Offence, hurt, fear and trust

There is a caricature of a trans person or woke ally, objecting to some phrase as not the latest, most correct language, and being “Offended”. When should you use the word “trans,” and when “transgender”? Someone in my mostly-safe space said that they “weren’t sure of the right words”, at the weekend, and I was in part irritated, in part frightened. It maintains a hard-Right myth that the powerful metropolitan elite, the radical Woke, and even trans people are oppressing ordinary people by demanding they talk and think in a particular way.

I am way beyond offence at misgendering. I will try to maintain an illusion that the other means well, just made a mistake, and mistakes are OK.

Or if I hear on the radio a fawning interview of an anti-trans campaigner, I am not offended, I am frightened. The outside world, where there is hostility to me simply because I am trans, has intruded into my house. I am interested in politics, and want to read mainstream centre-left commentary, but in the New Statesman, Guardian and BBC anti-trans views are regularly platformed uncritically. I am not the Elite, using being Offended to oppress others. Instead I hear the powerful broadcast their hostility to me simply because I am trans.

Well, what do you expect? Do you think society should support its members, and do you expect such support? That expectation, the basic trust that society is on my side, is a sign of privilege. Do you think the police support the population generally, or the powerful? A friend told me of going with three bus-loads of demonstrators. The police turned them back, closing a dual carriageway but for the buses with a police escort, which changed at each county boundary. They weren’t allowed to pee. Later, she got £5000 compensation. For her, the police are an oppressive force, and the courts work for her because she has the contacts with the knowledge and funds to use them. Not everyone has.

My bad experiences with policemen are not that bad, in the scheme of things, and I still feel some nervousness seeing a police van with seats for officers and a cage at the back for a prisoner parked in my street. Probably the person they have come for is violent or theftuous. I have some trust that their work has some value, but not a sunny expectation that if I am in a confrontation they will be on my side.

Society as a whole does not seek my good. I can survive and find allies. Much distress comes from the difference between expectation and reality. Surely the New Statesman and Guardian, even the BBC, should support the rights of minorities? That is not how the world is. I need to see reality as it is, however discomfiting the experience.

I remember Saira’s casual contempt when abused in the street. The men shouted “Fucking Paki!” She told me she thought, “Oh, get it right”- her parents were from Bangladesh. She is not cowed by them. Also at the weekend there was lovely, charming and just the tiniest bit creepy Alan. His delight and admiration at my femininity, beautiful hands, indeed personal beauty, was flattering, and I was perturbed for my boundaries. He told me the secret of good posture walking and standing was not to pull the shoulders back but to tighten the muscles of the lower back slightly, which support the rest of the body in a relaxed posture. Hold your head high. Pass through the hostility unashamed.

Of course it is frightening. Bad things may happen. Powerful men are inciting anger and hostility against trans people. I cannot trust society to support me. I can only trust myself. This is about stepping into power. The problem is that society tells us we will be safe, if only we don’t make a fuss, rock the boat, get noticed. I have tried that for too long. It does not work.

I had a wonderful weekend. I cycled to Peterborough, got the train to Diss, stopped off in Ely going, Norwich coming back, to see the cathedrals, and spent three nights with ten friends. The devoted love our hosts have for each other, in spite of difficulties, is inspiring. I also touristed a church, opened up for a prayer group, with a tower from 1500 but the rest rebuilt in the 19th century. The priest chatted a bit, of her six churches, testing out whether I might worship there. I don’t believe in God the Father Almighty, I told her, and she said there is also the Spirit, as if there is a choice.

At one point I spoke on “It’s not easy being trans” and a friend got up and walked away. I love her humour and intelligence and I sympathise with her resenting becoming a foreigner at Brexit. I want that friendship, but nothing is guaranteed.

Leaving your house

No person in England may leave the place that they are living without reasonable excuse, during the emergency period. What might a reasonable excuse be? Some are listed in the regulations, but if you have to go out and a police officer challenges you, you can explain why and they must decide whether that is “reasonable”.

The regulations are reviewed every three weeks, so on 16 April Dominic Raab announced they would last a further three weeks, and may last months. He must also withdraw parts of the regulations, if those parts are found to be unnecessary. They will next be reviewed on 7 May.

The regulations are here. Paragraph 6 lists some reasonable excuses. Going to work is a reasonable excuse, including voluntary work, when it is not “reasonably possible” to work from home: even if the work is not classified as “essential work”. Shops are closed except those listed in schedule 2 part 3:  bike shops, laundrettes, dentists, and car repair shops but not car showrooms, are allowed to open. Businesses listed in part 2, such as hair salons, gyms and playgrounds, have to close. Theatres, concert halls and bingo halls, but not nightclubs, can open to broadcast a performance.

A friend can only attend a funeral if no family member or member of the household of the deceased will be there.

Giving care to vulnerable people is an excuse. Some vulnerable people are listed in paragraph 1- people over 70, “any person who is pregnant” (including trans men and non-binary people! Yay!) and any person with an underlying health condition, some of which are listed in schedule 1. So if someone is not included in that list, you might still argue they are vulnerable, and I think mental health conditions make someone vulnerable. Therefore I argue that visiting to talk to a depressed person is a reasonable excuse to leave your house. Isolation can make mental health conditions worse. Communicating electronically is not the same.

That is my argument for sitting on a park bench, or sunbathing in a park. Being outside is good for depression. There is class privilege here. I am articulate, and sound like a middle class person even if I do not always look like one. So I might try to persuade a police officer that I had a reasonable excuse for sitting on a park bench. Other people might not.

I argue if you go out with a reasonable excuse, doing other things incidentally is lawful. So the Northamptonshire chief constable saying that police could go through a shopping trolley to see all the goods in it were “basic necessities” (including pet food) was simply wrong. You can buy chocolate along with your tinned tomatoes and spaghetti.

The Crown Prosecution Service issued a practical guide on reasonable excuses. It says, There is no need for all a person’s shopping to be basic food supplies; the purchase of snacks and luxuries is still permitted. In general terms, a person has a reasonable excuse to visit the shops which remain open to customers under the Regulations. So even if you went to a permitted shop and only bought chocolate and alcohol, that might be OK, but I would stick in a pint of milk as well to be safe from police questioning.

The regulation says you can go out to “obtain basic necessities,” not “to go shopping”, so the guide says you could pick up surplus basic food from a friend’s house.

The guide says you can buy tools to repair a damaged fence, but not brushes and paint to redecorate a kitchen. That means they could actually look in your trolley, at the hardware store. Again, you could buy essential items, and also get non-essential items incidentally.

You can drive somewhere to go for a walk, they say, if you don’t drive longer than you are walking. This makes sense. If people from separate large towns go to a particular beauty spot, there is a chance for Covid from one town to pass to the other. It is a question of balancing risk. Other people will lawfully be going between the two towns. In France the distance you can go from your home to exercise is one kilometre. The guide says you can stop for lunch while on a long walk- or cycle ride, I would have thought- so they are imagining people being quite far from home.

The guide seems keener on interpreting the given reasons in the regulations, than considering other possible reasons, and possibly it takes a suspicious view. If someone has a row with their partner, and goes away to cool down, Moving to a friend’s address for several days to allow a ‘cooling-off’ following arguments at home is OK. This is explicitly under the “moving house” exemption. Moving out for a few hours, says the guide, is not OK. Possibly, they think people might use “cooling off” as an excuse for visiting friends whenever they wanted. Not every visit to a friend will be spotted by a police officer. But then people are going to allotments, which I think is reasonable, and they are not specifically mentioned.

I note the regulations specify to avoid injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm as a reasonable excuse- so if the house is on fire, or to escape a violent partner. Now it’s reasonable to state every excuse they can think of, perhaps, when drafting the regulations, but that this needs stated might indicate the police will question reasons not explicitly stated in the regs.

Don’t make mordant jokes to police officers. Irritated by delay, my friend once told a US border guard that the purpose of her visit was “subverting the government and constitution of the US”, and the official, with a weary sigh, said, “Shall we start again, Sir?” Don’t assume that the police officer is as forebearing. They may be angry and scared.

Before deciding you have committed an offence, police officer has to assess the evidence, which includes what you tell them. Therefore, they should believe you unless they have good reason not to. Cycling for exercise, I noticed a police van prominently marked ANPR. Then they consider whether your excuse is “reasonable”. If not they can tell you to go home, or take you home using reasonable force if necessary. If you are out without reasonable excuse you have committed an offence, and they can issue a fixed penalty notice. The penalty is £60, £30 if you pay within 14 days. The second fixed penalty notice is £120, the third £240, the fourth £480, the fifth £960.

This means that if an officer simply tells you what you should not do- don’t sit on that bench- they are giving advice, as they are allowed, rather than investigating an offence. Listening politely and saying as little as possible is a good tactic, in order to avoid such an investigation.

If a child is going out the police can order their parents to keep them in and the person responsible for the child is responsible for enforcement.

I don’t want to spread this disease. I have vulnerable friends and relatives. So we should all behave responsibly and not go out unless necessary, because going out might spread the disease. However there may be reasonable excuses for going out which the police don’t recognise.

Here’s a second world war poster to make us feel all British:

Christ is Risen

Queuing for the supermarket
is like walking a labyrinth.
Every few moments, some mindful steps.
Ribbons wind the path, and we turn in sunshine.
Blossom and birdsong are beautiful.
Over the fence,
a path curves into the woods,
in cool green light.

“Wonderful,” said a friend. “You woman of so many talents. I’d lose the last sentence…” Well. I wanted to share the idea, of walking in the queue being like in a labyrinth, but for me it evokes a specific place. The police are telling people not to buy inessential items or sunbathe in parks, and they have the power to impose on the spot fines, so if you want to enjoy sunshine, doing nothing at all, a supermarket queue is a permitted place. This one has trees, so even if a carpark is not beautiful there is beauty there worth my attention. And across a steel fence of sharp uprights a few inches apart, there is the Greenway, with the contrast of light through a scrap of mature woodland. There is a contrast in the last three lines, in the lowered intensity of words matching the difference of the vision. So there.

There is no afterlife. If “He descended into Hell”, as the Apostle’s Creed says, it is here, in this life on Earth, and if Jesus saved people from Hell as apocryphal Gospels state and the Orthodox Church celebrates in icons it is now, and how better when people are afraid of a pandemic?

I remember my first labyrinth. The path was marked in different coloured square tiles, and was square so that repeatedly one turned a 90° corner, facing a different vista, bushes, trees, grass, and angle of sunlight. I did it slowly, barefoot in March, in about 2007. It did the job, bringing me into the moment, contemplating the beauty, out of Hell. From that place one can begin to see what needs to be done in the moment now. I probably didn’t have covid two weeks ago, but I don’t know if I picked it up yesterday; and the sun is so hot in my back yard that I sit in the shade. A siren. Is it a police car come for someone who bought something inessential, or an ambulance taking away a sufferer? Someone tells me her child brought it home from school and they all had it, and were fine after a week. Someone has died. A neighbour shouts at his daughter for eating chocolate before tea.

Here is an icon of “The Harrowing of Hell”. Christ breaks the walls to rescue the imprisoned, while angels hold Satan down.

Western European art tended to go more for Last Judgment scenes, with sinners falling unequivocally and finally into torment, but there are some examples. In this by a follower of Bosch, the devils resist, and only some people take notice. Click for a larger version.

In this Cezanne, Christ saves individually and personally.

Another follower of Bosch. Most of the people are untrusting. The woman covering her nakedness makes me think of Eve.

I went to the supermarket
and came home with a poem.
Would the police deem it essential?

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


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