There are circumstances in life where its hard to know how to behave, for example, at work when a colleague returns from maternity leave with a new baby about which you are supposed to be just as excited as they are but are not. In the bread aisle of the super market where they've run out of, or changed the wrapping of the bread you usually buy... Ok, that might just be me.
So it was today I found myself at odds, I attended the Independence for Scotland Rally, I've never been on a rally or march before. This is one of the few things about which I'm prepared to get off the fence and be moderately serious about, just moderately mind. Apart from anything else, sometimes its nice to put yourself somewhere unfamiliar just to see what happens, I mean, surely one can't attend a march like this and have nothing remotely eccentric happen?
So, its fair to say the Yes crowd have a sense of humour, this is no po-faced shower of weirdy-beardies, well mostly not anyway. A Terrier we nick-named the 'Yes Dog' was adorned with its own small 'Yes' banners, cue unionists questioning whether the dog was coerced unfairly. Later on, on the march itself, we could see through the legs of walkers another two dogs, a Westie and a Poodle with rosettes attached to their collars with the words 'Aye' and 'Oui' emblazoned on respectively. Stewart, an ex-work colleague who I was walking with had his camera, I mentioned the 'Oui' rosette to him thinking he'd like to get a picture, he thought I meant the dog was wearing a wee rosette.
I also bumped into an old pal, well, I say pal I mean someone with whom I had an argument a while ago. This was during a jumble sale (I know, the glamour) we always got a large skip from the council but this year they'd said it would cost £600, I embarked upon a mission to right this most heinous wrong, contacting the press, councillors and even Iain Grey (who replied politely saying he'd try his best.) We did get our skip for free bit this chap stormed past us all on the day declaring nothing was for free and that the council 'couldn't pay for everything', I told him we just wanted a free skip, not a skiing holiday.
And there he was today, an SNP councillor and a member of Christians for Independence, well, no one's perfect.
Giving the parade an international feeling, contingents from Venice and Flanders where in attendance, I had no idea there was a significant movement for independence in either place but their presence added colour and breadth to the affair.
As you might imagine a number of familiar faces where in evidence, John Swinney could be seen uncharacteristically guffawing with laughter with people at the front, entirely at odds with what you see on the news. Nicola Sturgeon being interviewed by that shaggy long grey haired chap who does the odd piece for Newsnight, I forget his name. Alex Salmond was present and gave a rousing speech, whatever you think of him, he knows how to orate. Pate Kane did well compering the many speakers. Margo MacDonald was on fine form as was Amar Anwar, although he did make a comment about all the British flag waving at the olympics being for nought after the fact while hundreds waved saltires in the crowd. It was incongruous but did not detract from the main thrust of his speech.
Earlier, in the Meadows we said an awkward hello to Humza Yousaf, we were spotting familiar faces and had identified him in the crowd but I think he thought perhaps we knew each other, which we don't. It was nice to say hello anyway.
The chap who chased Iain Grey into the Subway branch gave what could be described as an 'impassioned' speech, I say 'could be', but I'll actually say 'really very angry'. Still, he had a point although making us all deaf in the process seemed self-defeating.
The music was fine, the first band on (The Wakes) were slow to start but got going eventually, Gleadhraich came on laterally and really got things going again with their fusion of bagpipes and rock guitar, they were really good, The Trybe also gave good account of themselves.
I think when you're organising these things, if you're booking acts, best check them out first. I say this because an act called The Real Dublinerz was introduced. I've heard of The Dubliners, a multi-instrumental traditional Irish folk band as far as I know. The Real Dublinerz aren't or rather isn't because there's only one of them, a him, and he was shite. It was an odd moment, you could hear people twiddling their thumbs wondering what was going to happen... We thought for a wee joke, the rest of his band had told him to go ahead and they'd be on in second and had abandoned him. The guy was dancing like a stoned, hippy marionette, threatening to play what turned out to be a melodica (a small keyboard type thing you blow into to make a noise.)
The organisers soon saw their mistake, I say soon, the guy floated around to the backing track he'd brought for a good five minutes before he even started to play his melodica, which we couldn't hear anyway. It was a bit strange and as I've already mentioned; a bit shite.
Even with that, it was a fine day, the weather was grand and the over-all mood was good, a group had put up a large Union Flag way up the back but the police soon pounced to good natured cheers and laughter. Whatever happens, the press couldn't paint this as swivel-eyed or extreme. Alan Grogan who was speaking for Labour for Independence got a fine response and was one of the best speakers on the day, Alan Bisset also gave a fine rendition of his satirical poem Vote Britain (this is the actual performance from the Ross Theatre today.)
I wasn't sure how to behave, do I chant? Do I raise my fist in salute? In the end I just showed my face and walked, then stood and listened, clapped and cheered when I felt like it which was often enough to be gratifying.
The Ross Theatre seats 2000, it was full with people standing, as was the area above and good bit on either side, my entirely uneducated estimate on attendance would be in the region of 5000. I think this is a good number, with no mainstream coverage, purely on the basis of online word of mouth circulation?
I look forward to the next two marches, they said we should try to bring one person with us next time, so, knowing my readership as I do... How about it?