Saturday, December 27, 2008

My Mother's Hands

The photographs were taken by Paul Lynch and Susie Wright.

At ninety three, a photograph of my mothers hands was used to decorate the "2009 The Blue Mountain Food Services calendar" a seniors calendar in Australia.

These are the hands I know and love
I’ve seen them all my life,
They’ve changed of course as time has passed
Through happiness and strife,
And even though its been a while
Since last I held them tight,
I’d recognize them at a glance
Yes, I’d know them on sight.

These are the hands my father knew
Before I was conceived,
That drew him close and clasped him
When his love was received.
They wore the ring he gave her
In the small church in Torquay,
To have and hold from that day forth
No matter what may be.

These are the hands that changed me
When I was but a babe,
The hands that cleaned and bathed me
And held me when we prayed,
And comforted when I was sad
Or bruised or cut or hurt
Or when my knees were bleeding
And covered up with dirt.

They kneaded up the baking dough,
Rolled and cut the pastry
They crimped the meat and veggies in
To make a Cornish pasty.
They stirred and beat the cream
Until the butter left the whey,
These hands did the cooking
That fed us every day.

When the night was falling
These hands tucked us into bed,
They held the prayer or story book
From which my mother read.
And should our sleep be restless
From the living room we’d hear
The plucking of guitar strings
And singing sweet and clear.

These hands dabbed the tears
When our father went away,
They scrubbed and scraped, and typed
And nursed, to keep the wolf at bay.
They washed and ironed our clothing
And should time allow they might
Tinkle out some Chopin
From the ivories at night.

These are the hands I know and love
I’ve seen them all my life,
They’ve changed of course as time has passed
Through happiness and strife,
And though I can not see them
I know that at the end
They will be there in Heaven
When I take the final bend.

Frances McLeod 93 years b. Circular Quay, New South Wales

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Serendipity and the Plumbers Wrench

My wife asked me if I could finally fix the shower handle this morning. It is a blue job. The handle drops under its own weight and as it does so the water gets hotter and hotter and faster and faster. There is a pressure ring in the stem unit that can only be tightened with a hollow wrench stuck through the wall.

“What I need is a three quarter inch plumbers wrench.” I said to Gilbert who was standing behind the service desk at PepBoys on Hollywood Boulevard. He had a bar code tattooed on his left forearm. “It has to be open at the end so that ths stem of the shower handle can come through.” I had already been to Ferguson’s the plumbers supply that morning, and they said they don’t make that size any more. “How much are they selling you for Gilberto is it?” I asked indicating his tattoo.

“ The ones over there are what we’ve got.” Gilbert replied showing me the rack of what looked like different sized spark plug wrenches. So I picked one that was three quarters of an inch and having tried to check that the stem could go through the end by asking if I could take the plastic tag holder out of it, was told “No! You have to buy it first.” I settled and realized I would have to try to turn the wrench with channel locks hoping it wouldn’t slip on the shiny smooth side. The sprocket wrench would not fit into place when the spindle from the shower handle was sticking through it.

Are you still with me? Here comes the magic! So, I am at the checkout stand and Angie, she’s really an angel, takes my money. I ask her, “Can you get this piece of plastic out for me?”

Well she struggles for a bit and tries to push it out with her pen. I suggest a Phillips and she opens a drawer at her feet which looked like the ‘odds and sods’ drawer in our kitchen, only bigger. We are looking for a hammer and a strong rod to push the tag holder out, and there on the top of all this junk, is a plumbers wrench. It’s not wrapped or anything it’s just there with all the other tools and stuff. I reached in, picked it out and measured it. Three quarters of and inch. Isn’t that amazing?

“This is what I want.” I said. “Can I have this? Can you sell me this, you can keep the shiny sprocket wrench, this is what I need.” At that moment Gilbert came up to the checkout stand, and hearing my request said he would have to speak to the manager. So back we go to Melvin at the service desk. I explain that this tool is what I came here for, and that I have been looking for it for a while, and this is the second place I had been this morning and... “ You can have that." he said.

I am just a little thrown for a moment. These things do happen to me once in a while. You know, like when I was hoping that when I got off the plane in San Jose there would be someone, an angel, right outside the airport ready to take me over the hill to Santa Cruz instead of having to take a cab to the station and then catch the bus. Well that happened to me. The second person I asked “Are you going to Santa Cruz?” said yes. When I asked if I could share the gas money and catch a ride, they said, “Well let me just ask her. She's driving up right now.” I got that ride in a white Mercedez, and here this, morning I was being offered the very tool I need for nothing.

The Angel took my return and gave me back my money. I thanked Melvin, and he just said, “What you give freely in this life comes back to you a thousandfold.” I was struck by the prophetic message coming from this thick necked macho Hispanic who was running the Hollywood shop and had such an unlikely name. My wife is happy with the shower!

My completed set of wrenches

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Memory Lapse

You can’t be tying a string around your finger
Every time you have to remember
Why it is you went into the kitchen,
Or what is was you came into the garage for anyway.

You stand in front of the fridge,
In a room cluttered with thousands of memory joggers-
A block of carving knives, that lasting gift from your wedding,
The painted rose on a plate from a grateful patient,
A colonial tea canister from Williamsburg
With a key to stop its contents being purloined,
And the gallery of photographs held by magnets on the door,

And it is as if you were gazing at some rebuilt city,
Which has been completely redesigned
After an atomic bomb has wiped
All the definitive land marks off the map,
Wondering why you are there,
And what pressing task,
Which was screaming for attention,
Caused you to sleepwalk,
And if the tell tale signs of senility
Are already devastating your mind.

Then picking your way back to the bathroom
You peer into the mirror
Straining for the clue,
And with an Archimedean exaltation,
Discover the switch of memory
And reluctantly admitting your humanity,
Put your day back on track once more.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Santa Cruz and Sand Castles

Just to the south of our port listing university town you come to San Jose’s seaside escape, Capitola. Not the brash broad walk on the surfers’ bay of Santa Cruz where foam clad Adonis’
sit splay-legged waiting to catch the next wave. Not the high-cliffed esplanade where dread-locked bongo-popping sixties throwbacks change their babies in the back of tired Volvos.
Not the city whose streets are strewn with gleaming handlebarred sturdy bikes ridden by stout broad armed women whose preferences and strength I would not question. No, but to the south, there is a charming almost Devonshiresque retreat, with Gayles’ Bakery to greet you as slip of the freeway, and where if you are lucky you may find a parking spot as you slip down the hill beside the creek which is overlooked by brightly colored resort homes.

The Capitola Creek is broad near the estuary and is crossed by a railroad trestle and a triple arched road bridge which join this beach town together. And each year on the Labor Day weekend a begonia festival is held, and decorated floats sail down the creek and around the lagoon for delightful entertainment and judging. Also being awarded prizes are the sand sculptures on the beach which by the next high tide will be all washed away.

The Family with Zoe Merrill on the bridge at Capitola

A Mayan Pyramid

A mermaid

A prize winning Octopus

Two Bikers

Nessie all the way from Scotland

Buddy beating Phelps by a nose

Ancient City

A Sea lion

Phelps again

Writer's Block - What's Stopping You From Writing

Away From The Page
For Christopher Covell who hintingly suggested I might be getting further along with my writing.
Three of my four primary distractions are seated above - my children

You might think that there is plenty of time
To trot out another chapter, and get that great work,
That opus magnum completed
And be off to the next inspirational flowering
That will dazzle your fans and bring elusive fame to your door.

Not so!
For the washing up
And children’s homework are beckoning.
That broken toy, or the roses that need feeding,
The solution to a geometrical conundrum,

Or the value of X
Are all thrusting themselves forward
Demanding the last squirts of wakeful oxygenated blood
To be responsibly applied
To more pressing tasks.

Not more important,
But ahead in the line,
The litany of honey do’s
And unending parental duties
That keep me away from the page.

Neil Stewart McLeod 9/3/2008

Sunday, August 10, 2008

An Olympic Memory

At Sunday School at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, Lou Zamperini, the 1936 Olympic miler, came into the Two Year Olds' carrying the Olympic Torch he had carried as he ran with it for the 1984 Olympics here in Los Angeles.

Lou Zamperini running with the torch and a police escort at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. He also ran the torch at the Atlanta and Nagano games in 1996 and 1998

Lou is ninety two years old now, and a more vigorous ninety-year-old you will find it hard to meet. Although, ... if you read further back in my blog for September 2007 I have mentioned another. There is something truly remarkable about healthy seniors who still have a zest for life which all of us must envy. It says a lot for the human spirit that in our ranks we have individuals, like Lou, who in spite of great odds keep managing to fall on their feet no matter how adverse the circumstances they face.

You have to read Mr. Zamperini’s book “Devil at My Heels” , with its foreword by Senator John McCane, to discover how the miracle of faith over adversity worked for him. In the book he tells the tale of surviving a plane crash into the Pacific Ocean, and drifting with his crew mates until they were captured by the Japanese, only to be interned in their prison camps. There Zamperini resisted psychological pressures to participate in propaganda broadcasts at great personal cost.

Picture courtesy of John Hoffman

Today I shook his had and held that Olympic Torch. At a time when many are watching the news from Beging it was delightful to have our own special connection with an athletic phenomenon.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Australia New Zealand Army Corps Day commemorates the great losses at the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915. Nearly a century later this date is still remembered as the defining moment in the founding of national identity for the new antipodean colonies. On Sunday April 27th 2008 ANZAC DAY was commemorated at the National Cemetery in Westwood, California, and the Australian, New Zealand, Turkish Consuls General and the British Deputy Consul were present at the flagpole.

This field set with plinths and crosses
Fanning out in rows as far as you may scan,
Last depository for that supreme premium
The ultimate sacrifice for freedom and the chosen cause,
This flag surmounted garden of sorrow
Where the debt that never can be paid is sown,
This pyrrhic commemoration emblematic of Passchendaele,
This is a good place to remember the price paid at Gallipoli.

This Nation’s monument to those who fell
Offering up their blood to serve the ‘greater good’
Whose dust now moulders where they lie
Gives small comfort to us who here remaining stand,
To learn the news that Marathon was won
That tattered remnants of the Light Brigade returned,
This retreat of careworn grim faced veterans
This is a good place to remember the price paid at Gallipoli.

When the bugle’s piercing clamor fades away,
As flowers we brought and laid grow limp and wilt
And we retreating thoughtful of the loss
Retrace our steps and wonder at the cost
Our nations meet to hold their place in time
Until we all are called upon that fateful day
When faith and duty meet the final cause,
Until then we will remember the price paid at Gallipoli.

The family with Patricia Schwarzmann FSA

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Doctor Ginny's Escape

For twenty five years my friend Doctor Virginia Van Osdel has been taking a camping trip with horses to Wutchumna. She recently wrote to me about this years trip, and I could not resist scribbling the following lines. She wrote: “I wish I was still up in the mountains! This was the best Wutchumna and clear with no rain and an abundance of wildflowers! To say nothing of the wine, the music and the food! Our new tent functioned beautifully, it feels like the Taj Mahal after our old dome tent. The hot tub and showers (yes, this really is upscale camping) were nice and warm, quite a party in the hot tub, as always...very relaxing! And the best part was being with dear friends!”

In my heart I'm still up in the mountains
In the cool clear Wutchumna air
With no trace of rain
Just sweet thoughts remain
Of flowers blooming abundantly there.

Oh I wish I was back in the mountains
To say nothing of food and of wine
How our hearts were aglowing
How the music was flowing
Oh Lord! we had such a good time.

Our tent it was just like a palace
All cozy with plenty of room,
We relaxed in warm showers
Or hot tubbed for hours
And were longing to be back there soon.

It's the fresh air the horses and mountains
It's the turn back to camp at the bends
It's the relish we feel
With each ride and each meal
It's relaxing at peace with your friends.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

To Toast the Scots

Beneath the glass table, under the glass of Talisker, you can see a Cauri shell from Mombasa, a Kenyan elephant hair bracelet that was momentarily owned by Swami Muktanada, my father's cap badge from his days in the Black Watch, the Royal Highland Regiment, and also Dad's officers skien dhub, his sock dagger.

The dedication to the book I am writing called "The Thistle and The Silver Fern" is this poem. The book is about our family heritage, and tells the tale of the hardship of life in the Clan Lands of Coigach and the emigration by sea to New Zealand in the 1870's. It is the sort of story that legends are made from, the type of story you shell out when sitting with friends with a drink in hand when the memory of myth is toasted, and you feel the spine of worthiness, something worth living for and worth remembering.

So as a sat gabbing with Mike Mills and Al Ramseyer, Mike, who is never short of a tale himself, mentions Randall Wallace who of course he knows. I wanted to put my two bits in and recalled when the post "Braveheart" celebrations were being held at the Bel Air Hotel, and the Clan MacLeod Dancers were asked to provide entertainment at a very swank reception. It was there that I first recited this poem for Randall and the gathering. I offer it now for those with whom I share a dram, and all my Scottish friends.

for Roddy, Maran and Oliver

To all my Scottish friends I lift a glass,
To you, who've kept alive in song and rhyme
The memory of our ancient heroes past,
Across the dark and misty moors of time.

To you who know this simple truth so well
And show it where you live both near and far,
It is the tales we tell about ourselves
That carves the myth and makes us who we are.

So let us drink a toast to Scotland fair
Let us recall its sorrow and its solace,
And let us lift our glasses in the air
To all our kin, to you, to Bruce and Wallace.

And to the clan I love whose name I bear,
My parents, and my sisters and my brothers,
I'd rather be a man in your eyes there
Than be a king in any of the others.

A parody on Randall Wallace's poem 1994

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Carved Ebony Buffalo

Buffalo Heart

We gather possessions in life which remind us of special times and places. Sometimes directly from the source, and others quite inadvertently by stumbling upon them or as gifts. This poem is for Nace Benun, a financial wizard, who loved Kenya and has fond memories of his safari there years ago. He has a big heart, and he gave me a beautifully carved Buffalo.

I sat ’cross his desk in the tower
With its window view over the city
And there on the sill I saw with a thrill
A carving I thought very pretty.

I remarked “That’s a beautiful figure,
You don’t often find them like that,
The work is so fine you can see with each line
That the artist knew what he was at.”

“It’s a buffalo, Lord of Jungle
Nyati’s his Swahili name,
And he’s carved in Mpingo, which in African lingo
Is an Ebony wood from the plain.”

I told him my tale about hunting,
From the back of a truck as a lad,
How long shadows were getting, when the sun was a’setting
When I was just four with my Dad.

Then his generous heart leapt in that moment
Like a buffalo’s by the thorn tree,
And with watery eyes he picked up the prize
And he handed that carving to me.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Petticoat Lane - London

Years ago, when I was training at Guy's Hospital in London, I managed to get the keys to a small flat in Wentworth Dwellings overlooking Petticoat Lane. Getting the keys was the operative point, for without paying the key money, which was £200, a small fortune back then, we would never have been able to move in. I shared the flat with Stephen Milner, a very bright lad who was also studying at Guy's, who eventually became advisor in surgery to the British Army. Anyway all that aside, we had a lot of fun living over the Lane, and this poem will give you a flavoring.

If you go to the Lane ov a Sundy,
You never know wot you'll find
'Cos there's row after row of barrers
An' stalls wiv people be'ind.
They'll sell you most fings for a penny
'arf a quid or a dollar or two,
It really don't make any difference
So long as you keep passin' fru.

'Tween ve barrers all mixed up wiv people,
To a tune or a well know rhyme,
There's a band of colourful beggars
Beatin' out double quick time.
Those barrers are loaded wiv bargins
Fings you won't see again
"So hurry up love if ya wannit
Come on now it's startin' to rain".

Who'll buy this fine set of china
It's goin' fer two poun've lot
At only a fird of the shop price
'Cos it's not in a fanciful box.
Now Lady jus' try a tomato
'Ave you seen 'em like this one before
You really can't go wive out buyin'
They won't grow 'em like vis any more.

Any shirt ’ere for a smacker
For one fifty I'll let you ave two,
They'll fit any neck that you, Sir
So you really can't grumble can you.
These coats are of genuin' leaver
You don't ave to check em ya know
If you ave any doubts jus smell vis one
Oh! I'm sorry that's only fer show.

The Lane is just bulgin' wiv people,
Of every persuation an hue,
But I'll tell you who gets a good look in
It's either a Paki or Jew.
The Lane is terrible 'igh brow,
Wiv it's delicate nosh from Marks,
You can when it's closed on Shabbes
By the place where the Daimler parks.

Above the Lane live the locals
They know it all this cocky crew
And no matter whatever your business
They'll tell you a thing or two.
They know the chap sellin' razers
At only three bob a shot
And the drunk from the Salvation Army
Who'll pick up old apples and grot.

I live in a dwelling in London
My window looks over the lane
And the noise wakes me up in the morning
But really I never complain.
I can sit in my bed and just listen
All cozy and never alone
With thousands of people parading
All mad, an' right outside my home.

It's a real old edjamacation
To come and live local 'ere
Wive the Cockneys all cheeky as sparrows
And 'apply the whole bleedin' year.
So when you come to the Lane of a Sundy
Be grateful and never forget
There's a lot goin' on all around you
That you 'aven't fort ov yet.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Dominion Over The Earth - The Cypress Tree

We are not all Jack Bauer of "24" fame able to save the society from a fatal attack from terrorists. Yet each of us has the opportunity that was given us since the time of Adam to have dominion over the earth and be responsible for its care. Jack has some serious choices to make when he decides who must die for the greater good of his cause. On a much smaller scale we each have the opportunity to make the world a better place by interceding when we can to keep the world around us beautiful. My friends Al and Francine Ramseyer have a wonderful view over the "Jewel City" Glendale, and just beyond their home in a neighbors garden, the vista includes an elegant Cypress tree which is host to a profuse Morning Glory.

The Cypress tree,
Lone sentinel at the end of the mountain ridge
In the neighbor's garden,
Stands over the Jewel City at sunrise.

The house shadow
Shades the Morning Glory soon to open
With the striking light
As the choking weed takes the guard unawares.

The Gardiner
Whose gift it was to name all things in his dominion,
May choose either
To cull the rampant profusion or wait and watch the marker die.

NSM 3.15.2008.

Friday, March 07, 2008

R. V. Tucker DDS - GOLD ONLAYS A Limerick

Dr. R.V. Tucker

One of the greatest dentists of our time

A Washington dentist named Tucker
Who made inlays on which folks ate supper
Said, “Fear not if your row
Of teeth show the gold’s glow,
When you’re smiling just make your lips pucker.”

Dr. Richard V. Tucker is arguably one of the finest dentists of our time, and has spent a lifetime advocating the use of fine gold inlays and onlays to restore the teeth. Nothing, even today, has come close the longevity of gold as a dental restoration. No composite resin or cast or carved porcelain can claim to come close to the long term success enjoyed by this style of treatment. Some might complain that upon opening their mouths the gold work could be seen, or that a flash or gleam of yellow metal might mar their smiles. But with careful case selection and even more skill in the designing of the shape of the cast filling, it is quite possible to conceal the show of gold. My poem is just an attempt to glorify this art form and immortalize Doctor Tucker.

courtesy of Dr. Scott Parker DDS

Here are some examples of what the best looking gold inlays are like from the hand of one of my peers Doctor Scott Parker DDS of Redmond Washington. At the time of writing he is President of his local R.V. Tucker Study Club.

courtesy of Dr. Scott Parker DDS

Monday, January 28, 2008

Highland Games in Fresno

A Lament for The Games At Coombs Ranch

For William S. McLeod Jr.

For years, I well remember, in the middle of September
When the Californian summer lingers like an endless song,
Near that central valley city, where the grape vines look so pretty
And the broad San Joaquin River ambles silently along.

Where fields rise above the banks and great oaks grow in ranks,
And the grass is green and flat beneath their shade,
At a ranch called “River Bend” owned by Dennes Coombs, a friend,
Great schemes to hold a Highland Games were laid.

Well, Dennes Coombs and Truman Campbell, round that ranch they took a ramble
With Ms. Dunklee and Bill McLeod in tow,
And it was agreed together that right there in clement weather
They’d host a Games to which the folk might go.

Looking back they got it right, for this very bonnie site
With its lawns all sheltered by the tall tree groves,
Proved to be a prime location, where without hesitation
Stout hearted Scots folk came with friends in droves.

Vendors came one day early to avoid the hurley-burley,
And set up their pavilions and their stands.
With all kinds of things for sale, ghillie brogues and coats of mail,
China crocks and books and Celtic wedding bands.

First thing the trucks appear with the athletes and their gear
And weights and cabers lashed up to their hitches
Through the day they’d show their form of Scottish stealth and brawn
Sending awesome weights a hurtling down the pitches.

You could buy your tartan kilt, or a sword with basket hilt,
Or a Kitchener pith helmet like a Sahib,
Or a jacket and a bonnet, with you family crest upon it
To make your first foray in Highland garb.

Then came the pipes and drums, and they filled the air with thrums,
Their music stirred the blood within the vein.
Marches, jigs, Strathspeys and reels, had us kicking up our heels
As they paraded down the field and back again.

The clans folk also came, of the blood and of the name
Who raised their tents beside the glen in rows,
Men sported badge and kilt, and wore bonnets at a tilt
And the lassies had their hair in tartan bows.

The children they would play in the river through the day,
Where the shallow water rippled by the weirs,
Catching tiddlers and frogs or making dams with rock and logs
While the lilting skirl of bagpipes filled their ears.

At noon when colors advance and we all would get the chance
To cross our hearts and pledge our promise true,
Star Spangled Banner we’d chorus and the Flowers Of The Forest,
And we’d tear up with emotion at the view.

For the ranks of Highland Men were parading through the glen
In their tartans with their banners flying high.
And the pipes and drums played loudly and the gazing crowd stood proudly,
With the sparkling glint of tears in every eye.

But one day Dennes lost his ranch and it was said we’d lost the chance
To hold our Highland Games some made remark,
But hats off to Fresno City who rose up for us in pity
And let us have the games in Roeder Park

They still tell this tale today, with longing hearts they say,
That the story teller keeps it in his quiver,
And the legend lingers on in our hearts and minds and song,
When the Games were held at Coombs Ranch by the river.

Neil Stewart McLeod

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Stabbing Haggis

The art of redefining the contour of fine silver trays is one that is more particularly Scottish than, perhaps, any other nationalities. A reputation that the great halls of silversmiths in London and Sheffield are prone to envy. Whether this skill blossomed from an innate sense of impecunity, or from the natural latent genius for which we are so proud, is left to conjecture. But the fact clearly remains that more pierced silver is to be found in Scotland, and in Scottish enclaves than any where else in the world. Why you might ask has this unusual specialization developed? Well the answer lies in the frequency with which the haggis is slain in late January each year.

Scotland is famous of course for her two principal exports, its brains, and the antidote, whisky. It is the fortification with the latter in preparation for the "Address To A Haggis", that is, in all likelihood, responsible for the abundance of perforated chargers. Armed with dirks, it is not uncommon for exuberance to foreshadow good judgment in the lavish swing that plunges the blade into the warm and reeking bladder, which yields sweetly allowing the tip to score and skewer the entire table display through to the richly varnished table boards beneath. If the knife can be retrieved, the tray will need treatment with planishing hammers and silver solder before the buffing wheels on the lathes can retrieve its former luster.

Nor should you doubt any part of this report, for every word of it is as true as the light of day. Examination of old copies of the 'Daily Breeze' from 1988 will reveal an account of a similar occurrence, when, before the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, Tom Girvin, that well known radio personality, had difficulty removing his dirk from the haggis for exactly the same reason. Years later Tom's offer to have the tray repaired was declined in favor of its value as a memento of that valiant stab.

No you might say, this cannot be the case, such a fabrication, such whimsy is more than is creditable. Yet I can tell you with no exaggeration, that in 1997 I stood right beside Joseph McClure Swindle, who, suitably reinforced with fifteen year old Talisker, slew the haggis at the Castaways one Burns Night. Joseph spouted forth,

"His knife see rustic labour dight,
An' cut ye up we ready slight,"...

and as he did so, he rammed his huge dirk down through the haggis tray and all. Paul Dimond, the British Consul General, and his lady Carolyn, were there to witness the thrust, as were the gathered members and friends of the Los Angeles Burns Club. The stage was set, and what a night it was. Later, after the loyal toasts, the "Immortal Memory of Robert Burns" was given by Ann Dwyer who, to our amazement transformed herself into Ann, the serving maid at 'The Globe Inn'. Her performance transfixed us, as she related "from personal experience" her encounter with the poet who used to frequent the inn. Richard Nathan, the editor of “Mad Dogs” where this story was previously reported, gave the toast to the lassies, in a highly controversial parallel between Shakespeare and Burns' view of the fairer sex. Ah! but the answer probably lies right there, that it is in an attempt to impress the "lassies O", that we get into these predicaments of masculine excessiveness in the first place.

If you live in the Los Angeles area you can see the Haggis slain in true style at Lawry’s Tam O’ Shanter Restaurant, on Los Feliz Boulevard, on January 22nd, 23rd and 24th when I shall be performing the ceremony six times each night, and cutting up Chef Ivan’s excellent Haggis. There will be piping from Harry Farrar, Highland Dancing and saucy ladies singing Burns’ songs.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Slaying the Haggis

“Fair fa your honest sonsie face,
Great chieftain of the puddin’ race”

Here we go it is Burns Season.
Every year, one month exactly after Jesus’ birthday, on January 25th Scots and Scotiaphiles around the world celebrate the birth of Scotland’s most famous poet, Robert Burns. They do so with a fervency that will rival even the Russian’s love for their poets, and with good reason. Robert Burns leaves us with a legacy of over six hundred songs and poems that epitomize the most sensitive heartfelt wrenchings of the common man, and contain what is arguably the greatest satire and story telling ever penned in the English or the Ayrshire language.

We are slaying the haggis again. The Haggis Slayer, the dirk I have used for over twenty five years to cut open the haggis will be put into action twenty times this season alone. I believe it will have been used to “slay” one hundred and eighty five haggi or what ever the word may be to pluralize haggis. This must be some sort of record.

Last night at the Athenaeum Club, that august edifice at the California Institute of Technology, the Haggis was slain and “Tam O’ Shanter”, the Burns story of the wild ride on a stormy night, was recited in its totality. The venue was elegant the wine excellent and the haggis remarkable. Kevin their chef has developed his art to the point where I can confidently say he is giving the renowned Chef Ivan of Lawry’s “Tam O’ Shanter Restaurant” a run for his money. It was good, very good, and served with bashed neeps and tatties. Hats off to Kevin.