Robert Burns, Flared Trousers and My Bare Bum!

7 Oct

There has long been a legend passed down in my family that we are distantly related to that great Scottish poet Robert Burns, my great grandmother was even called Annie Burns Mclean. My maternal family actually do hail from the same area as the great man.  But of course, we all know that everybody and their dog in the vicinity of the great Burns was named after him.

There is one thing for I know for sure, one of his poems has been gifted to me as legacy and the words have haunted me throughout the passing decades:

“O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us

To see oursels as ithers see us!

It wad frae mony a blunder free us,

An’ foolish notion:

What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,

An’ ev’n devotion!”

Oh from many a foolish notion it would indeed free us, to see ourselves as others see us!  My grandmother quoted this on an almost daily basis, maybe she sensed the lack of clarity I possessed when it came to my own self-image.

As has already been established, in previous blogs, I have a lurid imagination and my powers of self-perception tended to be coloured by my fantasies.  Unfortunately life has always brought me back down to earth with a horrendously embarrassing jolt.

Just at the moment when I thought I was the absolute ‘dogs bollocks’  life conspired to teach me with the deafening sound of other people’s laughter, that I was actually a fool!

Church was a big part of my growing-up.   Attending mass on Sunday was strictly adhered to.  Looking back at it now I can see it was all theatre.  The Catholic service of course is immensely melodramatic and histrionic, but the congregation was just as theatrical.

Putting on your Sunday finest, down on your knees peeping to see who was admiring your devotion, feeling pangs of envy that the Sheehans were chosen to carry the collection plate and not you.

Unfortunately for me, it was at mass, praying amongst my compatriots where some of the most embarrassing moments of my early life would play out.

I had been asked to take up the eucharist, I was nervous, but also proud too.  Everybody would be looking and they would all be admiring my new blue shiny leather boots, this was the first time I had worn them and they would make a great cool clopping sound as I walked up the shiny wooden centre aisle to present the sacred silverware to the Priest.

‘Clip, clop, clip, clop, THUD’, Father Leahy seemed shocked and rather annoyed as I skidded in my shiny new leather boots and landed straight into his arms knocking everything flying in the process.  All I could hear was the sound of muffled laughter, being smothered by the odd cough.  When I turned around the faces of the congregation were a mixture of pity and mirth.  The curse of Robert Burns had struck for the first time.

As I mentioned, mass attendance proved to be a constant source of humiliation.  My father fancied himself as quite the opera singer and did indeed have a booming voice in the manner of a Lancastrian Pavarotti.  He would sing every hymn as if he was on the stage at La Scala in Milan.  I could not appreciate his vocal talent, all I could see were the faces of all my peers in the church laughing and sniggering.  Each hymn seemed to last a decade.  I pleaded with him in the car every week, ‘please don’t sing too loudly this week’! Each time he promised, and each Sunday he broke that promise, mum even begged him not to ‘upset your daughter’.  But no, mass was his stage and “FAITH OF OUR FATHERS HOLY FAITH, WE WILL BE TRUE TO THE TILL DEATH” was his Nussun Dorma.

As I got older, I managed to avoid having to go to mass too often with my parents by staying away at friend’s houses.  Surely now the curse of Burns would be gone?

Farnham, Surrey is the epitome of middle England, well heeled, genteel and affluent.  Unfortunately in the 1980’s, I would not exactly have described it as trend setting.  Most of the clothes shops catered for the matronly ladies who ‘did lunch’ and the Penelope Keithesque set.  It was 1982, Drainpipe jeans were in fashion, preferably with a stripe down the side, the straighter the better. Nobody wore flared trousers anymore.  The only flares I ever saw were in the episodes of the American television shows constantly shown on repeat on the BBC, that were already years old, oh and I also saw them in the mullioned windows of the upscale middle-aged ladies boutiques in Farnham.

One day I was in Castle Street, waiting for a bus.  I looked great, I knew I looked great, my crimped black hair was looking fabulous and the cheap hair gel I had found with just a touch of glitter in really highlighted how gorgeous I looked.  The bus was running late, and I was getting bored so I leaned on the shop window next to the bus stop, to just to take the weight off.

There was a creaking noise, then a smashing sound, the next thing I knew I was lying in the window display spread-eagled across the most expensive pair of flared slacks I have ever seen, I was also nestling next to a beige crimplene blouse replete with bust darts and detachable neck bow tie.

I was mortified, it was bad enough to fall through a shop window in full view of passers-by but to end up on recumbent on a pair of strides that would only be seen adorning the pins of an ancient old toff or Jamie Sommers  (The Bionic Woman)  was horrific !!!

The shop owner was fuming, “how could I possibly be so stupid as to lean against a glass window” “what was she supposed to do now?  It would cost an absolute fortune to get it fixed”.  I just wanted to leave as quickly as I could, I thought about telling her, that her clothes were crap and that nobody wore flared trousers nowadays but I thought better of it, after ten apologies I managed to flee the shop and just pray nobody had seen me lying on the hideous garments.  “Would from many a foolish notion free us to see ourselves as others see us”

Perhaps the curse would be confined to this country, surely if I traveled abroad it couldn’t find me there, could it?

Winter 1996, It has been a wonderful night in Los Angeles, a fantastic concert had led to me drinking nearly a bottle of Southern Comfort.  The hotel walls were lined with pictures of Janis Joplin doing the same.  God I was incredibly cool, this English chick could drink any of these Yankee women under the table, even the great Joplin herself!

Finally my partner and I made our way to bed, both of us absolutely blocked, bladdered, totalled, wankered, drunk, call it what you will.

The problem with drinking too much is it has to at some point find the exit.  A couple of hours after finding my way to bed in a in alcohol induced haze, the urge hit.

So with just a skimpy t-shirt covering nothing, I found the door and opened it, to the toilet, unfortunately it wasn’t the toilet, or the closet, it was the door to the hallway.  Before I had realised where I was the hotel room door slammed shut behind me.

Our room was opposite the elevators, the CCTV cameras and there I was showing those Americans just how lily white an English girl’s ass could be!

I started to panic, I banged on the door, “let me in”.  No reply from my comatose other half, BANG, BANG, BANG “WHAT ARE YOU DOING LET ME IN”.  I was getting more and more desperate as every second went by, what if the elevator doors opened, or somebody came out from another room.  As my pleas got more manic I could hear my partner answering me, then snoring.  She was so inebriated she was replying in her sleep.  Eventually after what must have been ten minutes she opened the door.  My face was white with rage, as white as my bare arsed bum!

There is a hotel on Santa Monica Boulevard who most probably plays the video every Independence Day “look at these idiots we escaped from” they manage to gasp between gales of laughter “cheers”!

I couldn’t even be cool half way across the world, Burns, that long lamented, most probably never distant ancestor had found me and shown me once again “how others see us”.

I used to wonder, what would my signature tune be, I wonder no more Embarassment by Madness has the perfect ring.

So next Burns night, please do me a favour, raise a glass of the hard stuff to that great man, and raise another to my bare arse!

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3 Responses to “Robert Burns, Flared Trousers and My Bare Bum!”

  1. Geoff October 7, 2012 at 8:34 pm #

    Brilliant , made me chuckle xxxx

  2. Anne Hair October 8, 2012 at 11:10 pm #

    I could well relate to the Catholic experience and the Burns quote too. Some of my funniest memories are from my Mass or Benediction attendances. There’s nothing to beat the feeling of trying to suppress a laugh in a very solemn situation. I like to be known as a “Recovering Catholic”.

    You’ve done it again, Angela……………..I love your blogs and eagerly await the next topic.

    P.S. My brother was named Joseph Burns Black!

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