Sunday, January 28, 2018

Burns Night Poems And Some Strange Facts About Robert Burns

Zoë Sharp

This weekend I find myself moving house, yet again. Nothing quite like it for making you get rid of clutter. And I have indeed taken the opportunity to thin out my “stuff” but nevertheless, I seem to have a depressing amount of it still.

a picture of Too Much Stuff. Can anybody spot the cat?
I always start off with the best of intentions. I swear that this time I will not simply pack and move everything, but will sort through things in an organised manner and only move the things I really want to keep. And, as always, I have ended up throwing things into boxes with a cry of “I’ll get round to eBaying that later!”

Meanwhile, I was invited to a party last week to celebrate the birthday of Robert Burns, Scotland’s most famous poet. The haggis was superb, as were the tatties and neeps! And the Ecclefechan tart. I passed on the whisky, though, being a lightweight.

Ecclefechan tart
Our hosts did make one request of their guests, that we bring a favourite poem or two to read out. The first of my choices was this one, written by Rose Milligan in 1998 and which first appeared, apparently, in The Lady magazine. It most accurately reflects my attitude to housework.


Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better
To paint a picture or write a letter
Bake a cake or plant a seed,
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
With rivers to swim and mountains to climb,
Music to hear and books to read,
Friends to cherish and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world’s out there,
With the sun in your eyes, the wind in your hair,
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain.
This day will not come around again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it’s not kind.
And when you go - and go you must -
You, yourself, will make more dust.

And for the second I chose this one, which I admit to penning myself at the prompting of fellow scribe Donna Moore, for the panel she moderated at CrimeFest way back in 2010.


I like a bit of murder
Armed robbery can be fun
I’d electrocute you all day long
Or shoot you, with a … SIG Sauer P226 9mm semiautomatic, most likely

I’m all for decomposing
And disembowelment’s good
Poison IS my poison
You know I’d stab you if I could

Blunt force trauma

Witch’s brew or gypsy’s curse
Voodoo spell or evil nurse
From Cosy to Outright Perverse
Dream of ways to get you in that hearse

But (and I’m sure you’ll all agree with me on this)

Subjecting you to Verse
Is a Fate that is by far the Worst …

In looking for a suitable picture of Mr Burns, I came across this article in the Scottish Daily Record listing 10 facts you didn’t know about the man himself. I’ve put only the headers here, so if you want the full info, please visit their site and have a look-see.

1. There are more than 50 statues of Burns all over the world.

2. There are lots of famous pop culture references to Burns.

The title of Salinger's Catcher In The Rye
 is a reference to Burns' poem 'Comin' Thro The Rye'  
3. He had twelve children with four different women.

4. He collected pornographic poetry which he kept locked in a drawer.

5. His was the first face to appear on a bottle of Coca-Cola, in 2009.

6. Michael Jackson was a huge fan.

7. A book of Burns’ poems was carried into space and orbited the earth 217 times.

8. He is the great, great, great uncle of fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger.

9. Auld Lang Syne is one of the three most popular songs in the English language.

10. Burns' skull was unusually large.

You might think that, but I couldn't possibly comment ...
So, what's your favourite poem or quotation?

This week’s Word of the Week is defenestration, meaning to be thrown out of a window, and comes from an incident in Prague Castle in 1618, which kicked off the Thirty Years’ War. In its turn, that incident was known as The Second Defenestration of Prague as there had already been one such event, in Prague City Hall in 1419, which started the Hussite war. The word comes from New Latin, de- being out or away from/removal, and fenestra being a window or opening. It’s particularly apt if the window in question is broken in the process.


  1. I didn't know about number eight! Who'd have thought that.

    1. Not the first person who springs to mind when you think of Robbie Burns, is he?

  2. Haggis, tatties and neeps. Ahh, yes, the good old days before screaming out a demand for those delicacies in a Stateside bar risked defenestration at the hands of some well intended but misunderstanding defender of virtue.

    1. At one of the three-day-eventing championships held at Blair Castle in Scotland, the cross-country course designer had included a combination of fences called Haggis, Tatties, and Neeps, but the middle fence was on a slope which, due to the rain, grew increasingly more like a ski run. After a couple of nasty falls, poor Tatties was winched out of the way and only Haggis and Neeps remained!

  3. so that where defenestration comes from! achieved life long wish to defenestrate in the last book...

  4. In my first book, Charlie half jumps, half gets thrown out of the window of her flat, although it was open at the time. You'll have to tell us more about yours, Cara!

    Incidentally, the two men defenestrated in the 1618 Prague incident fell 70 feet, but survived the incident by landing in a muck heap!

  5. oh Zoe, as of now, my favorite poem is your favorite poem! What a great, great point it makes.

    Regarding defenestration, in the way I was taught history, I knew about the defenestration of Prague. And of course knew the meaning of the term. This caused me to wonder for years about a word flight attendants used to use: deplane. I confess there were times, with particularly obnoxious seat neighbors, when deplaning them seemed appropriate.

    1. Thanks, Annamaria. And yes, deplaning obnoxious fellow passengers seems like a good plan! I bet it would be a bit further than 70ft to the ground, though ...