How do you write about the 12th after your first proper one? Ive no idea. Ive just had a fascinating day. Instead of dwelling on it Ill just give my experience while doing what most of the Brethren must be doing – having a beer.Up early to get the local Crumlin parade before they headed off to wherever and Im glad I made it. At one point it looked like wed miss the parade due to a bus connection to Lisburn for the Belfast parade before they left but we ended up getting to enjoy (and I think I did enjoy it) the noise of two huge proper Lambegs beating out a deafening sound across a village deep in sleep. No noise, no cars, just a deep drumming spreading for miles. Almost hypnotic over an empty street. I almost forgave those that thought this inconsequential parade needed to take place without an Antrim GAA flag in sight. A display of music and culture rarely found the rest of the day.
The journey continues, bus moves off, we make it less than 2 miles before being stopped at a bigger parade in the smaller village of Glenavy – there are people at this one. My first Sash of the day from an accordion band, then a pipe band passes and we only have to endure the terrible Crumlin Young Loyalists Flute (B&T) band before getting back on the bus and moving on.
..onwards to Lisburn (texting delays to other Slugger folk) then we get stuck behind a lodge doing the bus route our Belfast connection follows so we give up, get off, walk beside and then past this lodge into Lisburn eventually get the train to Belfast (they dont honour our through bus tickets made useless by parading) and almost hook up with the rest of the Slugger team. Almost, because they are on one side of Bedford St and we are across the road, there is a period of waving and being too frightened to cross a street until after ½ an hour the parade stalls and we risk crossing. I was so brave I decided it was ok immediately after the woman with a pram.
This is an utterly tedious parade as far as Im concerned. Blood and Thunder Flute Band belting out the same kind of stuff, time after time. The lodges arent the centre of attraction, it is gaudy bands with flutes. Then we decide to go towards Shaftsbury and the car we are using to get to Bangor. People are drinking all over the road, as we go past the cinema some yellow coated goon with PSNI backup asks me if I have drink in my bag. The road is covered with people drinking and he asks one of the few people without a bottle in their hand about drink! FARCE!
A brief stop off while some have a chat with Dawn Purvis – Im not interested in that, Im finding it a bit intimidating that the stalled Tullycarnett band with the UPRG flags are starting to get UDA chants from the crowd.
Then we go on through Shaftsbury Sq and up the Lisburn road. This can only be described as a drunken mob. The only time I felt uncomfortable or threatened. People shouting at one of our party who looked well dressed tourist go home etc.
Now to cross the road again to get the car. Such paranoia about crossing a main road. Wait for a gap, two cars separating lodges – go. wtf. We are crossing a street.
So off to Bangor.
Civilised. Still a bit of drinking on the street but better bands – accordion, brass, pipe and an easy atmosphere. Up to the field and it was like an expanded School Fete – still drink but not drunkenness going on. Thought it a bit odd people dragging the three black guys up to dance in front of the stage in a display of utter tokenism but cant say I felt uncomfortable – god knows what they felt.
Then back to Belfast and the biggest delay ever to get home that involved Ulsterbus just not showing up and having to plead for a lift.
All in all, wasnt my cup of tea, I wont be back but Translink are the real bastards and if you want to experience the 12th for your first time dont do it in Belfast and seriously dont do it between Bedford St and Tates Ave – that way lies people working out their demons.