Extinction Rebellion VI

When the police are cutting people’s lockons, it doesn’t half smell. I watched them at it in the morning and afternoon. Several phone photographers were cranking round the police lines. “Pity she won’t stand somewhere else so we could get a better view,” said one, as the sparks flew. Those plastic shields would have protected us. I don’t know whether the police provided the protester’s visor and ear protection.

“What are Quakers then?” asked the policeman. Continue reading

Catching the intensity

Around 1.45 am, I cycle over the railway bridge. It’s one lane, at the top of a hill, so the car behind can’t pass me, but just over the bridge I am going down a little and it still isn’t passing me. Rather, it pulls up alongside, which is frightening. Then I notice it is a police car. The female passenger says nothing but the male driver says, “If you’re going to be cycling at this time you might consider investing in a crash helmet and a reflective jacket, because the drivers at this time are not always driving well”.

I looked at him and thought, I really do not want this to escalate, so said, “Thank you”. He has nothing to say to that, and drives on. I had LED lights, not technically legal but bright enough, the law has not been adapted from the time of Edison bulbs. Next day I thought, he was irked that I had slowed him up for ten seconds going over the bridge, and so he frightened a lone woman late at night. That just might have been enough to abash him if I’d said it.

When I was being weaned-

this will all come together in the end, I promise you-

my mother made something for me and I sang to her. She thought it delighted me, and was delighted by my reaction. Then she chopped some cooked chicken really small and forced it through a sieve, which must have been very hard work. “And you spat it at me,” she told me. I don’t know whether she told me that story more than once, but she told it to me when I was a child and it made an impression.

She was working very hard to look after me, and my sister who is two years older, and (in the way of babies) doing what one does unaffectedly and unashamedly and responding in the moment I spat it at her. I don’t know why, because I don’t remember the incident, only the story, but something had irked me or I didn’t like it or I wasn’t hungry. What I take from the story is that I flummoxed her when her hard work did not pay off. She was stressed.

However stressed you are, you have your Backlog to deal with. In the Quaker meeting I was thinking of my mother’s distress, and my distress at being burdened with that, and her fear and certainty that we must not be Seen which I took on from her. I felt that distress fully, and held it, bore it, perhaps healed it. Perhaps in part.

You are bold and brave and honest and open

On Friday I went to the Trump demonstration in London, and on Thursday I did not want to go out. I had to go to the Tesco Express a mile away, and also the GP. I have this online system to order repeat prescriptions and appointments, but it had broken down, so I had gone in to the surgery to sort it, that had not worked, and I had to go again. When I eventually went, the receptionist pressed me to accept the solution which had not worked the first time. Had I accepted it, I would have gone away- a win for her- so I had to insist. Right now it appears the something different I insisted on has not worked either. Anyway.

I did not want to go out.

The emotional part of me is completely in control. If the emotional bit does not want to go out I don’t go out, and that manifests as depression and lassitude if I am not properly conscious of it. I used to suppress it and bully it but can’t any more, and I’m not taking cajoling, wheedling, persuading or the false kind of sympathy which says I’ll sympathise if you’ll do exactly what I want you to do- not taking them from myself, from my rational bit. God that’s weird. And real.

It said I didn’t want to go out, and I listened, and I respected it. It’s kind of like marriage guidance. I can’t divorce myself, and I can’t fight myself any more, I have fought myself to a standstill.

I need to hear this traumatised part of me. I said that to the Samaritans, I said it to Tina, and now I am saying it to you and immediately I said it to Tina I went off on a tangent because I could not go deeper. I can hear the emotional part, even speak from it, but not for long. I have to be Rational. I am going off on a tangent now.

A friend phoned me on Saturday night. She is feeling betrayed, and she was so angry with me she had to phone me. Did I have anything to do with That web page? No, I hadn’t. Next day she ministered, a long affecting story, but what I took from it was that she was feeling alienated from Quakers, betrayed, because of our departure from the Truth, and the Truth is important to her. I find her wonderful, brilliant, charismatic, powerful and beautiful.

I want my Love, intellect and creativity to heal your hurt-
the difficulty of it perplexes me
The unknowing of the result frustrates me
I will continue, doing all I can do.
Forgive me my Hunger and intensity!

Trust me to see it emotionally. She tells the truth, to stop vulnerable children and adolescents from being hurt. She wants the truth heard.

If our friendship might die under this strain, I want to give her a gift. I believe the truth is other than as she sees it, and wondered if we had anything we might agree on, and she said we are so far apart we do not even have the same concepts and cannot discuss it. She will keep on fighting for Right as she sees it, I hope she has a small number of Quakers who will back her, and who knows where the Spirit will lead? I wanted her to be Heard, and I don’t know how to accomplish that. And, she may well do what she needs for herself.

I am bigger than our dispute.

In the Quaker meeting, I am dealing with stuff now, and with my backlog of pain- from fifty years ago!

Another wonderful person. She is about twenty years younger than I, so she has wisdom and understanding and a different upbringing and ways of seeing that I want to get in touch with. I need to learn the lessons of the young people.

Tina said, there’s part of you that is very young, and you know it. With K there’s something about me being older but also about being younger in some ways. And I thought, no, it’s about being the less free, conscious, authentic one, but possibly she’s right.

Tina said, you’re still striving to parent yourself, going back to very young childhood, a part of yourself feeling profoundly distressed and disconnected and wanting your parents to be unconditional so you give yourself that now, you are unconditional to your emotional side. “I wasn’t heard, so I will hear me.”

Tina said,

That childishness that has got you into trouble a lot
but it also gives you a tremendous amount in terms of awe and wonder and appreciating beauty
you don’t want to stifle it and you don’t want it to lose its- sense of awe and wonder
It’s quite magnificent

And I changed the subject again. I have to be more adult with the Quakers.

-That’s your frustration with them. They’re supposed to be unconditional.

No, they’re not. They’re human beings. Clare and John Whitehead from Delph, whom I knew when I first joined, parented me quite a lot, inviting me over for dinner regularly then taking me to hear string quartets. I found out at Yearly Meeting that they had died, when I read the Testimonies to the grace of God in their lives. But now, my Quaker meeting do not have the energy to parent me and really should not have to. Not if I can parent myself.

I’ve been parenting myself. I have been sitting in Quaker meeting allowing the full weight of my feeling, allowing myself to be conscious of it, and catching the intensity. I have incredible intensity. I am not comfortable with it, but I am getting to know it better.

My mother messed me up very badly. Her lesson was Never, ever, show the intensity, because she was frightened and hurt and the most important thing was not to be seen. Part of me took that on, and part of me didn’t and has been breaking out and rebelling and causing trouble ever since, and the two will integrate eventually.

I read an elder or overseer, not from my area meeting, complain that s/he had to do so much work with the difficult or needy Friends that s/he did not have the time to get to know the others. In my last meeting someone had to do too much work with this needy Friend, and I am feeling regretful of that, for it broke our friendship. As a needy or difficult Friend it is incumbent on me to do all I can for myself.

I hope I can make a contribution sometimes.

Pride II

The pride and love I have for my country make me cringe in disgust when I hear the security announcements at the sleepy local station. Please report anything suspicious to a police officer or a member of the station staff. Why would a police officer be here? What like? Have they left a bag unattended? Maybe they put it down for a moment. Are they wearing a big coat to hide something? Maybe they have a thyroid problem. Are they avoiding staff and police?

Citizens! Study those around you with suspicion. Your prompt action could protect the Country we Love from Terrorists! Or, just turn it into Hell on Earth. See it. Say it. Sorted. The Dunning-Kruger effect in action- a police idea of a catchy slogan. Look, it alliterates!

Good to see them ticking the equality boxes. Terrorists can be female too! Or, the police informant with that large bag- is there a bomb in it? is not scoping her out to see if she is trans, but wondering if he can escape by drawing attention to an innocent passenger.

When I get to Tate Modern, there is a queue for the bag check. How dare they, really, how dare they poke and prod through my handbag? Why every single bag, making people wait? “Open the bag please” he says. Oh, fuck off. I do so with ill grace, and take my waterproof out on command. Then I go in to the gallery.

Here I can get into the holiday mood, relaxed, open, happy, in an instant, usually, but the guards and searching just ruin it. If I wanted to bomb an art gallery, where better than to run in and explode just where it is crowded, at that queue?

To the exhibition Art in the Age of Black Power. I much prefer this to “Queer British Art”- we queers were prosecuted and vilified, and most of that was suffering soft people oppressed by the authoritarian control freaks. Here I see Malcolm X portrayed in bright colour, a Prince, Black, Bad and Beautiful, a hero. Black people still get shot after being stopped for no discernible reason by traffic police- well, none of the gun death in the US is explicable to a European, all of it is abhorrent, but the racial prejudice in these killings is an additional dimension of vileness; and here people whose lives are under threat are Proud, standing tall and free. It is beautiful.

Sitting in front of that portrait I realise I am high on art and progesterone. It is a good experiment. My feelings are heightened, more immediate and more intense. And, usually when I am this out of my skull I am at home or with friends. I have to be aware of the possibilities of overreacting. That said, it’s a good feeling.

To the British Museum. Here, visitors are shunted round barriers so we slalom from the front gate to the side of the courtyard, even though there is no queue. Four security guards get us through, standing on a pedestal behind a desk so I must offer up my handbag.

It is lovely to see H. We see the Hokusai, wander off for dinner somewhere, and passing the Leicester Square ticket booth get tickets for An American in Paris, which is wonderful. By the third time I am resentful of having my bag prodded, but it is now a dull ache rather than anger. I am glad this is only occasional for me at the moment. It would take some of the joy out of life. I would hate to get completely accustomed to it, though.

Resisting IV

What did I learn?

I found out about lock-ons. These are plastic or metal tubes about a metre long. You put your arm inside, and hold hands with the next protester inside the tube. Perhaps you tie or fasten your hands together. This makes it more difficult for the police to move you. When they try, if you go floppy it is more difficult to lift you: I saw someone attempt this technique but get moved anyway.

The police have stopped cars, found such tubes, and prevented them from going further; but possessing the tube is not itself an offence or a reason to stop the car. When stopped, the driver has to give their name and address, but no other occupant has to.

Some of the protesters seemed a bit blasé about arrest. I would be horrified. Arrests and court appearances cost money; sometimes it seems a person would be arrested simply to get them out of the way of the demonstration. The number of police and police-vans at the north gate was intimidating. If arrested, you must give your name and address, and they can take fingerprints, DNA and photographs. Pat of Pax Christi had been on a recce a few weeks before, and when she took a photo of the timetable at the bus stop, a passing patrol stopped to question her. For her, being completely open about action is part of non-violence, so she explained. The police completed a form about the conversation, which had to give a reason for it. They wrote that she “appeared disorientated”, which she found insulting.

A police officer might press the pressure points behind the ears. This is intensely painful, as I remember from when at school. They are not allowed to do this without consent from their “Silver”, who is at least chief inspector rank. They tend to resort to such tactics when they shut down the protest quickly.

Protesters had legal observers, trained to watch out for police tactics and actions.

Don’t speak to the police, particularly the police “liaison officers”. They seek information about protesters, in the guise of friendly chat. So now writing this I wonder whether what I choose to emphasise might be useful to them in some way. Careless talk costs lives.

Walking to the meeting house, down a ginnel, I passed a man urinating against the wall. Just starting to urinate as I passed, he swore when he perceived me, seeming embarrassed: not disgusting or shameless, then, simply he did not see a better alternative.

Too late back in Swanston to get the bus, I decided to sleep at the meeting house. There was a meeting going on there. I said I was with the Quakers, and asked to use the microwave. Eating my meal in the meeting room, I was interrupted by a man who asked me how Quakers started, I think to test me: first, he asked about our Famous Internee in the burial ground. So I explained that churches were controlled by law during the Civil War, and one man in 1652 thought he knew better. So we worshipped as we saw fit, arrogantly claiming that we were inferior to no-one, and getting imprisoned for it until there was greater religious toleration in 1688. He was nervous, trying to catch me out. “Enjoy your holiday!” I said, as he scuttled off.

Frederic Leighton, Winding the skein

Resisting III

I met Bruce Kent, formerly Monsignor but now desocked- he is not allowed to wear black or grey socks ever again. (Or something, which may even be sillier.) He is 85, and married. When I said I was cold, he told me it was because of my thin shoes in the mud, so I can say I have been advised personally by Bruce Kent on anti-nuclear protest. He was wearing a shabby coat, £10 from a charity shop, initially from Harrods.

It was very cold. It was sunny, but windy. With a Quaker I erected the toilet tent, just beyond the tea stall. A pole broke and someone splinted it with a twig, and added a bit of thick rope as an extra guy. It was nearly blowing away, so we took it down. Twice, older women solicitously offered me a cup of hot tea to warm me up.

I met an old Quaker woman, disabled, less than five feet tall, and a girl of sixteen whose father had protested at Aldermaston and who did not want another generation to have to protest too. Both helped block the Construction gate.

I met Pat, general secretary of Pax Christi, and we sang in worship together. She is soon off to the Palestinian territories to meet peace groups and EAPPI workers. She was in at the start of Trident Ploughshares, and had an additional non-violence principle: they should be completely open about who they were and what they were doing at all times. That was not one of the ones I was asked to assent to:

  • Our attitude will be one of sincerity and respect towards the people we encounter
  • We will not engage in physical violence or verbal abuse toward any individual
  • We will not carry any weapons
  • We will not bring or use alcohol or drugs other than for medical purposes
  • We will clear the blockade to allow emergency vehicles in or out of the site and resume the blockade afterwards

I met Rebecca, vice president of CND, when I joined in with her singing from the Trident Oratorio. When they sang it at Parliament House in Edinburgh, the baillies tried to move them on but the Advocates told them to stay. She has sung it while blockading: the police did not arrest, seeing how harmless they were. She sees how I love singing, and I confessed that being baritone I had to be careful where I sang- she offered me the chance to sing the whole thing, at a protest. I may do.

The rector of the parish church led us in worship. How relevant is Christianity? We prayed,

Lead us from Death to Life,
from falsehood to truth,
from fear to trust
Lead us from hate to love
Lead us from war to peace
Let Peace fill our hearts, our world, our Universe.

Even if you don’t believe in the God to whom we pray, the sentiments are universal. After, we offered one another a sign of peace, and I shook hands with a policeman. We worshipped on our side of the road, committing an offence.

Someone commented I was brave, coming so far to this without knowing anyone. I felt the people would be generous and self-sacrificing, and that I would be alright. I was.

Three women in lab coats and drawn-on facial hair brought a cardboard missile, designed to spread Love.

Paris Bordone- Neptune and Amphitrite

Resisting II

The only way to resist Trident is to cut the wire, evade the police and other guards, and get as far in and do as much damage as you can. Doing things the police don’t mind, like a group sit-in blocking not quite all of the entrances, does not disrupt Trident. So I support those who cut the wire, such as Lindis Percy. You see what I mean about being an extremist. I support those who do not pay some of their income tax, because the money is used to kill people and destroy things. I do not feel called to join them: I would hardly write so openly here if I did.

We achieved worthwhile things. There were press photographers present, though my Google for news about the event today (Tuesday at 5pm) found nothing at all. One photographer said that she submitted pictures to The Guardian but doubted they would be interested.

I had my first experience of non-violent resistance. I have blocked the Queen’s highway, a criminal offence, though one so widely defined that a Giles cartoon once alleged that people committed it by queuing at a bus stop. I met inspiring people, and learned a little about resistance techniques. Others there will have learnt, and may have been emboldened to take further action. They may have made useful contacts.

The experience helps you take further action next time. I really did not want to be arrested. Organisers said the police were unlikely to arrest before giving a warning. Arrest costs money, taking up officers’ time. Arrest is unlikely to lead to a court appearance, which also costs money, so often those arrested get a letter telling them to Be Good instead. It is such a complex dance we have in these matters with the police: if we keep our disruption of Government crimes to a certain level, they use reasonable force to prevent us going further. The more we escalate, the more they will. I sat in the road for a bit, surrounded by officers who seemed content to let us stay there as long as we did not try to block the other half of the road. If I did it again, I might sit until warned, so taking what might be a bearable risk of arrest.

Or I might just be discouraged.

I was filmed by the obvious police CCTV camera, and possibly by more covert cameras. I may have been identified- my joke about whether, as a Quaker, I have a secret service file on me becomes slightly more pointed.

I enjoyed it. Others did too. Some of us talked to the police, who may have seen we were people with a stake in society- people with degrees and good jobs- with a laudable, arguable ideal. We exchanged and honed our arguments why Trident is evil: to rely on the possession of nuclear weapons as a deterrent is faithless.

Christianity has this to say to the world: ‘Your reliance upon armaments is both wrong and futile. Armaments are the weapons of organised violence and outrage. Their use is a denial of the true laws of good living. They involve the perpetuation of strife. They stand in the way of the true fellowship of men. They impoverish the peoples. They tempt men to evil, and they breed suspicion and fear and the tragic results thereof. They are therefore not legitimate weapons in the Christian armoury, nor are they sources of security.’

William Dyce, Neptune resigning to Britannia the empire of the sea

Resisting

If I was courageous, I was wonderfully rewarded for it.

Peter drove me to Swanston, feeling a little put-upon, and I took the train to Reading. I started a conversation by complimenting a woman’s black fedora. She had worn it for her little brother’s 18th birthday party, a family affair, but would not wear it in the street. I told her what I was intending, and she was impressed, smiling, eyes widening, voice getting warmer: she wished me well. I walked to the Meeting house, where I met-

How circumspect should I be? Circumspect with other people’s stuff. One man I met there wore a mask all the time. When asked his first name, he said “My name is Anon”. I met- people who impressed me, but do not want to say why. One suffered from ——– syndrome. One had a name which was ————. These small-talkish details which I would put in, normally, are not mine to share. “Don’t be on a database if you don’t have to,” I read. Yet when asked to find what we had in common, Anon remarked that his group all had degrees. At the Meeting-house, I met people rather like those I would normally expect to meet there, though even scruffier than normal- committed, believing or atheist, intelligent.

I am glad I went, and I can’t decide whether it was a failure or not.

 ♥♥♥

We went on Monday to Burghfield, where the warheads for Trident are made. There are three gates to the factory: the “Construction Gate”, and the North and South ends of The Meerings, which sounds like any other picturesque Berkshire lane, except that it is MOD property. There was a green line painted on it. Cross that line without permission, and you have committed a criminal offence under the military by-laws.

At 5 am, groups of more hardened protesters went to the South end and the Construction gate, and blocked them. By 7am, the Christians and some others were at the North end, surrounded by police in yellow hi-vis jackets, apart from the Liaison officers in blue. There, we blocked half the exit. We had a worship service led by the Rector of Burghfield parish church, on the roadway but outside the green line, surrounded on three sides by police officers. We committed the criminal offence of blocking the Queen’s highway, but only the left, exit side: the right lane, for entrances, was closely guarded by the police.

So we caused some disruption. There would not normally be so many police officers there. Workers at the base, and supplies- we saw a van marked “gardening services”- could enter and exit by one gate only, rather than by three as usual. Those blockading the other gates might even imagine that they were being successful.

The police were reasonably friendly. I saw a woman attempt to sit on the right lane of the road, and be lifted out of the way. Had we attempted to block the whole of the North gate, they could have arrested us for it. We caused a small amount of disruption and expense, but not a great deal.

More tomorrow.

Tiepolo Neptune bestowing gifts on Venice

Encounters II

St John on PatmosGood afternoon, said the traffic warden. Well, I know someone who used to be a traffic warden, she is a decent sort, why should I be nasty to him?

-I’m glad you’re here, keeping the road clear, I said. (Oops, no need to be sycophantic.)
-Horrible weather.
-Mmm. West of Scotland weather- rain, then rain so fine it could be mist.
-Oddly enough, I am dry under all this.
-They do say, there is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. (You’re usually safe with a platitude). He nodded.
-No-one would be chancing it, with you standing there?
-Actually, they do, he said, indicating someone pulling into the Disabled space diagonally opposite.
-Have fun, I said, as he went over to investigate, though it could be a disabled person. You don’t drive along with your blue badge on the dash.

After, I wondered if he had chatted because, standing there, I obscured the driver’s view of him. Surely that is too Machiavellian.

————–

1.30am. I am awoken by banging on the door: Rapid knocks, then a pause, then more.
-Come on, Steph, let me in- (Steph is today’s pseudonym for my neighbour)

More banging.
-Steph!

Thuds, as the side of the fist. I could go, but I am not as quick in intelligence or reaction in the night, and want my wits about me. I lay there, a bit Madonna and Child enthronedfrightened, actually, but if he would break in he would have done it by now.
-This is the Police! Open up!

That’s an offence, imitating a police officer. More banging- I would say twenty minutes, but people are not good at estimating time in these circs. Eventually he went away.

————–

9.50pm. Loud knock on the door. No, I am not answering at this hour. Then I see the hi-vis jacket and radio through the window, so decide I had better open up. I wish I had cleaned today.

-Are you Steph?
-No, she’s next door.
-We were told 69. Can we come in?
-No, it’s 69A.
-Have you seen her today?
-You’re worrying me, now. I haven’t seen her, but I was out the back and I heard someone in the house.

They go to knock on her door. It is none of my business, but I am glad to notice they have got in- without breaking in.

————–

At the bus stop.

Martyrdom of St BartholomewYou see, when you’re seventy it’s just like when you’re twenty. You think you’ll live for ever, and you want to.
-OK. Say I told you you have twenty years of life left. What would you do with it?
They look at each other. “Mooch about, same as now.”

————–

Hurrying into the town, I bid the postman “Good morning”.
-I’ll let you get past, Miss Flourish, I’m not in such a hurry as that.
-Oh wow! I would have thought you would remember street names, but remembering surnames is impressive.
-That is a high compliment, he said, from a member of Mensa.

Pictures from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has just put a huge collection of images on line, free for non-commercial use.

Death of the Virgin

Altercations

French cased duelling pistols, Nicolas Noel Boutet, single shot, percussion, rifled, .58 caliber, blued steel, Versailles, 1794-1797 - Royal Ontario MuseumI waited for my appointment in the garden. There was a beetle meandering over the paving slabs. The azaleas were particularly beautiful. Much nicer than the waiting room, with its “Aggression towards staff will not be tolerated” notices. There was a policeman waiting too, for a partner-agencies meeting. “It’s been all go in your patch” he said when the social worker came in. Yes, there has been a murder in Marsby. Something to do with drug dealing. I joined the conversation. I may be one of the nutcases- “service users” is the preferred term- but I still look like a professional, more or less.

Normally Bob (I read his name badge) works in Zhuzhkov, but he was in Swanston at the weekend. It was a nightmare. There had been a fight at the club, and so the manager had closed it down, and there were all these people hanging around outside, resentful at not carrying on drinking. Bob thinks they are idiots, they should just go home. Would it be better to keep the club open rather than pour people onto the street all at once? No, the manager was right to shut, and when it closes at four in the morning people hang around outside for ages. Idiots.

Banksy: Kissing Policemen- detailHe rather fancies the idea of working on commission. He would arrest everyone. “Dropping litter, crossing the road in a dangerous way?” He grins.

There was a man shouting outside the bus the next day, and then he got on the bus and hit a man sitting at the back. He shouted something about don’t try to burn down my mother’s house. Two men about twenty, maybe younger. The bus driver, sixty with a pronounced South Efrican eccent barrelled down to deal with them. He would not let the assailant off. The assailant phoned his mum to say that she should come to the police station, and the bus driver would not let him off the bus. “He had me by the throat”, he said, an exaggeration. The bus driver phoned the police, and the bus company. An older woman stood by the assailant gloating. “The police are coming. You’re in trouble now.” I thought this unhelpful. He seemed a child. He waited quietly.

I got off, thinking the police might want witnesses, not wanting to get involved. I understand the instinct is to look away in these circs. A man told me that in London they would put them off the bus and deal with it on the pavement, and the bus could go without delay. He had moved out to Marsby when he retired and his wife died. He tells me of Barnet, where he lived. Well, you can get a much bigger house in Marsby for the same money, but the place is not quite so lively. Later I saw him on the bus, gesturing right and left and talking, as if to another person.

The police took away both lads, and we drove off, fifteen minutes late. Getting off, several people thanked and congratulated the driver.