Sixteen years after Peter Facey and Alex Runswick, of Unlock Democracy campaign group got me invited to a British Embassy Sofia, Burns Night party sponsored by Chivas Regal, I’ve finally been grown up enough to buy my own bottle. I’ve Two in fact, one on offer before New Year in Sainsbury’s in Liverpool and one on offer (good but not as good) in IDEA supermarket in Bujanovac, Serbia (geographically not that far from Sofia, mind the mountains). In fact the other Maxi supermarket had a better offer, but having finally spent my Nectar points on buying the bottle at home (Frances and I had a glass together over Zoom) I just managed to earn some supermarket loyalty card points here as well buy buying whisky. Leek & potato soup, brown bread and butter. Here’s to Rabbie Burns. I still probably prefer the Famous Grouse as a Scotch blend (I don’t have any decent Irish here) but Chivas Regal was very generous that night, and the Croat lads with us on the political workshop took care of the spare bottles. So I should contribute something back to sales.

The Burns Night traditions being promoted by UK Embassies around the World is one of the nice things that they do 🙂. Plus I have a book with great pictures and eccentric text on the North Coast of Scotland 500 route to read by an Englishman and a Welshman, Court & Jones. (Josh Court & Vernon W Jones, married to Macedonian wifes in nearby Skopje).

Lightly edited Facebook post from Bujanovac, south Serbia. 25 January. Additional explanation –

The reason a group of British Liberal Democrat and other political activists, and young(ish) political activists from across SE Europe were in Sofia was for a series of workshops on political policy making organised by Unlock Democracy and partners. The lavish Burns Night party was simply a coincidental highlight, the discussions on inclusive policy making was a great antitode to stereotypes meeting brilliant activists who wanted to make their countries better – from Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia. The British South East Europe forum was sponsored by the British Council.

I liked Sofia and courtesy of my University returned the next year to do some academic research, and then using the Macedonian contact travelled on to Skopje, my first visit to a country where I later worked as an election observer, and now could almost see from my balcony as I am working only thirty kilometres north of the North Macedonia border.