Happy Burns night to all our Scottish friends from your friendly local rogue-in-a-parcel. I’m never quite sure what people do at Burns nights: do they burn a boat or is that some Shetlands thing? Do they fling the Highlands over their shoulder? Do they fight bare-breasted with a baby under each arm?
I suspect not. I seem to remember Jan saying that at her Burns night there would be music, Scottish dancing and food. So that’s all good – anyway, it’ll give Steve a legitimate reason to put on a kilt, won’t it? There you go Steve, don’t say I never give you anything…
It’s as cold as the Shetlands here at the moment, or at least it feels like it. But at least it’s dry. I’m much better at dealing with dry cold than I am with damp cold: the damp gets into my bones and I can’t get it out again, no matter how I try. Still it’s lovely and toasty where I stayed last night.
Hey, I’ve just looked up the weather for the Shetlands and guess what? It’s exactly the same temperature there – 5 degrees – as it is here! Oo, gosh that makes me feel really raw-boned and granite-chinned, just like a true Scots lassie. Alas, I have no Scots blood whatsoever, while my other half is one-quarter Scottish, of the clan McIntyre-Ure. This clan has the most boring hunting tartan ever, and their motto is a truncated version of the RAF one: whereas the RAF go by ‘per arduas ad astra’ – ‘through hardships to the stars’ – the McIntyre-Ures are made of far sterner stuff. No wishy-washy namby-pamby heading for the stars for them! No sir! The McIntyre motto is simply ‘per ardua’.
I seem to remember Thatcher once quoting a Scots poet who said:
‘And does the road wind ever up?
Ay, to the very top’
That explains why she was such a pain in the arse.
But the only version I can find is a much more comforting one by Christina Rosetti:
There are a couple of stories told about the McIntyre clan. They once owned land which included a mountain on which there was snow. The rent for this land was fixed at one summer snowball and a pure white calf; and this worked perfectly well until one day they decided it was silly (can’t think why) and asked for money. The rent went up and up and eventually they were priced off their land.
The other story about the McIntyres is of how they got their name. Once there was a Princess who was captured by a Viking and taken on board his ship. As they set sail one of the retinue, a carpenter, took some blocks of wood from the sides of the ship and filled them with tallow. The ship was sinking and the Vikings demanded he put the blocks back. He refused until they agreed to return the Princess – and that is how the clan was named McIntyre, meaning ‘son of a carpenter’.
I have to admit that Mark shows some of the character traits of a McIntyre: he is quite austere in his approach to life; he walks everywhere and is not at all fazed by cold, hunger or pain. The only thing that really bothers him is a fake tartan or a tin of fancy shortbread…