Monthly Archives: January 2017

Other poets are available …

P1020867.JPGGreetings on Burns night! We’re not having haggis at home tonight because we’re going to a Burns Supper on Friday; however I was inspired to shell out £9.99  for this bottle of wine which, apparently, ‘gangs wi haggis’, and will report back on whether it does what it says on the label. The wine is made, from local brambles and oak leaves, by Cairn O’Mhor, that great Scottish winery on the north banks of the Tay, maybe 20 minutes’ drive from here. I wrote previously about our visit there; it was hugely enjoyable and I’m looking forward to our next foray.

Meantime, in remembrance of the Bard’s birth, I just want to say:

  1. Yes I like Burns’ poems and songs, or at least most of them  No poet or songwriter gets it right all the time, and undoubtedly some of his work can fairly be consigned to the doggerel-and-drivel bucket. But then he penned such stirring stuff as ‘A man’s a man for a’ that’, and poked such fun at the powers that be (‘O Thou who in the heavens dost dwell…’) and regaled us with great stories (‘… and shouted, Weel done, Cutty Sark!/ and in an instant, all was dark …’) and gave us lots of tender wee odes to fieldmice and mountain daisies and headlice. It’s a great thing for Scotland to have a bard who has travelled the world in terms of popularity and raises our flag in all sorts of good ways. However
  2. You’d think Robert Burns was the only poet we ever produced. What about Edwin Morgan? Liz Lochhead? Norman McCaig? Kathleen Jamie? and so on and so on. Next week the troubadour and I are going to a Celtic Connections event to see the Hazey Janes, a Dundee band, perform alongside Liz Lochhead reading some of her poems, and it promises to be a great night. And finally ….
  3. Haggis is not the only foodstuff to have inspired a poem. I’m sure you all know that. tomato-breakfastRecently I read a brilliant blogpost, which I’ve linked to here, which addressed a juicy poem about tomatoes, by Pablo Neruda. Here’s a tiny extract: ‘It sheds its own light, benign majesty. Unfortunately, we must murder it: the knife sinks into living flesh, red …’

So there you go. Let’s celebrate poets tonight, living and dead; and here’s a prayer in Burns’ own words:

Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a’ that,
That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth
Shall bear the gree an’ a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s comin yet for a’ that,
That Man to Man the warld o’er
Shall brithers be for a’ that.



Nourishing the Nation

Went to a meeting in the Scottish Parliament last night – Cross Party Group on Food. This is one of over a hundred specific interest groups which cross party lineExterior of the Holyrood Buildings; they are open to the general public as well as people with a specific interest. This was my first visit to the Food group. It was a good session – 90 minutes of informed, enthusiastic information and debate, well chaired by Mark Ruskell MSP (Scottish Greens, quite appropriate given the  plea from Nourish Scotland on eating more veg).

The theme for the evening was learning and development for food industry practioners. We had presentations from the Food and Drink Federation Scotland; the College Development Network for the food industry; and Skills Development Scotland. Then there was a lively discussion around the table, with contributions from leaders from the meat, fish and vegetable industries, as well as from other learning providers. E.g. Abertay University informed us of their forthcoming lab provision, enabling hands-on training for students with an interest in creating something new in the food world.

2016-12-01 13.41.30.jpgIt seems that in Scotland we have a fabulous pantry of produce, and some great learning and development initiatives; but that there is a serious problem in funding. Not just the question of insufficient investment, but of sustainability of funding to allow for development and growth.

Food is a key part of Scotland’s economy, and so on an economic agenda alone it ought to be supported. However food is also a global issue and a basic human right; and ironically, the Cross Party Group’s last meeting focused on the problem of malnutrition, alive and well in Scotland. I know this picture is replicated worldwide; surely it’s time to do something about it?

I’m fortunate to live in a country that respects and fosters debate and democratic involvement; and that has such lush food provision in its hills and valleys and shorelines I’d like to find a way of spreading it round a bit. Suggestions welcome.


Recovery Mode

Woohoo! I’m in recovery! Raise the flags! I’m back!

Don’t worry, I’m exaggerating; I certainly haven’t been at death’s door and I didn’t even lose my appetite. But I’ve had about ten days of heavy, heavy cold, sore throat like swallowing razor blades, and with chest infection and OUCH!!! a UTI for good measure.

Yesterday, though, I put my toe in the social water, had a great afternoon and then a lovely long phone conversation at night and am feeling much restored. Still blowing my nose for Scotland (think massed bagpipes and ‘The Muckin o’ Geordie’s Byre’), but approaching normal routines. 2016-07-16 07.46.56.jpgThis is an old photo chosen for its cheeriness. I haven’t had the camera out in the last week.

I read a lot, and watched LOADS of telly. Will report back on my reading material in due course, but just want to briefly record my new-found appreciation of the Dinner Ladies series 1 and 2, written by Victoria Wood in 1998-2000 and with a stellar cast including her good self plus Julie Walter, June Reid, Irma Barlow, Maxine Peake, Celia Imrie and others. Great to see them all nearly 30 years ago and to know that many of them are still going strong. Not Victoria Wood, sadly. She was one of many great artists who died in 2016, and received nothing like enough tribute because so many others were following suit.

Dinner Ladies is a situation comedy, set in a factory canteen, and follows the daily events and the relationships and adventures that ensue. You couldn’t call it high literature, but it has such a faithful ring of authenticity and a lot of good, straightforward belly laughs. Also some poignant moments, like when Andy gets cancer treatment; and when Bren’s neglectful, fantasist mother played outrageously by Julie Walters manages to trick her daughter yet again out of her holiday money.

Now that I’m better I’ve just heard a great interview by Andrew Marr on the radio and have pre-purchased a Kindle book due out later this week by Martin Sixsmith. Remember his ‘Philomena’? An investigative journalist approach to an Irish orphan scandal. He’s written in the same style this time about honour killings in Pakistan, and I can’t wait to read it.

Not much to say about food and drink in this post; it’s been soup, bread and cheese all the way. And lots of lemons. Wishing you good health wherever you are.