|Snowy Sage Music Centre|
We set off for our Burns supper at the Sage music centre on a cold snowy January 25th night in Newcastle upon Tyne. The Sage is a beautiful building designed by Sir Norman Foster, a famous British architect reknowned for his sleek buildings made of glass and steel. It certainly makes a statement on our lovely quayside skyline, lit up at night like a giant insect’s eye. It is 2012 years since Rabbie Burns was born and although he died at the age of only 37 he has most certainly not been forgotten. He was a prolific Scottish poet and song writer and and a great lover of the ‘lassies’ who provided much of the inspiration for his work. If you’re not familiar with this particular Scottish tradition, you may find that some odd things go on at Burns Night. Firstly, a haggis is brought in on a plate accompanied by a man playing the bagpipes. Haggis was originally made from the contents of a sheep’s stomach but now it is more of a savoury pudding consisting of other sorts of largely unidentified meat with suet, onions and spices. It is quite a fatty product (the Scots are fond of these) and I wouldn’t like to think how many Slimming World ‘Syns’ it contains. The haggis is carefully placed on the table and then toasted with a shot of whisky. Then, just when the dish is lulled into a false sense of security, the helpless haggis is stabbed in a sort of ritual slaughter ceremony akin to an Aztec sacrifice at the altar.
|Death of the Haggis|
The defeated pudding is then taken away to be chopped up for everyone’s dinner. It’s a bit random, but sort of satisfying in the way that old traditions often are. The haggis is then served up with ‘neeps’ – mashed turnips and ‘tatties’ – mashed potatoes. Our rather posh version of neeps and tatties was most tasty indeed and the haggis was adorned with a delicious creamy whisky sauce. Yum.
|Posh haggis, neeps and tatties|
|Look what I’ve got in my sporran|
|Right arm IN!|
|Swing your partner|
Obviously Burns night is as Scottish a thing as you can get and so men get the chance to wear a kilt if they are Scottish or even have any sort of remote Scottish connection. Tartans are usually discussed at some point. We had a chap sat next to us who was sporting the McAlpine tartan. Aren’t they house builders? The McAlpine man had a whiskey flask secreted in his sporran as well – I always wondered what was in there.
There are ancient tartans and modern tartans and you can even have a new tartan made up for you if you’ve got the inclination and the cash.
Next was the ceilidh dancing with the Folkworks band, the Glasshouse. Now, Scottish country dancing is very good fun if everyone gets it right. However it is massively more fun when everyone gets it wrong. People are spun round at high speed and collide into each other in a good-natured tangle of limbs and those who know how to do the (pretty simple) steps get a bit naffed off with those who don’t. I am one of those people who wants to get the dance right and I tend to get a bit bossy when things start to go awry. I found myself giving a firm STOP hand signal to one of the more mature gentlemen who just couldn’t get the hang of things. ‘STAY WHERE YOU ARE!’ I heard myself command at one point. Outside afterwards it had started to snow and we continued practising our moves as we headed home. By next year, they’ll be perfect.