Sunday, January 26, 2003


Every year -- year after year -- millions of people around the world gather together to celebrate with great ceremony and merriment the birthday of a poet. And there is only one poet so honoured: Robert Burns. For people with a Scottish heritage it is one of the greatest celebrations of the year. And today is the day.

I do sometimes arrange a traditional Burns night on the 25th. -- getting into full Highland dress (kilt etc.), inviting friends over, having the haggis piped in, making the usual speeches (to the haggis, to the lassies etc) and making sure that there are plenty of tatties and neeps to go with the haggis. But not this year. I will however be dining on a Scotch pie, a Forfar bridie, tattie bread and clootie dumpling to finish.

There is however one essential that I never miss: to read, sing or recite some of the great words of the poet himself. So here is the greatest love poem ever written:

A Red, Red Rose

O, my love is like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June,
O, my love is like the melody,
That's sweetly played in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonny lass,
So deep in love am I,
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun!
And I will love thee still, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.

And fare thee well, my only love,
And fare thee well, a while!
And I will come again, my love,
Tho' it were ten thousand mile!

And here is the greatest love lament ever written:

Ye banks and braes o' bonnie Doon

YE banks and braes o' bonnie Doon,How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair?How can ye chant, ye little birds,And I sae weary fu' o' care?Thou'll break my heart, thou warbling birdThat wantons through the flowering thorn;Thou minds me o' departed joysDeparted never to return Aft hae I roved by bonnie DoonTo see the woodbine twine:And ilka bird sang o' its Luve,And fondly sae did I o' mine.
Wi' lightsome heart I pu'd a rose,Full sweet upon its thorny tree;And my fause Luver staw the roseBut ah! He left the thorn wi' me.

So if you have any Celt at all in you, listen to some of the great Scottish sentimental songs today and open yourself to them. If you shed a quiet tear or two over them, you have a Scottish heart.

Sunday, January 12, 2003


Australians are generally a pretty cheerful lot and so long ago took with gusto to the old English whimsy of referring to a thing by its opposite: "Little John" was really a giant of a man and someone called "Lofty" will generally be unusually short. My father for instance was always addressed as "Bluey" by his friends because he had red hair. And an old friend of mine who is fair-skinned even though he was born and bred in India is sometimes referred to as "the black man" -- because he isn't!

There has been a continuing saga near where I live over a grandstand at a sportsground which is named the "Nigger Brown" stand. There has even been a case taken to the High Court by blacks and their Leftist supporters in an (unsuccessful) attempt to force a name-change. So why the odd name anyway? Because the stand is named after a revered local cricketer whose surname was Brown and whose nickname was "Nigger Brown". And why was he called that? Because of his deathly-white skin! Even a sense of humour can get you into the courts these days.