When I was 9 years old, my father took a sabbatical to Glasgow, Scotland and I had the extreme privilege of spending a year dancing in puddles and making friends whom I couldn’t quite understand.

Whilst there I engaged in the scholarly pursuit of P4 at the delightful Dowanhill Primary School, a colossal imposing structure of concrete playgrounds and scary music teachers.


With the Spring of 2004 came the Culture Cafe, where the primary school students memorized songs and poems and traditional Scottish dances (mostly just jigging and jiving back and forth until we got tired and laid down for a nap).

One poem we were to memorize was titled “Aince Upon a Day” by William Soutar. My parents did not let brain plasticity get the better of this one, oh, no, for every visitor to our flat (my relatives from the States, the mailman) they proudly turned my speaker-box on and had me recite.

While I was loathe to perform, I am thankful: I still can recite it now, and it is my greatest party trick.

Aince upon a day my mither said to me:
Dinna cleip and dinna rype
And dinna tell a lee.
For gin ye cleip a craw shall name ye,
And gin ye ripe a daw will shame ye;
And a snail will heeze its hornies out
And hike them round and round about
Gin ye tell a lee.

Aine upon a day, as i walkit a’ my lane,
I met a daw, and monie and craw,
And a snail upon a stane.
Up gaed the daw and didna shame me:
Up gaed ilk craw and didna name me:
But the wee snail heezed its hornies out
And hik’d them round and round about
And — goggled at me.


For translation click here.

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