traditions

Bouônjour!

Today is International Mother Language Day.

So let me tell you about a language you may never have heard of.

It's called Jèrriais and it's the mother language of the island which I call home - Jersey in the Channel Islands.

So if you don't know where that is or what it is ... Jersey is an island within the British Isles (not the United Kingdom) and it's a self governing Crown Dependency.

Most importantly from the perspective of today's thought, Jersey is closer to France than England. Actually it lies just 12miles (19km) off the Normandy coast and around 100miles (160km) from the south coast of England. Most days, but especially on a good day, you can see the coast of France clearly from Jersey's East Coast!

Jerriais 2So, with France so close, it may be no surprise to hear that Jersey's mother tongue is a version of French. Jèrriais is an ancient form of the Norman Language. It's often called "Jersey French" or "Jersey Norman French" but this gives an impression that it's a dialect of French, a 'patois' - but it's not. It's a language in its own right. As is it's closest 'sister' - the native language of nearby island Guernsey - Guernésiais - and the other Norman languages including those across the water in France. And the language of SarkSercquiais, is descended from  the Jèrriais brought by the Jersey colonists who settled Sark in the 16th century. There's a commonality between Jèrriais and those Norman languages and there's a growing relationship between the speakers of these languages, all of which are in danger of dying out, but they are all different languages.

Over the last few years working at BBC Radio Jersey, the local station for the island, I've connected with the Jèrriais-speaking community. Every week, at the moment, I work with native speakers who record a weekly 'letter' - La Lettre Jèrriaise - which is broadcast just before 7am on a Saturday morning and is also posted online on a special languages podcast called 'Voices'. You can also get it via the Learn Jèrriais website,

In 2019 I made a radio series to coincide with the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages, when I worked with the Jèrriais teachers at the L'Office du Jèrriais. I learnt 20 phrases in Jersey's mother tongue.

It was a challenge, but it was fun, and more importantly it helped me to reconnect with my own family history, and my own Dad who was native Jèrriais speaker. Although he didn't teach us the language - my mum was not a Jèrriais speaker - I remember hearing him speak the language with his family - my aunts and uncles.

That was common in the mid 20th century, when the language had fallen into decline.

What I've learned is until the 19th century, Jèrriais was used as an everyday language by the majority of people living in Jersey and even up to the beginning of the Second World War more than half of the population could speak the language. In fact, it was often used during the Occupation of Jersey 1940-1945 when the German enemy occupied Jersey and the other Channel Islands - it was not understood by French or German speakers!

But Jèrriais was consistently falling out of favour, with English becoming the dominant language. It was no longer used in schools, or business. French and English was used in the law, but not Jèrriais. Eventually it's decline was such that it is now officially listed as one of the world's endangered languages!

However, in recent years Jèrriais has had a resurgence. There's been investment in education, and it's now taught in local schools, and adult classes and conversation groups are also held. The teachers and the L'Office du Jèrriais are central to that, and there's also now a Jèrriais promotion officer for Jersey Heritage.

In 2019 the States of Jersey (the Government of Jersey) voted to put Jèrriais on signs when they next need to be replaced, with English translations underneath. It's also now an official language in the States Assembly alongside English and French.

This is all really down to the persistence of native language speakers. Down the years, stalwarts of the language made great efforts to keep it alive. in 1912, thJersey Eisteddfod introduced a Jèrriais section - that still exists today. The L'Assembliée d'Jèrriais was founded in 1951 and they launched a quarterly magazine a year later. The Le Don Balleine Trust  was established in accordance with the will of Arthur E. Balleine (1864–1943), in which he left funds for the promotion of the language.

Jèrriais dictionaries go back to the 19th century but in 1966 the Dictionnaire Jersiais–Français was published to mark the 900th anniversary of the Norman Conquest of England, based on meticulous research by Frank Le Maistre, who's family are still champions of the Jèrriais speaking community. This was followed by a Jèrriais–English dictionary, Dictionnaithe Jèrriais-Angliais.

Another individual who did a huge amount to promote the language was a certain George d'la Forge. 

Jerrias book coverGeorge was born in Jersey but after the First World War moved to the USA and became a successful businessman. But he had been raised speaking Jèrriais, and never forgot it. After he took early retirement in 1946 he returned to Jersey for a holiday, and later spent months every year in the island. He was a prolific writer in the Jèrriais language, and took the pen name 'George d'la Forge' based on the home he lived in as a youngster. He wrote around 900 articles for the Jersey Evening Post and also contributed to many other native language publications.

George's surname was Le Feuvre - and he was a distant cousin of my father. As a young child, I remember visiting 'La Forge' when 'Uncle George' was spending a summer in Jersey, and living as he always did in his very basic small family cottage. Later, when we were living in Kenya in East Africa Uncle George visited us. I remember then my Dad and him chatting away in this strange language, which I sort of recognised as French, but not. Jerriais 1

Uncle George d'la Forge was a great man and in recent years, at a book sale, I managed to get hold of a bound copy of some of his articles.

One day, when I've learned a bit more of the language,  I'll read it in Jersey's language, the mother tongue of my father and my family down the centuries.

Meanwhile, I'll make do with the few phrases I know and which I learned during the 20 in 2019 challenge. If you fancy learning a bit start by going to Learn Jèrriais (learnjerriais.org.je)

The title of this piece is 'Bouônjour'  which, if you know any French at all, you'll recognise as being similar to 'bonjour'... hello!

But I'll end with this sign-off ...

À bétôt  - Goodbye

À la préchaine - Till the next time!

 


What to give up

So this week we've been thinking about the start of Lent - the period in the Christian church which prepares believers for the sacrifice and celebrations of Easter.

Yesterday I ended my daily thought by asking what it was we might be thinking about 'giving up' for the 40-days of Lent. But I also asked whether instead of depriving ourselves of things we love, perhaps it might be worthwhile thinking about what we could START doing instead.

That would certainly be in the spirit of the Lenten season, when we may be setting time aside to think about our relationship with God and what might be the plan for our lives, and how we might make our world a better place all round. 

Today I share this thought with you ... I found it online on IrishAmericanmom.com 

Thanks to you, whoever you are! It's really got me thinking about how we can turn the negative into positive, not just in our actions but also in our thinking.

What-To-Give-Up


Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday.

It's the beginning of Lent, the period running up to Easter.

And it's a peculiar name for a day isn't it?

So what's it all about?

Ash Wednesday is marked every year exactly 46 days before Easter Sunday. Now I know what lots of you might be thinking - Lent is a 40-day season isn't it? Well it IS, but Sundays don't count during the 6-weeks (ish) preparation for the Christian festival.

The 40-days of Lent represent  the time that Jesus Christ spent in the wilderness, before he began his three year ministry. Before starting that awesome task, he took time out to think and prepare himself. In that desert, he fasted and when he was at his weakest he was tempted by (and he resisted) Satan. For Christians down the centuries the same period of time has been set aside for fasting, reflection, repentance and, finally, celebration on Easter Day.  Lent is a time for believers to contemplate the life of Jesus, his ministry, his death and resurrection. Central themes of Christianity. And to consider their own relationship with Jesus, the Son of God, and how that impacts on their lives.

Lent has also become a time when many people, including those who wouldn't say they are religious at all,  also give stuff up ... but more of that another day.

What about today - 'Ash' Wednesday? Why is it called that?

Well the title comes from the fact that on this day certain Christian denominations follow the tradition of placing ashes on the foreheads of worshippers - usually in the sign of a cross.

Today is all about repentance at the start of the sacred season which will culminate in the weekend when first we commemorate the death on a cross of Jesus Christ, and three days later we celebrate his coming back to life - his resurrection!

The ashes for today's special church services are made by burning the palm leaves or crosses from the previous year's Palm Sunday celebrations. There's something significant about that, isn't there? The palm fronds were waved by a crowd as they welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem at the start of the final week of his earthly life, but within a few short days that same fickle crowd was yelling at the authorities, calling for Jesus to be put to death, to be crucified! The fact that these symbolic palm leaves become the focus of repentance on Ash Wednesday is something powerful.

Ash Wednesday services are traditional mostly in the Roman Catholic and some Anglican churches. They are usually solemn masses or church services which include long periods of silence for private prayer and reflection, and Scripture responses in which the congregation is invited to participate. Much of the focus is on confession, communion is taken and then worshippers are invited to come forward for the imposition of the ashes. 

Ash wedensdayThe priest will dip a finger into a bowl of the palm cross ashes and then the ash is rubbed, in a cross pattern, on the forehead of the person receiving them, accompanied by these words ...  "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" or  "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

I don't come from a Christian tradition where Ash Wednesday is marked in this way, but I'm told it's a very moving service, a time when one can really look into oneself, really reflecting on the purposes of life, and the things that need putting right in yourself. The congregation, I'm told, leave the church in almost complete silence, taking that confession and reflection into their lives outside of the building. 

And the most amazing thing is that people don't immediately rub off the ashes which have been placed on their foreheads. They bear the mark for the rest of the day. That's a witness to the world of the start of this holy period of Lent, and a reminder to us all that sometimes we need to stop, and consider what God has done for us and what we are doing for him.

So, if today you spot someone with a dark mark on their forehead ... you'll know what it's all about.

And I, for one, will take the opportunity today to start my Lent journey with reflection, confession and prayer. And even if I'm not bearing the mark of ash on my forehead, I hope I will walk through today, and indeed through the Lenten period, with that spirit in my heart, in my behaviour and in my relationships.

 


It's Pancake Day!

It's Pancake Day! Pancake 2

Well at least it is here in the British Isles!

It’s Pancake Day – a day to ... well ... eat pancakes!

Whether you’ve tucked into a pancake for breakfast, or will have them for your evening meal – there are loads of ways to eat them ...

Sweet ... with lemon and sugar or even some fruit or chocolate spread!

960x1200-pancake-Sprouts2278-768x960Or savoury – cheese, ham, spicy minced meat, avocado... I’ve even seen a recipe for pancakes with Brussel Sprouts and smoked salmon!

It seems pancakes go with anything and everything.

All you need is some flour, egg, salt and little milk, a little pan and – voila!

 

But the question is -  why do we eat them particularly on this day?

Why is it ‘Pancake Day’?

Well, actually the real name for this day is ‘Shrove Tuesday’. It’s the day before the start of the season of Lent – that begins tomorrow on Ash Wednesday.

The 40 Days of Lent were and still are traditionally a time when people fasted to prepare themselves for the holy festival of Easter which commemorates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and on the Tuesday before it all began, Christians went to confession and were ‘shriven’ or absolved from their sins, ready for the serious time ahead.

It was also a day when kitchen cupboards were cleared of all the  stuff which couldn’t be eaten  during the Lenten Season, including eggs and fats which they mixed with flour to make – pancakes!

In other parts of the world Pancake Day is called Mardi Gras ... or ‘Fat Tuesday’ ! That phrase also relates to a season of festivals running from the feast of the Epiphany. which we celebrated on January 6th, through to Shrove Tuesday.

Polish_paczkiSome cultures, including Poland, make donuts instead for Fat Thursday – that was last week! It happens five days days before the start of Lent.

So – however many pancakes you eat today, and however you eat them – you’re in good company.

Pancake

 

And you’re part of history ... the pancake has featured in cookery books as far back as 1439. And no sooner were they cooking them than people were flipping  them! In the town of Olney in Buckinghamshire they’ve apparently been tossing  pancakes since 1445 – it’s the most famous Pancake Race  in the world! Of course, it's not happening this year because of the coronavirus pandemic ... but it will live on!

 

*Footnote - by the way if you happen to be listening to BBC Radio Jersey this morning  - Shrove Tuesday 2021  - you might hear these words I've written above. I have recorded them ... or most of them ... for a little 'Pancake Day Explainer' ... just part of my contribution to the understanding and fun of the day!


From Silence to Peace

This week sees the start of Lent - the 40 days of preparation for the Christian festival of Easter, so be prepared for some spiritual thinking from me in the next few days.

Today, as I begin that journey to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I'll just share a prayer from a great woman of faith, Mother Teresa

What I love about this thought is the progression of words.

For me, it has a flow which is in itself spiritual and perfect for the coming season, as it takes us on a journey from silence to peace, via the 'busyness' of the everyday.

Be Blessed everyone!

Mother theresa prayer

*and if you're wondering, this picture is one of mine, taken from the cliffs above Swanage in Dorset on the south coast of England ... a really gorgeous place!


 


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

 

 


Keep Left

We're fortunate here in Jersey.

Luckier than many parts of the world, we know.

Although during the Covid19 pandemic we've had some big numbers relative to our small population, and we have been locked down, with no family or friend visits, schools closed, businesses shut, cafes and restaurants and hotels not open, we are in a good place right now. Or at least, we're beginning to get there.

Numbers have fallen, people are being vaccinated and gradually our island is beginning to re-open. 

And that's why non-essential shops re-opened a week ago and we are beginning to see a relaxation of the restrictions. Schools are already open, next week we expect hairdressers to open their doors again and soon we will be able to go to eat out, indoors, at a very safe distance and with all the safety measures in place.

We've been here before. We were doing well last autumn until some people decided to forget that we were in the middle of a pandemic and organised parties, and then coronavirus numbers shot up and restrictions had to be imposed again. Everything closed on Christmas Eve and it's only now we are beginning to see things easing.

So hopefully this time around people are being more cautious. Keep left

It's been more than a month since I ventured into 'Town' ... Jersey's capital of St Helier ... but I had to do so this week and that's when I experienced the Keep Left system in the main shopping area - King Street and Queen Street.

I was, I have to say, rather disappointed that not EVERYONE was keeping to the  left, and lots of people weren't wearing masks outside of the shops, but I didn't feel unsafe. Because I was keeping to the rules, wearing a mask and even had gloves on ... woollen ones because it was freezing!

But it got me thinking.

We all need some 'rules' in life, don't we?

If we are living in community, we need to know what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behaviour. We can't all just do as we please because by doing that, although we might make life good for ourselves we risk making life unbearable for others.

Most societies have rules for living - laws - and mostly they are in place for the common good. Many of them are based not just on consensus but also have their basis in shared culture, history and even in religious/spiritual tenets.

Think of the Ten Commandments handed down to us from early Biblical times. The first few are about the relationship between humans and God, but most are about living in family (honour your father and mother) and living in community - you shall not steal, commit adultery, murder, lie against your neighbour or 'covet' what they have and you do not. It's just basic stuff, common sense really, but on this set of rules many laws of lands across the globe are based.

I understand there are some people who just don't like to keep to any rules. In political terms that's called 'anarchy' but most people who make a decision to pass on the rules set out by their community would not call themselves 'anarchists'. They might think of themselves as 'individuals' or 'free thinkers', but imagine if we were ALL just determined to do our own thing, regardless of others.

If there were no rules of the road, and we all just drove on any side of the track, there would be chaos, and probably some accidents. If there were no speed limits then people could just drive as fast as they wanted and risk killing people ... and yes, I am aware that speed limits are some of the rules that many many drivers tend to ignore! If we just took whatever we fancied from a shop without paying for it, knowing that we would not be changed with theft, what would that do to the economy?

Anyway, you get my drift.

Not that I want to live in a highly controlled society, but there is a need for some boundaries for our behaviour. And whether it's because you're a free thinker or just basically selfish and think only of yourself before others, one thing that this pandemic has taught us is that we DO all need to behave responsibly and follow the set out guidelines if we are to beat this virus.

SO - for all those in Jersey planning to do some Saturday shopping in Town.

Please ... Keep Left, keep your distance, wear your mask and sanitise endlessly.

Yes, I know I know ... lots of rules and some of us might be getting a bit bored of it all.

But if we don't do it, we could well find ourselves indoors, stuck at home, no seeing family members, with no retail therapy, or sports or eating out for much much longer. 

Not sure about you but I'm happy to stick to the rules if it means that I won't have to do so forever and ever, until the end of time!

Thanks everyone!

 

 


An Original Power Couple

I'm thinking about weddings today and specifically a marriage that took place on this day in 1840.

It's an unusual day for a wedding ... February 10th ... or at least it is these days. Most people don't chose the dark days of February or a Monday for their special day - yes February 10 1840 was a Monday!

But the couple who got married on this were different.

Because it was the day chosen by Queen Victoria to marry her Prince -  Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

And for all sorts of reasons it was a significant day not just for the couple, but also for the future of Great Britain, and some might say, the world.

Victoria was a young bride of 20 and she had been the monarch of the British Isles and Ireland since 20 June 1837. She ascended the throne at just 18 after a troubled childhood surrounded by intrigue and control.

Even though she was queen, the conventions of the day meant she had to live with her mother, who had been at the centre of that controlling childhood. One might say Victoria was determined to escape, and quickly.

As Queen of Britain, others knew that she was a good catch and plans for her future were already being cooked up. As early as 1836, even before she ascended to the throne, her maternal uncle Leopold, who was King of the Belgians, hoped she might marry Prince Albert, the son of his brother Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Victoria's cousin.

Apparently the reigning King William IV, Victoria's uncle who she would succeed, wanted her to marry someone else. But in 1836 when she travelled to Coburg to visit her German relatives, including Albert, Victoria was rather taken with him. And like any young girl, it was his looks that grabbed her first. "Extremely handsome... beautiful nose, very sweet mouth, charm of his ... expression which is most delightful" were just some of the things she wrote about her cousin in her diary.

But she was so young, too young to marry and although there was a sort of 'understanding' between the couple, it wasn't until she was queen that the pair's relationship would move to the next level. In the meantime, as was common in the day, their relationship was kept alive through letter writing. 

Move forward to October 1839 and Albert visited England and just five days after he had arrived at Windsor, Victoria had proposed.

Yes, she proposed. She was, after all, Queen! It would not have been up to Albert to ask.

Four months later - on 10 February 1840 - they were married in the Chapel Royal of St James's Palace, in London.  Like his bride, Albert was just 20 years of age.

Looking back at the relationship you could say that it was a marriage of convenience. Victoria had the independence of a married woman and her mother was out of the picture - she was soon moved out of Buckingham Palace. Uncle Leopold had his person at the centre of power across the water from Belgium. He had managed to keep it in the family, and indeed the family that Victoria and Albert went on to have would dominate the ruling houses of Europe for decades.

The couple barely knew each other really, if you think about it. But they had family connections, history and tradition to draw on, as well as one other thing.

Miraculously, the couple had fallen madly and deeply in love. Victoria was said to be 'love struck' on her wedding day.

And I said at the start, this marriage wasn't just significant for them as individuals, but also important for the future of Great Britain, and even the world.

Although Victoria was Queen and, if you believe all you read, rather good at ensuring her husband was aware of that status, they also became a phenomenal 'Power Couple'. 

Initially, we're told Albert felt rather frustrated by his role as Queen's companion - Prince Consort. He had no responsibilities, no power. But he gradually blossomed. He would become an important political adviser to his wife, and took on more roles especially when his wife was pregnant, which she often was. The couple had nine children!

The period of Victoria's reign, which lasted for 63 years (longer than any of her predecessors) has become known as 'The Victorian Age', a time in history renowned for industrial, scientific, political and military change in the United Kingdom and the world. It was also a period of great expansion of the British Empire. In 1876, the British Parliament granted Victoria the additional title of Empress of India.

Prince Albert was at the centre of much of the innovation of ideas. Despite the rather frustrating start, he developed a reputation for supporting public causes like educational reform, the abolition of slavery and scientific and industrial development. The very successful Great Exhibition of 1851 , which showcased many of the new developments and innovations of the time, was organised under Albert's patronage.

As Victoria turned more and more to her husband for guidance and support, he also helped her to understand that she needed to be more impartial when dealing with her governments, which helped to develop the concept of the British constitutional monarchy 

And perhaps more importantly for family dynamics, Albert even managed to help to slowly improve the relationships between his wife and his mother-in-law.

Sadly Albert would die early in 1861, at the age of just 42, which thrust Victoria into deep depression, leading to years of mourning and self-imposed isolation ... she wore black for the rest of her life and mourned him until the day she died in January 1901.

But, as with all couples on their wedding day, the future was unknown to Victoria and Albert on February 10th 1840. They didn't know what lay ahead. They were just full of promise, and love.

So on that I'll note, I'll leave you with a little thought.

Thank goodness we don't know the future.

If we did, it might stop us doing the unusual, dreaming the impossible, braving the unthinkable, daring to think you can change the world, daring to love. 

 

 

 

 

 


Groundhog Day

Do you have a favourite film? 

Or maybe you have a few movies that would be in your Top Ten? If you were making a list.

Are you an action movie fan, or a sci fi fanatic, or perhaps like me you prefer RomComs, a little light  romance and comedy? 

I have to admit, there are some movies that I can watch over and over and over and over and over... and not get bored. And one of those is linked to today.

February 2nd in North America - the USA and Canada - is Groundhog Day and I love the Bill Murray movie of the same name. More of that in a moment.

GroundhogBut first ... what IS a 'groundhog'

Well, it's a kind of rodent, and apparently belongs to the marmot or ground squirrel family. It's found in the USA, Canada and into Alaska. Among other characteristics, they have big teeth and they live in burrows. When fully grown a groundhog can be as long as 27inches (about 69cm) and can weigh as much as 14pounds (over 6kg). I've been doing my research and all I can say is, that groundhog is not a small squirrel!

One of the important things to know about the groundhog is that are hibernators. They often dig a separate 'winter burrow', which they build below the frost line, which means even when it's frozen up top, the animals can safely sleep away the winter months without fear of freezing to death. Usually, groundhogs hibernate from October to March or April, or thereabouts. 

And that's relevant to the tradition of Groundhog Day (the actual day) which apparently is an old superstition from the Pennsylvania Dutch community in America, which says that if a groundhog emerges early from it's burrow - on February 2 - then it can tell us if Spring is on its way.

So the legend goes, if the groundhog sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will quickly nip back into its burrow, and winter will go on for six more weeks. If, however, the animal does NOT see its shadow because it's too cloudy, Spring will arrive early!

All this predicting the weather is part of ancient 'weather lore' which is found in lots of cultures, including German speaking areas (and the Pennsylvania Dutch people come from Germanic-speaking areas of Europe) where the animal predicting the weather is usually a badger, but sometimes a bear or a fox.

And these weather lore predictions are also linked to the Christian festival of Candlemas, which we also celebrate today. Tradition has it that if the weather is clear on Candlemas, we're in for a long winter!

Now of course there's no scientific evidence for such weather predictions, but it's fun isn't it? 

In North America, February 2nd has taken on a special significance. Groundhog Day ceremonies happen on this day across the USA and Canada, but it's in a place called Punxsutawney in western Pennsylvania, that the most popular ceremony occurs, where the focus is a groundhog called 'Punxsutawney Phil'.

And that's the link to the 1993 movie that I mentioned at the start.

'Groundhog Day' starring Bill Murray and Andy MacDowell is largely located in Punxsutawney around the iconic ceremony and the film has not only helped to immortalise the seasonal celebration, but the concept of it has also added a new phrase to our dictionary.

If you haven't ever seen the movie then sorry for the spoiler. Bill Murray plays a cynical (and rather obnoxious) TV weatherman called Phil who is sent to cover the Groundhog Day ceremony, and then finds himself in a time loop through which he is forced to re-live February 2nd ... Groundhog Day ... over and over and over, until he becomes a better person. He learns to live each moment at a time, rather than always chasing ambition and celebrity.

As a result of the movie which was conceived, co-written and directed by Harold Ramis,  we now use the phrase 'Groundhog Day' for any situation which is monotonous, repetitive and even unpleasant and boring.

Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, lots of us feel like we've been living Groundhog Day - don't we?

Working from home, staying in and not being able to go out and mingle with others, not being able to see family members - much of our time during 2020 and into 2021 has felt so repetitive and monotonous. I think 'Groundhog Day' is a great way of describing my pandemic experience.

But just as Weatherman Phil in the movie came out of his Groundhog Day a better person, so I believe we can emerge from the COVID19 experience improved and finer examples of humanity.

Early on in the pandemic, especially, we saw so many acts of kindness and caring. The Thursday 8pm 'Clap for Carers' which some are still doing as they Clap for their Heroes. People checking on their neighbours, delivering food and medicines, thinking of others. 

And although Covid fatigue might have stolen a little of that from us as the months have progressed, I believe this time has shown us what a kinder and more compassionate world can look like. 

I'd like to believe that a memory of that kindness might be part of the legacy of our Pandemic Groundhog Day, along with the realisation that life is short and that, no matter how much status and money and position and ambition we chase, perhaps we just need to take more time to breathe, to enjoy our environment and the beauty of the world around us, to appreciate our loved ones more, and maybe even take pleasure in the simple things - like a walk on a Spring morning - no matter when that might be.

 

 


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!’