The east end of Princes Street has always been a gathering point for protestors, community groups, single issue campaigners, and the obligatory street artists.
As a kid I’d wander past to meet my dad who worked in the dome at Register House.
Back then the only sound was the cry of the vendor selling the Evening News from his wee wooden table. From memory he always wore a white overall, and his sentence came out as one long, often incomprehensible word: ‘Eveningnewseveningnewsgetyereveningnews’
He and his kin have long since gone - they’re part of Princes Street’s history along with names such as Forsyth’s and the North British Hotel - and the space either aside of the Duke of Wellington’s statue has long been commandeered by numerous groups all selling something whether it’s a message or a contract for a new phone.
Saturday alone saw the No2ID manning their trusty pasting table, adding names to their never ending petition which seems to have been running since the days when Woolies occupied what is now the Apple store.
On the other side of the statue there was a busker trying to make himself heard above the roar of the traffic, while at the railings I had my first sighting of Momentum, thg group that backs Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. Come to think of it, the only group that backs the hapless Jezza for leader.
Thankfully the drummer who ‘entertains’ passers-by with his never-ending solo has packed up his cymbals and gone home, and those pan pipes of peace that would drive you to commit murder have finally been silenced.
Sadly, my favourite group also seems to have left the area.
The scientologists, who have their headquarters just up the Bridges, used to spend weekends there offering free stress tests which, funnily enough, suggested as a diagnosis, a lifetime of devotion to that fruitloop L. Ron Hubbard.
The last time I saw them they were surrounded by protestors who stood behind them with giant pointed signs which warned ‘‘CULT AT WORK!’
It was the funniest and also the most polite protest I’ve ever seen.
But amid the megaphone politics of the hard left - does anyone listen to them as they head along to Primark? - the street performers, sand sculptures and occasional poor soul stuck in a mascot outfit wearily handing out leftlets no-one wants, one group is different.
The Women In Black fascinate me. They stand in peace and they stand for peace. They hold banners opposing war, and wear placards strung around their necks with simple slogans such as ‘build bridges not bombs.’ There’s a quiet dignity about them that draws you to their message.
Women In Black is a global movement, one that believes the actions of small groups can change the world.
They stand back from the road and from the crowds, and simply let their message speak. In doing so, they say far more than everyone else gathered round that grand old statue ever has ...