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Response to the Address to the Lassies

Here I have a very interesting document.

It is entitled: “Is Your Fella as Heart-throbby as Robbie?”

And no, it has nothing to do with the ineffably post-modern, croonerish charms of one Robbie Williams.

Nor is it a focus group question to discover whether women in their 30s who grew up rather fancying Citizen Smith would also have sit-com stirrings for Robert Lindsay as the beleaguered middle-aged dentist in My Family. (I am that focus group, and the answer is … kind of).

No, this remarkable archive document dates from 1786. It was discovered in a crumpled edition of a publication called Couthie Lassie: The weekly for girls wha ken whit’s whit. Other features include:

“Nursing your wrath – heat-saving tips for today’s young wife”
“Lacy racy ways to customise your bunnet”
“Louse-free and loving it – stand tall in public with ne’er a parasite about your person”

So let me share with you the quality journalism of yesteryear. While it hearkens back to 18th century Scotland, I feel it will have resonances for us here today.

“Is Your Fella as Heart-throbby as Robbie?”

1. Which of the following best describes your man’s sartorial tendencies:
a) From his large wardrobe carefully selects subtly co-ordinating classics with a contemporary edge, all of which have been washed and ironed by himself.
b) From the floor, he picks up some dirty socks, a pair of dirty trousers and a ragged, threadbare, dirty jersey. Voila!
c) It’s a no-brainer, with a quick slicking and flicking of his wavy dark locks, he dons his lacy shirt, waistcoat, velvet jacket, knee-breeches and dandy buckle-up shoes.

2. How do your friends react when you tell them about your new guy?
a) They turn pea green with envy, swoon, then plot ways to bump you off.
b) They turn sea green with disgust, retch a little, and help you plot how to bump him off.
c) They look at their shoes, blush, shoot one another sideways glances and one by one admit that they know him rather well too.

3. Valentine’s Day is coming up. How does your fella prepare?
a) He pans for gold, mines for diamonds and personally crafts you an exquisite and unique piece of jewellery as a small token of his undying love for you.
b) He is highly unlikely to mark the occasion in any way whatsoever. After all, he always forgets your birthday, never lifts the seat in the cludgie and makes you throw down your cloak over muddy puddles for him to walk on.
c) He whips out his huge, impressive quill and pens you an ode of unparalleled wit, tenderness and future worldwide renown.

And there are several other questions dealing with issues like how many children he’s fathered out of wedlock, whether he’s a freemason, a literary genius with a sideline as an exciseman, and most importantly whether he kisses with his eyes open or closed.

I know all you couthie lassies here tonight will have been jotting down your answers on your napkins, so let me tell you what your answers mean. Is your fella as heart-throbby as Robbie?

If you answered mostly a’s:
You are truly one of the world’s great romantics.Within your bosom beats a passionate heart and you have all the makings of a wonderful wee wifie. However, we’re sorry to tell you that your amazing, generous, gifted, sensitive boyfriend is a figment of your imagination. If you wait around a couple of hundred years, you might be able to find such a consort, but he won’t fancy you cos he’ll be gay.

If you answered mostly b’s:

You deserve a medal, a big medallion, a rosette, a trophy – something that makes it known to all the world that you, my dear wee thing, are a prize chump. Although a sweet and agreeable lassie in many regards, it cannot be said that you ken whit’s whit as far as the laddies are concerned. The time may be upon you to rise up and rid yourself of such a revoltingly uncouth chappie. And remember that come what may, you’ll always have The Couthie Lassie to keep you company week by week.

If you answered mostly c’s:

Hush now, dear reader, for the spirit of our great bard is upon us! It is a rare feat but your fella is indeed as heart-throbby as Robbie Burns himself. If you have anwered these questions truly, you have a laddie as near as dammit equal in looks, in goodly penmanship and in sheer unstoppable charm to oor Rabbie. You lucky, lucky lassie! You’d just better get used to sharing him with so many other guid ladies of this parish, and the next one, and the next one, and the next one.

Couthie Lassies and Laddies, let us drink to the darker sex.

To the a’s, the b’s, the c’s and most of all, the d’s those who are, thank heavens, none of the above – to the Laddies!


Written for the 2006 Burns Dinner of the SECC, held at the Caledonian Club in London.

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