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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Robbie and the Haggis

This post is a bit of an aside, not being about a workshop, but since it happened because of a workshop it deserves its place in the sun. When my last student had gone, after my workshop last weekend, the weather was dim and rainy and I felt in need of a bit of gaiety, so I stopped by The Black Sheep Pub on the way home thinking to have a jar of ale and perhaps sketch the Irish Jam musicians playing their usual Sunday afternoon gig.

Imagine my surprise to find it packed with folk, the Irish music barely audible
from the stairs, and three Scotsmen in plaid kilts standing by the bar! All the chairs were taken ~ I circled the room trying to cadge one from every table, but they were all being saved. So I crept behind the menu board at the top of the stairs and pulled out a folding chair and edged my way back with it to the only free spot remaining (and my favorite place, anyway) right next to the Irish musicians.

r awhile I just relaxed, for workshops are hard work and it felt good to sip my Guinness and just float with the music. Then I got out my sketchpad and sketched a piper and one of the Scotsmen with his bagpipe. And as things started to get really interesting, I began to write:

"The Black Sheep is dim with late afternoon light. The blue-black ceiling, covered with gold stars, hangs high over the rich tapestry of Irish tunes woven from the warp of fiddle and heavy thumping heels and a weft of flute, guitar, banjo and box. The air is redolent with Guinness and what must be baking haggis, neeps and tatties [I discerned this from a little menu I found on the table].

A fiddler rises, bow flying, from his chair in the group and crouches nearby, all solemn and gay at the same time, to fiddle the tune for a small child, entranced, held in the lap of a listening mother. Other mothers dance with their children in the very small open area, and a colleen with carroty hair jigs with her portly companion, his hand tucked neatly behind him at
his waist in the Irish fashion. Both of them are improbably light on their flying middle-aged feet. All around me, toes tap, fingers jig on tabletops. My foot wags to the beat.

As I sit, the Scottish trio, with humming drone and a screeling of pipes, circles the pub behind a waiter bearing a silver platter of haggis, to deliver it, all brown and steaming, onto the next table.

Now our Jim Finnegan has declaimed
Robbie Burns' famous ode to haggis with marvelous verve to great applause, and one of the pipers ceremoniously stabbed the great roll roundly with a big knife. Finally a kitchen drudge has marched off to the scullery with it to serve it up, with neeps and tatties, to the folk who would have some.

In case you wonder, haggis consists of a finely ground mash of suet, oats, liver, kidneys, heart, blood and possibly tripe of the sheep, heavily spiced and stuft into a sheep's stomach, then baked. On the menu 'tis offered as:
"Haggis wi'
Bashit Neeps and' Champit Tatties, $12.50."

I shall have some.

The Irish Jam strikes up again, the Scotsmen
having sat down to await their treat. My Guinness stands at half mast as I eagerly await my haggis and tatties. The very air vibrates with heel thumps, heavy strumming of guitar, voices shouting to be heard, and the swirling fiddle and pipes. Laughter rises and dances around the ceiling, weaving through the painted stars (my, that Guinness is good!), as the bagpipe drummer clicks his "spoons" idly, and waiters thread their way through dancers and laughing revelers.

AHH! My Haggis, Bashit Neeps (bashed turnips) and Champit Tatties (champed potatoes) has arrived, and I am savoring it. There is much ado about whether haggis is actually edible, and I am here to tell you that "aye, 'tis good!" How could this Scotch-Irish girl reach this advanced age before getting her first taste? 'Tis spicy and musky, hot and steaming, and truly, most excellent.

Jim Finnegan just sang 'My Heart's in the Highlands" in a voice fit to be heard the entire length o' th' green, followed by 'Auld Lang Syne' joined by the entire pubful of roistering folk. The bagpipes came in on the last verse, and it ended with hoots and hollers, shouts and whistles.

It's after five, now, and the bagpipers have begun winding a final path through the pub, screeling and tat-a-tatting as they play 'Scotland the Brave' on their way to the door.

It's time for me to go home. What a wonderful unexpected celebration for this tired lady on a rainy January Sunday evening!

Later this week I hope to get up the pictures and entry about the last workshop. I tried several new things, and I think you'll enjoy seeing how they came out.


Kate (Cathy Johnson) said...

I am SO ENVIOUS! Wish I could have been there with you...but your sketches make me feel as if I were, Irene.

Spinneretta said...

Sounds delightful- this is when words and sketches combine to give a great 'feel' for an event.

Anonymous said...

What a fun surprise! Happy Robbie Burns to ye!

Renie said...

Hi Kate and Spinneretta and Vicky!

'an Happy Robbie Burns day to ye, too!

Glad to have you along any time ~ we'd have a roistering jolly blast! Bring your sketch pad!

Cheers and hugs,

Jilly said...

So glad you enjoyed the Burns Night. With a husband who is a piper, I've been to many such a night and they're always fun. You've captured the atmosphere so well.

Mary McAndrew said...

Hi Irene, it looks like you happened upon a Burns night! I just learned about it myself, did you see my post about him and his poem To A Mouse? I wish I could have been there with you, I LOVE going to Irish Pubs and hearing music! You can drink the Guiness though...I'll take Harp or Smithwick's!! (spelling?)
Keep those toes tapping!
your friend Mary

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