All of the local butchers have posters in their windows urging us to buy their produce for our Burns Night celebration, particularly their haggis. I'm fond of haggis myself and quite often buy it at the chip shop. I hope that hasn't shattered too many illusions among my readers. Haggis is not some rare and exotic dish only seen on 25th January, it is routinely served with baked potatoes in cafes and in battered form by chip shops in Scotland and some way south of the border. Though I'm sure that Scottish foodies would wince at the suggestion that this national dish is most commonly eaten battered with chips.
At the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, an emotional occasion marking the final success of decades of campaigning for devolved government, a musical setting of Burns' most famous poem, Is There, For Honest Poverty, was sung. That's the one that says 'the rank is but the guinea's stamp' and 'a man's a man for a' that', and makes pointed remarks about how having some aristocratic title in front of his name doesn't stop a man being a fool. Our Rabbie was known to sympathise with the French revolutionaries. I found the inclusion of his endorsement of liberty, equality and fraternity moving and appropriate. Believe it or not however, some particularly curmudgeonly elements of the English press thought that it was scandalous to give such prominence to a hymn to the meaninglessness of worldly ranks and titles in a ceremony presided over by Her Majesty the Queen. That's a pretty good example of the kind of thing that's making the Scots so fed up with the English.