Well, I got back home from Nigeria just a handful of days ago. Just in time to meet the Pope.
Yes, the Pope visited Edinburgh today, and though I couldn’t commit to meeting him due to my uncertain work schedule (he’s quite old now so needs lots of prior notice, and I thought I’d still be offshore), he decided to come anyway, and meet the Queen for lunch, some cardinal for a cup of tea, and have a little cruise round Edinburgh in between.
This simple arrangement has put Edinburgh into a bit of a tizzy, and they’ve closed every road and put every policeman onto Princes Street, where they jostle with people selling memorabilia, some collecting for charity, and thousands and thousands of schoolchildren. There was a lone protestor too, handing out leaflets about child abuse, but I give her short shrift as she was missing the spirit of the occasion.
Although I’m not a Catholic, I still share many things in common with the Pope and his many millions of followers, such as neverending guilt, an appreciation of the (now sadly defunct) S Club Juniors, and of course, papal infallibility. Of these, papal infallibility is the most important. A lot of people don’t seem to get this, when they complain about the Pope and some of the beliefs he espouses that they claim are outdated. The guy is infallible. He doesn’t make mistakes. Don’t you get it, guys? You’re the ones that’re wrong. If we can all just stop listening to our inner voices and start listening to the Pope’s voice, then maybe we can start to get things right too.
Today then, after getting out of bed and performing my morning ablutions, or whatever you call them, I thought I’d stroll into town to say hi to the Pope. I live just five minutes from Princes Street so it seemed rude not to. The Pope had originally planned to cruise down the Royal Mile, which would have been far more convenient for me, but it was deemed a security risk and Princes Street chosen instead. By security risk, I think they were referring to the cobbled streets, which no doubt would have been a little uncomfortable a man in his 80s, especially after having had lunch. When you’re the Pope, security in its normal sense doesn’t apply, because any bombs or bullets that come your way are deflected by flashes of glorious light. The former Pope, John Paul II, who was a more kindly Pope would just have the glorious light absorb the bomb or bullet, but the current one, Benedict Sixteen, is bit more badass and would actually deflect the bomb or bullet back at the assailant. For this reason, I guess all the police gathered today were here as much for the protection of the people as they were for the Pope.
My first jaunt down town, about 10am, was a pre-Pope stroll, and duly established that there were lots of people. I’d checked with the BBC news and they said the Pope would be arriving incognito at Holyrood Palace to meet the Queen, so I decided not to hang around just to watch a blacked-out vehicle pass, surrounded by noisy schoolchildren and excited Catholics, and so went and bought a coffee and a sandwich then back to my flat, where I played Football Manager. Football Manager, as ever, was quite engrossing, and I realised it was almost noon, and that the Pope would be doing his Princes Street cruise at half-noon, so I quickly got moving, to the National Gallery where I reckoned would be a good spot to watch the Pope.
...and I almost missed him. The Pope was early! He had explicitly told me he’d be going down Princes Street at half 12, which I naturally took to meaning he’d be starting the journey then. But no. It was 12.25pm, and he was already halfway down! Crafty Pope. If I’d been just thirty second later I would have missed him, but fortunately I arrived just in time to see him majestically swoop by in his rather odd Popemobile, which reminds me of something I’d expect to see old people drive in Florida, perhaps when golfing.
In truth, it was exactly as expected, a bit of an anti-climax. An old man drove by in a car – that’s basically the synopsis of the day. Fair enough, it was an unusual car, and the old man is God’s ambassador on Earth, but I don’t believe in God and aren’t particularly interested in cars, so perhaps it wasn’t the event for me. Besides, after learning that in the last eight years of the Queen Mother’s life, over 80% of her public appearances were, in fact, done by an animatronic puppet, I can’t help but feel sceptical when I see a famous old person in public. Was it really him? His smile was appropriately benign, but his gaze was unfocussed and his wave very fixed.
I’ll leave you to decide. For I managed to get one photo, very quickly taken, of him as he drove by. Look!
There he is, just on the right. To the left of the ice-cream stall. See? No? Honestly, just look a bit harder.
Ok, here’s a zoom in and arrow. What do you think? Pope or puppet?