Photo: Rob Bruce. Click 'read more' to see the whole article.
LIKE JK ROWLING, it seems, I am an “80 minute patriot”. This is what she was called on Twitter for being a No’ voter who supported the Scottish rugby team in the World Cup.
Personally, I feel that when it comes to full-throated, flag-waving ostentatious declarations of love for one’s country, 80 minutes is probably enough. Again, for me, I don’t know about JKR, I am quite happy to stick the Jimmy hat and saltire in a bag when I leave the ground.
But the storm in 140 characters seems to have created a tartan version of the Norman Tebbit cricket test. The Conservative politician once demanded that immigrants to the UK should support England at cricket - it was pointed out at the time that most Scots would fail this test. The cybernats seem to demand conversely that everyone who supports Scotland at Rugby should want an end to the Union.
It’s ridiculous of course. At this point, Scotland is still a free country. You can support whoever you like at anything. Somewhat ironically, the angry Nat who took Rowling to task over her tweet congratulating the Scotland team on their performance against Australia in the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals, Stuart Campbell who blogs as Wings Over Scotland, apparently lives in Bath.
Scotland had warm support in the stands for its game against Australia - and many of those sporting cockades and Scotland shirts had English accents.
I managed to get to the game itself, picking up a ticket from a friend of a friend in the Eel Pie Pub an hour before kick off. Sport isn’t normally my thing but I am really enjoying this Rugby World Cup. And it was great to be there. The uncertainty of the outcome was part of the thrill; like an afternoon at the theatre where the end of the play has not yet been written.
This Rugby World Cup has captured the imagination of many and the gates and TV audiences have been huge. The stadium for the Australia-Scotland game was almost full.
It was a very friendly and lively atmosphere.
Our seats were in different parts of the ground but I felt quite OK being on my own. It was a genial crowd, the fans mixed together freely, not segregated as they are in football. At half time I chatted to two Englishwomen in tartan bunnets. One said she was 3/8th Scottish, and it seemed there were many English people in the crowd who had decided to support us on the strength of a Scottish granny or some such.
It was a very exciting game. My secret fear was that we would be gubbed the way France had been by the All Blacks. But in fact the Scotland team were magnificent. They were leading by one point at half-time.
There was plenty of singing and chanting (click here for a cool video) around the ground. I started to sing Flower of Scotland but then I remembered that I had been told at the time of the referendum that I should never sing it again. So instead I sang myself a wee chorus of Call it Alba by Professor of Neural Electronics, musician and roadie-impersonater Alan Murray: “This is my land, Caledonia/ Call it Scotland, call it Alba or the land of the leal/ Land of factory and shipyard, of heather and sea/ I belong to the land I live in, and the land is in the deepest part of me.”
At the end of the game, of course, the Scotland team were pipped by a couple of points when Australia was given that controversial penalty by referee Craig Joubert
It wasn’t immediately obvious that the penalty was wrongly given. But what was obvious even to me was that the ball was quite near the Scottish posts at that point and it was a very close game. Hearts were in mouths all round the stadium and it could have gone either way.
At the end, a man in a Scotland shirt was heard to say: “I effing ‘ate the Scots but the Australians didn’t deserve to win that.”
The crowd largely maintained its good humour. In front of me a man who had been shouting for Australia leaned over to the shake the hand of a Scotland supporter in a kilt. Perhaps they were 80 minute patriots as well.