Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Happy Robbie Burns Day -- or My First Nosing

Today is Robbie Burns Day, (or Rabbie, as the truly enllightened insist) celebrated by Scots and wanna-be's (like me) around the world. Or so I'm told by various Burns' sites on the Internet, see here and here.

Now, I'm not a Scot. I'm more Irish than anything else, but I do like Scotch whiskey. So a few years ago, when I was invited to a "nosing" to celebrate the Bard's birthday, I accepted. It sounded like a good idea. At least, once I discovered that a nosing was a whiskey tasting. It sounded even better when they told me it was going to be held in a used golfing equipment store in Toronto. What a great atmosphere. Celebrating the world's greatest game by standing around drinking whiskey and swapping golf stories.

The format was simple. There were about 35 of us invited, and we each tossed some money into the kitty to cover the cost of the various whiskeys, some throw-away tasting glasses, and some munchies (including a haggis, I think.)

There was one other option for those attending. We were encouraged to bring a poem, or a song, or a reading, that matched the significance of the evening's tribute to Burns, or to golf, or to both, if you could manage it.

There were a couple of keeners in the group who arrived wearing full kilts and did a stand-up job of shaming the rest of us with their enthusiasm. Fortunately, after a few warm-up "tastings" we all kind of got into the spirit of things.
I was game to add a special reading to the occasion. At the time, I just happened to be reading a book about playing golf in Scotland called "Playing Through" by Curtis Gillespie. Curtis is a Canadian writer who spent a year living in Scotland and playing some of the wonderful courses in the old country. The book is a real treat for those of us who enjoy the rich tradition of golf writing. I recommend it.

There's a great scene in the book where Curtis is invited to celebrate Robbie Burns' Day with a local family. As is tradition, someone read through Burn's classic "Ode to a Haggis." But then, the Canadian visitor is asked to read his own toast. It's written in Burns' dialect, and when read aloud, the results are hilarious.

Normally, I'm not much for standing on a rickety wooden chair in front a couple of dozen hooting accented fools. But given enough samples of our wonderful elixir, I am capable of almost anything, I suppose. So after imbibing enough "liquid courage" to be able to stand on that chair, but not enough so that I fell off, I grabbed my copy of "Tae a Ferty," and adopting my best Scottish brogue, read the passages below. (To truly appreciate this, I recommend reading this aloud, phonetically, letting your best Scoth shine through. If you do it in mixed company, I guarantee, you won't get through it without cracking up.)

Oh what a sleekit horrible beastie
Lurks in yer belly efter the feastie
Just as ye sit doon among yer kin
There sterts to stir an enormous wind.

The neeps and tatties and mushy peas
Stert werkin like a gentle breeze
But soon the puddin wi the sauncie face
Will have ye blawin' all over the place.

Nae matter whit the hell ye dae
A'body's gonnae ha tae pay
Even if ye try to stifle
It's like a bullet oot a rifle.

Hawd yer bum tight tae the chair
Tae try and stop the leakin air
Shift yersel frae cheek tae cheek
Prae tae God it does nae reek.

But aw yer efforts go asunder
Oot it comes like a clap a thunder
Ricochets aroon the room
Michty me, a sonic boom!

God almighty it fairly reeks;
Hope I huvnae shit ma breeks
Tae the bog I better scurry
Aw whit the hell, it's no ma worry.

A'body roon about me chokin,
Wan or two are nearly bokin
I'll feel better for a while
Cannae help but raise a smile

Wis him! I shout with accusin glower
Alas too late, he's just keeled ower
Ye dirty bugger they shout and stare
I dinnae feel welcome any mair.

Were ere ye go let yer wind gang free
Sounds like just the job for me
Whit a fuss at Rabbie's perty
Ower the sake o' one wee ferty.

Here's to Rabbie...


Anonymous said...
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Melanie said...

Hee! To Rabbie!

Paul said...

You ate Haggis?

Dave said...

Well, I think I ate Haggis. The complete events of that evening are a little blurry around the time that the "snacks" came out. But that's what I recall...