Address to a Haggis

I made my trip to Oahu this weekend for the annual Burn’s Night dinner. Naturally I stayed with Mary for the weekend. Since I didn’t officially practice the dances I was supposed to learn, I was hoping to practice and go over them before the big night. I totally forgot that I told Mary I would help her install the window regulator she had just received for her broken Beetle. Good thing I stayed up Friday night studying the YouTube video some more.

Saturday morning we pulled out all her tools, looked up a few directions, and pulled apart her door. It wasn’t all that hard to get apart. It was getting it back together that was a little tricky. We had to use the dremel to remove some rivets, a hammer to install a few plastic pegs, some new screws to reinstall the speaker, and various other random tools to be able to squeeze the new regulator into place. It took us a few hours from start to finish, but when we were done, the window went up and down at the flip of a switch. Unfortunately, after double checking everything, we realized that now you can’t open the car from the inside. A minor detail that would have to wait. It was now time to clean up and get dressed for the reason I flew over. Robert Burns.

Dressed all in our finery, we hopped in the wee bug and drove off to the Hawaii Convention Center. Such a beautifully built and well designed building. Upon arriving we were moved pretty quickly to the stage for our pre-dinner practice, which went pretty well. A few minor things to try to remember, but nothing we couldn’t handle. After practicing the country dances, I was gathered to practice the highland dance. This made me nervous because this will have been the first time I actually practiced it using my feet. Up until that point, I was watching youTube videos and memorizing the patterns in my brain. Apparently this worked. There were a few minor steps I had to practice due to not being able to properly see them on the video. We went over the dance about 3 times (once with the piper) before deciding that none of us would fall off the stage. That was good. At that moment, a glass of water seemed to appear in my hand at that moment, which was good, because I was suddenly feeling a wee bit parched. Anyway, after a bit of chatting, we all headed back into the main hall to socialize and find the bar before the Celtic Pipes and Drums of Hawaii played their call to dinner.

After paying $14.50 for two shots of Chivas Regal and some socializing, the call to dinner was made. We followed in the pipers and found our seats, which were as far away from the stage as you could possibly get in this room. It’s from here we sat and listened to the pipers play their tunes for the next 20 minutes. Ahhh, the wonderful sounds of bagpipes. If the evening was nothing but bagpipes, I would have been just as happy. But then the pipers marched out of the room and re-entered followed as an escort to the haggis. Oh the haggis. Ok, so I stand corrected. The evening would have to be nothing but bagpipes and haggis, then I would be just as happy.

What followed next was the traditional Address to a Haggis. “…Ye Pow’rs wha mak mankind your care, And dish them out their bill o ‘fare, Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware That jaups in luggies; But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer, Gie her a Haggis!” As the last words were spoken, our glasses were charged, and together we all toasted the haggis.

Waiters came around the room dropping off plates of haggis to all the tables, followed by a main dinner of steak and potatoes. We didn’t have long to suck down our dinner before having to go up to dance. I focused on the haggis, although it wasn’t the best haggis had at a Burn’s Night event. But I only really get to eat it once a year, so yeah, yummy. After my dinner, just as desert was coming out, I had to go up and prepare to do our highland dance. This made me nervous seeing as how I’ve only actually danced it 3 times so far. None-the-less, swords in hand, we marched up on to the stage to the sweet sound of bagpipes and arranges our swords accordingly on the stage, bowed, and danced the Argyll Broadswords (watch us on YouTube). Technique aside, it was practically flawless. All of us, dancing in unison, finished in unison, collected our swords in unison, and marched off the stage following the bagpiper in unison. It must have been quite a sight to see because the applause was quite loud. That made me happy. I was very confident and proud.

We had a short time to rest while one of the highland dancer played a tune on her fiddle before we had to go up and do our Scottish Country dances. These dances I was sure of. Again, we walked up on to the stage and danced our two dances nearly flawlessly. There was one minor error, but we all smiled and chuckled and continued to dance, not missing a beat. It’s always better when a mistake is made and we can laugh about it instead of getting all worked up about it.

Moments after taking our bow and exiting the stage, we sat back at our table to drink some water and finish my desert. It was then that a man took the podium to introduce our guest piper Jim Motherwell. Then I realized exactly who it was I was introduced to earlier in the evening. He was not just a piper. He was the Queens piper. As in the Queen of England’s personal piper. He played the bagpipes for the Queen of England from 1998 to 2003. Now I really am glad we danced our highland dance well. We were dancing the Queen’s personal piper’s regimental dance. Phew. I’m glad I didn’t know that before I danced.

Jim Motherwell introduced himself and followed up with a few bagpipe tunes. After two tunes, he told another story about when Pres. Bill Clinton went to visit the Queen. It was a neat story that I won’t re-tell (he was a good story teller. I am not). Then he played a tune on the bagpipes that immediately made the hairs on my arm stand straight up. The song was “The Kiss” from The Last of the Mohicans soundtrack. That song has always made me just feel. I’ve never been sure exactly what, but it just makes me feel. As I listened to it played amazingly on the bagpipes, goosebumps all up my arm, I realized that the feeling I get when listening to that song is the same feeling I get when snuggled next to Holly on the couch, and I’m just so happy to have her and be with her. It was a very blissful few minutes.

Jim Motherwell received a standing ovation. He really was quite amazing. The rest of the night was quite boring in comparison. There were a few songs sung, a not-so-good toast to the lassies, a better toast to the laddies, and a long dragged out toast (that contained a little too much singing) to Robert Burns.  With one last swig of nice scotch, as always, we finished the evening by all singing Auld Lang Syne.

The following morning, I was bent on getting Mary’s door finished up as soon as possible. I really wanted to go to the beer store before heading to the airport. I was informed that he was open on Sunday special because he was going to be out of town and closed for a week coming up. As early as I could I gathered up  the tools and marched out to the car followed closely by Mary. I knew I would have to tear the door apart all the way down to the locking mechanism and that it would take a while. I was completely shocked that after taking off the outer shell, I realized that the door didn’t work because the handle wasn’t hooked properly to the lock wire. I hooked and secured the wire and put the panel back on. It worked. Holy bejesus it worked. It really did only take 5 minutes.

Having this free time now we decided to hop in the car and go out for breakfast. Realizing we didn’t have as much time as we thought, we decided to go to Bob’s Big Boy, which was right near the beer store, which was right near the airport. Upon arriving at Bob’s Big Boy, we found out that they were closed for renovation. And they didn’t even have the courtesy to post a list of recommendations on their front door. The nerve. Instead we went to an American/Chinese all you can eat buffet. On the front door they had a sign that read, “Due to recent frequent people leaving without paying, you must pay your bill at the time the waiter gives it to you.” Yet we still went in to eat. It was mediocre at best. But they did have corned beef and cabbage as well as ice cream. Mmmm.

Having paid for our (by this time) lunch, we drove to the beer store where I happily spent too much money on a clone recipe (Eliot Ness Lager by Great Lakes Brewing Company) and a new bottle capper. I can’t wait to try them out.

At this point it was time to leave. Mary dropped me off at the airport and I headed off through security to catch my flight. It was a very pleasant trip, but I was happy to be heading back. How I missed my family. Burn’s Night would have been better with them. At the appointed time, I hopped on the plane and it took off bound for Maui.

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Address to a Haggis
by Robert Burns (1759 – 1796)

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang’s my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o’ need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An’ cut ye up wi’ ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they strech an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve,
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
‘Bethankit!’ hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi’ perfect sconner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro’ bluidy flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An’ legs, an’ arms, an’ heads will sned,
Like taps o’ thrissle.

Ye Pow’rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o ‘fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!