There was a tank in Castle Street yesterday afternoon. Not some piddling little Smart-tank, but a proper, big shiny green thing outside Starbuck’s taking up most of the street and looking as if it was sticking it’s turrets out and daring someone to make a disparaging remark about the size of its guns. I wondered briefly if some General might have slightly over-reacted to not having enough foam on his cappucchino. Or if anti-globalisation protestors have decided to take things up a notch. Perhaps putting tanks on the streets of Scotland is a precautionary measure taken by Westminster in advance of the referendum? Or maybe our First Minister, in anticipation of a favourable result, has already decided to have his flat whites delivered to nearby Bute House by tank. After all, what is the point of having your own army if you can’t use them?
A more pedestrian, if less fanciful, explanation would be that it was simply there as a recruitment tool. If this is the case, it was certainly working. There were two little boys on the bus who were beside themselves with shock and awe; the next generation of Stormin’ Normans in the making. I daresay there are bigger boys who might have had the same reaction--after all, a great toy is a great toy. Even I briefly wondered about taking it for a quick spin down George Street to Harvey Nicks to buy some new tights.
I am no longer surprised by anything I see on the streets of Edinburgh. A colleague told me yesterday she had seen a horse box in Manor Place (though somewhat disappointingly it turned out to be full of chairs, rather than thoroughbreds going for a quick curry at the Indian Cavalry Club).
Of course, during the Festival you are likely to see almost anything from a bus: knights in less than shining armor, bearded men dressed as swans, Henry the Eighth eating a Big Mac. A particular favourite of mine was the year of the cow parade, when fabulously decorated fibreglass cow ‘sculptures’ turned up in all sorts of unexpected places--crowned, of course, by the ‘The Three Grazers’ outside the National Gallery--a glorious if not entirely reverential take on the Canova’s Three Graces (personally, I think the cows represented better value for money).
The great thing about cow sculptures is that there are no issues about methane gas, which The Sunday Times tells me is 21 times more lethal than Co2 in terms of global warming. This is also a good reason to rejoice at the passing of dinosaurs, who apparently produced five times more methane than cattle, potentially contributing to their own extinction. Personally, I think this is taking blame culture a bit too far. Just think, if dinosaurs still roamed the earth, those shiny big tanks (and all our other cars) could run entirely on ‘natural’ gas; it would just be a matter of getting the dinosaurs to co-operate. I don’t think anyone should mention this to Donald Trump, in case he decides to open a theme park with added value. I can see it now: ‘Jurassic Scotland’--dinosaurs with comb-overs.