Rabbie Burns – even celebrated Down Under (Sydney)
Photos by Candia
(strawberry ice cream cone, 2010
TheCulinaryGeek from Chicago, uploaded by Mindmatrix)
The guys hadn’t returned and so the wedding preparation discussions
Ice cream bike, or not?
Virginia had suggested the latter, but Diana mixed up the tricycle concept
with a chocolate teapot.
Won’t it melt? she asked.
No, it is a bike with a fridge thingy attached to it and people can have…
Pokey hats! enthused Mrs C.
Neither Virginia nor Diana had heard of these delicacies, but Mrs C
laughed and explained that they were cones, with or without the addition
of a Cadbury’s ‘Flake.’
You mean like a ’99’? asked Virginia.
Aye, they always remind me of a Stanley Baxter joke about a young lad going
up to the ice cream van on his housing estate and hoarsely asking for a pokey
The vendor smiles and says: Raspberry sauce, son?
Aye, the wee lad responds enthusiastically, wi’ a voice like sandpaper.
Oh, aye! He sounds really gravelly.
Mrs C, do remember that we are trying to be ladylike, reprimanded
Diana, who had noticed that Virginia did not really approve of such
Changing the subject, Virginia broke in, where did you get married Mrs C?
Oh, St Cuthbert’s, Lindisfarne, the housekeeper replied. That was a long,
long time ago.
What made you choose that church? Diana asked. Mind you, it must have
lots of history.
Och weel, there was a line fae Burns that Ah learnt at school and it has aye
stuck wi’ me: ‘Nae man can tether time nor tide.’ Ah didnae want himself
thinkin’ that he could tether me, so Ah suggested a wild, unpredictable place,
beyond the causeway of the normal mainland and subject tae the vagaries o’
the tides, tae tie the nuptial knot.
The causeway? Virginia was puzzled as she was not au fait with the
coastal geography of the region, never having been a fan of Neil Oliver.
She also had difficulty with the idea of a tethered Mrs C. It was not an
image she chose to reflect on for long.
Aye, Ah thought crossing the causeway fae wan world tae anither was kinda
symbolic o’ traversin’ the matrimonial threshold from spinster tae married
Tres metaphysical, murmured Virginia.
Weel, better that than onything physical developin’, fur Ah thocht that if
he put a foot wrong in the crossing, he’d be swept aff tae sea and he widnae
hae found me rowin’ aff tae rescue him, like wan o’ they Grace Darlin’-type
Mmm, Virginia pondered the fact that Mrs C was definitely a ‘sink or
swim’ kind of female.
And did he ever put a foot wrong- then- or subsequently? Diana dared
Nae mair questions the day, Mrs C replied and went off to fill the
teapot, which was very definitely not made of chocolate.
Portrait of Grace Darling by Thos Musgrave Joy)
Bradford on Avon, Burns Supper, Calais, clairvoyant, cliche, Dalrieda, diaspora, estuary, Heraclitus, Immortal Memory, lacrosse, Mary Tudor, Nemo Me Impune Lacessit, New Year Resolution, parsing, Robert Burns, St Vitus, straightjacket
Not ‘lax‘ in any moral sense, you understand, Dear Diary. Just an
abbreviation for that energising and energetic sport which I once
taught all those years ago when I was a fresh-faced sports
mistress at St Vitus’ School for the Academically-Gifted Girl, that
educational establishment now served by my one and only
Lacrosse, how indebted I am to you for my trim figure in late
middle- no, change that-early middle age.
My New Year Resolution was to record in your pages an unfolding
record of my life as I turn my back on Bradford-on-Avon and return
to Suttonford, or environs thereof. I could castigate myself by
declining to add a preposition in the final position of a sentence,
but, Dear Inquisitive Reader, I am not allowing such an intrusion
into these highly personal pages. I can assure you that ‘thereof’
is actually an adverb. So, Parse that! as my primary teacher used
to say to me.
Apparently all that pedantic wrangling and linguistic strait-jacketing is-
new hate word- ‘prescriptive‘, so we can write what the ….we like!
Having spoken to Sonia, my old friend, ex-colleague and godmother to my
child, I was persuaded to come and lodge with her while my cottage is on
the market. Diana, she urged, Feel free to stay as long as you’d like.
So, here I am in Royalist House, 3 3/4 High Street. Suttonford.
Will this new chapter of my life include Augustus? I should ask Sonia; she
claims to be a clairvoyant.
Gus has frankly been a bit of a bore recently. We were all three en famille at
Christmas and our pre-festivities Turkish trip was delightful, but since he
assumed this Acting Head harness, he has shown a distinct lack of
delegation. I don’t know what he expects his School Secretary to do.
Well, maybe I don’t want to know, Dear Diary!
Last night he was moaning on the telephone about the fixtures list having
been published on the Calendar he inherited. Apparently, he has been left
to fill in the subtle logistical details.
The Fundraising Burns’ Supper for the PTA is a current example.
He hasn’t even booked the speaker for The Immortal Memory yet.
Did I know anyone who could deliver it? I ask you. I’ve only just arrived
in the community.
Why should I?
It all leads me to question our compatibility. I am not that burbling stream
that he once paddled in and which scarcely covered the ankles of his
gumboots. No, the mighty river of my post-menopausal personality would
probably engulf his emotional waders, to continue an aquaeous metaphor,
and would sweep him off his feet, into a tidal estuary.
Maybe his Classical learning has influenced my subconscious and transmitted
some Heraclitean analogy concerning never being able to step in the same
river twice. We have both moved on, I fear.
We emerged from the house into the street and immediately were almost
knocked over by a child on an aluminium scooter. Sonia didn’t see that
Our physical evasion led us to bump-literally-into a neighbour of Sonia’s,
namely an interesting looking woman called Candia Dixon-Stuart. She was also
on her way to the infamous Costamuchamoulah must-seen cafe, in order to
meet a friend, and so we fell into step.
Her Jacobite surname, albeit hyphenated, led me to the most serendipitous
I asked her if she knew of anyone who could give some readings of the Bard’s
works at an impending Burns Supper.
She immediately replied, I can, of course. Although I live in Suttonford, you
may detect a hint of the Caledonian in my genetic code. Prick me and do I not
exude a few drops of blue blood from the Kingdom of Dalrieda?!
I took this as an affirmative and she drew my attention to a clan badge that
she wore on her lapel. I did not know if this indicated an invitation to
remove it and plunge its pin into her soft and yielding flesh. I did not
doubt that, eviscerated, her remains would bear the motto: Nemo Me
Impune Lacessit just as indelibly as that other Mary had the word:
Calais stamped on her heart, or running right through her like a stock
of seaside rock.
Over a couple of cappuccinos, she introduced us to her friend, Carrie,
who turned out to be half Italian and half Scottish. Gosh, these Scots
certainly had some diaspora and spread their seed around like some
Carrie told me that her mother- Morag!- a stereotypical name- would have
come down had she not been performing at various Masonic associations
and venues north of the border.
Very kind, but somehow I think Candia is our woman and she will ‘step up
to the plate‘ to re-circulate a current, over-used metaphor: isn’t that a cliche?
I gave her Gus’ number and am half-inclined to allow him to take me along as
his guest of honour. There are bound to be some spare tickets and, frankly,
this new acquaintance intrigues me.