For years I’ve been waiting for Peak Burns Night, when the Bard becomes mega-fashionable, ubiquitous and needs its own BBC Scotland outside broadcast team to cover it.
In fact, imagine, it’s become so massive, we decide to deck our houses with tartan ribbons and children are encouraged to go door to door signing Ae Fond Kiss in exchange for tablet and fudge. The telly schedule is awash with people talking about Burns, acting like Burns and demanding to know which way Burns would vote in any referendum.
Edinburgh hosts an enormous firework display, the highlight being a giant haggis, neeps and tattie dinner in pyrotechnics above the Castle.
Ayrshire is mobbed. They’ve had to install turnstiles to keep visitor numbers under control. Alloway is as busy as Venice in the summer and there are dire warnings that Prestwick Airport is being swamped.
Then, with all things peak, the resentment would set in. People start moaning about Burns Night getting too commercialised. Folk on buses say how they “just can’t be doing with it”. Commentators writing in the papers telling us how they shun Burns Night.
Never happened. That sneer of cynicism hasn’t appeared even though Burns Night really is going from strength to strength.
It used to be fairly small. There might be a bit of a do. When I was a kid, my dad worked for Caterpillar Tractors, and they usually had a bash with haggis, whisky and a whirl about the dance floor with the American manager, a poor man with little idea of the savagery of Scottish country dancing at its most brutal, but most of us didn’t notice it.
There might have been haggis in the butcher’s window, but it was just as likely to be a steak pie. If we were taught Burns in school, and I wasn’t, it was because a teacher had an interest in his work. Anything on the telly would probably involve John Cairney, a brilliant actor, but for a while there it looked like he’d bought the franchise on Burns impersonation.
Dare I say this, but Burns Night had a reputation for being a bit dull. Now, there are signs of rising Burnsmania everywhere. Supermarkets have tartan arrows pointing to turnips and potatoes. Mind you, pointing out vegetables in some parts of Scotland is not a bad idea.
Kids do competitions in schools versifying away about mice and red, red roses. The city is awash with haggis dinners. But the best part? There are few if any grumbles about the price of haggis or the cost of tatties. It’s a celebration we Scots seem to actually like, no mean feat in this country.
Oh, I know, there are those who don’t like fancified Burns Suppers with the replies, the toasts and the haggis-stabbing with blokes sitting about in rented kilts while some posh person mangles the Scots language of 200 years ago.
Fair enough. I’m not sure Burns would have liked them much, either. For one thing, it used to be a boys-only event, and Robert was a big lad for the lassies (stop sniggering at the back there), so I can’t imagine he’d have been impressed by that.
For another, Burns had a sly eye for those who thought themselves our betters, so I can picture him sitting with a slight smile on his face watching a roomful of Fettes-educated QCs going full-on Ayrshire peasant for the evening, and then immortalising their memories in a fairly scathing manner on the back of a napkin.
Haggis swapped for Meat Loaf
Burns Nights now are all shapes and sizes. I’ve had the haggis served on paper plates, had Irn-Bru instead of whisky and even had the great chieftain o’ the puddin’ race brought in to the sound of Meat Loaf bellowing Bat Out of Hell. Admittedly, that last one was because someone muddled up the CDs.
I’ll be suppering it up with the good folk of Leith at the Dockers Club, and a darned fine night it will be.
The glory of Burns is that you can have the Supper you want. The stuffiness has been knocked out of it, and the sheer joy of the man’s work is celebrated.
Good work, Scotland!
Battle royal over Philip’s car keys
Why on earth is Prince Philip driving? He’s got staff, for goodness sake. I thought the point of being a bit rich or bit royal was that you could shout downstairs for coffee or biscuits or have people run to the shops for you.
Mind you, I do that anyway, it’s one of the perks of having children, I always think.
If Liz need some milk, couldn’t he get a squad of the Household Cavalry to clatter along to the nearest Aldi to pick up a pint?
You can’t have him careering about the countryside totalling the cars of the peasantry. That’s how revolutions start.
Time Liz took the car keys off him.