Wednesday 25 January 2012

There’s more to Robert Burns than haggis!

How many loves can a person have in one lifetime? Some romantics might say you can have only one true love of the heart and soul. I believe Scottish poet, Robert Burns, tells you differently. His poems are vast and varied, in mood, in length, and in the messages they convey.

So what made the man famous? He had a canny way with words!

He wrote of his love for all aspects of his life- women he’d known, women he wanted to know better, his friends, the land he lived in, creatures of that land…and he was sometimes very whimsical as well. As a public speaker, or even when he was drinking a wee dram at his local pub, he produced lots of observations on life.

Address To A Haggis, widely spouted at Burns suppers the world over, is only one of these.

Sometimes he took well known songs and put his own version of words to them. At other times he created new poems and songs, and tunes have become attributed to them.

One of my favourite Burns songs is John Anderson My Jo. As a child I learned a traditional tune version of it, and have always thought it a most poignant, lovely song. Only much later, as an adult, did I learn that some people claim Burns took a well know bawdy song of the time (probably around the 1780s) and put his own loving version to it. (The bawdy version can be accessed elsewhere on the web but not on my blog.)

People have made differing interpretations on what the poem is about. Some think it refers to a love that is everlasting, right to the grave, as a couple age. Others have thought it was written to celebrate the friendship and camaraderie shared by ‘boozing’ buddies. Whatever, I love the words…and I love the old traditional tune.

John Anderson My Jo

John Anderson my jo, John,

When we were first acquent,

Your locks were like the raven,

Your bonnie brow was brent;

But now your brow is beld, John,

Your locks are like the snaw.

But blessing on your frosty pow,

John Anderson, my jo!

John Anderson my jo, John,

We clamb the hill thegither,

And monie a cantie day, John

We’ve had wi’ ane anither;

Now we maun totter down, John,

And hand in hand we’ll go.

And sleep thegither at the foot,

John Anderson, my Jo.

For truly romantic words many would say you can do no better than A Red, Red Rose.

A Red, Red Rose

O, my luve’s like a red, red rose,

That’s newly sprung in June.

O, my luve’s like the melodie,

That’s sweetly play’d in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonie lass,

So deep in luve am I,

And I will luve thee still, my Dear,

Till a’ the seas gang dry.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my Dear,

And the rocks melt wi’ the sun!

O I will luve thee still, my Dear,

While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only Luve,

And fare thee weel a while!

And I will come again, my Luve,

Tho’ it were ten thousand mile!

(acquent: acquaintances, brent: unwrinkled, beld: bald, old-spotted, pow: head, cantie: fine, maun: must, thegither: together)

I hope you enjoy these. Happy Burns Day!


Tuesday 24 January 2012

Love is in the air! No, I’m not talking Valentine’s Day yet…but I am talking Burn’s Day 25th January.

How to describe your heroine? - Here’s how Robert Burns did it. (Born 1759, Died 1796)

Robert Burns, of Auld Lang Syne fame the world over, was one of the best romantics ever. He loved many women during his life, and penned many a poem to them. Sometimes the poems were written in a flurry, and others with much deliberation. Some were complex, others straightforward. The amount of vernacular Scots he used often mingled with standard English. I've chosen this really simple one today to use as a little challenge. Let’s have a look at some of his phrasing and see what you would do to complete it.

These lines are taken from a poem called The Lass of Cessnock Banks. The complete poem is 13 stanzas of rhyming couplets. The first stanza is as follows:

On Cessnock banks a lassie dwells,

Could I describe her shape and mien;

Our lasses a’ she far excels-

An’ she has twa sparkling, rogueish een! (This line becomes the last of every stanza, except the very last one)

The stanzas now follow with these as the first lines of each:

She’s sweeter than the morning dawn …

She’s stately like yon youthful ash …

She’s spotless like the flow’ring thorn …

Her looks are like the vernal May …

Her hair is like the curling mist …

Her forehead’s like the show’ry bow …

Her cheeks are like yon crimson gem …

Her teeth are like the nightly snow …

Her lips are like yon cherries ripe …

Her breath is like the fragrant breeze …

Her voice is like the ev’ning thrush …

Now follows the complete last stanza:

But it’s not her air, her form, her face,

Tho’ matching Beauty’s fabled Queen:

‘Tis the mind that shines in ev’ry grace-

An’ chiefly in her rogueish een!

(Not sure of a word? –mien: appearance, een: eyes, show’ry: showery, bow: bough, rogueish: mischievous)

What do you think would be the missing lines? Go on, have a go! Take your pick and write your own stanza using Burn’s original first and last lines.

(If you find the poem and cheat I'm probably going to guess!)



Friday 20 January 2012

What's doing?

Good question, that.
Obviously not much on my blog, yet, this year. But what I have been doing is getting on with that WIP that's coming along nicely. I've also been doing edits for my second contemporary contract with The Wild Rose Press. Details on that soon, I hope! My novel for children is moving through some very interesting stages at the moment. Again, to be updated on.

I'm excited today to be on a new blogsite called . So if you've nothing to do pop on over to it and say hi for a chance to win a copy of MONOGAMY TWIST if you haven't read it already.

But back to that Work In Progress.
Lots of nice research to do for it, and lots of words down on paper already. I've chosen lovely pics for my hero and heroine from my favourite Royalty Free site called They're sitting facing me as I write, just how I like it!
The WIP has around 45 thou at the moment-I reckon it's going to be a 90 thou work. The mystery deepens, and the big decision will come soon- is it TOO complicated for my readers to follow. Nonetheless, I'm very happy with how my plot plan is developing. How about the romance? -That's heating up nicely too.
Did I say I used to be a pantser?
This WIP needs a bit more of the carbon scribbles, so that I can keep track of the exciting things happening to my lovely characters called Teun and Keira. Whether that will always be their names has yet to be seen since I've changed names before-for different reasons. And it doesn't even have a title, yet, so can't divulge that!

Updates whenever!


Thursday 5 January 2012

Janus...the coal bearer…or the key? And does it really matter which?

Who was Janus? What does he have to do with coal? And what’s this key all about?

Well, as I’m sure you’ve already guessed, they’re all associated with opening doors and heralding in the future year. Yet however many faces Janus might have (bearded or shaven), with or without coal, and maybe brandishing a key in his right hand, I’m ready for those new beginnings. So here’s a hearty welcome to my first blog of the New Year!

Growing up in Scotland ‘first footing’ with a lump of coal was a well practised custom. The Old Year would be let out through the back door and the New Year let in through the front door at the chimes of midnight. (If you only had one door you ad-libbed on that one!) If the first person to pass over the threshold after midnight was a dark haired male bringing coal or whisky, for luck in the New Year, it was deemed a good omen. But in reality the darkest haired individual in the vicinity was welcomed- even when it was a child.

As the darkest haired person in my neighbourhood my New Year as an eight thro’ thirteen year old was a blur. Immediately after the ‘bells’ (midnight and into the brand new year) my family would raise their glasses in a toast first to the New Year, and secondly to my mother since January first was also her birthday. I’d drink my tiny little tot of ginger wine (all I was allowed since my aunt’s home made was particularly potent!), gobble down a piece of shortbread and then would be up, and literally running, by perhaps two or three minutes after midnight to chap excitedly on the door of our nearest neighbour to bid them Happy New Year.

Growing up in Glasgow, Scotland, in the late 1950s, this meant that as soon as I went into the first neighbouring house and wished them Happy New Year the man/ men in that house could then go out and ‘first foot’ at my house. (Usually the women of the house waited in for a while to dispense the drinks and food to new arrivals.)

After a quick drink and maybe a slice of dumpling, or fruit cake, or another piece of shortbread I’d move on the next house-thus releasing another adult male. And onto the next house and so on. Yes, it was a chain of sorts.

By half past midnight I’d probably been in around 6 or 7 houses and was so full of drinks and sweet foods that I was reeling. Just as well that the neighbours NEVER gave any of their ginger wine! And, of course, the fact that I lived in a tenement apartment block of 8 houses accessed by one central stairway meant I actually did not travel very far, and usually no more than twenty yards, or so, from my own ‘close’.

When I was at the youngest age phase way back then I was always amazed that by the time I returned to my own house it was jam-packed with neighbours already partying merrily. It helped that my mother was the best cake and cookie maker in the area and her tray bakes were devoured pretty quickly. It was a time of sharing too, though, for although the party most often ended up in my house all the neighbours would contribute by adding sandwiches and other foods and drinks to our supply.

A Guid New Year was had by all, and lots of singing and dancing of traditional Scottish and more modern songs (of the time) went on into the wee sma’ hours. Whether the singing was unaccompanied, or whether there was a vinyl record (I know I’m that old!!) to hand, an impromptu sort of Karaoke went on with everybody joining in- though if it was someone’s ‘party piece’ they had first shot at it BEFORE it became a communal sing-together.

That explains the coal but what about Janus if you don’t already know?

Janus was the Roman god of beginnings and endings, and of gates and doors. With two heads he was able to look both ways, and was considered the guardian of peace when the door to his shrine in Rome was closed. If neighbouring cities were informed of open doors they knew Rome was at war, and Janus could intercede through those open doors.

He also represented transitions-for example changes in the aging processes from childhood to adulthood, or the opposites of country and city life. He was worshipped at births and weddings, clearly new starts in the life cycles of those individuals. At harvest he was given due deference as the end of the growing season gave way to the rest of winter.

The two faced/headed Janus was depicted on many Roman coins, the god being associated with money. (Of course, the two-faced Janus is also associated with duplicity…but we’ll skirt over that one!)

Now… someone is bound to say… but what about that sneaky four faced Janus?

A temple to Janus was also built with four portals where he could look to all four quarters. A very clever idea for detecting enemies coming at you from all directions so BEWARE of any four-faced Janus for he’s likely to corner you just a bit too much!

The image I like best about Janus is the two-faced god, bearded or not, holding a key in his right hand.

What’s his key for?

You may care to disagree but I’m happy with the interpretation that it opens the door to my future year…and maybe even beyond. I believe I can hold that key in my hand just like Janus. New openings and new beginnings are a fabulous concept. As a writer how can I not get excited about new openings, new chapters, and new places to venture into?

Yep! I’m also going to aim to open new doors – new places for my work to feature, new hosts to meet in blogs, and welcome new guests to mine. So how about I get to work and crack how to use properly and all those other places I’ve joined but don’t have a clue how to use effectively?

Bye, bye… and my best wishes for A Guid New Year to you too!

What do you think about that key? Please take a moment to share with me what it represents for you.