A week’s holiday at the end of the January commemorating Burns’s 250th can lead only to one thing – Oor Rabbie taking over. So I read not just snippets from Canongate’s anthology but the whole thing. So that would be 41 poems more than I’ve read in the last 41 years and by the end of it I was getting quite good in the old vernacular – enjoying the poems without resorting to the glossary every second word. Though I did start wondering about the man himself. Good with the words, good with the ladies also. Oor Rabbie was a wild ‘un siring 13 bairns in all- 9 (! -How does a woman survive that in the 21st century – never mind in the late 18th, early 19th century?) by his poor long suffering wife – Jean Armour – a woman forced to acknowledge that “Our Rabbie should have had ‘twa wives”.
My interest piqued, it was time to visit “Zigzag – the paths of Robert Burns”, an exhibition, which is making its way across Scotland this year. I was only just in time. It finished its stint in Edinburgh, The National Library, yesterday and is now zigzagging its way to Aberdeen.
Here’s oor Rabbie cutting a fine figure of a man in his suit of bronze. And below is his missus, “the belle of Mauchline”. Not quite so belle in her later years, life with and after Robbie not quite as romantic as the promises of his verse.
The exhibition is quite small but well executed. Interactive in parts – including a portrait of Burns reciting his own poems and a video clip of Lord Byron relating his own impressions of the Scottish baird. Various paintings of Burns – the man really was a legend in his own – very short – lifetime. The highlights have to be the original manuscripts of amongst others, Auld Lang Syne, Tam O’Shanter and Holy Willie’s Prayer – the latter including 4 lines that Burns was persuaded to delete before publication – lines that would have landed him in water hotter than anything brought to the boil by his philandering ways.
Thanks to a tipoff from ABB, I have discovered the Scottish Story Telling Centre and had a couple of hours to kill before attending a recital of Burn’s poetry there. Enough time, therefore, for a leisurely stroll down half The Royal Mile. But it was dreich and dreary and bitterly cold. Frozen through after about 10 minutes, I sought refuge and comfort in the traditional Scottish fayre on the menu at Royal MacGregor’s. Their haggis, neeps and tatties (and crannachan) much better dressed than last week’s raw offerings.
Suitably fortified, I braved the elements once more to make my way to the Scottish Storytelling Centre and that Burns poetry recital by Foolish Notion. I hadn’t realised it was a child’s event – but no matter – I laughed and laughed and laughed some more as Foolish Notion (and the young audience) acted out some of Rabbie’s more famous and more accessible poems and songs – Tam O´Shanter, Tae a Mouse, Tae a Louse and Address to a Haggis.
I saved the dram to thaw mae bones after the long drive home.