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to the lasses

January 27, 2014

Last Saturday night Jude and I went to a Robbie Burns Dinner to celebrate the legendary Scottish poet’s birthday.  I had never heard of such an event, but it’s celebrated worldwide every year.  There’s a traditional structure to the evening, centered around haggis, which is one of the oddest things you could ever center an evening around.

Haggis, as best I could determine, is the national dish of Scotland.  It’s the heart, lungs and liver of a sheep (its pluck) combined with onions, oatmeal, suet, spices and stock, then cooked and served in its stomach.  Larousse Gastronomique claims it has “an excellent nutty texture and delicious savoury flavour”.

I won’t contradict that description because I have only this single consumption to judge it on.  However, that will have to be my baseline because I don’t plan to ever try it again.  It wasn’t unpleasant.  I merely failed to find any savoury flavour, or even any nuttiness.  So, if I had been Christopher Lambert’s character in Highlander, I would have reconsidered immortality if it meant an eternity of haggis.

The haggis, as per custom, was presented as bagpipe music was played.  I had planned to take a photo of it being cut open by the host, but I didn’t want to get too close because it looked like it might explode.

Mind you, there was plenty of other Scottish fare to fill up on, like “neeps and tatties”.  I was actually enjoying those until Jude told me that the neeps were turnips, my primary childhood nemesis.  The entire evening, in fact, was a delight.  One of the other features of a Robbie Burns dinner is abundant alcohol.  We got to raise glasses with some of Quadra’s most creative folks.

Well, I did.  Jude stuck to water because we had to drive home in fog so thick it could have stopped an exploding haggis.

Another feature of the event is after-dinner toasts to the lasses and laddies.  These are good-natured ribbings of the genders, a salute to our yin and yang.  As in every day life, the lasses get the last word.  Jude and I were asked to do this.  Here’s my toast to the lasses:

“We gather here tonight, 255 years after the birth of Robbie Burns — or, as he was known in his inner circle, Bob — to try to understand a man who wrote things like ‘their cogs o’brose’, ‘bousing at the nappy’ and ‘a daimen icker in a thrave’.  I imagine Burns sitting in a pub with John Barleycorn, dashing off these lines and cackling in drunken glee, saying ‘let them try to figure that one out in early 2014’.

“He loved the lasses, lots of them.  Really loved them.  His first child was born to his mother’s servant even as he courted Jean Armour, who would bear him nine wee ones.  He saw the lasses in all their glories.  He vowed his love to one ’til a’ the seas gang dry and the rocks melt wi’ the sun’, but described Tam O’Shanter’s wife as a ‘sulky, sullen dame, gathering her brow like gathering storm, nursing her wrath to keep it warm’.

“I, too, have devoted many years to observing the lasses, although several of those were in Kansas, where a man is not really a man unless he drives an F-150.  I learned as a lad that they not only won’t tell men directly what they want, they delight when we guess incorrectly.  They find our weaknesses as easily as a shark finds blood in the water, then respond in much the same way.  They want to re-evaluate our relationships in the middle of a hockey game.

“But they anchor us.  In a world so very aswarm with uncertainty, they teach us that there are constants.  And every male who has reached puberty or considered it can tell you the most absolute truth of all, the answer to this question — say it with me, gentlemen — ‘is she prettier than me?’

(I assumed the other guys would heartily respond “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” with me, but, alas, my brothers failed to join me.)

“The lasses also calm us, and rightly so, for who better to help us understand what disturbs us so deeply than those who pissed us off in the first place?  They know our passion.  When I tell my own bonnie Jude that I’m in the mood for love, she looks at me sweetly and says ‘go drink lots of water to dilute your testosterone’.  She’s wise that way.

“Jude is the most patient of partners.  She knows that I’m not particularly adept at identifying my feelings.  When it comes to the emotional landscape, men are just tourists.  The lasses guide us through, using arcane maps that only they can read.

“And she’s always helping me improve myself, pointing out the countless mistakes I make each day.  I’m really responding well to her happy-face sticker chart.  I forget what she says is my biggest problem . . . it’s . . . no, wait . . . it’s . . . oh, I’ve got it: effective communication.  I think that’s what she said.  She brought it up during a hockey game.

“The lasses rile us, they beguile us.  They enrage us, they engage us.  They bewitch us, they enrich us.  But it comes to this: even with Google Earth on our computers and GPS on our cell phones, we would be lost without them.  So, gentlemen . . . for all the times they’ve saved our sorry asses, the time is nigh for us to raise our glasses.  Laddie, to the lasses.”

  1. Gordon permalink
    January 27, 2014 9:47 am

    More than impressive…but then that’s why they ask you to lift a toast. But the most impressive thing is that you wrote the entire piece without once referring to “Would some gift the gifty gie us…and so on.

    • January 28, 2014 9:00 am

      Thank you, Gordie. I don’t know why such a talented writer couldn’t express himself more clearly.

  2. January 27, 2014 6:40 pm

    Oh Allen what a delightful post. I so enjoyed it and was so glad to end my day with a smile. Thank You.

    • January 28, 2014 9:01 am

      Thank you and you’re welcome, Beth. I hope more of your days are ending well now.

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