World Book Day: The Doctor Who loves to read

The Doctor of BBC’s Doctor Who might be a world-saving, time-travelling 900-odd-year-old alien, but even he makes time for a good book or two in his hectic life.

What started over 50 years ago as a (somewhat) educational filler-programme is teaching kids today (in a very sneaky way) that literature isn’t dull. Literary references abound on the show, and the Doctor is showing a whole new generation that it’s perfectly acceptable to geek out a little when you meet your favourite author or cry over fictional characters. Sometimes, the literary nods are subtle, a throw-away line here or a sneaky glimpse of something there, but sometimes they are bold and in your face. For example, there are whole episodes dedicated to William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Agatha Christie.

Some episodes were even written by famous authors. The list of authors includes such names like Ben Aaronovitch (known for Rivers of London), Douglas Adams (known for Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), Neil Gaiman (known for Neverwhere) and Mark Gatiss (known for the Lucifer Box trilogy).

As it is World Book Day today, I compiled a list of 40 references to literature or reading on Doctor Who, with a little help from my cousin.

Have we missed anything?

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Day in Literature: Burns Night

Today is the birthday of Scottish poet Robert Burns, celebrated in Scotland and around the world as Burns Night.

Having lived very close to the Scottish border and Burns’ home in Dumfries, I have actually witnessed Burns Night celebrations and attended Burns Supper before and I love the tradition.

Formal celebrations start with guests being greeted by a piper. There’s a welcome speech and the Scots language Selkirk Grace is said before dinner.

Dinner starts with soup, which is usually either Scotch Broth, potato soup, or Cock-A-Leekie. And then the main course: haggis!

This is such an important part, a bagpiper actually welcomes the haggis and accompanies it to the host’s table! The host then recites Burns’ Address to the Haggis:

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak yer place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace
As lang’s my airm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dicht,
An cut you up wi ready slicht,
Trenching your gushing entrails bricht,
Like onie ditch;
And then, Oh what a glorious sicht,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmaist, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
‘Bethankit’ hums.

Is there that ower his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him ower his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit:
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
Oh how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his wallie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.

Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if Ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!

After a whisky toast, the haggis is served with tatties and neeps (potatoes and turnips). Afterwards, there are various other courses, including desserts like cranachan or tipsy laird, cheeses and coffee. And of course, more whisky.

Further toasts include the Immortal Memory commemorating the life and work of Robert Burns, the Address to the Lassies and the Reply to the Laddies.

Several of Robert Burns’ works are recited throughout the night, before the company is asked to stand, join hands, and join in a rendition of what is probably Burns’ best-known song: Auld Lang Syne.

I guess I’ll be cracking open a bottle of Scotch tonight. How about you?

Day in Literature: Sherlock Holmes’ Birthday

According to the stories, today is the birthday of none other than the world’s most famous consulting detective: Mr Sherlock Holmes!

Thanks to his colleague and roommate, Dr John H. Watson, we know that the birthday boy is 163 years young today, as he is reported to have been born on January 6, 1854. While he himself is not big on social conventions, I am sure that between them, John Watson, Mrs Hudson and DI Greg Lestrade can convince Sherlock to have a piece of cake in celebration.

Happy birthday, my dear Sherlock!

Looking younger by the day 🙂