Today marked the royal opening of the new Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood; an unusual, modern piece of architecture cheek by jowl with other buildings which are many centuries older. In a way it is a reflection of the nation: a deeply ancient past intertwined with the leading edges of modernity; at either end of the Royal Mile where the Queen processed down this morning is the
The opening ceremony contained, as these occasions normally do, more than its fair share of pomp. Royal heralds and ceremony are all very well for the tourists and there are few countries that do it as well as we do. However, far more interesting and enjoyable than this royal nonsense were the reading of a beautiful poem by our National Makkar, the Scottish Poet Laureate, my dear Edwin Morgan. Full of beauty, humour, simple advice and above all, his trademark optimism, Edwin was too ill – he is in his mid 80s with cancer – too attend, so his friend and fellow poet and dramatist Liz Lochhead read it in his stead. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra played throughout but the standout moment came when they backed former Fairground Attraction singer Eddie Reader as she sang a beautiful version of Robert Burns’ Auld Langs Syne (thus linking our historical National Bard with our modern Makkar). She began with the older version but halfway through switched to the more traditionally sung version and had the entire parliament and guests on their feet singing, holding their hands as Scots (and many other folks) do when they sing this song. Some really got into the spirit of it and were fairly gie’in it laldy as we say, and the sporrans were bobbing up and down on the kilts. This isn’t something you see in the stuffy old halls of the parliament at
It was a rather lovely moment and one of those times where you can only hope that the fine rhetoric will be put into action for the betterment of all. I suspect, however, that like most political arenas we will soon be back to the normal bickerings, back-stabbings, cover-ups, evasions and behind-the-scenes shenanigans that usually accompany the most dishonourable career of politics. But it would be nice to think otherwise, wouldn’t it? That said, as we look back now at the five years since an overwhelming Yes vote in
And to end on a good note, here is a nice fact for the opening day (and a subject close to my heart!): the largest chocolate cake ever baked in Scotland will be served up by the nearby Plaisir du Chocolat in the Royal Mile. If you’ve seen the film Chocolat, the French chef/baker here is along the same lines (he also does the peppers in chocolate as in the film and book). Expensive? Very, but my god it is the most gorgeous chocolate!!! I got a box from there for Melanie’s birthday one year and I can tell you as an expert guzzler of good chocolate that their goodies were heavenly, multiple orgasms in every bite. The only way it could be made better is by dribbling the chocolate over Christina Ricci for me to lick off. Hmmmm, chocolate…….