"That hour, o' night's black arch the keystane, as ne'er poor sinner was abroad in; the wind blew as 'twad blawn its last, the rattlin' showers rose on the blast."

These lines from the Robert Burns classic poem Tam O' Shanter may well have been written during the constant storms we have been enduring recently. It has certainly described the horrible weather which has battered me on my annual Burns trail.

For the last 45 years I have been gallivanting around the UK and abroad during January and February in celebration of the Bard's birthday, speechifying and performing.

Poor me; I've been forced to recite Tam O' Shanter to myself on my recent sunshine promenading and geriatric jogging.

"Tam skelpit on, thro' dub and mire, despising wind, and rain, and fire" - to ensure that it remained in the brain box (Editor: Brain Box?).  And, by now, I have had a dram or six quoting his Scotch Drink lines: "Gie him strong drink until he wink, that's sinking in despair; old liquor guid to fire his bluid", etc, etc.

My interest in Burns began, appropriately, surrounded by strong drink and cigarette smoke in a Largs pub. As a pupil at a Roman Catholic school in the 60s, with nuns as teachers, the works of Burns were never on the agenda, so I was a late starter.

On moving to Largs in the 70s as the callow boy editor, I lived above the former Royal Oak Bar (now the Tinto Tapas restaurant). It was run by a former father-in-law, John Millar, who was a Burns enthusiast, holding an annual Burns supper where yours truly would help out by pulling pints and pouring the amber nectar.

The late, great Alex McGregor, who was a renowned actor and director with Largs Players, recited the best rendition of Holy Willie's Prayer that I have ever witnessed one night.  As the jam-packed pub's punters exploded in applause, Alex, a few feet away from me, collapsed and died before my very eyes. It was shocking, I was profoundly affected and, yet, I was inspired to set out on my own Burns journey.

Initially, I presented my own versions of the Immortal Memory which, I like to think, differed from some of the po-faced, humourless lectures that were favoured by "serious" Burns Clubs at that time.

I have always been in favour of quoting Burns poems and epistles as opposed to simply pontificating about the 18th century Bard who, to be honest, was more often a sinner than a saint.

Owing to my thespian bent (it's the way I walk) I have always been able to memorise scripts, so I learned the hundreds of lines of Tam O' Shanter - the classic ghost tale of how he is chased by the naked witches - and have never forgotten them. Even the ones I now replace with jokes as part of my theatrical presentation, darlings.

With my trusty wooden steed, Meg, I have had the honour and pleasure of performing Burns in London, the Middle East, Russia, Luxembourg, Canada and, during the one Burns season I wasn't in Scotland, in the open air in Australia, in front of an ex-pats' supper.

I have great memories and mementoes of Burnsian celebrations, such as appearing with the late award-winning writer William McIlvanney in St Petersburg, where he spoke about Rabbie's life while I did the recitations. It was quite a thrill to see Russian students grasping the Shanter story. We also did a 'gig' at the British Embassy.

In Kuwait, I was arrested by the police as my host, former Largs man Joe Johnston, showed me a former Gulf War tanks graveyard. It's the only time I've ever been released from detention in time to deliver the Immortal Memory. (Editor's note: Are you sure?)

By the time you read this, I will have attended the annual Largs Cronies Burns annual dinner which, as a founding member, I am proud to say has been held since the 80s. But I am still amazed and bemused at how different all the Burns suppers can be.

My friend Alasdair Woods invited me as a guest to the recent Garnock Burns Club event in Kilbirnie, along with member Ian Wightman and Andrew Dickson, and I ended up at the top table as Tam O' Shanter.

After singing God Save The King, retired Largs lawyer Jimmy Russell proposed a long toast to His Majesty's Armed Forces, commenting that if he got anything wrong, it was down to his Fujitsu computer (topical). We all stood up singing Rule Britannia - even, I noted, the SNP supporters in the room.

The Garnock club also featured a toast to Town And Trade, replied to, in hilarious fashion, by fisherman Wightman. Chairman Willie Clark, now also resident in Largs, described us as "the cockle crushers".

Having delivered a toast to the lassies this month, I was intrigued that the toast at Kilbirnie was to Jean Armour, Rabbie's wife - and eyes were raised when solicitor Andrew Duncan insisted that if Burns clubs were to survive they would have to embrace "gender diversity".

As it happens, three ladies attended the 'all male' supper, including fellow thespian Lynn Crawford, who gave brilliant recitations.

Well, as Rabbie wrote: "Far a' that, and a' that; it's coming yet for a' that. That man to man the world o'er, shall brothers [and sisters] be for a' that."

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Thought for the Week: There are people you wouldn't let into your house but you let them into your head...with tackety boots.

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Many times over the years I have lambasted North Ayrshire Council for their absurd, inhumane pronouncements that public toilets are not their remit. 

Whose responsibility are they, then?

The news that they are to conduct a public consultation that could yet lead to the closure of the long-standing conveniences at Aubery, Broomfields, Mackerston and the Pencil should be heeded by everyone in Largs. Make your views known.

Every one of us, at some point, has had that anxious 'burning' need to head to a toilet. It's the most basic of human needs, for God's sake. And consider the needs of the thousands of daytrippers to Largs most months of the year.

I've also said before that council officers decide what they're going to do and then hold a consultation. They hardly ever consult the elected councillors. They present a fait accompli.  That's what they did at Douglas Park when they demolished the toilets.

Perhaps if they had not spent a ludicrous sum of £300,000 - from the car park's future revenue - on modernising the pier toilets, which, going forward, will have a charge, they might have used some of the overpriced project to do repairs to the other conveniences.

The council's idea is that the community will rally round, buy the toilet rolls, disinfectant, mops and brushes to look after the loos.

We did once have a voluntary No Poo On My Shoe group. Is it now to be No Poo In The Loo?