Burns Supper: Lessons Learned

Well, you’ll be excited to hear I survived my first encounter with haggis on Thursday night. It wasn’t too bad, actually, if you don’t think about what’s in it or, indeed, what it’s in. I learned a few other things too:

  1. if bagpipes were originally designed as a weapon of war, then played indoors they’re a weapon of mass destruction. They certainly make for very poor incidental background music while people are chatting before a meal
  2. on the other hand, watching a tallish piper with a taller set of pipes limboing through a low door while piping in the haggis adds to the evening’s gaiety
  3. Scots derive great entertainment from making Englishmen recite Burns. Apparently they don’t mind their national poet being mangled.
  4. However, when the bard’s verse is read by someone who actually knows what it means – and does the actions – it almost makes sense. Almost
  5. a full plate of haggis, neaps and tatties is possibly the stodgiest meal in the world. Fortunately, they diverged from tradition for the pudding course and I didn’t have to tackle a deep-fried Mars Bar to follow.
  6. you’re not supposed to cross your hands until the last verse of Auld Lang Syne. First you have to sing all the verses in between the one you think you know the words for (Should auld acquaintance be forgot and tumty-tumty mind…) and the last one. There are a lot of verses.
  7. when someone asks ‘Should we try a couple of sets of strip the willow*?’ the correct answer is ‘gosh, is that really the time, we should be going …’

There was probably more, but by this time there had been drink taken and if I had any other words of wisdom to share with you, I have forgotten them.

*It’s a dance. Get your mind out of the gutter. Honestly…


23 Responses to Burns Supper: Lessons Learned

  1. 2whls3spds says:

    LOL…almost describes my parent’s 50th anniversary….complete with the too tall piper! My dad has gotten into his Scots heritage, kilt, tartan’s etc. Great fun for him. BTW Clan MacLaine of Lochbuie, in case you were wondering. ;>)


  2. disgruntled says:

    yeah – as every scot will tell you, the pipes shouldn’t be played indoors. But then they go and bring them in for Burns night

  3. Autolycus says:

    I used to know how to strip the willow. I wasn’t bad at gathering peascods either. But that was then….

  4. Autolycus says:

    Ooh, and PS re pipes. Why can’t they use the small ones (or even, dare I say it, the Northumbrian pipes)?

  5. Paul says:

    As the Government would say, it is lessons identified, not learned. You’ll be back next year!

  6. huttonian says:

    At least you were spared the Gay Gordons.

  7. disgruntled says:

    Autolycus – Northumbrian pipes? For Burns night? Even I know that’s wrong…
    Paul – indeed, but with ear plugs
    Huttonian – no, the Gay Gordons also put in an appearance but I sat that one out. No dashing white sergeants, though (if that phrase is still allowed these days)

  8. j says:

    We’ll be having ours next Sunday – haggis that is, unfortunately can’t get mealy pudding – if anyone knows the recipe? Did you do marmalade sandwich for pudding?

  9. Ahhhhh, how I yern for the home land… my Wife wont even let haggis in the house!!

    What ever next… your be eating tripe ( think thats how you spell it) next?

    Please note the new addy for my useless witterings, please update your link.

  10. Oh and my clan is McKinley

  11. Nick says:

    Are you absolutely sure that going to live in Scotland was a good idea?

  12. PaperBoy says:

    Sage advice here: Never ceilidh on a floor with carpet tiles.

    When the willow is being enthusiastically stripped or the Gordons are particularly camp – nothing will hold a carpet tile to the floor in that particular circumstance. I sustained a combined “ceilidh burn” and “ceilidh graze” in a carpet tile situation back in about 1987 and it took years to recover – even longer for the spectators to recover from the psychological damage of seeing it happen.

    As for the pipes – Northumbrian pipes sound completely different and your natives would be restless. It’s possible to use small pipes rather than a large set, but given the cost of a decent set of pipes, many pipers being of a careful ethnicity balk at buying a second set when hearing loss in your clients is free!

  13. Sarah says:

    mmm cranachan

    Never strip the willow on a full stomach. Spinning and haggis and wine are a bad combination in my opinion.

    (Barclay, by marriage, via maternal line)

  14. disgruntled says:

    I had a very traumatic experience with Strip the Willow and a detaching skirt at a school dance that may have left me scarred for life …

    I probably have a clan – hell, even Japanese people have clans for the purpose of selling them tartan – but I can’t remember what it is…

  15. Simon says:

    Oh how we yearn for a proper Southern Scottish Ceilidh. Up here they are quite different – and terribly earnest what with the Gaelic and a’. But if you don’t like bagpipes indoors spare a thought for this poor wee prisoner http://itsagoatslife.blogspot.com/2008/04/parties.html (last para).

  16. disgruntled says:

    hehe. See, now if the Americans did something like that, we’d be up in arms…

  17. huttonian says:

    Disgruntled-keep it in your sporran bit you are a linear descendant of Rob Roy MacGregor, the Robin Hood of Killin. You are therefore entitled to wear a MacGregor tartan, ditto Greer (a sept of the MacGs) and a Hunting Thomson which is quite tasteful.

  18. yorksdevil says:

    In December I learned that if you put an accordion, a violin and a guitar in a small front room then two of the musicians needn’t have turned up.

  19. disgruntled says:

    Huttonian – thanks
    yorks – hmmm. And I’d vote for those two to be the violin and the accordian players…

  20. yorksdevil says:

    no. the violinist and guitarist

  21. disgruntled says:

    depends on the guitarist, I suppose

  22. flaneur brian says:


    A mealy pudding probably isn’t a pudding as you’d understand it…unless you’re thinking vegetarian black pudding. Its a vaguely sausage-shaped beast comprised mainly of oatmeal and suet and usually eaten fried or battered and deep-fried. Nice when drowned in vinegar! Honest! :c)

  23. […] before all that, I cycled down to buy our tickets for the village Burns Night […]

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