Whilst we have our fair share, as a company, of native Scots, somehow none of them managed to attend Red Gate’s recent Burns Night celebration. Troublingly, this didn’t seem to trouble us.
A Burns Supper should not, in theory, be hard to organise. We asked our head chef, Big Steve, if he’d put on a bit of haggis and whisky for us. Danielle, a Red Gater with shady connections in such circles, managed to persuade the Cambridge University Ceilidh Band to provide us with a little post-supper dancing. Our very own Brian Harris, Bard of Ayrshire, Scotland’s fairest flower (for the evening), would address the haggis. Everything was going swimmingly.
Big Steve, Red Gate’s resident chef, menaces a haggis.
The first hints of disaster became apparent just after lunch on the day itself, when Brian emailed me a full itinerary which laid out all the traditional constituent parts of a well-planned Burns Night supper. All we had was whisky, haggis and an imitation of a Scottish accent which bordered on racism.
After several hours of frantic scrabbling, the thing began to come together. Big Steve was in calm control of the culinary proceedings, and had sourced us not only a plethora of haggi, but also a litre and a half of Tesco Special Reserve whisky (aged three years), three vegan haggises for those with more delicate constitutions, and a hearty selection of oatcakes. Oatcakes!
Haggis, oatcakes, whisky gravy. Not bad for a Tuesday at work.
We had no piper to pipe in the haggis, so we made a 21st Century improvisation: an MP3 of bagpipe music hooked up to the Red Gate PA system. This had the excellent (but unintended) side effect of annoying Charles Brown, head of the .NET division, who has an apparent horror of bagpipe music. A hand he will come to regret having revealed to me in time, I guarantee.
What we lacked in authentic Scottish people we made up for in numbers and enthusiasm. Our very own Rabbie Chipperfield, sometime developer, gave the Selkirk Grace. Brian Harris addressed the haggis in his best Scotch burr, a performance which was met with particular puzzlement from some of our European guests.
With the Tesco Special Reserve whisky safely stowed within, I gave a brief speech to the immortal memory of Burns himself. The lads then toasted the lasses, and the lasses toasted the lads, and we got down to the serious and important business of haggis consumption. The vegan haggis proved overwhelmingly popular, and there was such a glut of the normal stuff that the good people of Red Gate were treated to both chicken stuffed with haggis and “just haggis, suitable for salad” at lunch the following day.
After the ceremony, those brave souls who had survived the aural and digestive onslaughts of the supper were rewarded with an evening of ceilidh dancing. Och, aye.
Post by Lucy Boyes. Photos by James Billings.