When my little girl was really little she had a lovely book called Papa Forgot. The Papa in question referred, not to the Daddy, but to the Grandfather who “forgot” all the important things parents insist on, while babysitting his grandson – like hygiene and schedules and a healthy diet.
At my Burns Night on Saturday, I forgot about as much as Papa. I forgot to put a clean towel in the bathroom for guests, I forgot to make the Scotch eggs till half an hour before the guests arrived and I forgot to get out the party matasuegras I bought and contribute to the already deafening noise. I further forgot to invite our Bulgarian neighbours in for a wee dram to exculpate us from the sleep-defying melee.
I did however, remember a whole lot of other stuff – food, decorations, music. But what I was really smart to remember was to GET HELP! So Malassie helped me put up the decorations or I´d still be there, half-strangled in a string of balloons. Papi (o sea, hubby) helped with the food, stopping me from heating the metal-tied haggi in the microwave . (Bad job Macsween!). And my friend Antonio provided me with a miracle cable (3.5 mm to stereo RCA cable) from my computer to the telly for music or I´d have had to send a Please Rush Me a Bodhran mail to Kilts-n-Stuff.
I enlisted the help of my Scotsman friend Alec, who did the Address to a Haggis in theatrical style and Malassie and Papi shared the Selkirk Grace with me. Antonio surprised us all by bringing his guitar and Burns lyrics for a wee, well-played singsong and another friend, Marisol, even brought some chairs.
It was, then, rather disappointing that my Immortal Memory speech on the Bard was left both unfinished and in the computer, becoming more of an Immortal She Couldn´t Remember a Thing speech than a tribute to Robert Burns. I had, however, intended to focus on his good looks and his bawdy poetry and managed to muster just enough gumption for that.
Movingly, for me, we ended the night with a hands-clasped Auld Lang Syne. In our house this was always a time for remembering “absent friends” and I remembered Kathleen, absent since early last year.
It was a very strange night, Maureen´s Night, perhaps, rather than Oor Rabbie´s. There I was, in my paisley pattern red blouse and leather leggings, looking like a cross between Lady Antonia Fraser and the Bay City Rollers (I forgot to take photos) but no amount of paraphernalia can evoke who a person is, or a country.
In my previous post, I wondered why I wanted to have a Burns Night. It´s clear to me now that I wanted visibility, I wanted to remind my friends that I come from somewhere, I have somewhere else to go and that even though it´s not independent, I do have a country of my own.
In retrospect, I wouldn´t have a buffet supper as guests didn´t seem to know what to do (help themselves) and Mamá wasn´t very good at being Mummy. I´d have practised that awful Gay Gordons twist/switch to get it off-pat, rather than off-prat, which is what happened. And I wouldn´t have sung solo, as I haven´t done in any case for some 30 years.
I asked Malassie.
“Did you hear me singing Ae Fond Kiss“?
“Did you like the song”?
“Did you like my singing”?
“Do you think anybody else liked my singing”?
So, folks, despite the fun we had, the Jimmy bunnet that Marisol actually suited very well and which Alec kept on in the midst of his most polemical aseverations, it´ll be another 30 years before I sing in public again – or have a Burns Night! Our Bard is a hard act to follow: brains, brawn, beauty and brilliance raised in poverty. I´m not sure we did him – or Scotland – justice.
So, that´s it. No more Burns Nights. So all you who weren´t invited this time – I have a very small living room – have no hope of ever being invited to another one. I mean it.
Unless, of course, I forget.