I got up this morning, looked out the window, saw a bit of snow and decided not to go into the office. It's a short drive to the station and a fifteen minute train ride. Copenhagen, Dublin and London can all be contacted from the sofa online and telephony will keep me connected to Glasgow. Materials have been wired to clients, taxi to Edinburgh airport is booked for Sunday, plane ticket is on the iPhone.
Today is the anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns. The Bard would find my attitude to a bit of snow hilarious. My taxi east on Sunday is 45 minutes along the motorway, with the conference hotel in Denmark reached before tea-time; in Burns' day Edinburgh was an expedition. As a teeneger he worked a full shift on his father's Ayrshire farm while being schooled, and wrote by candlelight in the rafters of his cottage as a young man. He never got to be an old man.
Everyone likes to claim him as their own and I am amused that many of the fancier Burns Suppers would be unlikely to welcome him as a guest. He was for the many, not the few. There was some self-righteous rubbish written in the immediate aftermath of his death. That he was lazy, or a drinker, or irresponsible in matters of the heart. Burns did like the ladies, to be sure, "My heart is completely tinder and eternally lighted by some goddess or another..." and today the CSA would be all over him like a belted plaid kilt. But lazy? He would laugh out loud at that. And at my five minutes in the car- garaged, so no scraping required- stopping me getting to work. The Amber Bead was a constant companion but he is not the only favourite son, Scottish or otherwise, to like a drink. Compile your own list...
Were Burns given thirty something years from today he'd marvel at the opportunities before him. At how easy life is. In his lifetime the poverty of his environment contributed to his limited chances and his early death. Were he to discuss our world he would tell us how mad we are not to go out there and sample everything that's on offer: we complain too much, we worry too much, we expect too much.
Burns would tell us to wake up and smell the malt and you never know how long you are going to get: even if you are immortal you are a long time dead. I am reminded of the poster campaign at the maternity hospital where my son was born over 20 years ago. "Remember! The first ten days of life are the most dangerous!". Underneath someone had scrawled, "Aye, and the last ten aren't too clever either."
Burns packed a lot into his short life and we can be forever grateful for his words. We know he wrote them despite living at a time when six hours of daylight and a few inches of snow in winter were not just an inconvenience but had life-changing consequences. We know the last ten days of Burns life were spent bathing in the Solway Firth, the prescription for his heart condition. We know that that quackery hastened his untimely demise. We know ten thousand mourners attended his funeral. (Many of these were men who, without the help of on-line dating, simply wanted a girlfriend. They were there just to make sure he was really dead.)
To celebrate the Immortal Memory Of Robert Burns today look at what you have and be thankful; but more importantly look at what you have and see the potential.
And if you have some of what The Bard called Amber Bead? Find a poem or two and toast the life and work of Robert Burns.
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