BootsnAll Travel Network

Make Poverty History

Bec and I were joined on the morning of Saturday July 2nd by a couple of our best friends, Trickey and Sarah, who had journeyed across from Glasgow to take part in the Make Poverty History march. We wandered from our house on the North of the city to The Meadows on the South of the city; the park area that would host the march. As we ambled through the city itself around 10am, an eeriness drifted down the near-empty streets, the city seemingly holding its breath before what would turn out to be the biggest demonstration in Scottish history.

We passed the train station, where an endless line of protesters clad in white – the colour of the day – marched expectantly towards the meadows. Joining the throng, the eeriness changed to excitement. It reminded me of the feeling you get walking into a sporting ground for the big game, or heading in the gates of a music festival, knowing that all the excitement is ahead of you, and you’re being joined by thousands of like-minded people, eager to share in the day.

Once there, we found ourselves amongst a crowd that had families sitting next to hippies, sitting next to grandmothers, sitting next to toddlers, sitting next to twenty-somethings. It was a brilliant cross-section of people.

The official proceedings included a number of speeches from organisers, prominent locals, as well as a few celebrities. After a few pleasantries from the early speakers, well-known actor Pete Postlethwaite brought the seriousness of the demonstration back to the forefront. Where others had been welcoming, imploring us to enjoy the day, Postlethwaite positively bristled with anger.

He began by quoting, as did a few others throughout the day, Mahatma Ghandi;

“First they ignored you.
Then they laughed at you.
Then we fight them.
Then we win.”

A fine oration.

Following some live music, an 11-piece celtic band no less – I told you in Soaring Kaleidoscopic Electro-Folk, 11-pieces are the new two-pieces – we lined up to go on the march. The march itself was to form a ring around the city’s old town, surrounding the historic Edinburgh Castle, and replicating the white Make Poverty History wristbands that supporters were wearing, starting and ending at the Meadows. It began at noon. We lined up at 1.30pm. We got to the start of the march route at 3pm. It took us an hour and a half to complete the march, arriving back at 4.30pm. At this stage, there were still people lining up to start the march. Over 220,000 people were there. It was fantastic. To be a part of such a massive demonstration, marching peacefully to support a common cause, drums beating, chants flowing, bagpipes creaking (hey, let’s not forget where we are here folks), and with Edinburgh’s beautiful old town and Castle as a backdrop, was wonderful.

Of the 220,000 people who were there, about 60 caused a bit of trouble on the march, but police were quick to round them up, and we saw none of the action. The action we would see would come the next day….

The next day, the four of us settled in over a few ales at Bert’s Bar, a small pub near home that, during the day, can be a bit of an old-man pub, but is generally a great place to watch sport, and has some of the best bar staff in town. We were there to watch the Wimbledon final, and saw Roger Federer destroy Andy Roddick. Federer is simply in a class of his own. And not just one class above, he’s like a university professor battling wits with kids stuck in kindergarten, still trying to master the art of finger painting.

The non-tennis drama came when an old drunk approached our table mid-way through the second set. He looked like your typical old drunk, a bit frail, moving slowly, and with a nose as red as Rudolph’s. Now, normally I’d try and convey what he’d spoken by simply repeating it for you here. But whilst it’s one thing to understand what an old drunk is saying, it’s an entirely whole new skill to decipher on old drunk with a thick Scottish accent. Even at the best of times I generally only pick up about 75 percent of what any Scot says. Between the four of us at the table, we eventually managed to pick up enough words to work out what this guy wanted.

Sarah had been looking through the complimentary newspaper, and had it piled on the seat next to her. It’s worth noting at this point that her and Bec were sitting on a bench seat against the wall, rather than individual seats. The old man pointed to the paper and mumbled something, so we assumed he wanted to read it. Upon offering him the paper, the old codger got rather upset.

“That’s….. an ininininanimate object. I’m a human being.” He muttered, proudly pointing to himself, and clearly upset that we had somehow overlooked his status amongst the living.

“Uh, yeah. That’s an inanimate object.” Trickey said, a bit unsure what this guy wanted.

The old guy pointed again at the seat right next to Sarah, where the newspaper was lying.

“Sarah, I think he wants to sit down there.” Bec said. And by there, she meant right next to Sarah. No buffer zone. No personal space. Right next to her.

“Oh, well if you like you can sit there” Sarah said calmly to the old geezer, indicating a spot just down the bench a bit at the next table.

The guy continued to be upset, pointing to the spot right next to Sarah, and began moving in closer so he could sit down. It was at this point that Trickey fired up.

“Mate, you’re not sitting there.” He said, his voice slowly starting to rise.

The old guy continued to move towards Sarah, seemingly about to sit in her lap, all the while mumbling away to himself.

“MATE!” Trickey grabbed the guys arm before he could get any closer to Sarah.

Trickey stood up, “MATE! YOU ARE NOT SITTING THERE!!”

The old drunk turned towards Trickey, not at all happy, and began prodding at Trickey’s chest, as though entering a pin number at a cash machine. It was a bit surreal to see such an old guy going nose-to-nose with a fit young bloke brandishing a recently shaved head that made him look just a little bit like a thug.

I didn’t know whether to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation, or be fearful of something regretful happening. One of the friendly bar staff then intervened, and managed to eventually coax the old guy over to another table. But not before the old guy threatened Trickey with a menacing “Don’t you do that again.” Or something. I couldn’t really understand him, but I’m assuming he wasn’t asking Trickey if he thought Roddick could take the second set.

Like bribing a donkey by hanging a carrot off a branch in front of its face, the bartender simply picked up the old geezer’s whiskey; “c’mon Andy, stop causing trouble and come sit over here. I’m taking your whiskey, so if you want it you’ll have to get over ‘ere.”

And that was the end of that. A nice little prelude to the violence that would follow the next day.

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