Gerry Farrell: Diversity in united colours of Leithers

United colours of Leith. Picture; Greg Macvean
United colours of Leith. Picture; Greg Macvean
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Last Saturday, hundreds of people joined the United Colours Of Leith march from Pilrig Park down Leith Walk to the closing rally on Leith Links.

At the Kirkgate, there was a tiny handful of haters, some wearing face masks, but they were outnumbered by twenty to one and drowned out by our six foot six bagpiper.

Zsuzsa Farrell's  grandmother at home in Hungary

Zsuzsa Farrell's grandmother at home in Hungary

Ours was a peaceful demo with official support from nearly all the Scottish political parties and from Hibernian FC, who’ve worked so hard over the years to be a welcoming, inclusive club

If you couldn’t be there with us, here’s a flavour, in this short speech from my wife Zsuzsa, of a happy, fun-filled, family day out.

“Hello, United Colours of Leithers! My name is Zsuzsa - or Fuchsia as my wonderful late mum-in-law used to call me.

“Some of you know me from Leithers Don’t Litter. I come from Hungary where I grew up in a lovely wee town called Zirc.

Mackerel

Mackerel

“My favourite place in my childhood was my grandpa’s garden. It was the most beautiful place you can think of. It had all sorts of fruit trees. Apple, peach, apricot, almond, mulberry, walnut, plum, greengage, chestnut and mighty cherry trees. He even had a white cherry tree which I have never seen anywhere else.

“And millions of flowers; the first ones to come out after winter were the white snowdrops, then the yellow primroses and daffodils, the violets and the blue forget-me-nots, the pink hyacinths, the black tulips, the sunflowers with their big orange heads, the fifty shades of roses, lilacs, all different shapes and smells. The plants attracted lots of birds too. Sparrows, swifts, blue tits, nightingales, woodpeckers, blackbirds, nuthatches, redstarts and goldfinches were frequent visitors. They all had their own language and I loved listening to them.

“My grandpa’s garden was the most beautiful place on Earth because of its diversity. The different shapes, colours, flavours and sounds made my grandpa’s garden so exciting.

“Diversity was for me the biggest attraction of Leith when I moved here three years ago. It’s a wee bit noisier than my grandpa’s garden but it’s just as colourful.

“The people who put those ugly stickers up around Leith after the Brexit vote want everything to look the same. I feel sorry for them. They don’t even realise how dull their lives would be if all the colours of our multi-ethnic Leith disappeared.

“What would Leith look like if somebody shut down all the pizzerias, tapas bars, Chinese takeaways, Indian, Arabic and other ethnic restaurants? A haggis supper’s great, but would you really want to eat one every day?

“Imagine Leith Walk without Romeo, the Turkish barber; Maria, the Portuguese tailor who altered my wedding dress; the friendly Polish guy in Flying Computers; the lovely Greek folks at Qupi Café.

“Imagine Great Junction St without the African hairdressers or the East European Shop.

“We’re here today to send a message to the haters. So listen to us: you’re welcome in Leith but your hateful views are NOT. We will bin your rubbish ideologies. Because Leithers Don’t Litter and Leithers don’t hate.”

Holy mackerel, it’s kamikaze time in Wardie Bay

Mackerel might be the most obliging fish in the world. When they appear on our coasts in mid to late summer, they arrive in huge, fast-moving shoals.

They come in on the high tide and you can ambush them at Granton Breakwater and Newhaven Harbour if you keep your eye on the tide tables.

When I say they are obliging, I meant they’re omnivorous. When I was wee I used to fish off the very end of the Granton pier and the mackerel would attack a bare silver hook.

Some of you will have gone out on professional sea-fishing trips where the skipper gives everybody a handline with a weight and some coloured feathers tied to lethal hooks. It’s not unusual to find your arm aching as you try to haul up half a dozen at once.

Mackerel shoals come up the Forth chasing school of silver baitfish and sand- eels.

The last time I took a walk up Granton Breakwater, the first sign they might be there was a couple of puffins that arrived and started showing interest in something below the surface. Then further out to sea, little white explosions in the surface told me that terns were divebombing the baitfish shoals.

The word probably went out on social media because next to arrive were the fishing brigade with their baitcasting rods. It wasn’t long before those rods were bending as the first kamikaze mackerel flung themselves at an assortment of shiny metal lures and came flipping and wriggling to hand.

This is the year I want to catch a few on my trout fly rod. A mate took me out with his kids into Wardie Bay recently and I had a go. Wardie Bay isn’t much more than 30-45 feet deep and on a high tide it’s where the mackerel hit first.

I tried on the kind of heavy fly lures I use on reservoirs and lochs for rainbow trout but I think I was fishing underneath the shoals. It was only when I stuck on a Booby with a long mink tail that I started to get knocks. Nothing stayed on, though, so I’m desperate to try again.

One of my reasons for wanting to go again is that mackerel are so delicious when they’re fresh. (In fact you’d better not eat them at all if they aren’t cooked fresh because they can badly poison you.) But filleted and grilled straight out of the sea until their silver and green skin crisps up – and served with baby potatoes and something tart like gooseberries, rhubarb or beetroot, they are a fish dish fit for royalty. Try only to knock on the head as many as you’re planning to eat.

Mackerel react badly to being handled and put back in the water alive. They generally don’t make it. So only kill what you and your mates or family can eat.