Busting Balls

View from Appleton Tower, 3 March 2006

The above photo is Jane’s (all rights reserved by Jane, reproduced by kind permission of Jane). She works in the widely loathed Appleton Tower. Although it’s a monstrosity from the outside, overshadowing its charming Georgian surroundings with nine floors of Duplo-block ugliness, the tower is quite pleasant inside, and has some of the best panoramic views of the Old Town... because they’re the only ones without Appleton Tower in them.

This story is hers, too. While I was taking photos of the snow-covered Royal Mile, she was near the main part of the university, walking on the edge of the Meadows, where a bunch of schoolkids were making the most of the conditions by lobbing snowballs at each other. As these kids were from the nearby George Heriot School (the model for Hogwart’s, and every bit as fancy as that sounds), it was all very civilised; they were even arcing the balls over the path to avoid hitting any innocent passersby. Much polite laughter and lo-jinks.

Which made it all the more surprising when a police van pulled up and half a dozen cops piled out and started seizing their snowballs.

If Jane hadn’t been an eye-witness to this, I wouldn’t have believed a word of it. She had a hard time convincing her office-mate, as well. But it was true. Someone had called the cops over a snowball fight—and the cops had turned up.

The kids were just meekly handing them over, too. If this had been out in Wester Hailes, they would have been handing over snowballs wrapped around a fist. But the polite George Heriot children surrendered their weapons to a cop in a bulletproof vest, who soon had armfuls of them.

Inquiring minds want to know:

  • Were there any arrests?
  • Do the police intend to store these weapons as evidence? Produce them in court from a secure esky? Dust them for prints?
  • Who tipped them off? Was one of Edinburgh’s crotchety old biddies horrified by the thought of a powdery ball of snow hitting her powder-filled snowy head? Surely old biddies don’t have mobile phones—the microwaves might short-circuit their pacemakers.
  • Or did the police have advance warning? Were the vans rolling as soon as the first flakes hit the streets? “Och, it’s snowing! The Heriot Gang will be out in force—we have to strike fast, before their lunch-break ends.”
  • Are bulletproof vests water-resistant?
  • Is life at Lothian and Borders Police really that sad and empty since the end of G8? Would they have arrested George Bush for throwing a snowball? What if Dick Cheney threw one? At a lawyer?
  • And how come, when we went past George Heriot School on the bus today, the grounds were still covered in snow? Why hasn’t this illicit substance been impounded, and the school’s groundskeepers prosecuted for endangering young lives?

4 March 2006 · Journal

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