Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thought for the Day
Good Morning Scotland
BBC Radio Scotland
December 22nd, 2011

At our service of Nine Lessons and Carols the other night we had our university students back in the congregation and in the choir. Back for a while, they look forward to restoring the familiar - to having their laundry done, to having a meal with the people they know.

We know who sits where and who carves the turkey. We appreciate Christmas carols we can sing without looking at the words. Once we've had a glass of mulled wine - or two - we might even provoke a little amusement, in familiar surroundings, by chancing the bass line or the descant.

There are folk who aren't at the table - family members and friends we've not gotten on with since the "event" of 1979 or 1982. Or maybe we've just drifted. We are unsettled by this state of affairs.

But we might ask, defensively, "why should we always be the first one to pick up the phone?"

The traditions of Christmas meals and celebrations with limited groups of our dearest and closest have more to do with the residue of North West European village life than they do with the Christmas stories in Matthew and Luke, where you'll find a surprising amount about the outsider, the alien, the stranger - those who've been thrust to the margins - being invited by God into the heart of the story: The strangeness of the foreign wise men - even the angels in the dead of night visiting shepherds - who are in no way integral t the story - for no good reason other than to announce that God has given a gift to those who are far off welcoming them in.

If the gift is for us it is for the outsider as well and for the person we find it hard to speak with. The nagging feeling about the unwritten letter and the unaccomplished healing phone call has its origins right at the heart of the Christmas story. It is a timely reminder that, as the Scottish Liturgy puts it,

"...when we were still far off (God) met us in (his) Son and brought us home..."

An audio link is available for a limited time HERE. TFTD begins at 1:18.20 - halfway along the audio bar.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Thought for the Day
Good Morning Scotland
BBC Radio Scotland
December 1st, 2011

Many of our parents here in Penicuik and West Linton shuffled their schedules yesterday to accommodate children who were not in school because of the strikes. Some folks had to go in to work anyway, while others were on reduced duties. Many didn't go in at all. Still others braved the blustery weather to take their places on picket lines.

Well-informed and good-hearted people might disagree on some of the issues surrounding
this strike action. It seems clear, though, is that there's no reason to suppose that life simply is the way it is with nothing more to be said on the matter.

We've had a good solid dose these last few years of being told that things are the way they must be and that there's nothing else really to be said or done. It's the way the economy is, it's what the climate of finance nowadays dictates. From men in yellow jackets reminding us what the rules are or computers generating lists of what we owe the bank one would be forgiven for thinking that we were nothing but leaves blown about in the breeze.

Our society depends greatly on what is called, in French, a "rapport des forces" - a balance between strong individuals or groups which is held in tension but which nonetheless produces stability. That rapport can fall apart. Unhappy conflict can develop when one side attempting to exercise total victory over the other.

Most of the time, however, and what has developed over the generations - is a painfully won agreement about the nature and stability of our work, This is based, in part, on the belief that everything is negotiable. Life is more fluid than we think. One of the canticles - taken from the opening chapters of Luke's Gospel - describes the work of God as "putting down the mighty from their seat and exalting the humble".

Ordinary working people have a voice - and a role in deciding how they want to work and live.

an audio link is available for a limited time HERE. TFTD begins at 1:23.38 - halfway along the audio bar.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

More than just noise

My friend Iain asked me, when this picture surfaced on Facebook, "Why are you smiling? Are you deaf?"

No - I'm beginning to find it quite tolerable.

The relationship between music and what a set of bagpipes does is sometimes a bit tenuous. Even though I can pick out most of the canonical tunes I'm not sure I think of bagpipes as musical instruments.

Today was graduation day for people like me at the University of Edinburgh. I've been poking away at an MTh by Research for a couple of years now and I received my degree. It wasn't particularly cold and there was a fair bit of wind and some light drizzle. There were white ties and academic processions. There was much happiness.

A perfect day for bagpipes, in other words - uniquely able to transmit the spirit of a place an an occasion and much appreciated by me - even up close.

So much more than mere noise.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thought for the Day
Good Morning Scotland
BBC Radio Scotland
Thursday, November 17th

A massive yellow stone – the Sun Drop Diamond – sold at auction in Geneva the other day for a princely sum in excess of 12 million dollars. No one knows whether the anonymous buyer intends to set the stone as a piece of jewellery or whether he’ll be slipping it into a safety deposit box as a hedge against fluctuating currencies.

It’s just a diamond, though, and diamonds are made of carbon. Perfectly ordinary carbon subjected to the natural processes of intense pressure and heat over time but able to generate much attention.

The value of things is what we attribute to them – how much attention we pay to them. Something which is valuable this year may not be valuable next year. Things which we threw away as worthless fifty years ago now command a high price on Ebay.

My wife, and my children are mostly made of carbon.

As is the new person at my church in Penicuik who I don't really know yet. She's a face I have now seen twice. I said to myself, after she escaped at the end of the service and didn't come to coffee, that I'm going to have to nab her next time before she leaves - to introduce myself – to welcome her to St James’. To say that we’re glad she’s here.

Within communities people emerge – with their talents and their stories – and take their place. Through us – or perhaps even in spite of us - they begin to discern God’s attention which speaks of their innate value - their worthiness.

Jesus is perpetually telling us in the Gospels to look out for the Pearl of Great Price buried in an ordinary field, or the insignificant mustard seed which becomes the greatest shrub of the garden or the sick, the lonely, the needy and the prisoner.

"When you care for them", says Jesus, "you care for me" and therefore – he says - you need to pay attention.

A link to audio can be found HERE. TFTD begins at 1:23.44 - halfway along the audio bar.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thought for the Day
Good Morning Scotland
BBC Radio Scotland
Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

The face has changed. A thinner and paler Gilad Shalit was hustled out of a van yesterday morning after five years of captivity. The well-known picture of the younger and heartier boy is now clearly out of date.

One exchanged for a great many: A fair deal or not? Were questions of justice and security weighed against the safety of an individual?

These negotiations will be debated in the weeks to come.

What does the individual amount to anyway in the grand scheme of things?

Important decisions are often made about crowds. While we are individuals, we are also numbers of interest to statisticians. We are members of communities in political disputes over land and resources, requiring medical services or schools or housing or sewers. The big picture is always bigger than you are. Where are you, though, in that big picture?

As individuals we get lost in crowds.

We get lost unless there’s somebody to pay attention. It’s attention which ensures the needs of individuals – and memory. To our husbands and wives and our families, we are individual souls. They remember us when others forget us.

One of the earliest pieces of Christian iconography was that of the shepherd with a single sheep on his back. You can see it inscribed in the catacombs in Rome as you can see it in modern stained glass. It wasn’t a Christian invention but it rang a bell with the early church because of Jesus’ parable about the good shepherd who will leave the 99 sheep in order to search out the one who is lost.

It is the personal and relational aspects of friendship and our participation in communities which we yearn for – linked to the belief that at the heart of the universe is a voice directed to us – as individuals - to whom somebody says:

"I know you. I've known you for years. Though others may forget - I will not forget you.”

Audio is available for a limited time HERE. TFTD begins at 1:24.00 - about halfway along the audio bar.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Thought for the Day
Good Morning Scotland
BBC Radio Scotland
Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A teenager walks out of the deep forest straddling Germany and the Czech Republic where he claims to have been living rough with his father and with no other human contact for years. The father dies in a fall in the woods. The boy follows a compass heading north and shows up in the city of Berlin seeking help.

He is English speaking and claims to have little memory of his life before he entered the woods as a small child.

Mystery and intrigue: Is the story even true? Some lost souls, washing up on shore or found wandering in the heart of a great city - know very well who they are. The memory loss conveniently covers a darker past.

So even when the police express their opinion that this boy is telling the truth, there remain suspicions.

In the Christian tradition, solitude is an exercise. We are not abandoned to it. We enter into it freely. We leave human community and conversation for a time and a season. We retreat with our thoughts – like so many characters from the Old and New Testaments did - to a lonely place and, there, sort things out in the silence and in the presence of that part of God’s creation which does not speak our human language.

The idea that children could be raised apart from people belongs to a Romantic age. Mowgli or Tarzan represent the “noble savage” - at one with nature and “free”- a more authentic state than we enjoy. In that fantasy – even children raised by apes or wolves retain that which is best about humanity.

But we know that children raised in such circumstances suffer enormous deficits. The lack of interraction makes them unable to communicate. Thought, itself, is language - and language is spoken between people.

When our loneliness makes itself known to us we will usually follow the compass needle until it brings us back into the grasp and conversation of others.

An audio link is available for a limited time HERE. TFTD begins at 1:24.24 - halfway along the audio bar.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Thought for the Day
Good Morning Scotland
BBC Radio Scotland
Monday, August 29th, 2011

The Eastern Seaboard of the United States battened down the hatches in the face of Hurricane Irene. Shop fronts were boarded up. The New York Subway system closed down. Until last night no one knew exactly what would transpire. For some there was a carnival atmosphere. Others, especially those responsible for the preservation of life, limb and infrastructure, had faces set in grim determination. A lot was at stake.

Recent history has seen examples of both the best and worst in human nature which have come out of natural disasters.

Storms can bring out the worst in human apathy, violence and greed. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina still causes tremendous soul-searching amongst Americans.

Similar events can have radically different results - they can produce a sense of solidarity and community.

Storms, earthquakes and other disasters remind us that we are small and limited creatures - that the risks to us are real here in our smallness. It's what most humans have had to live through for most of their history. Only recently have we been able to look though windows (or television screens) at the outside world.

When you're caught up in something big you have a choice of paths. One way of looking at others is that they are competitors and enemies. They occupy space you need to occupy. They eat the food you might want to eat.

There's another path, though. No matter how much you think humans are merely greedy organisms it's a path that is taken often. Jesus said "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul". In a crisis we may find ourselves surprisingly able to exercise good citizenship and abundant charity. There is something greater and more important than keeping our buildings intact and our own selves safe.

You end up hoping two things for those caught up in storms: first of all that the sandbags hold and the buildings aren't washed away - but also that the human spirit rises to the challenges and shows itself once more to be a beautiful and graceful thing.

An audio link is HERE for a limited time. TFTD begins at 1:23.30 - about halfway along the audio bar.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Pause for Thought
The Zoe Ball Show
BBC Radio 2
Saturday, August 20th, 2011

There's a scene in David Lean's movie Dr Zhivago that I have had to suffer all my life.

At one point in the film the hero struggles through a war-torn Siberian landscape until he reaches his childhood home - abandoned and encased in snow and ice. There he is reunited with his lover. They fire up the stove in one room and make it habitable. In the midst of all this chaos - the Russian Civil War and the depths of winter - they have a brief interlude of peace.

Zhivago finds the desk he wrote on as a child. He opens the drawer and discovers there, laid out in order, a sheaf of white paper, a pen and a bottle of ink.

He writes a poem.

My mother always talked about "Zhivago's Drawer". She would describe its order, its simplicity and its adequacy. She would then open the door to my bedroom which looked like any teenaged boy's bedroom and not at all like Zhivago's Drawer.

She would make reference to my school bag with its crumpled homework assignments and mouldering apple cores. Again, not Zhivago's Drawer.

And over the years I have muttered about "Zhivago's Bloody Drawer" countless times as I see what a mess my Income Tax return looks or the list of tasks which I have meant to get around to but haven't.

As a younger priest I would arrange to spend four or five days at the Trappist monastery north of Montreal, after Easter and after Christmas - not everybody's idea of a riotous good time - but I was attracted to the simplicity there. The balance and order of two lines of monks gliding in to worship in the wee hours of the morning, the Salve Regina sung at the end of the day with a single candle at the feet of a statue of Our Lady.

Please, God, before I die,
give me that small place of order and harmony
at the centre of my soul.


*nb. "bloody" edited to "wretched" in the actual broadcast.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pause for Thought
The Richard Allinson Show
BBC Radio 2
Sunday, August 14th, 2011

I don't have time for side streets. People I know swear by them.

Why are you going this way? It'll take forever. Take this side street, then left at the post box past the yellow dog and over the bridge.


I'm going to end up in the middle of a field dotted with cow pats - lost and late. Give me the direct route any day. Simple and straight. If it takes a few minutes longer I can budget for that.

Edinburgh is crammed with tourists right now. They wear impossible colours and silly hats and walk slowly down the High Street. Many of them are wearing shorts. Some of them have knobbly knees.

They speak an amazing collection of languages - I can only guess at a few of them. I have time, you see, to guess because I always seem to be stuck behind a long queue of tourists ambling down the high street. They are on holiday. I am not.

They spend an awful lot of time taking pictures of the small closes - the quaint little alleyways - which open out on to the High Street. I've walked past plenty of these in the last eight years. I don't know where they lead. I've never walked in to one because I've generally had other things to do - like walking straight down the street from A to B.

Everything I know about history tells me that it's not made up of straight lines. Nor are the lives of the older people I love. Nor the lives of the saints or the people in the Old and New Testaments. There are always these side streets which open up because of disasters or misfortunes or even opportunities.

Angels and burning bushes seem to figure prominently in the Bible stories.

And I look forward, frankly, to clearing my slate well enough that I can follow a few of these side streets. Not just on holidays but in the midst of busy life when I feel the nudge.

And the next time I see a tourist in a ridiculous hat walk in to one of Edinburgh's little alleyways. I just may follow him in to see where it leads.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Geneva in early August

I can think of a half dozen lovely vistas which I have seen - in Canada and around the world. I have to add this one - the Geneva waterfront with the "jet d'eau" and Mont Blanc in the distance. We spent a week there with an old seminary pal of mine (now the Rector of Geneva) and his lady wife.

Orson Wells was not entirely wrong about the Swiss - they are tidy and orderly and life is a bit dull at times. They are fastidious recyclers and the busses/trams/trains/harbour-boats are all on an honour system. People "tut" at you when you cross the street at an unauthorized time and place.

But it's a lovely town.

It's too expensive to buy much of course. Every currency has fallen against the Swiss Franc. You see tourist families from nations with falling currencies negotiating with their children about limiting their sweets at waterfront stalls for reasons which have more to do with family finance than with sound dental health or good dietary habits.

The smugness about the Swiss Franc being the most stable currency in the world is wearing off with the realization that nobody can afford to buy their stuff any more and there are all sorts of folks being laid off in Switzerland.

Everything is advertised as being on sale. Still, I'm glad we went. It was a lovely trip to a beautiful place.

Beans on toast now for the next few months.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Pause for Thought
The Richard Allinson Show
BBC Radio 2
Sunday, August 7th, 2011

Words don't often fail us in our household. We are a fairly verbal lot in my family. We have lots to say.

Unless we visit a country where we don't speak the language. Then we have to use hand signals and point to places on the map.

I usually end up in Church on a Sunday. If it's a Communion service I can usually figure out what's going on. Sometimes the hymn tunes are familiar but I don't dare join in

I was a priest in a place called Chibougamau in Northern Quebec in the 1980's It was a mixed up sort of place and you really needed English, French and the native language, Cree, to get by as a clergyman and I only spoke two of them. The English and the French weren't a problem but Cree was hard to learn. Even after a few years I never managed more than a few words and phrases.

My first visit there was to an old lady named Alice who lived in a plywood shack on the edge of town and walked with two sticks and couldn't get about much. She was cooking a duck in a pot when I arrived. She pointed a chair out to me and motioned for me to sit. She carved the duck in two pieces and gave me half on a plate.

The door was open.

I knew that the word miyotchisigaw meant "nice day" and that any sentence could be turned into a question by adding the word "na" at the end. My church warden had taught me that - thought it might be useful.

I looked at the open door. "Miyotchisigaw na?" Isn't it a nice day?

She looked outside.

It was overcast. The wind was cold and blowing hard. There was still ice on the lake.

Enhe, she said, Miyotchisigaw.

Alice went on at length later to her daughter about her visit with the new priest and how she thought he would work out better than the last one had.

You see - if it were only the right words that mattered you could send those on a post card.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Pause for Thought
The Zoe Ball Show
BBC Radio 2
Saturday, August 6th, 2011

The person who reads the gas and electricity meter at the Rectory where I live near Edinburgh knows when I've sat down for my lunch or lain down for a wee nap or am in the middle of a difficult phone call. The doorbell rings, the dogs start barking - chaos reigns. We miss him most of the time and get a card stuffed through the mail slot to fill in and send back. My wife's dog usually chews that up. The ones that are still legible I oftentimes neglect to fill in.

And so I get a visit. Always at the wrong time. The doorbell. The dogs. Chaos.

And what would they tell me if they got their information? That the winter has been long and I owe them more than I think in heating costs. That I've been leaving too many lights on and I owe them money for electricity. It's a bill after all - one which accumulates and which I'd rather forget about.

And so I get a visit.

There's not much in life that gets avoided. Less than we think. Not much we can conceal which somebody won't eventually require of us - loudly. We take a certain amount of pleasure in watching the high and mighty dragged before committees to answer questions. It's about time, we think, about time that the truth was told.

Not only is it a component of most religious traditions that we owe Somebody a reckoning, it's the experience we have of being observers of the ups and downs of other people's lives - that their performance at work is eventually found out - their lack of dedication to their spouse - their nickel and dime dishonesty when it comes to expenses - their lack of engagement in the lives of their children. It does come out eventually - and sometimes too late.

The time to turn things around is now. With the dog eared slip of paper asking us to make a regular accounting, with timely conversations with people we may have offended. With requests for grace and forgiveness.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, July 25, 2011

Thank You For Asking!

We went for a five day holiday to the highly wooded part of Scotland near Pitlochry, Dunkeld and Killiekrankie. One of the Scottish Dioceses owns a cottage which can be rented by SEC clergy at a reasonable rate. The fireplace smokes a bit but the digs were just the ticket.

We drove to the edge of Rannoch Moor and then picked up a train to Mallaig, just opposite the Isle of Skye. This is the view from the viaduct as the train passes Glenfinnan. Loch Shiel is in the background. It was the one really stunning vista of the week. I thought I'd share it with you.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Thought For the Day
Good Morning Scotland
BBC Radio Scotland
Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Speaking once of hypocrisy, Jesus said

"Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known....whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light ...what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops"

This cuts several ways. It's been both the stock-in-trade of the News of the World over the years. It's now the reason for its demise.

Revelations of journalistic misdeeds and the misdeeds of those who fed the journalists information will no doubt continue as will the growing feelings of public outrage. We can expect the inevitable official over-reaction - the sound of the other official shoe hitting the boards - even though it was the work of journalists in a lightly-policed environment which brought these things to our attention. People in power who could have done something....didn't.

We find ourselves caught in this cycle of wrongdoing and reaction because we do not agree on much and we don't make use of what we do agree on - at least not when it comes to making money. We're missing our skeleton. We are floppy people who "ooze about" because ideas of honesty, restraint and fair play, at least in business dealings, are considered by some to be quaint notions.

They're still default positions in most friendships, marriages and voluntary associations but when we go to work - a transformation can occur. The bottom line takes pride of place.

What do they say in the movies when they pull the trigger, or betray a confidence or perform a "double cross"?

"Nothing personal, mate, it's only business."

In the midst of any crisis of public confidence whether in banking, in politics or journalism we might just marvel at the self-deceit of the principal actors who believe in the power of darkness to conceal their secrets.

Or we might be prompted to take a vow ourselves and join our public and private lives into one frank and visible person.

Audio link available HERE for a limited time. TFTD beings at 1:18:27 - halfway along the audio bar.

Monday, July 04, 2011

A Summer Day on the High Street in Edinburgh

The High Street in Edinburgh was packed this afternoon with tourists. I took a break from my desk and walked for about three blocks and heard English precisely once. We've had an abysmal Spring with enormous quantities of rain and cold weather but that seems to have relented now. Most of us spent at least a full day this weekend cutting grass which had grown long and had been chronically too wet to cut. No more - the good times are here.

While I happened to hit a large foreign-language crowd this afternoon, there are plenty of North Americans who come here in the summer. The Americans and Canadians who come over here trying to reacquaint themselves with their Scottish roots are not always treated kindly. Let me rephrase that: they *are* treated kindly in situ but there is always a certain amount of muttering and rolling of eyes afterwards - as if they're only ersatz Scots, after all, who have no business pretending that they don't really come from Edmonton or Gary, Indiana.

I fail to understand the lack of pride on the part of Scots - that people from around the world have crossed oceans in order to identify with this place and to locate some aspect of their character in the streets and closes of Edinburgh and the hills outside. For some of these folks, in their cotton trousers and pastel golf shirts, a trip to Scotland is the culmination of many years' anticipation and a crowning part of their retirement. They say foolish things about tartans in High Street shops and tell at least ten people a day that their "grandmothers were Scotch", that they've always "felt Scottish" but surely the desire itself to come here and the iconic status that the place has had which helped to define people in the midst of a melting pot like the U.S.A or a mosaic like Canada ought to be worth something.

It ought to be respected more. Not every country can claim such abiding loyalty across generations.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church

The quiet before the storm. In order to get a comfortable wee corner in Palmerston Place before the rush and excitement which the meeting of the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church one needs to get here early. The Primus having just explained to the "freshers" that Synod can get passionate, John Stuart runs through the agenda in a businesslike and dispassionate manner

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Monday, May 23, 2011

Thought for the Day
Good Morning Scotland
BBC Radio Scotland
Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Catastrophe looms. An overlooked character unlocks the secret but no one will listen. And so the worst happens, just as he said. A few folk make it through without being annihilated and existence is strangely renewed as a new day dawns. "Ah" you say, "Harold Camping and his predictions about the Rapture and the return of Christ".

Well, yes, but also the plot of every disaster movie I've seen in the last twenty years.

Lets start with the obvious. We are still here.

But we were still here, as well, when we left the movie theatre after seeing comets hit the earth or the deep-freeze grip the Globe or an enormous shark consume a bathing beauty off the New Jersey shore.

It was such good entertainment.

To some extent, this has been as well. I am as guilty as the next man of having taken it all a little lightly. Spare a thought for those for whom it was deathly serious.

William Miller predicted such a triumphal return of Christ in the 1840's. What followed was known as The Great Disappointment. Marriages had not been entered into. As the date approached, crops had not even been planted.

The Bible is not the sort of book that easily admits of arithmetical calculation. The threats and promises therein cannot simply be lifted out of an ancient book and applied with sticky tape to contemporary situations. You're welcome to try. Nobody's going to promise not to have a laugh when you do.

The distressing thing about Christian catastrophism is the degree to which its disciples withdraw from the the world. Christ engaged that world with love. He didn't merely leave it to its fate. In the words, more or less, of another 1st century rabbi - Yochanan ben Zakkai:
"If you are planting a sapling and someone comes along to tell you that the Messiah has arrived, first go and plant the tree which depends on you for its life. Then brush the dirt off your hands - go and welcome the messiah".

Monday, May 02, 2011

Thought for the Day
Good Morning Scotland
BBC Radio Scotland
Monday, May 2nd, 2011

A few days have passed. Other events are looming large. The Royal Wedding with its solemn processions and daft hats now qualifies as memory.

I got a note on my computer about a minute in from the beginning of the ceremony on Friday - one of our future brides at St James’, Penicuik asking whether she, too, could have trees in Church for her wedding.

I said I thought we could work something out.

What other requests will working clergy now have to field stemming from this very public wedding?

One thing I can say. I’ll emphasize how her marriage, too, belongs to the community and not just to her and her future husband. Every marriage is public property and has the potential of adding strength to the society to which the couple belongs. Their promises form part of the collection of promises which, together, form the basis of that society.

They stand in a community of family and friends. Somebody signs as a witness that their vows have been undertaken publically.

Grandparents wheeled into church. They will not only feel the thrill of seeing somebody they knew as a baby finally tying the knot; they will also be assured that the wheel of life has taken a turn forward. They're now off the hook. Younger people are now entering into a solemn covenant – who will, together, grow wise through years of challenge and resolution - whose home will become a safe place for children and their table a refuge for those who need a listening ear. These two people will lend their strength to those around them.

The world’s media won’t be present. But a portion of the world – present and future - depends on those words spoken between them being true. True at the time they are spoken - as rings are exchanged and hands joined and a priest’s stole wraps those hands together - and true decades after the service is over.

The couple being married belongs to the world.

The strength of their union makes the world stronger.

An audio link here is HERE for a limited time. TFTD begins at 1:19.26 - halfway along the audio bar.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Further divertissements with daft hats HERE

Much fun was had watching the Royal Wedding yesterday at the Rectory in Penicuik. I went and got some sticky buns. Mrs Rabbit and I had coffee. The step-rabbit had hot chocolate.

About a minute and a half into the ceremony I see a computer note from a future bride here at St James asking whether it might not be possible to have trees in Church for her wedding next year.

I said I thought we could work something out.

But I can't wear a pointy hat because I'm not a bishop and I can't speak with the sonorous tones of Rowan Williams or Richard Chartres because I'm neither of these people.

We had a marvelous time - thought the service went off without a hitch - glorious copes and ecclesiastical finery, great music, a decent sermon by the Bishop of London - a young couple very much at ease.

We have nothing but proprietary raspberries for all the sour republicans at home and abroad muttering about the propriety of the whole exercise.

It was not only proper it was magnificent!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday Procession in West Linton

Two village churches in the Scottish Borders - St Mungo's Scottish Episcopal Church and St Andrew's Church of Scotland, along with the churches in Carlops and Newlands put their collective heads together and came up with a dandy all-age village Palm Sunday procession with police escort, branches and Moses the donkey who neither kicked nor bit at any time during the morning although he did divest himself of a large quantity of manure in the forecourt of St Andrew's Church provoking a cheer from the crowd.

Three of the participating churches have a service at 10:00 while St Andrew's generally get together at 11:00. This morning the three churches with the earlier service met at their usual time but truncated their services so that we could all gather on the green behind the medical practice at 10:45 in order to pipe the folks from St Andrew's to their door for a service which started 15 minutes late. People came to their windows and brought their children out to see the parade. Hymn sheets were handed out in abundance to onlookers. There were a few stations along the way where hymns were sung with some accompanying brass to keep folks together on the beat and on the note.

Those not proceeding to the service at St Andrew's wandered up to the undercroft at St Mungo's for a Bacon Butty and a cup of tea. It was a good time had by all and the planning representatives from all four churches are to be congratulated.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Palm Crosses

It's coming up to that time of year again. This Saturday morning at 10:00 we're gathering in the Hall with the children and anyone else who feels 'young at heart' to make the Palm Crosses for Sunday. There are several ways of making them and everybody swears by their own method. Each year we gather and the first thing we have to do is remember how we did them last year. Some of the methods involve a single piece of palm. We don't do it that way - we use two.

We use two because, erm, of the two natures of Christ - the divine and the human.

We use two pieces of palm because *thinking.....* of the two Gospel Sacraments - Baptism and Holy Communion.

No? Okay, we use two because that's how we were taught us a few years back and we're Anglicans and when we find something that works we stick with it like tar to an old boot.

So, in anticipation of Saturday's get-together to make palm crosses, I post here the a pictorial guide on the web which illustrated the way we do it. I post it simply as an aide-memoire for myself so I don't look like an utter pillock on Saturday morning.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Thought for the Day
Good Morning Scotland
BBC Radio Scotland
Monday, April 4th, 2011

The reading from the Gospel which most Christian churches read yesterday was the story of the man, born blind, who had his sight restored by Jesus at the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem. The disciples wanted first to discuss the situation from a comfortable distance - to understand whether blindness comes about as the consequence of somebody’s sin – this man’s - maybe his parents'.

But Jesus will have none of it. God reveals his power in a situation which simply is the way it is. And he wades right in.

I’m not alone in wondering “why” - there has been so much chaos and dis-ease breaking out all round the globe in the last month. The crust of the earth adjusts itself in the Far East and countless lives are changed forever . The grip of a few reliable strongmen starts to weaken in North Africa and the Middle East and, for different reasons but with similar effect, the dead are counted and communities are displaced.

Much needs to be understood, and done to prevent further suffering. But there's a limit. Sometimes such things simply happen – they are merely wounds in the earth.

As we speak, the pool of Siloam in Jerusalem is being excavated. And there’s a special quality to this corner of an ancient olive grove - it happened here and nowhere else. Aid and comfort was brought to this particular blind beggar

There is too much for any of us to understand. There is too much for any of us to deal with entirely – everywhere. We too find ourselves here and nowhere else dealing with actual situations and with real people – in communities and families – through charities and foundations in which we take a particular interest.

Things will continue to fall on people – the weight of buildings or the weight of political change.

No matter how small the community being served or how localized the disaster, today – we have an opportunity - here or there - somewhere. To wade in.

An audio link is available for a limited time HERE. TFTD begins at 1:17.29 - halfway along the audio bar.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

You know nothing about Lemmings!

Following a conversation with a young person about activities which "everybody does", I stopped myself from uttering the old canard about people jumping off bridges. I didn't even mention the Lemmings - those little rodents living in the north of Canada and along the same latitudes throughout Europe and Asia with a reputation for tossing themselves off cliffs in large numbers at the behest of some inner compulsion.

In fact it's all tosh. They don't throw themselves off cliffs. They migrate for food across vast distances where they are easy prey for owls and foxes. Most of them end up being dinner not suicide. A few of them fail to make it across rivers.

But no cliffs. They're smarter than that.

In order to create the myth of the suicidal lemming for their film "The White Wilderness" the Walt Disney people, in 1958 needed to transport large numbers of intelligent and self-preserving lemmings from the Canadian north to a suitable cliff down south from which they were tossed off with a turntable contraption for the benefit of the camera.

Without the commercial interests behind the enterprise, the poor creatures would be up on the tundra enjoying the Midnight Sun and munching on some sedge.

Lemmings know better. So should you!

Monday, March 21, 2011


When the studies are more in hand and Holy Week and Easter are "accomplished" I do want to take a day trip the the 15th Century Church at Fowlis Easter near Dundee and Guthrie Parish Church, a little farther on, to see some of the medieval paintings there which survived the Reformation (and only just). My pal Stephen has just come back from a jaunt to Fowlis Easter and includes a few of the photographs he took. Here you see the soul of the Bad Thief to one side of Jesus at the crucifixion yielding up his soul to a demon.

Mention is made in one article to paintings at Fowlis Easter being discussed at the Synod of Fife on May 6th, 1612

'Item, it is statute and ordained that the paintrie quhilk is upon the pulpitt
and ruid-laft, being monumentes of idolatrie, sal be obliterate be laying it over
with grein colour. The minister with diligens to see the same exped.'

The same article notes that the paintings were rediscovered 'at some point after 1746' languishing beneath a coat of whitewash. I am unclear whether they are now situated exactly where they once were or whether these fragments have been moved elsewhere within the body of the Church.

The article also makes reference to fragments of a judgement scene in the "Guthrie Aisle":

"...'Doom', a subject popular in medieval times,
but now surviving in Scotland only at Guthrie

So - those of us who are not residents of Guthrie, overshadowed by a residual sense of doom, might we consider a jaunt up north and a few "monumentes of idolatrie" some Saturday after Easter?

Friday, March 11, 2011


A young curate gets married prior to Easter. At the end of the wedding reception he and his wife retire to their hotel to begin a short honeymoon. The curate climbs in to bed with his wife, gives her a peck on the cheek, rolls over and goes to sleep.

His bride, nonplussed, says “What’s all this, then? It’s our wedding night!”

“I know that”, replies the curate, “but it’s Lent!”

His wife loses it and begins to cry. “That’s terrible. That’s the worst excuse I’ve ever heard. So who did you lend it to and for how long?”

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thought for the Day
Good Morning Scotland
BBC Radio Scotland
Thursday, March 10th, 2011

We all know people who spend an inordinate amount of time fretting about whether they’re any good. It’s almost a caricature of religious types that they walk around whacking themselves on the head with a length of board proclaiming that they’re no good.

It might be low self esteem. It might all be a show of some sort – something “put on”. It makes them almost as difficult to sit next to at a dinner party as the ones who’ve never considered that they weren’t God’s gift to the world.

In this season of second thoughts about our lives and futures – i.e. the season of Lent – we certainly don't need our egos puffed up but neither do we need to be knocked down a peg or two on principle simply because it’s the right season to do so.

We need a sober and realistic analysis of who we are.

Part of that is recognizing our weakness – which is not a matter of beating ourselves up but recognizing that there are certain things we are going to have to do in community, or in conjunction with other people – people we love or perhaps even people we don’t particularly get on with but who have the skills and the abilities we don’t.

It might also mean that we have to look beyond ourselves in order to find strength and inspiration, courage or forgiveness. It’s not for nothing that many Lenten programmes have a chapter called “beginning to pray”.

Another part of it is recognizing that our time is limited. This earthly life has finite edges – it’s like a canvas of a definite size and area and that’s all we have on which to paint our colours.

So time is not to be wasted. Opportunities are to be seized.

And if any of this makes you feel bad – then this is the time do something about it!

Audio available for a limited time HERE. TFTD begins at 1:22.37 - halfway along the audio bar.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Isaiah 40:3-9
"Prepare ye the way"
Michael Wise (1648-1687)

Prepare ye the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low:
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough places shall be made plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together.
And the voice said, Cry.
What shall I cry?
All flesh is grass,
and the goodliness thereof is as the flower that is in the field:
The grass withereth, the flower fadeth:
but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
O Zion, that bringest good tidings,
get thee up into the mountains;
O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings,
lift up thy voice with strength;
and say unto Judah, Behold thy God!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Monday, February 28, 2011

26 February 2011
The Rt Rev. Brian Smith
Bishop of Edinburgh

First, some good news and some bad news. The good news for you all is that this is likely to be the last Synod address you will hear from me. The bad news is that as I am still in office for another six months, you will no doubt be hearing from me in other contexts. This is not a valedictory address.

However, it being the last address I shall give to Synod, it prompted me to look back over one or two of the Synod addresses I have given in the past to see whether there are themes I would want to highlight yet again. I do not recommend this as an activity. Looking back on earlier addresses that I have given, is, as I have said, not an enlightening task. It makes one realise that in any addresses one might give (be they sermons or other speeches) the repetition of anecdotes is a necessity, but the regurgitation of old sermons in their entirety is a mistake.

It was apparent to me that on a number of occasions a significant theme has come to the fore – that of conflict. I am therefore very glad that the Standing Committee felt that handling this issue explicitly at this Synod would be something worth doing.

In the past I have highlighted issues of conflict often with reference to works of literature. I recall touching on Dickens’s ‘Tale of Two Cities’ and the conflict between the two perspectives of it being “the best of times” and it being “the worst of times”. I touched on it with reference to Tolstoy’s ‘Anna Karenina’ – “All happy families are the same. Unhappy families are unhappy each in their own way”. I recall touching on it with reference to the novels of Neil Gunn, the Scottish writer from Dunbeath in Caithness who looked at the differing aspirations which shaped his life as a boy growing up in his fishing village. From Gunn’s book ‘Highland River’ I took as the text “Ken mumbled and grumbled and kept his eyes shut.” [I hasten to remind you that at that point in the narrative he was not attending the local Diocesan Synod, he was fishing.]

I think it was inevitable that conflict should feature a lot in my addresses. The Anglican Communion itself over the period of my time in Edinburgh has itself been seeking to handle conflict in its own particular way. The Anglican Covenant, mooted in 2004 has attracted attention in many of the forums of the Church. Also, it is inevitable that things that are constantly being brought to the attention of a Bishop involve conflict. Perhaps more than many others in a Diocese the bishop is aware of tensions arising on a significant number of fronts.

All this takes me back, if I may be pardoned an element of nostalgia, to my days as a child brought up and worshipping in the Scottish Episcopal Church. We regularly attended Morning Prayer in the Cathedral, on Sundays, but I would disappear before the sermon, off to Sunday School in the Chapter House with the late Canon Getty. The last of the versicals and responses in Morning Prayer in the 1929 Prayer Book is of course

“Oh God make clean our hearts within us”

to which the answer is given:

“And take not thy Holy Spirit from us”.

These are the last words (apart from Amen) said by worshippers together at Morning Prayer -“take not thy Holy Spirit from us”.

You will have heard me talk before, if I have been referring to the mission of the Church mentioning a friend who went for a job many years ago and was interviewed by the late (then) Sir Arnold Weinstock. I remember him telling me that on interview Weinstock asked him what makes a successful company. My friend began to reply “Sound financial policies, good personnel relationships, good strategy and vision for the future etc etc”.

Weinstock stopped him and said “No, it is having something to sell that the public want to buy”. It is a salutary picture to have in mind when we are reflecting on what makes a good Church. Are our finances in good order? Are our personnel and pastoral relationships right? Have we got our vision correct? These are all vitally important questions, and ones we neglect at our peril. However, we are forced always to ask ourselves the question: Is there something about our life together which we can offer to the world? Is there something about the way we are as members of the Scottish Episcopal Church which has a certain magnetic attraction that wants to draw people in?

Again, you have heard me say before that as a Church we need to offer teaching, particularly about God. The interaction in society of differing religious and spiritual perspectives provides a place where the Church is called to be most fully active. We need to be offering an understanding of God and the world which makes sense for those who hear us talk about it.

We also need to be a Church which encourages within its life good relationships among members – support for friendships and families. Also to encourage an ability in study and discussion to gain a perspective on the complex moral and ethical issues being faced in the world today, and in whatever way we can to begin to address these.

But more important than either of those (very important as they undoubtedly are) I have found myself saying that what is most important in the life of a Church is that it has a right spirit dwelling within it. To aim to be an orthopneumatic Church is almost more important than aiming to be an orthodox or an orthopractic Church.

When I have been speaking on prayer, you have sometimes heard me reflect on Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”.

You will know the story of the poem. The mariner sets out on the sea and kills an albatross. The albatross is hung round his neck as a great symbol of the guilt he must feel for doing that deed. And as the ship travels on, one by one his crewmen die until he is the only person left on the boat. The ship becomes becalmed and the mariner is there, looking at the bodies of his fellow crewmen on the decks and the strange slimy creatures that crawl on the sea.

He muses,

“So many men, so beautiful!
And they all dead did lie;
A thousand thousand slimy things
Lived on; and so did I.

I looked upon the rotting sea,
And drew my eyes away;
I looked upon the rotting deck,
And there the dead men lay.

I looked to heaven and tried to pray;
But or ever a prayer had gusht,
A wicked whisper came, and made
My heart as dry as dust.”

The ancient mariner looks upon the dead men. He looks with contempt upon the creatures that seem to have life. He feels resentment at the injustice of it all and he cannot pray. His throat is as dry as dust.

But then a little later in the poem there is an undefined change that takes place. The moon comes up and he begins to look at the created world in a new way,

“Beyond the shadow of the ship,
I watched the water snakes:
They moved in tracks of shining white,
And when they reared
This elfish light
Fell off in holy flakes.

Within the shadow of the ship,
I watched their rich attire:
Blue, glossy green, and velvet black,
They coiled and swam; and every track
Was a flash of golden fire.

Happy, happy living things! No tongue
Their beauty might declare:
A spring of love gusht from my heart,
And I blessed them unaware:
Sure my kind saint took pity on me
And I blessed them unaware.

The selfsame moment I could pray;
And from my neck so free
The albatross fell off and sank
Like lead into the sea.”

A transformation takes place in his life. He is surprised to find the deep resentment and contempt, that shaped him earlier, is gone. He sees the creatures in a new light (in the poem it is the light of the moon). He sees them as the beautiful creatures they are, made by God.

Feeling gratitude for the created world, he finds that he can pray. The spring of love has gushed from his heart towards the world God created, and he knows again that relationship with God that comes through prayer. He knows forgiveness, for the burden of sin, represented by the albatross, falls from his neck and drops “like lead into the sea”.

The Mariner is liberated for prayer when he ceases to have contempt for the creatures with which he shares God’s world.

Very often in our world today attitudes of cynicism and contempt can dominate, and such attitudes are not only destructive for personal relationships one to another, but are also destructive of relationships with God. If a Church is to be a place that encourages the worship of God, it must be a place in which a spirit that works against those tendencies is active. It is at the heart of Jesus’ teaching which asks how a person may love God who is not seen, if there is no love directed to fellow human beings who are seen.

As I have often said, much of the conflict that arises, particularly conflict within the Church is not conflict between a good and a bad person, but a conflict between two good persons, who have become animated by different values, values that in the deep system and metaphysics of the world themselves actually clash one with another. To see this, and to see that there are clashes that we cannot avoid, but must live with, is to me a significant mark of Christian maturity.

As individuals we are shaped by the conflicts that we strive to contain, and the Church too in its life is shaped by the conflicts that animate it in its life. The presence of conflict is not a sign of failure. [It can be the sign of a new way of being dawning.] How that conflict is viewed and handled can be a sign of failure. One of the most insidious features of much Church life, and we finds this in all parts of it in the whole Anglican Communion and elsewhere, is when we become animated by the spirit that will say in the words of the Pharisee in parable, “Lord I thank you that I am not as other men are”.

It is my belief that such a creative spirit does at our best, animate our life together. However, it is also my belief that such a spirit can easily fade. The bulwarks against such fading constantly need to be defended. These bulwarks lie in our life of worship, our study of scripture, and our general sharing in conversation together. At the heart of this is the prayer in Morning Prayer “Take not thy Holy Spirit from us”.

The task of the Church is to nourish and nurture that spirit, also to notice where it is active outside the church, and to let its natural magnetism animate our mission. It is perhaps fruitful as we begin a Synod in which we are considering conflict to remember that well known quotation by James Nayler often cited by Members of the Society of Friends.

There is a spirit which I feel that delights to do no evil, nor to revenge any wrong, but delights to endure all things, in hope to enjoy its own in the end. Its hope is to outlive all wrath and contention, and to weary out all exaltation and cruelty, or whatever is of a nature contrary to itself. ……. As it bears no evil in itself, so it conceives none in thoughts to any other.
If it be betrayed, it bears it, for its ground and spring is the mercies and forgiveness of God. Its crown is meekness, its life is everlasting love……. In God alone it can rejoice.

And so may the prayer: “Take not thy Holy Spirit from us” shape our participation in this Synod.

26th February 2011

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Beavers aren't all bad

They are much maligned by property owners and those who maintain roads and train tracks near water. But our National Animal gets a little good press from time to time and it's something to celebrate.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Thought for the Day
Good Morning Scotland
BBC Radio Scotland
Friday, February 18th, 2011

The old adage in Montreal is that a pothole is large enough to warrant fixing when you can put a chicken in it.

London, apparently, has a “pothole gardener” – who runs around potting up potholes with pansies and Johnny Jump-Ups to highlight the need for council workers to get that municipal chicken climbing down into potholes more regularly to see just how big they've become.

Best bets are that the pothole gardener is a cyclist who has ruined at least one wheel rim in a pothole and wants everybody to know that it’s not okay.

Scotland is facing a two billion pound bill for repair of potholes – all at a go - because we’ve not taken the chicken out on more regular rounds.

All sorts of things decay and degrade. I can think of at least two of Jesus’ sayings designed to relay a sense of urgency to those who’ve let their relationships with their neighbours decay and who are bringing their gift to the altar as if everything was fine. Or who are taking the reckoning they must make some day with their Creator too lightly - who haven’t trimmed their lamps so they’ll have light when the darkness comes.

Decay and degradation need to be checked out in a timely manner – decay in a marriage, decay in a congregation, decay in a workplace – even personal decay in terms of our own human connections or our spiritual progress. When did we stop communicating frankly with our families or our spouses? When did we stop talking to God in the way we used to do? Do we imagine that rectifying this is something that we can do at some later and undefined time?

Bad news, given early enough, is never really that bad.

The chicken test, applied in a timely manner, indicates a needed repair rather than a major catastrophe.

An audio link appears HERE for a limited time. TFTD begins at 1:21.17 - about halfway along the audio bar.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Y'all may have celebrated him yesterday
but we've still got him here today

Or at least bits of him.

While St Valentine's skull is in a pretty glass casket in Rome (not my photo, btw) , the other bits are in a reliquary at the Church of Blessed Duns Scotus in the Gorbals district of Glasgow.
The story has it that the entire reliquary was stored in a large cardboard box in the back of the vestments cupboard for rather a long time.

Not a very dignified sojourn for the long bones of somebody who just might possibly be one of the three contenders for the historical Saint Valentine.

St Valentine is not only the patron saint of husbands running around Marks & Spencers on their way home from each 14th of February....
The patronage of Saint Valentine also extends to epilepsy (from which he is believed to have suffered), bee-keepers, plague, greetings, travellers and young people. His representations include: birds, roses, a bishop with a crippled or epileptic child at his feet; a bishop with a rooster nearby; a bishop refusing to adore an idol; a bishop being beheaded; a priest bearing a sword; a priest holding a sun; and a priest bestowing sight upon a blind girl.
The Canadian connection (without which no blog post is worth putting on the internet) would be the town of St-Valentin, Quebec, population 478. The town's post-office has a heart-shaped postmark used to cancel stamps on letters sent from the town. Each February they receive letters from around the world to process and send out.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Traffic Jam on the Appian Way

I thought I was back on the Moor Road between Penicuik and West Linton again.

The bus taking me to the Catacombs of Saint Sebastian on the old Appian Way had been crawling along for five minutes. When we got to the corner we found out why.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Looking over Lago Albano this morning at about six-thirty a.m. towards Castel Gandolfo perched on the edge of this volcanic lake. The city of Rome is beyond the ridge obscured by the mist. The bird song was awesome.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Thought for the Day
Good Morning Scotland
BBC Radio Scotland
February 1st, 2011

I am not Colin Firth.

Hopes that my congregation might start calling me Father Darcy have all been dashed. I remain to them unremarkable and not very glamourous. People in my congregation have, though, been crowing about the recent film "The King's Speech". While there is enthusiasm about the script and the story - much of it has to do with the leading man.

Every generation has its heart-throbs. Often they've been stars of the big screen. The facts about the lives these people lead - either as rogues or as timid and ordinary folks - are unimportant to many of us. There is, I gather, a Mrs Firth who wakes up next to Mr Firth every morning and who knows the real story.

For his admirers this matters little.

Actors get rather a poor rating in the New Testament. The word "hypocrite" which Jesus uses to describe his religious opponents comes from the world of the theatre and means, essentially, an actor - somebody inauthentic who doesn't believe the words he's saying and using.

The fact remains that there are, today, real men and women around the world who stand in the breach, who do battle against injustice, who champion good ideas, who do what they say they'll do and who make sacrifices for others. We tend to be cynical about real life heroes. There's a market out there for books and articles claiming to tell "the real story" behind our heroes and to knock the stuffing out of any person or institution which presumes to stand too tall.

At least some of it is jealousy. We're uncomfortable with our own lack of heroism.

In "The Kings Speech" it takes a failed actor to make a stammering King able to speak to a nation.

In a world filled with troubled families, failing political will, divided communities and crushing indifference, might not the stories of real life heroes do something to straighten our backs and increase our resolve?

An audio link is available HERE for a limited time. TFTD begins at 1:23.20 - about halfway along the audio bar.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Address to a Haggis:
The Good News Version

How like a smiley-face you are!
Pre-eminent among all forms of prepared meat
(though chiefly made of guts),
you are worthy of a decent thanksgiving -
one of considerable length, too.

Almost too large for the plate, you resemble
a large backside, or a hill seen from a distance.
The small metal clip holding you together may prove useful
and should be salvaged at the end of the meal.
The cooking process has forced amber liquid through your skin

Wiping the residue of previous work from his knife
he makes a swift cut down your middle -
opening you like a trench in the ground.
Everyone is happy with the wafting odour.
This is clearly a well-cooked Haggis!

Table manners are soon forgotten. With spoon in hand
each elbows ahead of the others. To hell with them!
Now, bloated and in pain, they loll about the table.
The head of the household, ready to fart,
intones a well-known thanksgiving psalm from the hymnal
to mask the noise.

Purveyors of Continental cuisine
look down on local country food like ours
but their oily stews and fancy concoctions
would make a sow-pig
pucker up her face and puke!

Look at those poor buggers
forced to eat crap like that!
They’re as week as weeds
with spindly legs and little fists
ill-suited to wading through a battle field

The rural Scot who eats haggis regularly
has a heavy footfall and a strong hand.
He is good with a knife
and well capable of dismembering and beheading
his opponents.

Oh you residual pagan gods and forest spirits
who control the fates of ordinary people.
True Scots want no watery soup
in little wooden dishes.
If you want us to be truly grateful
cook us up a haggis!

Address to a Haggis:
The Authorized Version

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 hudies 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-reeking, rich!

Then horn for horn, they stretch 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 scunner,
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;
Tho' 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 whistle;
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 gratfu' prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!