Sometimes, Burns Night falls on the second New Moon, And that marks a brand New Year – So the neeps and the cock-a-leekie share the serving spoon As the beansprouts and riceballs appear. From the docks of Kowloon to the mists of Brigadoon, It all goes in the haggis, and the bamboo pipes the tune – As we all sup together, from Scotland Yard to Scone, In a typhoon of tartan cheer. Now me, I am just a Sassenach poltroon From the billabongs of Perth to the snows of Saskatoon – But a shortbread in my green tea on a global afternoon, And the paddy-fields of glens are very near.
Can I just say what a wonderfully weird experience it is to hear someone read Address to the Haggis in an unapologetically RP accent ?
They sculpted each immortal bust As patient as the coming rust – And when our steel has turned to dust, They’ll still be standing here. They’re made from prehistoric shells, Once crushed in subterranic Hells, Then thrust back up on mantel swells, For millions of years. Their flinty eyes have seen it all, Our might kingdoms rise and fall, From city states to urban sprawl, For long as time allows. These statues gaze their stoic stares, Untroubled by our fleeting cares, Just waiting for erosion’s airs To smooth their stony brows.
All mammals can swim, Or least, can float, Just paddle each limb And be the boat. It may be slow, And lacking grace, But it lets them row To a dryer place.
Even the elephant, Hedgehog, or bat, Even the fattest Or scardiest cat, Even the kangaroo, Aardvaark, or aye-aye – You know why it’s true ? Cos they’re mammals, that’s why !
All, that is, except for one – The landlubber giraffe. Once evolution had its fun, They’re not safe in the bath. It’s strange the way that they capsize, You’d think they’d learn to cope When possessed of long and mighty thighs, And a built-in periscope.
But on the land They look such gentry, Tall and grand When standing sentry. They are the backlash To the trout, Who make a splash By standing out.
My end was written into my very beginning, Into my terminal genes – My past and future are always inferred, Before I was born, my death was assured. With fate or biology, there is no winning, We’re entropy machines – But the road we take is mine and yours, To pass the time between the wars.
The flourishing show-off their fruits, As they always do, From star to plutocrat. And I want to hate their loot – But then I hear you Saying I’m better than that. Not better than them, no, They clearly are winning, And I couldn’t compete if I tried. But I mustn’t get low If I want to keep grinning – I mustn’t give in to my cynical side.
The skilful exploit the thing they do, Create a buzz, With even better times to come. Now the world’s not fair, it’s true, It never was, But is success then zero-sum ? You always told me, don’t despise, Don’t bitch and sleight – To be myself, and not some copycat. But dammit, it’s so hard to rise Above the spite, It’s so hard to be better than that.
Don’t snub them, don’t hate them, Don’t read the bad press, Don’t seek out their scandal, don’t kiss them and tell. But call them, and honestly congratulate them For their great success Which they handle so well. I can hear your voice admonishing me For unworthy bile And poisonous chat. I hate that you’re right, but we must let it be – So paste on a smile And be better than that.
I want to scream, and curse my fate, And spit their names – But dammit, I can’t give in now – It hurts to be considerate, But paranoid games Are indulgences that I cannot allow. Don’t suck-up and don’t condemn, Let it go, Don’t measure myself with where they’re at. I’ll never be better than them, I know, But at least I can be better than that.
Despite the chimes and fireworks, Despite the cheers and resolutions, New Years start off slow – As continuity, not revolution. The banks begin on holiday, The schools are easing into term – There aren’t too many early birds, But then, there aren’t that many worms. The world is in need of a lie-in, Before the problems start to press. Even I am barely trying, Slurring rhymes with extra esses.
My folks were full of the fear of God, And full of His holy gravity. Music, and dancing, were frivolous wastes And bywords for depravity. And birthdays passed with nary a mention So’s not to lead our thoughts astray – But I was still the lucky one, For I was born on Christmas Day.
I was born in the dark of Winter, In the midst of an Almighty freeze Too far North for much of sunlight, Too bleak for that many trees. But ev’ry year, the town would string up lights As if to lead my way, And hope that it might snow for me – For I was born on Christmas Day.
Ev’rybody wore a smile, And nobody wore grey – Ev’rything was done with style, Right through to Hogmanay ! And my fav’rite animal, the deer, Were ev’rywhere, with a sleigh ! How much I loved this time of year, To be born on Christmas Day !
I was born in ignorance, And thought all this must be for me – The whole of the town would celebrate That time I changed from two to three, They cheered some more when I turned four, At five and six, they cried hooray – My parents couldn’t stop it all, For I was born on Christmas Day.
They may not have given me presents, But they gave me the greatest gift on Earth – I used to think how lucky Jesus was To coincide with my birth. And piously, I’d thank the Lord For far more joy than words can say. And so I grew up loving life – For I was born on Christmas Day
The choirs would sing, The bands would play, The bells would ring, The shops display, And all the world felt good and near, In one long cabaret – How much I love this time of year, To be born on Christmas Day !