For many years my Dad performed at Burns Suppers; singing, reciting poems, or delivering various parts of the usual speeches, including the ‘infamous’ Toast to the Lassies. Latterly he became involved with Dumbarton Burns Club holding various positions on the committee, and whenever Burns Night rolls around my thoughts immediately roll back to memories of my Dad rehearsing a song, or writing a poem or speech for the occasion.

Some years he’d attend 6 or 7 different Burns Suppers, with many local clubs keen to harness his talents and as a ‘well kent face’ he was never short of offers. Just as well he liked haggis…

Since his passing, I’ve always paused for a few moments on this day each year and let the memories wash over me. In Scotland, Burns Night is a tradition that we were taught about in primary school, learning some of the songs and poems (with Cutty Sark being the most famous given that the ship of the same name was built in my hometown of Dumbarton). Memories of Braehead Primary music room, Burns competitions, and later as an adult attending my first Burns Supper and realising just how rich a seam of culture and tradition I had grown up in.

It’s no coincidence then that I included a verse from a Burns poem in my Dad’s eulogy, and I find myself reaching for this poem each year, hearing his rich voice and practiced cadence delivering the lines.

To a Mouse

by Robert Burns

On Turning her up in her Nest, with the Plough, November 1785.

Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickerin brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!
I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!
I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave
’S a sma’ request:
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss ’t!
Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary Winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.
That wee-bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the Winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!
But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

bookmark_borderGood advice

Stop trying to define yourself with negative labels

“Labeling yourself is not only self-defeating, it is irrational. Your self cannot be equated with any one thing you do. Your life is a complex and ever-changing flow of thoughts, emotions, and actions. To put it another way, you are more like a river than a statue.”

Don’t get hooked on praise

“The price you pay for your addiction to praise will be an extreme vulnerability to the opinions of others. Like any addict, you will find you must continue to feed your habit with approval in order to avoid withdrawal pangs. The moment someone who is important to you expresses disapproval, you will crash painfully, just like the junkie who can no longer get his “stuff.” Others will be able to use this vulnerability to manipulate you. You will have to give in to their demands more often than you want to because you fear they might reject or look down on you. You set yourself up for emotional blackmail.”

Hat tip to the Book Freak newsletter for throwing this at my inbox.

bookmark_borderBye bye 2022

Another year draws to a close, a very different year for me as it was the first full year with my son.

Looking around the internet, blogs are full of recaps and ‘best of’ lists all of which only go to re-enforce how much of a (good) impact Jack has had on my life. Working at home has helped hugely, but spending time with my son means I’ve eschewed watching movies, reading the latest ‘must read’ book, and TV has largely been an episode or two of something easy to watch after he’s gone to bed. I haven’t managed to do much exercise this past year, my bike is sorely neglected, but I’ve signed up for Etape Caledonia for next year (and coaxed a friend to do the same) to give me something to focus on.

It sounds like I’ve missed out but the truth is I wouldn’t have had it any other way. All of the cliches say to enjoy these times as our baby boy becomes a cheeky toddler, so I’ve been doing just that. Spending as much time with my son as I can, playing with him, caring for him, and just watching him develop and grow. He started walking a couple of weeks ago just to add to the fun!

From the outside, and definitely from a social media point of view, it may look like I’ve had a very insular and quiet year, and whilst my media consumption has gone down, I’ve still managed to read 15 books (mostly thrillers for ease), watched some new TV shows mostly on AppleTV as the quality of production seems better than most others – Trying, Slow Horses (which prompted reading all the books), For All Mankind, Black Bird, Foundation, Amazing Stories, Mythic Quest, Watch the Sound, Andor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Book of Boba Fett – but no movies other than rewatches. My Strava account has been very quiet too.

Things will be a little different in 2023, but I’m not expecting it to all that much of a change. We will move home (again), adjust to life back in our hometown, and continue to watch and guide our beautiful boy through life as best we can.

No resolutions, no goals, just life.

I can’t wait.