Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face…

…Great Chieftain o’ the puddin’ race.

Friday 25th January. Burns night! The night when Scots at home and around the world celebrate the anniversary of the birth, in 1759, of our national poet, Robert Burns. Our hosts here, Ishbel’s sister and brother-in-law, had arranged to celebrate the occasion, as they do each year, with a Burns Supper. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, you should be aware that the cornerstone of such an event is that splendid Scottish delicacy, the haggis. The title of today’s post is a direct quote of the first two lines of Burns’ work “Address to a Haggis” which is traditionally recited as the haggis is cut open and served. But where in Australia can one source a haggis?

img_1614The local haggis purveyor is Syds Pies – and we were just in time in acquiring ours as they were almost all gone.

I know that I have some non-native English speakers following the blog, and I worry about what they will make of some of the terms used so far in this post. I recall watching an episode of the UK comedy panel show, QI, where they talked about trying to translate works into and out of different languages using Google Translate. Apparently, they translated “Great chieftain of the pudding race” into, and back out of, German getting the end result “Fuhrer of the sausage people.”

Along with the haggis, it’s traditional to have neeps and tatties. The tatties are easy: mashed potatoes. Neeps, on the other hand, is a more vexed question. Are they swedes or turnips? It turns out that different parts of the UK use these terms differently. So my answer is straightforward: Neeps are the yellow ones, not the white ones.

When all’s said and done, we had a most enjoyable Burns Supper, with friends of our hosts, handpicked as people who would enjoy haggis. (Amazingly, not everyone does.) What better way to close out this post than using Rabbie’s last couple of lines from the Address:

Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware that jaups in luggies,

But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer, Gi’e her a haggis.

Country Walks and Poker (at last)

On Thursday, 24th January, we decided to drive up to Lamington National Park in the hope that by gaining altitude, we would lose heat. We got an early start and stopped en route for breakfast.

This place is popular with motor cyclists as it’s at the foot of the road up to the park which features long, smooth curves combined with multiple hairpin bends. It was interesting that the bikes represented here were one Ducati, one Harley, and three Royal Enfields. They are, of course, the new Indian manufactured Royal Enfields and not vintage British bikes.

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After breakfast, we headed up to Lamington. I pondered idly whether the park gave its name to the famous Australian cake. It turns out that they have a shared etymology. Both are, ultimately, named for the 8th Governor of Queensland, Lord Lamington.

We were planning on going into O’Reilly’s but stopped short to take a walk in the rainforest and down to a viewpoint over the valley below.


Although it’s only a short drive from the Gold Coast, there is a sense of wildness and isolation once you are in the forest.

dsc_0378After our walk, we carried on up to O’Reilly’s. The O’Reilly family were farming in the area when the National Park was first proclaimed in 1915, but they became nationally famous in 1937 for the part played by Bernard O’Reilly in finding a passenger aircraft that had crashed in the park and helping the two survivors back to safety. The story is related in an Australian TV movie, “The Riddle of the Stinson” and the replica plane built for that movie is on display there.

dsc_0558 After a pleasant wander around, we headed back home for dinner. We had identified a poker tournament that was taking place in a local pub, The Helensvale Tavern. Entry was AUD 22, about £12, so we decided we’d enter as our game is getting very rusty on this trip. Also, the pub had a special meal deal on Thursdays so we opted to eat there and check out the arrangements in advance of the tournament’s start at 7:00pm. The food was good, but the portion was enormous. If we eat there again, we’ll share a meal.

We registered for the tournament and, unusually, we were allowed to choose our own seats. In general, tournament organisers will perform a random draw to prevent any possible hint of collusion, or “bum-hunting” which means trying to get a seat near a weak player or simply avoiding players you know to be strong. Since we didn’t know anyone there and they didn’t know us, the seating was, in effect, still random for us anyway.

My rustiness shone through and I made a couple of bad decisions early on in the tournament, calling a bet when I should have folded. I was out in Level 6. Ishbel lasted a good bit longer than me but didn’t get close to the money. There were over 70 entries for the tournament so it looks like poker is alive and well on the Gold Coast.  We may try again to see if we can do better.


Two Time Zones, Confusingly

Wednesday, 23rd of January and we decided to visit the Tweed Regional Gallery. This is a small gallery in Murwillumbah, just across the border from Queensland in New South Wales. They run guided tours of the gallery in the morning so we thought we’d get an early start and get there in time to enjoy that.

Did you know that New South Wales has Daylight Savings Time in the winter and Queensland doesn’t? Me neither. So when we showed up more than half an hour ahead of time for the tour, we had actually missed it by 20 minutes. Luckily, nobody had showed up for the tour that day anyway and the lady who was that day’s designated guide was still in the building and was happy to show us around. It was interesting to get some more background on some of the artworks in both the permanent collection and the temporary exhibitions.

The gallery itself is set in rolling farmland with striking views of the nearby Mt Warning.

dsc_0232This is a peak that Ishbel and I, together with our two boys and various other family members, ascended over 20 years ago on a previous Australian visit. That was during the Australian winter and I recall even then being somewhat hot and bothered by the time we got to the top, so I had no appetite to repeat the experience in the middle of a blisteringly hot summer.

We continued to wander the gallery and our informative guide showed us around the house/studio of the late Australian artist Margaret Olley. Her Sydney residence has been reconstructed inside the gallery building. It’s a similar concept to the Francis Bacon studio which was rebuilt inside the Hugh Lane gallery in Dublin.

We had a pleasant lunch enjoying the view at the gallery’s cafe then headed back for Queensland, going back one hour in time as we crossed the border.