Last night we walked up to Edinburgh Castle.
It was just dark, and below were the lights of the Hogmanay funfair. A hideous mesh of garish strobes and blaring noise attacked the air, not to mention the omnipresent stench of dirty burgers. There were some alarming sights, and I’m not just talking about the Scottish hens in Uggs with bare chalky legs.
The rides were mesmerising. Bungee ropes catapulting innocents across to Princes Street and back, and Catherine Wheel swings, a blur of yodelling screams and ashen faces.
Up at the top the city beneath looked stunning. Buildings lit for effect muscled for attention along the sky line. Skaters glancing across a bright blue rink added romance to the butchness of the clanned architecture.
And then, without warning huge earth thumping fireworks erupted just above us. Lighting the battlements, and the cannons and the empty parade square.
Ignoring Eli’s protestations that he had phoned earlier to arrange the display just for me, I noticed that the funfair had pulled the plug on its noise and instead I could hear cheers and jeers. Bit too early for a New Year’s Brawl… instead, on the street below forty warriors in chain mail and hammered helmets were marching towards us. They brandished lit torches, and quality beards. They were in step to a mass of pipers and drummers following behind, a pick n mix of tartan kilts and sporrans.
And slowly, silently in their wake, dozens, hundreds, thousands of Scots also carrying flaming torches. The flag of St Andrews everywhere on hats and faces, banners and tatts. A serpent of golden light throbbing, chasing through the granite streets, forefathers on every column and plinth winking in agreement. Enlightened.
National pride written across their delighted faces. Not smug, no conceit here, but a oneness of purpose, Scots together casting off the old year and pulling on the new. Scotland the Brave? Maybe Scotland as One….
Devolution? I suddenly understood.