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Neeps for the needy

I'VE been praying for rain in Catalonia, so the neeps can grow for Burns Supper time.

January 25 gives Scottish folk living abroad a chance to go all patriotic and misty-eyed. Robert Burns's birthday, much more than St Andrew's Day, is when Caledonia calls and thoughts turn to home.

Here in Barcelona there is usually enough haggis to go around on Burns Nicht, but turnips are in short supply. The shops sell little white turnips, but not the Scottish variety that cooks up nice and orange and is delicious seasoned with loads of pepper.

I went back to my roots by devoting my entire allotment to this noble vegetable. Even in its entirety, my plot is only 6ft by 8ft, but that is enough to corner the local market in Burnsian neeps.

This was no money-making initiative. My vegetable patch is in a "hort indignat" – a "people's garden" on land owned by a bank and reclaimed in protest at the recent sins of the capitalist system. I would be up before the commissars for profiteering if I sold anything grown on it.

Sadly, I have to report a crop failure. Despite being planted way back in September, the turnips have not prospered. Maybe because the seed is from Glasgow and has not taken to Catalan sun. Maybe they were planted at the wrong time.

I brought some actual turnip from Glasgow, a small amount given Ryanair's excessive baggage charges. Offers to provide a sample of haggis and neeps to neighbours have been received politely but with no great enthusiasm.

"These turnips, are they not for feeding pigs and cows?" asks Andoni from Asturias, where they play the bagpipes and should be open to Scottish experiences.

When I explain about the sheep innards cooked in the animal's stomach, Andoni winces and says: "No haggis, please, but I will try the neeps."

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