poetry

A Mother's Love

Today I want to talk about my Mum.

I know most people think that their Mother is the best Mum in the world ... but mine REALLY is.

She's an amazing person. A great woman. Although she's my mother, she's also my friend - we get on so well - and she's a great role model for me, not just as a woman but also as a Christian.

My mum is a person of deep faith and has lived her life for Jesus since she was in her late teens, often sacrificially. She and my Dad spent most of their married life in Christian ministry and my dad and mum have touched many lives down the years. She's hardworking, a great cook, not someone who pushes herself forward, kind and caring. Mum is a person of grace and love and although she's now aged, she is still sharing that love with her family, albeit a little quietly now.

Mum has also made so many sacrifices down the years for us, her children and her family, and for and her example of love and care I will always be grateful. I love her more than words can say and I'm so pleased we still have her with us and that it is now our turn to care and help her through her day.

It was Mum who first introduced me to the religious and inspirational poetry of Helen Steiner Rice, another woman of faith who had the ability to touch hearts and minds.

So today, on my Mum's birthday, here's a short line by the poet that I think sums up my mother ... it's a simple poem but profound in its sentiment. It inspires me to write ... but actually today it expresses  just what I want to say.

Happy Birthday Mum! Have a Wonderful Day!

Mother's love helen steiner riceve

 


The Road Less Travelled

Have you ever wondered what might have happened if you had made different decisions in life?

Taken that 'other' first job rather than the one you actually began your working life with? Could that have led to an entirely different career?

Taken a risk and moved to another town or even country when you had the opportunity, even though it seemed like a ridiculous notion at the time? Might that have meant more adventure?

Carried on a relationship which you gave up with little fight because you had convinced yourself, at the time, that the person concerned wasn't 'for you', or that it wouldn't work? 

I have to say it has crossed my mind once in a while that life could have been very different for me if I had done 'that' rather than 'this', made alternative decisions.

What might have happened if, when I reached those inevitable crosses in the road, I had taken the left rather than the right road? Or the right rather than the left? Not that I entirely regret the decisions I've made, but it is curious, isn't it, to wonder what 'might have been'?

'The Road Less Travelled' is a saying which has entered our language which sums this up. What might have been had we made different choices?

The phrase comes from a great poem by Robert Frost  - a four time Pulitzer Prize winner - which is actually entitled "The Road Not Taken",

Whenever I read these lines, it certainly gets my mind whirling.

The road less travelled

 


Daffodils

Today I'm thinking about Spring and that wonderfully cheerful flower - the daffodil.

Over the past few weeks Jersey has been festooned with the bright yellow trumpet shaped blooms  - in gardens, in fields and on hedgerows. It's been glorious!

I think daffodils have the ability to raise our spirits, make us smile and even get the creative juices flowing.

Daffodils poem april 7Back in April 1802 a poet called William Wordsworth was taking a walk with his sister Dorothy around Glencoyne Bay, Ullswater, in the Lake District, when they came across a "long belt" of daffodils. A couple of years later that memory led to the creation of one of the world's most popular poems ... called 'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud' or 'Daffodils'.

Years ago I visited Wordsworth's Lake District home in Northwest England - Dove Cottage - and one day I might chat about that as well. It's a place I had always wanted to visit, ever since I read Wordsworth as a teenager, including this fantastic poem. In fact, his sister Dorothy also wrote about seeing the daffodils in all their glory in her Journals ... again another brilliant read, if ever you fancy it.

So today, to mark the birthday of William Wordsworth - born on this day April 7 1770 - I bring you his immortal lines...

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
and twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not be but gay,
in such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
what wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

William Wordsworth


A Poem to Inspire

Today is World Poetry Day.

Says it all really. It's a day to celebrate poetry, read poetry, write poetry and basically ... just think poetry!

I love poetry and I do even write a bit, from time time. But today I'm not going to impose one of my rather poor creations on you. Instead I'm going to share a poem with you that I had to learn many many years ago. So it's one of those that I can (sort of) still recite. If I think about it a lot.

I learnt the poem for an Eisteddfod, a creative arts festival. I stood on a stage and performed this. 

I didn't win the contest, but for someone who wasn't keen on performing in front of others, at the time it was a great, if terrifying, experience because I was forced out of my comfort zone. I was much more comfortable being part of a team, so this was different and unsettling, but character building.

Some of you reading this might be surprised to hear I wasn't that keen on putting myself forward in public when I was a child and a teenager, because for years I worked as a TV and radio presenter. And I've done a whole load of presenting not just in the media but also on stage in some really really big auditoriums - including  Wembley Arena and the Royal Albert Hall in London.

I can't say I haven't had nerves and anxiety over those appearances and the media presenting - sometimes that anxiety has been debilitating -  but at least I've done it. And it was experiences like the Eisteddfod poetry moment that helped me at the start of the long journey towards a future career which required me to put myself forward and not hide behind others.

And what was the poem I recited?

If by Rudyard Kipling poemWell, it's this.

IF, by Rudyard Kipling.

I think I mentioned a couple of days ago that he's one of my favourite authors and poets, and this is where it all began.

It was a strangely prophetic performance because although the poem was written as a general advice for life, for me it has become personal. 

In the media, it's easy to get above yourself and think you are better than others, but also you can be intimidated by others, people who hold high office, those who believe themselves superior to you, people (even your own colleagues) who act like they are the only individuals in the universe. This poem speaks into that.

It also tells us a little about how to deal with the sort of negativity that can come one's way. These days, especially, people in the media (and anyone actually if you give yourself a bit of a profile) can come in for all kinds of abuse on social media, and sometimes when things are going badly, you just need to keep believing in yourself. And then, when you need to change course, to follow the dreams you once had, these words can inspire.

This poem has so many nuances. It's one I've gone back to time and time again over the years. And it doesn't matter that it says 'Son' and 'man' at the end ... it works for us girls as well. I find it empowering!

And on this World Poetry Day I will simply say ... enjoy and be inspired!

IF

by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
 
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
 
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
 
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
 

 


The Bare Necessities

One of my jobs at BBC Radio Jersey is to co-ordinate and produce what we call the 'Morning Thought'.

It's broadcast at around 0640 every morning ... so it is a bit early for a lot of people ... but it is surprisingly popular, as anyone who has contributed to it may tell you. Many a vicar, church minister or leader or individual who's done a recording have told me that after their 'morning thoughts' have been transmitted they will get people saying 'heard you on the radio!'

Each 'thought' is only about two minutes in duration and it's just an uplifting thought to help ease people into the day. It's sometimes spiritual but not always. We feature people of different faiths, and topics like fair trade and peace, and charities who are maybe marking a significant anniversary or a special week. 

The contributors usually record in advance (rather than getting up at the crack of dawn) and since the start of the coronavirus lockdown, when the Radio Jersey studios have been closed, they've been unable to come in to record. But they've been wonderful because they've all learned to record at home on their phones and tech devices, and email the audio to me, after which I'm able to edit and make it ready for the Breakfast Show.

Why am I telling you this?

Well it's because on Monday this week, our morning thought was about the importance of friendship. And our contributor, a great guy called Graeme who leads a church in Jersey, started with one of my favourites songs from my childhood.

Back in the early 1970s I was at boarding school in Kenya. It was one of those schools that had 'houses', Everyone was in a 'house' and there was a system of rewards and punishment for good stuff, or bad things, we did. Points added to the house tally if you did something amazing, points deducted if you stepped out of line. So what you did wasn't just for YOUR own glory, but for the general benefit of the whole house. And if you stuffed up then it wasn't only YOU who suffered but all the other kids in your house. It helped to bond us together, and made us realise the need for corporate responsibility. Oh and of course, it helped to encourage us all to behave ourselves and it kept us all in line. 

If you know the Harry Potter books, you'll know all about this. 'Ten points to Gryffindor for...' or 'Twenty points taken away for...' 

At the end of the year at one particular school I attended, the house with the winning number of points got a treat ... a chance to see a movie!

I'm sure you get where I'm going with this now. One year my house won the house cup and we all sat down one afternoon to watch 'The Jungle Book' ... the animated movie which had been released just a few years earlier, in 1967. And yes, I really AM that old!

I loved it! I've seen it numerous times since that hot afternoon in the school hall, with black out curtains keeping the sunshine out, and I never tire of it. The tale of Mowgli, the little boy brought up in the wild with his band of animal friends. Based on the fabulous collection of stories by Rudyard Kipling, one of my favourite authors and poets!

As I said, for his Monday 'morning thought' for BBC Radio Jersey, our Graeme was thinking about friendship and he took as an example those friendships in 'The Jungle Book'.

And at the start of the piece he actually broke into song and gave us a little rendition of one of the most popular songs from the film - 'The Bare Necessities'.

It's a great tune with fantastic words. and it's sung by the big bear Baloo and Mowgli 

Look for the bare necessities
The simple bare necessities
Forget about your worries and your strife
I mean the bare necessities
That's why a bear can rest at ease
With just the bare necessities of life

It's hard to 'forget about your worries and your strife' I know, but actually there's something in this song about just trying to keep life simple.

But the real reason I'm talking about this is because ever since I heard Graeme singing that song on the recording emailed to me, it's been going around in my head, like an earworm. Now, don't get me wrong, it's not a bad song to have constantly in my brain, but I figure if I share it with you here then I might get it out of my system.

Or maybe not.

 

PS - if it's now in YOUR head, sorry. But hope you enjoyed it!


A person's a person, no matter how small!

Here are some lines you might recognise if you, like me, have been a reader since you were very little.

"The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play, so we sat in the house all that cold, cold wet day. I sat there with Sally. We sat here we two and we said 'How we wish we had something to do.'"

Or how about this? 

Do you like green eggs and ham?
I do not like them,
Sam-I-am.
I do not like
green eggs and ham.”

The cat in the hat bookcoverYes, opening lines from two children's classics - 'The Cat in the Hat' and 'Green Eggs and Ham'

By 'Dr Seuss'.

Admittedly, if you're my age, you're more likely to know the name and the books if you were brought up in the United States of America, but nowadays Dr Seuss is globally popular not just for the books (he wrote and illustrated more than 60 books under that pen name), but also because of the cartoons and films that have brought the author's incredible imagination and creatures and thoughts to life over the decades since he first put pen to paper.Green eggs and ham book cover

'Dr Seuss' was actually a chap called Theodor Seuss 'Ted' Giesel, who was born on this day - Mach 2nd  - in 1904.

He wasn't just an award-winning world renowned children's author and poet, but also an illustrator, animator, filmmaker and political cartoonist. And by the time of his death in September 1991, his many children's books had sold over 600 million copies and been translated into more than 20 languages.

Horton hears a who book cover

'Horton Hears a Who' (published in 1955) is one of my favourites - the story in rhyme of Horton the Elephant and how he saves Whoville, a tiny planet based on a small speck of dust, from the evil animals who mocked him. 

The most popular line from that book is "A person's a person, no matter how small" - it's just so profound! Dr Seuss isn't just about fun, there's usually a moral in there somewhere too.

And how about 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas!' ? That one was published in 1957.

All written by Dr Seuss! NOW do you know who I'm talking about?

As was/is the case with many successful authors Ted Giesel's first efforts as a children's writer - a book called 'And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street' - was rejected by many dozens of publishers. But just a few years later, by the time of the outbreak of the Second World War, he was beginning to become quite successful. During the war he supported the US war effort and made a name for himself as a filmmaker. One of his war documentaries inspired a film called 'Design for Death' (1947), a study of Japanese culture - and that picked up an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. A couple of years later in 1950, a film called 'Gerald McBoing-Boing', which was based on an original story by Seuss, won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

Such a brilliantly talented person!

Dr Seuss was also at the forefront of the movement to get children reading. In 1954, a report was published in Life magazine highlighting illiteracy among school children in the USA. It concluded that kids were not learning to read because their books were boring. The director of the education division of publishers Houghton Mifflin, William Ellsworth Spaulding, compiled a list of 348 words that he believed were important for young readers - first-graders - to recognize. Spaulding asked Ted Geisel to cut the list to 250 words and to write a book using only those words.

The result was 'The Cat in the Hat', which uses 236 of the listed words.

Astonishing!

Seuss' books, his words, have certainly got children reading down the years. Just as JK Rowling got a generation at the end of the 20th century picking up a Harry Potter book, Dr Seuss' creations have inspired millions of young readers. 

Down the years Dr Seuss picked up many an award, and even a special Pulitzer Prize in 1984, for his "contribution over nearly half a century to the education and enjoyment of America's children and their parents".  He even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and although he passed away in 1991 he remains one of the highest paid celebrities and authors. 

But I think it's his ability to engage children with words and to encourage them to read, opening up their imaginations to a world of possibilities and to laugh out loud, shed a tear or two and empathise with others, that is his greatest legacy.

So, with that in mind, I'll leave you with a brilliant quote from the amazing man called Dr Seuss.

Cat in the hat reading

 


Spring is on the Way!

I was trying to find something to cheer us for the weekend and I found this quote.

Feburary patience strong

Don't you love that? 

We've started into Lent, as I've been saying all week, and although it's a time for reflection, it's also a time of 'anticipation' of Easter.

I love the optimism and simplicity of this thought. And if you're a bit fed up of February, take heart. Spring is on the way!

I have some daffodils in my garden already, and I've seen snowdrops and even some primroses in the hedgerows! I do live in the farthest south outreaches of the British Isles, in Jersey in the Channel Islands, where we do have milder winters than other places, so we are already on course for spring, despite the bitter cold and even snow of recent weeks!

But when I saw the quote it also got me thinking about the author - Patience Strong.

It's a name I've known well pretty much all my life. I remember my mum having several Patience Strong poetry books when I was young. It was quite spiritual poetry, the sort that was great for  church, or inspiring women's groups. Patience's poetry is traditional in that it rhymes and it's simple, often short verse, and yes, sometimes sentimental, with themes of nature, faith and strength.

So I did a bit of digging to find out more about the woman behind the verse.

The poet was actually born Winifred Emma May in June 1907 in England. Her poems, prose and thoughts have been collected in numerous anthologies, and they are often brought together to create a collection of 'daily'' inspirational thoughts. Some under the title of 'Friendship Book'.

What I didn't know was that Winnifred also wrote books, dealing with Christianity and practical psychology, and that she was an accomplished musician and lyricist. I read that in 1930, she even wrote a song for the 4th birthday of Princess Elizabeth - now Queen Elizabeth II.

She was much more than the seemingly sweet sentimental poetry I first knew her for.

Patience's popular poems were first featured in The Daily Mirror  newspaper in England in the 1930s and throughout the Second World War her daily poems appeared in a section called 'The Quiet Corner'. They brought comfort and inspiration to a generation of people living through terrible conflict.

But why 'Patience Strong'? Well apparently  the name  came from a book by an American poet and writer called Adeline Dutton Train Whitney. She published more than 20 books for girls in her lifetime, in the mid to late 19th century. ADT Whitney's books expressed a traditional view of women's roles and were popular throughout her life. One of them, published in 1868 was entitled 'Patience Strong's Outings'.

I wonder if that book made a deep impact on Winnifred? Maybe it was a book that had inspired her as a young girl? Who knows?

Whatever the reason for her choosing her pen name, I've always been a bit intrigued by it and I think it was a clever choice. It mixes two important emotions - Patience and Strength. To be truly patient with the world and with life, and with relationships takes really strength. And the name has certainly stood the test of time, because Patience aka Winnifred's poetry and words are still around, and enjoyed by millions of people every year.

Earlier I was chatting about spring flowers, so as we wait for Spring to appear  - here's one of her poems which is just in the moment ... 

Bulbs
by Patience Strong


I've put my bulbs in coloured bowls and hidden them away -
Inside my cupboard, where they cannot see the light of day -
I've put them in the soft black mould as cosy as can be -
And in the quiet darkness they will work their mystery . . .

And when all things lie lifeless locked in winter's frozen sleep -
Inside my cupboard one sweet day a pale green tip will peep.
I'll bring them out into the light and set them in my room -
And silently and secretly they'll grow and bud and bloom -
The grey old house will waken from its drowsy slumbering,
To find the rooms ablaze with flowers, as if it were the Spring! . . .

With daffodils and hyacinths, narcissi, tulips too -
A flaring mass of loveliness in gold and pink and blue -
And I shall smile, remembering my small part in the show -
For though we plant and tend the bulbs -
it's God that makes them grow.


(found on Bulbs, Patience Strong Poems (stresslesscountry.com)


If this be loving ... then I love

On this Valentine's Day I share with you something very special.

A few years back I wrote a book based on the lives and letters of the couple who founded The Salvation Army, the global church and charity movement.

William Booth met Catherine Mumford in 1851 and they married four years later, in July 1855. Their relationship was developed through letter writing, and that correspondence continued throughout their marriage.

Those letters are held in the British Library in London, and it was sheer pleasure to spend hours pouring over those epistles, deciphering the handwriting. Through the correspondence I got to know these individuals on quite a personal level and I discovered that, although they were obviously very religious and spiritual, they were also complex characters, flawed individuals, and ... I found to my surprise ... very much in love.

That personal even romantic love kept Catherine and William close, and that and their love for God and humanity and their mutual passion for sharing the Christian gospel,  helped them to stay strong often during very difficult times.

I love that in 1872, 17 years into their marriage, William - who was also quite an accomplished poet - was inspired to write this to his wife, the mother of his eight children, and his partner in life, faith and Christian mission.


2016-02-14 15.03.48

By the way, if you fancy reading my book based on the Booth Letters, I will be honoured.

It's called 'William and Catherine - the love story of the founders of The Salvation Army told through their letters' (Lion Hudson 2013)

You can also find it and some of my other books on Amazon and other sites.

You can also check out my Author Central page on Amazon 

If you go to the top of this page and click on 'Cathy Home Page' you will also find my main website and occasional blog. And there's more info on 'Cathy's books'.

Thanks and Happy Valentine's Day

 

 


My Tribute

There are times when a song or a piece of music takes you by surprise, or  unexpectedly reminds you of something in your past or takes you back to a moment in time.

That happened to me last weekend. 

On Sunday at lunchtime in the UK the BBC broadcasts its long running and very popular television programme called Songs of Praise, a religious show which features Christian hymns sung in churches of different denominations across the country, and interesting interviews and features about the life of faith of the nation.

Even during the coronavirus pandemic, when they haven't been able to go out and record big congregations singing at the top of their voices, Songs of Praise has kept alive and vibrant. They have recorded soloists, and small groups and choirs singing at safe distance,  and new interviews are interwoven with some of the highlights of congregational singing recorded in recent years, before churches were all locked up to keep us safe.

I've been involved with Songs of Praise for several reasons down the years. I've sung in a few big congregations. As a PR working for different churches and faith charities, I've helped provide guests for the programme. And many years ago, I was actually a guest myself when the programme came to Jersey and I was interviewed for the show. 

In addition to the church based programmes, every year Songs of Praise also hosts 'specials' like 'The Big Sing' and competitions like 'Gospel Choir of the Year' and 'Young Chorister of the Year' which enable the whole nation to enjoy some amazing singers and performances.

This year, for the first time, Songs of Praise is hosting a new contest - 'Gospel Singer of the Year' - and last Sunday (Jan 31) they held the semi-finals. The top three will be in the final today.

But that's not really why I'm writing this.

I'm inspired to share a song with you this Sunday. It was sung last weekend by one of the semi-finalists in the Gospel Singer of the Year programme. And it brought back a particular time in my life and a poignant memory.

In May 1985 my darling Dad died. It was way before his time. He was only 63.

He and mum were living in the UK at the time, ministering in a Salvation Army corps (church) in Kent, and when Dad passed away - or as we say in The Salvation Army ... when he was 'Promoted to Glory' - we held three memorial services. One in the UK church that he was leading at the time of his passing, and then ten days later, the main funeral and an evening celebration service at home here in Jersey, in his 'home' church.

In the celebration service I sang a song for my Dad. How I managed it I'll never know, and I am aware that I missed some of the top notes because of my tears, but I did it for him.

The song meant a lot to me but I have to admit that I haven't listened to it much in the intervening 35 plus years and I certainly haven't sung it in public again. In fact, I don't really sing solos much anymore.

But it was THAT song I heard on the Songs of Praise Gospel Singer of the Year. It was sung beautifully and I was pleased that the performer is in the final. It brought a tear to my eye and caused a lump in my throat, but it's been going through my mind all this week.

So - just for you - I share it with you this Sunday.

The title of the song is 'My Tribute - To God be the Glory' and it was written by the amazing singer/songwriter Andraé Crouch, who also sadly is no longer with us. He mixed his own words to the eternal poetry of hymnwriter Fanny Crosby to create this beautiful song.

'My Tribute' has been sung by many artists down the years, including one of my favourite singers - Sandi Patty. But in the 1980s I also listened a lot to a Christian singer called 'Evie' ... and it's her version of this amazing song that I was inspired by.

It took me a while to find it online, and in the process I discovered that Evie is still performing, including this song, and looking and sounding amazing ... but this is the original recording I fell in love with.

Enjoy and be blessed!

 

 

 


Giving thanks on Burns Night

‘Some hae meat and canna eat, And some wad eat that want it, But we hae meat and we can eat, Sae let the Lord be Thanket!’

Do you know what that is? 

It's The Selkirk Grace, a prayer which can be used before a meal, and it's attributed to the Scottish poet and lyricist Robert Burns.

Born on this day – January 25 – in the year 1759, 'Rabbie Burns' is also known as ‘The Bard of Ayrshire’ and the ‘Ploughman Poet’. He came from humble farming stock and despite a life of struggles, grew a reputation which today sees him recognised as the national poet of his homeland - Scotland.

He wrote not just about the world around him but also commentated on the politics of the day, and after his death in July 1796 his work is said to have inspired the founders of the Romantic movement, liberalism and socialism.

Every January 25 around the world, especially where there is the glimmer of a Scottish population, is recognised as 'Burns Night' and  ‘Burns Night Suppers’ are held to commemorate and celebrate this man who’s legacy has influenced so many generations.

I've read a few versions of how the Burns Night dinner came about. It's thought it was around 1801 when some of his friends and acquaintance met to remember Robert. After some confusion over when the poet was born, by 1803 they had settled on suppers being held on or around January 25th, his birthdate. The event has been a regular occurrence ever since and it now follows a pretty strict routine.

The supper always begins with the guests being 'piped in' ... that is greeted by the sound of the bagpipes.

The host welcomes the guests and the meal is blessed with The Selkirk Grace.

First course is soup, usually a Scottish soup or broth or similar.

Haggis (2)And then comes - The Haggis.

Once again the bagpipes are full throttle as the cook enters the room bearing a large platter on which sits what is a sort of savoury pudding, containing sheep's heart, lungs and liver, minced up with onion, suet, oatmeal, spices and condiments. It's traditionally wrapped in an animal's stomach and - I've not tasted it yet - apparently it's a bit nutty.

Everyone in the room stands for the 'Piping in (of ) the Haggis' and the piper leads the dish all the way to the table. 

And then, before digging in, there's a recital of Robert Burns' poem 'Address to a Haggis'. This is the centrepiece and highlight of the supper and pays tribute not just to Burns and his poetry, but to Scottish tradition and history.

At the line  'His knife see rustic Labour dicht,' the speaker normally draws and sharpens a knife. At the line 'An' cut you up wi' ready slicht', he plunges it into the haggis and cuts it open from end to end.

As the poems ends, a whisky toast is proposed to the haggis, and the guests sit down to eat. The haggis is traditionally served with mashed 'tatties' (potatoes) and mashed 'neeps' (swede).
 
The meal usually includes dessert and  a cheese course  - all usually traditional Scottish recipes - and then coffee is followed by 'the water of life' - Scotch whisky. There are lots of toasts and speeches and the main speaker usually talks about Burns and his life or poetry. It could include a poem or a song ... and then there's a toast to the 'Immortal Memory of Robert Burns'.
 
Tradition then insists there's an 'Address to the Lassies' - originally a thanks to the women who had prepared the meal but now usually a comical thought about a man's view of women. It's not usually offensive, because what comes next is the 'Reply to the Laddies' ... a woman replies with her view on men.
 
Everyone toasts with whisky at any opportunity!
 
Loads of singing and poetry may follow. Burns wrote poems and songs and so there's lots to chose from including poems like  To a MouseTo a Louse, and Tam o' Shanter.
 
I'm reliably informed that it's generally a long night which ends with a guest giving a vote of thanks and then, to end the evening,  everyone is invited to stand, join hands, and sing perhaps Robert Burns's most famous and popular lyric ... Auld Lang Syne.
 
Set to a traditional Scottish folk tune and also sung across the world on 'Scottish Hogmanay' -  the final night of the old year -  ‘Auld Land Syne’ starts by posing a rhetorical question.
 
‘Should Old Acquaintance be forgot, and never thought upon;’ is one version of the opening line. The other is ‘‘Should Old Acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind;’
 
Is it right that old times be forgotten?
 
It’s an interesting question and is interpreted by some as a reminder to us all not to forget long-standing relationships and friendships, especially those that have been important to us.
 
As we live our lives, move from one experience to another, one relationship to another, develop in our careers and move on from our past, it’s easy to forget the people who, perhaps, have sacrificed so that we may have more. It’s easy to forget the relationships which, perhaps, have been the building blocks for our lives today, and for our futures.
 
So, even if we're not piping in the haggis tonight, or reciting poems and singing songs and toasting Rabbie Burns, let's take a moment to give thanks for all the people who have brought us to this moment in our lives and without whose influence we would be nothing.
 
‘Sae let the Lord be Thanket!’