They’re Late Again – the Taxes

A Beautiful but Much Maligned Creature
The Deil's awaugh, the Deil's awaugh,
The Deil's awaugh wi' th' excise man.

(Robert Burns 1759-1796)

I first heard this tune as we were sitting in a tin can, rattling along in the dark. Robert Burns’ famous song being roared at the tops of their voices by a bunch of overgrown boy scouts. Possibly Runrig fans too just exercising their youthful student inner Jacobite, but unknowingly petrifying me, a Sassenach. Crammed in amongst them I was unable to move in the little blue minibus hurtling through the dark, and getting shaken about for hours down windy Scottish A roads on the way to the bothy up a mountain. What would come next? It was extreme embarrassment as the songs became more of the male bonding type.

Fear and terror were something that I had not known for a year or two by then. But it reminded me of the excruciating embarrassment I had experienced six or seven years earlier on my daily school coach journey when I struggled to handle the teenage hormonal emotions as everyone on the coach was swept up by the punk rock tones of ‘Roxanne’ by the Police, or other rabble rousing or, even worse, sexy tunes of the era. Those new emotions were unbearable to me at the time, and like then they had me utterly rooted to the spot petrified (as I had been experiencing at night at home). I dealt with it by burying my head in a book and doing my homework on the school bus. And now, surrounded in the dark by all that male energy I felt trapped and was having to go inwards on myself, block things out and freeze,

But then, a realisation, a rising awareness of female solidarity, an awareness that I wasn’t alone. It wasn’t just the Runrigers and me, there were a couple of other women squashed into the dark capsule-like minibus. A faint calm arose in me, like a small light and we held that rootedness and grounding to prevent it all getting too out of hand. A feeling of safety and calm that enabled the boys to raise their voices higher and belt out their joyful Scots songs. But my awareness was heightened and I felt, as I suppose that the other women did, as if I could spot a louse in the darkness, whilst maintaining an air of superiority or disapproval. Like the mothering instinct in us.

Or perhaps the boys were thinking too of the mockery towards a proud lady with a louse on her collar in Burns’ famous poem ‘To a Louse’ and channeling their Burnsian humour. There was much talk of ‘timorous beasties’, and in fact I had been feeling a bit mousey. Not rat-like as my friend’s mother was who had that look in her eye and lived in utter squalor surrounded by newspapers staring out to sea. Where is she now?

The Deil’s Awa

by Robert Burns (1759-1796)

The deil cam fiddlin' thro the town,
And danc'd awa wi the Exciseman;
And ilka wife cries, Auld Mahoun,
I wish you luck o the prize man.

The deil's awa the deil's awa,
The deil's awa wi' the Exciseman,
He's danc'd awa he's danced awa
He's danc'd awa wi' the Exciseman.

We'll mak our maut, and we'll brew our drink,
We'll laugh, sing and rejoice, man;
And mony braw thanks to the meikle black deil,
That danc'd awa wi' th' Exciseman.

The deil's awa, the deil's awa,
The deil's awa wi' the Exciseman,
He's danc'd awa, he's danc'd awa,
He's danc'd awa wi' the Exciseman.

There's threesome reels, there's foursome reels,
There's hornpipes and strathspeys, man,
But the ae best dance ere came to the land
Was, the deil's awa wi'the Exciseman.

The deil's awa, the deil's awa,
The deil's awa wi the Exciseman,
He's danc'd awa, he's danc'd awa,
He's danc'd awa wi' the Exciseman.

I have a great phobia of the taxman, whose deadline has just passed around Easter. Poor Mr Burns after he had stopped being sponsored for his poetry writing (and collecting) became an exciseman but the strain proved too much and he passed away. Tax collecting has never been a popular profession.

Published by simplyme841

How I got through it I really don't know, but I did a vow of silence for learning disabilities for a year a couple of years ago. I had wanted to do it for three or four years beforehand, after finding out about an Australian who did it for the animals. But the timing was never right. It was difficult but during the silence I learnt about John Francis, the environmentalist and author, who did it for seventeen years whilst walking barefoot across America playing the banjo. I had to make sure I drank enough fluids and had plenty of exercise so that my respiratory system didn't collapse, and learnt new things and read difficult books to keep my mind alert. It is very tough again during lockdown too, but immensely difficult for those with learning disabilities. I began writing my poetry last spring in the first Covid pandemic lockdown, and it poured out of me. But as you can tell from my readings my voice is still weak.

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