Friday, 30 January 2015

Win a limited edition CD!

Over on our Facebook page, we're giving away a limited edition CD version audio book of  Gracious Lies by Hilda Lolly. All you have to do is like our page and, in the comments section, tell us the most gracious lie you've ever told!

If you like your humour dark and you like narrators Anne Reid (Last Tango in Halifax) and Joanna David (Downton Abbey), you'll LOVE Gracious Lies.

Saturday, 24 January 2015


Compulsory Ingredients: An audio of Robert Burns poems beautifully read, Haggis, Scotch Whisky, Conviviality

Optional ingredients: Scotch Broth, Potato Soup or Cock-a-Leekie Soup; Haggis; Tatties & Neeps (Potatoes and Swedes, usually mashed); Cranachan (a blend of whipped double cream, honey, whisky and raspberries, topped with toasted oatmeal); Scottish Cheese and Oatcakes; Coffee; More Whisky; A Bagpiper (optional)

Burns Suppers are celebrations of the life and works of Robert Burns. They were first held in the county of Ayrshire, in the south west of Scotland, where the poet was born, at the end of the 18th century. Initially, his friends would gather to commemorate the day of his death on July 21 1796, but this has since moved to the poet’s birthday on January 25th as the tradition has spread round the world.

What follows is by no means the only way to host a Burns Supper, but is a list of what goes on at many of the more formal dos. It isn't remotely sacrilegious to improvise on this menu; the main object is to have fun - even drunkenness is optional, though not unusual.

1. Host’s Speech of Welcome: this should be brief, alluding to the reason for the gathering - the celebration of Robert Burns's life and works.

2. Grace (spoken by the Host): usually "the Selkirk Grace", attributed to Burns, but which is more likely to derive from an unknown traditional source: “Some hae meat and canna eat, /And some wad eat that want it;/But we hae meat,and we can eat,/ Sae let the Lord be thankit”.

3. The Soup Course

4. The Entrance of the Haggis: everyone stands respectfully as the main course is brought in on a large dish, sometimes preceded by a bagpiper, playing the tune of one of Burns’s many songs, or any suitable Scottish music. The Host, or a guest then recites Burns's “Address To a Haggis” - or you if you have Rab the Rhymer, you can play the version on that audio. When the line “His knife see rustic Labour dicht”, the knife that will be used to cut the haggis should be cleaned and presented, and the cue for the first cut is the line “ An’ cut you up wi’ ready slicht”. The haggis should be sliced from end to end, and the contents spooned out, along with the tatties and neeps.

5. Sweet Course and Coffee

6. Loyal Toast: if you are so minded, you may toast your country's monarch, president or whomever.

7. Toast to Robert Burns: sometimes preceded by an entertaining speech on the subject of Burns's life and poetry.

8. Toast to the Lassies: the men toast the ladies present. Often the occasion for sexist ribaldry in single-sex gatherings. In mixed company, men should bear in mind that (9) follows on.

9. Reply to the Toast to the Lassies: the ladies get their own back, should it prove necessary.

10. More toasts, readings from the works of Robert Burns, Scottish dancing and a closing speech of thanks from the Host (if he’s still upright), concluding with a performance of “Auld Lang Syne” (the final track on Rab the Rhymer).

By this stage, the conviviality very often breaks down the last vestiges of formality.

Happy Burns Night! - Paul Kent