Saturday night saw me co-hosting a tribute dinner to Rabbie Burns, right here in Shanghai. It would be an evening bringing together fellow Scots, far from home, but joined in their love for one of Scotland's most famous sons. There would be a lot of planning, a lot of hard work but Lesley and I were more than up for the challenge.
With my newly acquired laptop and printer I was able to produce menus, programmes and place names for the table. Happy with the way they'd turned out I set about printing song booklets for the evening as I knew the upcoming event would be an evening full of poetry, song and quite probably dance.........
I was not to be disappointed.
The dinner was being held in my friend's house, it was more suited to hosting. We would be a party of 14. Arriving I was greeted by the site of a beautifully dressed table in a very welcoming room. The night was going to be a good one. She had done us proud.
Soon people started arriving and the party really got going. Pre dinner drinks relaxed everyone and conversation came easily. Although we didn't all know each other well we all had some connection here in Shanghai, but of course that didn't matter one jot. We Scots are a friendly sociable bunch who know how to throw a good party!
Of the 14 we were made up of 11 Scots, 1 Irish and 2 people from South of the Border! All were welcome. One Scot by marriage the other a Geordie, so close enough.
Haggis was smuggled in by one of the guests through Hong Kong, neeps, or turnips as some of you may know them, had arrived in Shanghai only that morning courtesy of my husband who was returning from a trip to UK. We are a resourceful lot.
Soon we were sat at the table and the formal part of the evening began. The Selkirk Grace, Address to the haggis and then the food arrived. Very traditional. I had made my Cock-a-Leekie Soup, it was followed by the Tatties, Neeps and Haggis and how delicious they were, followed by Steak Pie, Veg & Roast Tatties, Cranachan, Oatcakes and Cheese, a truckle of cheddar I brought back from Scotland, and of course tablet with the coffee. We are always bringing such things in, and although not allowed, we take the risks to bring a little of what we like back to Shanghai. Well fed we sat back to enjoy the evening's entertainment. The rendition of Tam o' Shanter was one of the best I've ever heard, delivered by Alastair, our host. My husband did Toast tae the Lassie's. It brought a lot of laughs and gasps as he almost managed to stay on the side of good taste. It was excellent.
My friend Lesley sang beautifully, I knew she could sing but was amazed at how good she was. Others recited, sang and told stories. As the whisky and wine flowed so did the jokes. Alcohol has the ability to lower ones defences and soon people who had never sang in public were happy to belt out their favourite Scottish ballads. Even a chorus or two of Donald Where's Your Troosers? was sung, and everyone joined in with gusto.
There was no doubt everyone was having a great time and all the planning and hard work had payed off. Everything came together seamlessly, and all fears were allayed.
I am always amazed, living thousands of miles from home, I can still find myself surrounded by fellow Scots all connected by our passion for our country, by our natural ability to make friends and welcome people into our company, and of course by the love of our own Rabbie Burns.
By 4-30am the party was over. People were making their way home through the streets of Shanghai but with Scotland in their hearts. An evening like this has two things which it leaves with us. Our love of Scotland, but also a sense of how far away we are. Thankfully this type of evening makes us feel closer to what we miss, and remind us that we have friends wherever we go. Likeminded people who can gather together and have a good party.
Life is good.
We were asked if we will do it again next year. Personally I'll be happy to, but I'll have to check with my friend, although I'm sure there will be a repeat performance. Once word gets out I'm sure it will be the hottest ticket in town.
It will take a few days to completely recover, but well worth it.
Here's tae us,
Wha's like us?
Damn few and they're a' deid.