Tuesday

Tuesday 21/01/03It's not Burns Night yet, but Scottish telco Thus have decided to have a Burns Night party anyway. Deep in the crypt of St Ethelreda's Church in the City, they've installed a lot of executives in kilts, which probably seemed like a good idea at the time, and got a French company to do the catering.

Tuesday 21/01/03
It's not Burns Night yet, but Scottish telco Thus have decided to have a Burns Night party anyway. Deep in the crypt of St Ethelreda's Church in the City, they've installed a lot of executives in kilts, which probably seemed like a good idea at the time, and got a French company to do the catering. I know about the Auld Alliance, but I'm not sure Scottish oat cuisine is a natural match for Gallic cookery. And of course, there were the inevitable jokes from the hacks as they made their way to the venue ("You encrypting, old chap?" "No, I'm vault finding"). For those who've never been to a Burns Night, it follows a time-honoured format. There's a lot of declaiming, toasts are drunk and general merriment had in the name of Rabbie. As he was noted for his many exceptional appetites, the evening can become quite Bacchanalian without disgracing his memory, but the centrepiece is a spirited piece of pudding play. A haggis is procured, and brought into the room behind a piper. Robert Burns' Address To a Haggis (you know the one, "Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!" and all that) is then read to it. At the line "'an cut you up wi' ready slight" it is hacked around with a sharp knife, then taken out with more piping to be doled out with neaps and tatties to the hungry mob. All of the above happened -- except, the hungry mob realised as the evening progressed, the return of the haggis. It had vanished, and what we took to be finger food prior a substantial main course was in fact all we were getting. By this time, the whisky tasting was well underway, and a number of otherwise sober fellows found themselves drinking heavily on empty tummies. Perhaps that helps explain the frankly bizarre speech given by a senior Demonite (whose name will be withheld to spare his Australian blushes), which -- we think -- was about the ambiguous sexuality of journalists. But there was much scandalous gossip, which we'll be happy to pass on to you just as soon it gets past the libel lawyers. For those of us who decry the bland, conformist professional image that publishing so courts these days, it was a delight to hear further stories of Felix Dennis, publishing mogul, tree-hugger and breadhead ex-hippy par excellence. Those who've been around the industry a bit will know many stories about glass-topped tables, light boxes, painted penises and so on -- but the fact that he's celebrated his recent adoption of a less bohemian lifestyle by writing and publishing reams of poetry is still seen as shocking proof that he still cares less than tuppence for convention.