And so it ends. For now. And I was thinking.
How often do you go to dinners and things and the speaker describes being there as an “honour” or a “privilege” or similar. And how often do you think – is it, aye? Or is it just words, fatuous platitudes, etiquette, something that you feel you must say because it’s expected of you?
I’ll be honest here. I’ve – just occasionally – been that speaker. I’ve whiles taken on a gig and given it the whole “wonderful to be here” schtick to the audience, while privately thinking – “actually, I can see this far enough. I really can’t be arsed”.
But here’s the thing. I headed, tired as hell, to the Stewartry last night to speak at the last of seven (I think) Burns Suppers of 2023. And I woke up this morning, slightly hungover, genuinely wishing that there was an eighth. And a ninth. What’s that thing footballers write on instagram? We go again. Aye. Bring it on. We never stop.
Something has changed.
At no point during the last few weeks have I ever felt that turning up – at a Burns Supper or anywhere else for that matter – was a burden. It was, and is, a privilege. All of it. I’ll never be that guy again. Turning up? Jesus Christ, it fair beats the alternative.
It reminded me of the story told by the great golf coach Harvey Penick. Apparently, he was giving a lesson to a student ahead of her competing. She tried to cut it short and said: “I have to go, coach. I have to go and play golf now”.
Penick said: “No. You don’t ‘have’ to play. You ‘get’ to play. You get to do something you’re good at. Millions of people go through their entire life and never get to do that. Girl, that’s not an obligation. That’s a privilege”.
What a brilliant mindset. Like the Jason Isbell lyric, “just do what makes you happy girl and do it ‘til you’re gone”.
Driving back home this morning, I was reflecting on what has changed.
I think it’s a couple of things.
Firstly, absence makes the heart grow fonder. The pandemic allowed many of us to press the reset button, to re-evaluate, to prioritise. And I realised that I actually missed it. Like, really missed it. And I recognised the absolute joy that people experience in a gathering, a Ceilidh, a blether, a kind word, a joke, an embrace, a handshake.
And, secondly, it’s later than you think.
Slainte good people. I’ll meet you further on up the road.
May be of interest….
Preseren is the Slovenian national poet, and each year the Slovenia-Scotland Friendship Society hosts a Burns-Preseren Evening for the two poets together. Orkney’s own Howie Firth spoke at the Burns/Preseren evening last Saturday….. https://sloveniatimes.com/love-of-poetry-marks-slovenian-scottish-friendship/