Flying the flag
Actually I didn't have a flag. I spent many hours today avoiding having an eye poked out by flagpoles of varying lengths and unwieldiness. But on the All Under the Same Banner march through Glasgow today I was compelled to think about the potency of flags, the very basic appeal of massed flags fluttering in the breeze, the way in which the sight of them lifted the spirits even on a grey Glasgow day.
I also thought as I walked - and it was quite a walk, from the Glasgow University end of Kelvin Way all the way to Glasgow Green - about marches and demonstrations of this nature, and why I find myself once again drawn to go on one. After all, I spent the 80s on CND actions; I marched against Tony Blair's war - and today's march was certainly the biggest I've ever taken part in. I've come to the conclusion that it helps to alleviate the feeling of powerlessness brought on by our system of government - whether it be having an American nuclear base on our doorstep and the UK deterrent floating past our house on a regular basis, or the shambolic progress towards leaving Europe. It feels good to do something instead of merely moaning, I suppose - and to do it in the company of, if the highest estimate is to be believed, 91,000 others.
And yes, some of the company you find yourself in on such a march makes you cringe, but there were joyous moments. The man playing a trombone out of his window in Woodside; the marchers shouting "Boo" loudly at a bunch of Nazi-saluting unionist types on a corner who were yelling at us; the handsome fellow dressed like Captain Sparrow and playing a drum; the beautiful lone girl in a long black satin dress and a mantilla, walking the whole way in little golden slippers; the huge dog padding along with "Yes" on his back.
I had a lovely day. I went with a former colleague whom I rarely see, so we did some good catching-up; I met friends on Glasgow Green whom I also rarely see. I found out later that when we were arriving at Glasgow Green the other end of the march was still leaving Kelvin Way. I know there were other friends in the crowd but we didn't see each other. Sometimes it felt like the ill-fated march on Derby in 1745; sometimes it felt like going to a football match. I've written all this and I'm no closer to knowing why I did it or if it has any effect at all on the people all these miles south of us who happen to be in power. But I do know that if I didn't occasionally do something physically to show how I feel, I'd burst.
And that would be ... messy.