This is my latest Empire of Drink column for the Guardian. To listen to whilst you read is Kenneth McKellar singing A Gordon for Me, a song my mother would sing to us in the car on the long drive up to Aberdeen.
My parents used to be enthusiastic members of the Amersham Scottish Association. My mother is from Aberdeen and my father likes drinking whisky and doing the Gay Gordons. On St Andrew’s Day evenings or Burns Night they would come home late, tipsy and giddy like a couple of teenagers. One year, however, they returned without the usual gaiety in their step. Their club had been taken over by a clique of Scottish purists. I imagine them today as a cross between Miss Jean Brodie and Mrs Dooms-Patterson from The Good Life. The kind of people for whom sex was something that coal came in. Now at dances my father’s galumphing feet and my mother’s giggles were met with stern Calvinist frowns; on Burns Night, the speeches became windier and the whisky didn’t flow like it once had.
I like to think that Burns would have preferred my parents’ irreverent approach, though he too may have winced at an Englishman massacring the traditional dances. We do know Burns was a great whisky enthusiast.