviscon.
Christine Grahame is SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale