Thursday, September 4, 2014

What it's like going on a day-trip to Arran while wearing a bloody enormous Yes badge

For months now there's been a nagging voice in my head telling me that I should at least make a token effort to volunteer with the local Yes campaign in Cumbernauld.  But deep down I think I've always known that I'm not one of life's natural canvassers (ie. there's a risk I could make matters worse rather than better!).  Early last month, though, I decided to split the difference and do what I should have done ages ago - turn myself into a walking advertisement by ordering some badges from the online Yes Scotland shop.  When they arrived, I realised to my horror that I was going to have to choose between an enormous badge that would make me feel very self-conscious, and a small one that would require you to practically be standing on top of me before you could decipher the word written on it.  I used the small one while I was travelling on the continent, because I knew it wouldn't make much difference anyway - but I gradually resigned myself to the thought that I was going to have to switch to the enormous one when I got home, otherwise the whole exercise would be pointless.

I first took the plunge when I spent the day in Edinburgh last Thursday, and suffice to say the difference was palpable.  It was like I was constantly making a verbal statement, and people felt entitled to 'reply', which is a bit startling when in your own mind you're just minding your own business as per usual.  When I got back to Glasgow late that night I went into a 24-hour shop, and the man at the counter immediately asked me to give him one reason why Scotland should be independent.  It took me completely by surprise, and I had to admit to him that I was very tired (of course three seconds after leaving the shop I thought of all the things I should have said).  Thankfully, he nodded to me anyway and said : "I think you're right".

Yesterday I took things a step further and wore the badge throughout a day-trip to Arran.  It got the following reactions -

* A Caledonian MacBrayne employee asked me where I got the badge, and said "good" when I told him it was from the Yes Scotland online shop.

* An Englishman on the island shouted "Yes!" and gave me a big thumbs up as I passed, which was an absolutely lovely show of solidarity (unless of course he's an Arran resident, in which case he's probably a Yes voter himself).  But again, it took me completely by surprise when I was lost in thought about something else, and I just smiled awkwardly and kept on walking, which I think disappointed him slightly!

* As I was waiting to get back on the ferry as a new batch of foot passengers came off, one of them looked at me as if he'd just seen something utterly revolting (entirely understandable, to be fair) and very loudly said "OH MY GOD VOTE NO", in a Gary: Tank Commander sort of voice.

* When I got back to Glasgow, a slightly drunk young woman mistook me for a campaigner and begged me to give her a Yes badge.  She didn't strike me as the sort of person who would normally be passionate about politics (or even necessarily turn out to vote) so that probably tells you something important.

* I then walked into a very similar 24-hour shop to last week's, and the man at the counter eyed me for a couple of seconds before grinning and saying in a thick Pakistani accent : "YES -  FOR - SCOTLAND!"

The one and only time when I deliberately tucked the badge away was when I reached a spot called Giant's Graves, which is the location of the remains of two Neolithic tombs.  It was obvious even from a distance that something slightly peculiar was going on there, and I had a feeling I was about to have an awkward enough conversation without bringing the referendum into it.  At first I thought it was some kind of hippy ritual, because a woman was lying down in one of the tombs, while a man stared into space intensely.  When I got there, the woman peeked over the edge of the stone and said "Hi!", in a tone of voice that you'd put on if you were trying to sound extremely friendly while wishing to God the other person would go away.  I said "hiya, am I interrupting?"  Her response was "not yet!", which she said in such a mischievously guilty sounding way that I almost started to wonder if they were planning to have sex in the tomb.  But to my relief I then noticed some fancy-looking equipment lying around, so I think it must have been a photo-shoot.  The woman was good-looking and unnecessarily well-groomed for the surroundings, so she was probably a model and the guy was probably the photographer.  It was very irritating, though, because I had walked two miles uphill to get there, and you don't really expect to be in the back of beyond and STILL find yourself in someone's way!


  1. An interesting article, James.
    If you'll forgive the confession: I really believe I'm going nuts. I can't stop myself wondering if the person I see walking towards me in the High Street is Yes or No. I find myself instinctively looking for clues; from the obvious badge etc, to the positive or negative look on his face, to his style of dress, the way he walks, and if he gets into a car I look again for badges or stickers. I can't stop myself.
    In the bus or standing in queues I have to eavesdrop to hear if people next to me are talking about the referendum and if so which way they will vote.
    I'm seriously considering booking myself into Pluscarden Abbey for the next two weeks - after I've googled Monks For Yes.

  2. HIYA

    "She didn't strike me as the sort of person who would normally be passionate about politics (or even necessarily turn out to vote) so that probably tells you something important."

    yes, it tells us she was drunk :-)

    Why have they hacked all the trees down at the Giants Graves? It was a lot more foreboding and other-worldy when surrounded by conifers. Plus, do they still have that lying sign at the bottom that says it's only a mile and a bit?

  3. "Why have they hacked all the trees down at the Giants Graves?"

    What do you mean, "hacked down"? The trees just couldn't bear the sadness of living in a country ruled by a Tory government it hadn't elected. They just withered away.

  4. Sad to hear about the trees. Last time I visited the Giants Graves, the trees were there - but that was in 2009 when they were doubtless enjoying the Labour Government that we had elected and both a Scottish Prime Minister and Chancellor...

    I hope you enjoyed your trip. It is a magical island.

  5. oh, how we suffer and moan under the endless crushing empire of those vicious tories (who haven't won an election under their own steam for the last 22 years - and now with ukip doing the role militant did for labour in the 80s not likely to do it next time either) :-)

    Seriously though, why are nationalists absolutely obsessed with tories???

  6. "Seriously though, why are nationalists absolutely obsessed with tories???"

    'Cos they're the government? I promise you we'll happily ignore them after independence when we can safely say they'll never be the government again (or at least not for a very, very long time).

  7. Red or blue they only have one goal and that is to suck the wealth into London coffers but that is going change quite drastically very shortly.

    Scottish independence, UK dependency

  8. You should have worked your way up James.

    Get used to the small badge and then tried the bigger one. The Yes wristbands are massively popular and they are great too. For that matter I've seen plenty of Yes supporters with Saltire or lion rampant tops and badges.

    As for the reactions, believe me you soon get used to it. You just learn to smile at the obvious committed No's and politely tell them it's a democratic vote for all scots and their choice. When we're leafleting and campaigning we are far too busy to waste our time with the one or two angry No bampots. You almost feel sorry for them as they are clearly upset that there is no sign whatsoever of a No ground campaign for them to cheer on.

    The don't knows are usually eager for information so it's always handy to carry some wee pocket sized leaflets of which there are plenty to choose from. The wee blue book is ideal and stocks are increasing as fast as we give them out.

    Just directing don't knows to the nearest Yes shop for a chat is also good. (Though I realise there isn't complete coverage everywhere.)

    Arran is a truly marvellous place though sadly I ain't been for over that way in a while. I shall have to rectify that at some point soonish. :-)

    Another good night (new volunteers again) and though the registration surge has passed the Yes Shops locally are still incredibly busy.

    It's looking good, VERY good. :-D

  9. BTW I did notice that you tried the wee Yes badge James. I was more surprised you couldn't find something inbetween. Next time you're somewhere close to a Yes shop you should stock up on whatever you fancy. Believe me they will be more than happy to accommodate you. :-)

    Oh and this is utterly superb.

    Watch from 43.00 onwards to see precisely why little Ed is so unpopular with scottish voters. LOL It's toecurling.

    Then watch a masterclass as poor old Thatcherite Andrew Neil is completely outclassed and hammered on the facts by Yes campaigner Jean Freeman.

    Unsurprisingly this has been extremely popular on social media and is getting passed around a great deal.

  10. @cynicalHighlander

    Tommy is having the same 'problem' more than a few of the Yes big guns are having now in the town hall meetings. Not enough room for everyone. They are being packed out. Tommy has split meetings in two to address those who couldn't get in while others are using ad-hoc loudspeaker set-ups to pipe the meeting out to the public who can't get in. Good thing we've been pretty damn lucky with the weather so far it has to be said. :-)

  11. Oh and I spotted earlier that there was a brief report from someone the BBC had sent to Ayrshire who did few voxpops on support.

    This is not a joke, they picked some guy wi a Rangers top as their 'ordinary man on the street' voice for No.


  12. Twitter is speculating that there's a suppressed poll out there which asked who is the most tedious; James Kelly or Mick Pork? Maybe it's in the reject file with this week's two Panelbase polls that didn't really suit Blair Jenkins narrative.

  13. Aye, so tedious that you need to post on his blog. Must be some life you have in that case!

  14. Sounds more like another sad reject from 'Stormfront Lite' is having another hissy fit.


  15. "Twitter is speculating that there's a suppressed poll out there which asked who is the most tedious; James Kelly or Mick Pork?"

    The poll has leaked at last - and in a shock result, 77% of Panelbase respondents say the answer is c) the No trolls. Who'd have thunk it?

  16. see precisely why little Ed is so unpopular with scottish voters

    From Yougov:

    While David Cameron is significantly less popular in Scotland than in England and Wales, with his leadership rating at -29% and -10% respectively in the latest survey, as an average of the eight polls used in the chart above he is still 15 percentage points ahead of the Labour leader among the Scottish public.

  17. @Anonymous

    You may be going nuts, but I think my fixation may be more dangerous than yours. I keep trying to count window posters and since this involves walking while staring upwards, I'm a little afraid that one of these days I'll accidentally walk into a lamp-post or out into traffic.

    Usually I'd see those as being bad outcomes per se but at the moment my main worry is that if I end in hospital I might not get the chance to vote at all.

  18. Herge creator of Tintin used Arran and Lochranza Castle as inspiration for his book '' Tintin and the Black Island.''

    The real Black Isle north of Inverness is flat as a pancake and not even an island !!