I’ve managed to spend an awful lot of time procrastinating today which from past experience seems to be something I’m powerless to resist however much it frustrates me. I finally threw myself into action at about 9pm and have managed to make fudge (Drambuie scented, which is an improvement on the fish smell coming from the oven, and I wouldn’t even mind that except it’s an age since I’ve baked fish and there have been dozens of things through the oven since – why fish now?) and some brownies. The brownies are without doubt superfluous to need but I had bits that ‘needed’ using and I expect someone will eat them...
Tomorrow (25th January) is becoming one of my favourite days of the year – it’s Burns night which I think is a terrific occasion – it’s taken me a while to come round to the idea of Haggis but I’ve got there, and either way it’s worth eating to hear the Scottish one address it. It’s a chance to cook, dress up a bit, get some people together, drink one whisky to many, wash up for hours, celebrate a poet, and lighten the January gloom. I’m right behind (most of) those things and don’t understand why we have nothing comparable south of the border.
This year the 25th is also the last Tuesday in January which makes it Up Helly Aa (when the axe for what they want), this is a Shetland tradition that goes back about a hundred years in its present incarnation but has much older roots. It’s a weird, wonderful, fire festival which keeps on evolving. Growing up in Shetland it was a massive deal (and I judge still is) everything closed down at lunch time on Tuesday and reopened again on Thursday morning. Shetland only has a population of about 20,000 across the islands so the 800 or so that take part in the procession represent a real crowd, add to this that they are all dressed up (the chief squad as Vikings the rest as all sorts of things, some that you couldn’t imagine – and wouldn’t want to – without seeing them) it’s quite impressive and worth a google. If you’re feeling particularly broad minded then look on you tube for clips of what goes on for the rest of the night.
Over the years Up Hella Aa has expanded into a whole burning season that stretches from late January into March and I would love to do the lot one year (damn having to work for a living) but the important thing is having a celebration that marks the beginning of the end of winter – it’s discernibly lighter at night now, and things in the garden are showing signs of life (of the 50 odd snow drops I all but broke my back over planting 1, yes 1, has decided to do the business).
Up Helly Aa doesn’t really translate to Leicester, but if I’m not Scottish enough to claim Burns as a countryman, I feel as a book lover I can have him as a poet and take the occasion to celebrate the return of the light.