VIEW FROM THE MIDDEN – Rural affairs with MTV (Meikle Wartle Television) presenter, JOCK ALEXANDER

Fit like, ab’dy? Happy New Year!  Here in Meikle Wartle we’re slap bang in the middle o’ wir New Year celebrations. It’s nae because the village his a large Chinese population, we jist hinna stopped drinking since Hogmanay. Welcome, ab’dy, tae the Year Of The Neep!

For us, the passing of the auld year is a much mair important festival than Christmas, principally because here in Meikle Wartle we’re still awaiting the arrival of Christianity.

We in the rural communities are all too aware that roon aboot this time of year mony folk find themselves filled wi’ gloom and feelings of despair. But life seems much mair positive for those of us who didna watch Celebrity Big Brother. In fact, that’s een of the main advantages of living oot here in Meikle Wartle far there is nae noise pollution, Channel 5 TV reception, or indeed, trees. Instead, we ken foo tae enjoy the simple pleasures of life. I hiv spent maist of the festive season (or ‘January’ as you toonsers wid cry it) with my nearest and dearest, Maisie and Agnes.  Weel, my wife has locked me oot of the hoose, and the pigsty wiz the warmest place tae bed in. Michty, aye, the air his a bit o’ a sharny tang to it, but by god its fairly cleared oot my sinuses.

Mony of you may not be aware of Meikle Wartle’s unique Hogmanay traditions, particularly if you bide in a mair Metropolitan settlement like Clatt or Gask.  On New Years Eve itsel’, it’s the annual procession doon the main (and, indeed, only) street and roon the village square.  A stirring sight, with the hale population swingin’ great muckle ba’s of flame aroon. Commemorating that famous day in 1657 fan we first burnt the village tae the grun. Ab’dy is in traditional dress, that is to say, the nuddy. So ye’ve tae be affa careful nae tae get singed in the public areas. Then on New Year’s Day there’s the traditional 6 a.m. dip in the bog. This has gone on for centuries, so it’s high time we got a new een. It hisnae flushed richt since 1976.


THOUGHT FOR THE DAY – this week, Minister of Holburn North North East, THE REVEREND EDMOND EVEREND

What a week it’s been!  On Tuesday I conducted a mock wedding service for the delightful children of our local school.  On Thursday I visited some of the more senior members of my flock at the Old Folks Home – I hope I have their energy at that age! – and on Friday, I said grace at a Burns Supper hosted by an oil company whose headquarters lie within my parish.

What an occasion it was.  No “hamely fare” here, but a five-course meal with the finest wines.  We began with a “keynote address” from the company’s MD, in which we learned that his decision to focus on operations in Africa had paid off spectacularly He proudly announced that a propitious combination of biddable officials, lax safety regulation and the general cheapness of life had led to an otherwise unimaginable level of profit.  As our host returned to his seat, the company bayed their approval, drained their glasses and toasted his continued success.

I then rose to say the Selkirk Grace, as specifically requested by my hosts.  You may know it:

Some hae meat and cannae eat, and some wad eat, but want it;

We hae meat, and we can eat, sae let the Lord be thankit.

I have spoken it many times before, but as I stood there, it suddenly occurred to me that I had never previously considered what the words actually meant.  And, as I gazed out upon a sea of porkish, wine-tanned faces, I realised what a mean-spirited, self-centred and complacent sentiment it conveys. Because what it boils down to is “There are those in the world who are infirm or starving. But it’s not us, so who cares?””  And it struck me that to offer these words up to God and to associate them with the memory Rabbie Burns was a profanity beyond imagining.  And I felt moved to share my thoughts with the assembled company.

Had I had an opportunity to reflect, I might have expressed my views differently.  I might have decided that I could adequately make my point without shouting about “Mammon”, turning over the top table, or attempting to bodily shove the microphone down our host’s throat.  But chief amongst all virtues is honesty.  I cannot deny that as the chairs flew, the crockery smashed and the head of procurement cried out as his novelty animal sporran was stained by an overturned bottle of Chateau Lafitte, I felt giddy with joy.  So much so that just before the head of security’s meaty fist landed upon my jaw, I imagined I saw Jesus in the Temple, and could hear Rabbie Burns roaring encouragement.

It was a vision which sustained me the whole time I was in hospital, and which comforts me still as I write to you now, from the remand wing at Craiginches.