Monday, 27 January 2020

Burns Night 2020!

Here's how our Burns Supper table looked on Saturday evening with traditional and plant-based Haggis taking centre stage.

Good times!


An Honest Friend (25/01/20)

Burns Night wouldn't be Burns Night without raising a glass to my younger brother Kevin who loved to party on these occasions.

Kevin may have been the youngest of his siblings (5 brothers but 0 sisters - much to the chagrin of my Mum), but he was by far the most noble, kind and generous of spirit.  

In other words, not just a brother but a good and honest friend! 


An Honest Friend (12/08/17)

My younger brother Kevin would have been 50 years old today had life not dealt him a short hand as he travelled through Bolivia back in March 2012 on the 'journey of a lifetime' to Tierra del Fuego.

I miss Kevin's easy charm and cheery company to this day, along with his many friends, but I think of him often and Kevin's memory never fails to bring a big smile to my face.

One of my most treasured possessions is a small omelette pan which I brought back to Glasgow from Kevin's house in Whistler, British Columbia, after his funeral.

I use the pan regularly for a whole variety of culinary purposes and because Kevin and I shared a passion for cooking, this mundane little object always reminds me of the good times we shared together.

How strange it is that a small, virtually worthless piece of metal can create such a powerful connection after all this time. 


An Honest Friend (25/01/14)

To the memory of my younger brother Kevin who loved to celebrate Burns Night in the company of his friends, good food and a fine dram.

Kevin John Irvine: born 12 August 1967; died 29 March 2012 

An Honest Friend by Robert Burns

Here's a bottle and an honest friend!

What wad ye wish for mair, man?

Wha kens before his life may end, 

What his share may be of care, man.

Then catch the moments as they fly, 

And use them as ye ought, man:

Believe me happiness is shy, 

And comes not ay when sought, man.

Burns Night 2020 - Holy Willie's Prayer (25/01/20)

My favourite poems by Scotland's national poet  Robert Burns are 'An Honest Friend' and 'Holy Willie's Prayer' - the first for personal and family reasons, the second because I dislike sanctimonious hypocrites more than just about anything else on earth. 

Holy Willie's Prayer 

O Thou, that in the heavens does dwell,
As it pleases best Thysel',
Sends ane to Heaven an' ten to Hell,
For Thy glory,
And no for onie guid or ill
They've done afore Thee!

I bless and praise Thy matchless might,
When thousands Thou hast left in night,
That I am here afore Thy sight,
For gifts an' grace
A burning and a shining light
To a' this place.

What was I, or my generation,
That I should get sic exaltation?
I wha deserv'd most just damnation
For broken laws,
Six thousand years 'ere my creation,
Thro' Adam's cause.

When from my mither's womb I fell,
Thou might hae plung'd me deep in hell,
To gnash my gums, and weep and wail,
In burnin lakes,
Where damned devils roar and yell,
Chain'd to their stakes.

Yet I am here a chosen sample,
To show thy grace is great and ample;
I'm here a pillar o' Thy temple,
Strong as a rock,
A guide, a buckler, and example,
To a' Thy flock.

O Lord, Thou kens what zeal I bear,
When drinkers drink, an' swearers swear,
An' singing here, an' dancin there,
Wi' great and sma';
For I am keepit by Thy fear
Free frae them a'.

But yet, O Lord! confess I must,
At times I'm fash'd wi' fleshly lust:
An' sometimes, too, in worldly trust,
Vile self gets in;
But Thou remembers we are dust,
Defil'd wi' sin.

O Lord! yestreen, Thou kens, wi' Meg
Thy pardon I sincerely beg;
O may't ne'er be a livin' plague
To my dishonour,
An' I'll ne'er lift a lawless leg
Again upon her.

Besides, I farther maun avow,
Wi' Leezie's lass, three times I trow -
But Lord, that Friday I was fou,
When I cam near her;
Or else, Thou kens, Thy servant true
Wad never steer her.

Maybe Thou lets this fleshly thorn
Buffet Thy servant e'en and morn,
Lest he owre proud and high shou'd turn,
That he's sae gifted:
If sae, Thy han' maun e'en be borne,
Until Thou lift it.

Lord, bless Thy chosen in this place,
For here Thou has a chosen race!
But God confound there stubborn face,
An' blast their name,
Wha brings Thy elders to disgrace
An' open shame.

Lord, mind Gaw'n Hamilton's deserts;
He drinks, an' swears, an' plays at cartes,
Yet has sae mony takin arts,
Wi' great an' sma',
Frae God's ain priest the people's hearts
He steals awa'.

And when we chasten'd him therefore,
Thou kens how he bred sic a splore,
And set the world in a roar
O' laughing at us;
Curse Thou his basket and his store,
Kail an' potatoes.

Lord, hear my earnest cry and pray'r,
Against that Presbyt'ry o' Ayr;
Thy strong right hand, Lord mak it bare
Upo' their heads;
Lord visit them, an' dinna spare,
For their misdeeds.

O Lord my God! that glib-tongu'd Aitken,
My vera heart an' flesh are quakin,
To think how we stood sweatin, shakin,
An' pish'd wi' dread,
While he, wi' hingin lip an' snakin,
Held up his head.

Lord, in Thy day o' vengeance try him,
Lord, visit them wha did employ him,
And pass not in Thy mercy by them,
Nor hear their pray'r,
But for Thy people's sake destroy them,
An' dinna spare.

But, Lord, remember me an' mine
Wi' mercies temporal and divine,
That I for grace an' gear may shine,
Excell'd by nane,
And a' the glory shall be Thine,
Amen, Amen!


Trump, Saddam, Putin (03/02/17)

Donald Trump is not a very religious person although his mother does hail from Scotland (the Isle of Lewis) and was by all accounts a old-fashioned, Scottish Presbyterian 

Trump has displayed no particular religious conviction during his adult life, as a prominent businessman and TV celebrity though this appears to be changing with Trump's new role as a politician.

Trump's speeches are now peppered with religious references and how much religion means to him which is, of course, exactly what happened with Saddam Hussein and Vladimir Putin.


Putin and Saddam (12/05/14)

When I read this piece by Ben Macintrye in The Times I was immediately struck by the similarities between Vladimir Putin and Saddam Hussein.

Because the Russian President as a former KBG agent and member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was never a big supporter of the Orthodox Church until it became useful to him, politically speaking.

So when the young women members of Pussy Riot sang a protest song against the Kremlin in a Moscow Cathedral a few years ago, Orthodox Church leaders behaved in a furious and very un-Christian fashion which helped send these dangerous criminals to the gulag for four years (subsequently reduced to two), if I remember correctly.

In other words, the Orthodox Church became a useful political ally to President Putin as he strengthened his grip on power and began the task of isolating and removing his enemies.

Likewise with Saddam Hussein who was a famously high living and secular Iraqi President until the terrible war with Iran required him to suddenly become a devout Muslim so that he could exploit the tensions between Sunni and Shia Islam which continue to bedevil the world.

As religious leaders have shown throughout the ages - in Nazi Germany, in fascist Italy or as a supporter of General Franco in Spain - they are willing to throw their lot in with unscrupulous political leaders, if there's something in it for the faithful.   

No law can gag Russia’s champion swearers

By Ben Macintyre - The Times

Putin’s ban on profanity is an attempt to silence the country’s anarchic, supremely rude language of free expression

In the early 1980s censors in Romania attempted to ban the word “suitcase” from published works. People were fleeing the country and officials feared that the language of luggage was encouraging the exodus: if readers could not read “suitcase”, it was believed, they would not think about packing; and if they could be stopped from thinking about packing they would not think about quitting the socialist paradise of Romania.

Communist dictatorships frequently resorted to language-engineering, banning certain words or replacing them with officially approved euphemisms: in East Germany Christmas angels were stripped of religious connotations to become “year-end winged creatures” and, to take people’s minds off death, coffins were renamed “earth furniture”.