Sunday, June 29, 2008

A McGonagall night

Ever since I was introduced to him many years ago by my friend Mel Dickson, I have been a great fan of that great Scottish poet William Topaz McGonagall, who is widely regarded as the world's worst poet. He is so bad, however, that he rises to genius at what he does. His poetry is so bad that it is hilarious. A reading of McGonagall is one of life's greatest amusements, in my view. The laughs never stop coming.

So I was delighted that I was able to enlist Mel to come up to Brisbane from his home in Sydney and give us an evening of McGonagall readings last night. Mel is from the Dunedin area of New Zealand originally so can do a reasonable Scottish accent. He also has a fancy for the theatre so does well-dramatized readings. I flew the saltire of St. Andrew from my flagpole in honour of the occasion.

The occasion was particularly for the benefit of my son Joe. It was one of the occasional poetry readings that I arrange for him to introduce him to the literature that he should have encountered at school. I doubt that McGonagall has ever been on any school curriculum but he should be.

Present were Joe, Jenny, Mel, myself, Anne, Jill and Lewis. We started at around 7pm with dinner. In honour of McGonagall's origins, we tried to make the dinner Scottish. So we had a mainstream Scottish meal: "Mince and tatties" (ground beef and mashed potatoes). It's pretty plain food basically but Anne managed to make it very passable. And it was followed by a dessert that any Scot would approve of: Trifle. Why is trifle Scottish? Because it originated as a way of "using up" old cake. Anne makes a trifle heavy with apricots which is absolutely delicious. The recipe is on my recipe blog.

I was delighted to note that Joey "got" McGonagall immediately. I think he had at least as many laughs during the evening as I did. Joe seems to have a keen sense of the ridiculous, which is what you need for McGonagall. I presented him with a McGonagall "encyclopedia" as a memento of the occasion. It was the second time that I have flown someone up from Sydney to entertain Joe with poetry so I think I am well ahead in my fatherly responsibilities. He is at present busy with a literature review of non-linear partial differential equations so it certainly provided a contrast for him.

It was also good to see Mel again after many years and we had some good chats. Amusing that it took McGonagall to get us back together. Mel is the retired head of the electron microscope laboratory at the University of NSW.

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