Diary

Apparently, we were 7,000 people packing the main exhibition floor of Montreal's Palais des Congres where the "Oui" camp held its election rally on Monday evening. For the first hour or so, when the early returns were coming in, it felt more like 700,000, so deafening were the roars of ecstasy when result after result seemed to point to a separatist victory. It was all I could do not to break into chants of "Tottenham, Tottenham".

It was actually at 8.59pm, not quite an hour after the polls closed, that the tide turned and the "Oui" lead started to evaporate. The agony came at 9.34, when for a brief moment the tallies projected on the jumbo screens actually read 50:50 before the "Nons" pulled ahead. Suddenly, that same room seemed quite empty. To say the mood sagged does not begin to capture it. The same faces that minutes before had been contorted in expressions of raw excitement had gone quite blank. Eyes stared and hundreds of men and women wept silently. A distraught young man charged a camera man and bellowed into the lens, "C'est la guerre maintenant".

It was a night of chants and songs. Quebec's Premier, Jacques Parizeau, who disgraced himself in his concession speech by blaming defeat on the ethnic minority, could not resist joining in from the podium the rhythmic refrain of his followers, "Le Quebec aux Quebecois!" (Quebec for Quebeckers). Across town at the victorious "Non" camp in the Metropole, a night club taken over for the night, federalist supporters retorted with a taunting variation on the same chorus: "Le Quebec au Canada! Le Quebec au Canada!" (Quebec in Canada). Earlier in the day, the superstitious may have seen a good omen for the "Oui" side in some unexpected flurries of snow across Montreal. In his anthem for independence, folk musician Gilles Vigneault - to Quebeckers what Jacques Brel is to francophone Belgians - sang: "Mon pays, ce n'est pas mon pays, c'est l'hiver. Mon pays, ce n'est pas mon pays, c'est le neige" (My country, it is not my country, it is winter. My country, it is not my country, it is snow). But the forecast for Montreal yesterday? "Melting flurries".

Belgium's list of famous people is harder to compile even than Canada's. But this old Brussels hack did a double-take early in the proceedings at the Palais des Congres when he spotted the bucolic features of none other than Jose Happart in the crowd. You know, Jose Happart. Well you probably don't, but he was the man who rekindled the separatist flame in the French-speaking Wallonia region of Belgium in the late Eighties as the mayor of Les Fourons, a group of francophone hamlets marooned in an otherwise totally Flemish part of the country. With the red cockerel of Wallonia emblazoned on his dark-blue tie, Mr Happart had high hopes of a "Oui" victory which he was ready to use as ammunition to relaunch once more the campaign for devolution in Belgium. "It will show that peaceful separation is possible," he explained. "If the no side wins, it will be because of money." Not to mention those pesky, spoil-sport, ethnics.

Among these is the helpful gentleman in my hotel gift shop who for the past two days has been gathering armfuls of newspapers and magazines for my education. This is the Chinatown Holiday Inn - replete with twin pagodas perched on its facade - and my helpful friend, like almost everyone in this neighbourhood, is himself ethnic Chinese. "It was disgraceful, just disgraceful what he said," he railed this morning. "Mr Parizeau should resign. You know, we all of us have the same dream for this country; it is in our hearts and in our heads. I watched him and I felt really stunned". Mr Parizeau would have done well to have had the Chinese in Montreal on his side. They number just about 50,000, exactly the number by which the Oui side fell short in the final result (roughly the number of people to fill a good-sized football stadium).

It has been a good few days in Montreal for people inclined towards fancy-dress. Even as the city voted on Monday, the most fervent of the "Oui" and "Non" camps were out and about flaunting their convictions by way of their attire. There was Deepak Massand, who stood all day on the corner of Ste Catherine and Peel Streets downtown, dressed from head to toe in a toga made up of the federalist maple leaf and the blue fleur- de-lis of Quebec. Presumably, it kept him warm. Pacing the other side of Ste Catherine was Mario Trottier, who, as well as wearing a Frankenstein mask, brandished a cut-out coffin and crucifix bearing the message "Non au S - OUI - CIDE!". Peeling off the mask to speak for a moment, he explained: "I am just trying to defend myself and defend Canada". A few passers-by responded with a one-digit gesture. "Look at them, they are saying 'F... You'," says Mario. "Well, I say ..." and he blew them a kiss. Mario and Deepak were gone from Ste Catherine yesterday, to be replaced only by the costume-ball enthusiasts of Hallowe'en. Many were looking out for the return of the walking, talking toothbrush, an annual fixture on the pavements here on 31 October.

For Canada's markets and business community, the result was the right one, if only just, and all the dark rumours of the last week can be forgotten. These included tall tales of Mr Parizeau himself arranging to have his life savings transferred to a bank in Vermont, of an American bank syndicate threatening to pull out of a loan to back up Quebec's crippling debt and of multinational companies in the province, like Air Canada and Pratt and Whitney, preparing to pull out in the event of a "Oui" victory. My own interest on election day was in a certain British retailing company with a large outlet on Ste Catherine, just a block from the toga-clad Mr Massand. Its awnings already decked out for Christmas, Marks & Spencer beckoned like a calm sanctuary in the electoral storm. Inside were the familiar racks of socks, underpants and pyjamas and, most importantly, shelves upon shelves of luxury Christmas puddings. St Michael, you see, has not yet penetrated my normal stamping ground, New York.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
peopleGerman paper published pictures of 18-month-old daughter
Arts and Entertainment
'A voice untroubled by time': Kate Bush
musicKate Bush set to re-enter album charts after first conerts in 35 years
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams' life story will be told in a biography written by a New York Times reporter
arts + ents
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Voices
voices
Sport
Roger Federer is greeted by Michael Jordan following his victory over Marinko Matosevic
tennisRoger Federer gets Michael Jordan's applause following tweener shot in win over Marinko Matosevic
News
peopleJustin Bieber accuses paparazzi of acting 'recklessly' after car crash
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Oppressive atmosphere: the cast of 'Tyrant'
tvIntroducing Tyrant, one of the most hotly anticipated dramas of the year
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Teacher September strt with view to permanent post

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: IT...

Qualified Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Crawley: This independent Nursery is looking fo...

Qualified Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Crawley: This independent Nursery is looking fo...

Merger and Acquisition Project Manager

£500 - £550 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently...

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis