Gerry Farrell: Spartans Army is on march

Have your say

‘How come there’s all these folk in the bus queue? And whose team colours are those round your neck?” demanded the girl in front of me as 50 of us piled on to the 21 bus on Ferry Road last Saturday evening. “I’m a Spartan today,” I said, showing her the Greek Warrior badge pinned to my red, white and blue scarf.

“Did you win?” she asked.

“Nope, but we got a glorious equaliser in the 93rd minute.”

She pointed out the bus window. “Look, even the sky’s celebrating.” Sure enough, a typical Edinburgh sunset paraded its red, blue and white stripes across the heavens. It dawned on me that I’d just referred to myself as “we”.

Big clubs could learn a lot from the way Spartans rallied support to their underdog cause, a Scottish Cup tie against the mighty Berwick Rangers from over the Border in In-ger-lund.

The whole club raised its game, reaching out to the Edinburgh community, to Hearts fans and Hibs fans like me, lured away from our winter-worn home turf to an immaculate plastic pitch by the prospect of a giant-killing.

In the hospitality area, on the back of every chair, was a blue shirt with Spartan Army on the back and #BeTheTwelfthMan on the front. They had been pre-ordered and all the sizes were spot-on. “You’re the XL,” said a hospitality helper sizing me up.

“Blame your pies,” I said as she draped a scarf round my neck like a Hawaiian hula dancer garlanding a tourist (I’d been tipped off that the usual pieman had been given the heave-ho in favour of a baker who would make the pastry crisp and fill the case with decent mince and gravy).

Instead of the usual Crombie-coated businessmen, scoffing prawn sandwiches and talking sotto voce, like mourners at a funeral lunch, the room was alive. Children were chasing round the tables, girlfriends and mums were reading bits of the programme out loud to each other and NOBODY was watching Celtic cuff Dundee on the big plasma screens. Why would they? Match of the Day was about to kick off right here at Ainslie Park. The black and gold of Berwick and the red and white of Spartans trooped out into the sunlight.

Pirniefield Primary School ruled the terracings. Half these kids had a drum to thump. The Curriculum For Excellence is obviously working because the samba beats bouncing off the tin roof wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the Maracana. The Berwick team turned to salute them and were met by a falsetto chorus of “Who are ya, who are ya?”

A 17th-minute, top-corner bullet from Berwick silenced the Pirniefield Junior Samba Band while up the other end, an over-refreshed Berwick fan, dressed as the front end of a pantomime horse, galloped into the opposing fans and nearly got himself arrested.

Late into the second half, it was the part-timers who looked the fittest, dinking and dribbling their way through Berwick’s defence, winning corners, missing sitters. Every time a Berwick back lumped another last-ditch clearance into the darkening sky, the cry went up “HOOOOOOOOOOOOF!”

Mr Specsaver was fumbling for his whistle when the equaliser hit the back of the Berwick net like a stone from David’s slingshot. “You’re not singing any more!” I sang, with the rest of the Spartan Army. “I. Am. Sparta!” I shouted. And for a few ecstatic minutes, I was. Then Hibs drew Berwick or Spartans . . .

Maxed out on credit

The return of the maxi proves that times are tough. The Hemline Indicator first started in 1929. When the economy was riding high, women wore shorter skirts to show off their silk-clad legs. In a recession, they dropped their hems to hide their cheap stockings. Makes sense.

Is there any excuse for leaving your baby in car to go shopping?

Three days ago a friend of mine was walking through a supermarket car park. It was 6.30pm, cold and dark, when she spotted a very small baby left alone in a car, strapped into the car seat.

My friend was immediately concerned but assumed the parent had popped in for an emergency supply. She did her own messages and came out 25 minutes later to find the baby still on its own, purple in the face, coughing and crying hysterically. She went back into the store, told the staff and asked them to tannoy the parent.

For another 20 minutes she stood next to the car, becoming more and more upset at the baby’s obvious distress. Finally the mother showed up, on the defensive, saying she needed to do her weekly shopping. My friend spoke her mind, saying what an irresponsible parent she was, placing her baby at unnecessary risk when she easily could have put her in a trolley with a baby seat. “What if she’d choked or vomited? What if she’d been abducted? What if the car had gone on fire or another car had crashed into it?”

When she got home she was still so angry and disturbed that she reached out to her friends on Facebook. She wanted to figure out if she should report the woman. She didn’t have to wait long for comments: “It’s against the law. Report her.” “There’s no excuse.” “Some people shouldn’t be allowed to have children.”

You can understand how they felt, most of them mums themselves. But other commenters took a different position: “Very small baby equals alarm bells. Maybe she’s got post-natal depression and needs help.”

Last month a young mum dressed in a thin top, leggings and hospital slippers slipped out of a Bristol maternity hospital carrying her newborn daughter, walked to the Clifton Suspension Bridge and jumped off. Next day both were found dead at the bottom of the Avon Gorge. She’d been receiving treatment for depression since her dad died suddenly aged 51 but had stopped taking her antidepressants so she could breastfeed.

Unless you know exactly what another person’s circumstances are, it’s hard to make snap judgements. My friend did the right thing. She phoned the community police, got it all off her chest and they promised to visit the woman and talk to her sensitively about her behaviour.

What would you have done? Have you ever had post-natal depression? Please tell us about your experience. If you’re struggling with PND right now, get help here: call the Pandas (Pre and Post Natal Depression Advice and Support) helpline on 0843 28 98 401.