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Section 14

March 28th Friday, grey skies, but it's not raining yet and not so chilly as yesterday. What a busy week! Zooming down to the Law Courts and back, coaxing the Ann Halam ghost stories series through the Smashwords process (more haste less speed, most of them go straight through but then always that little niggle in the formatting to be tracked down, in the oldest text and the one I processed at the end of a long day).

Cold weather, frost on the grass, planting celandines in the green under the newly pruned elm, taking delivery of the swan mussels that are going to solve the algae problems without chemical aid; and of three more very charming little sticklebacks, blue-silver lances, miniscule barracuda (disappeared instantly, moment they were transfered from their holding tank).

A great leap forward on Tuesday evening, the first consolidated anti-fracking meeting in Brighton; lots of interesting stuff, and a relief to the nagging irritation of seeing all those disparate petitions, collecting tens of thousands of signatories each. Doomed we may be, and I fear we are, but that's no excuse for untidiness. And the DECC consultation on the next round of fracking licences (you missed that, dear readers. You were meant to, even if you did have something to say about the prospect of 33,000 dirty energy fracking wells in Lancashire, 2,800 in the Low Weald . . . (the coming round puts 60% of the land area of the UK up for tender. Wherever you are, you'll have your own little piece of Pensylvania's misery, don't worry). The environmental assessment consultation document, prepared by some engineering suppliers outfit called Amec, bore an amazingly close resemblance to the "EA" documents presented by the fracking companies themselves (trust me, I know), and found no adverse effects at all, none to speak of. Now there's a surprise.

And back to court, where yesterday we considered that debatable Section 14 order, signed off by the Deputy Chief Constable on 16th August, suddenly served by the police on sundry Balcombe protectors, 19th August 2013. Is a Section 14 (Public Order Act, 1986) a kind of lettre de cachet of public assembly, where the name of any assembly or other can be entered on the dotted line, that a senior officer can sign off at his leisure and the police can apply whenever they choose, arbitrarily? Or is the order required to be case specific, issued at the scene by a senior officer actually present, who has assessed a specific public assembly as violent and dangerous . . ? I tend to take the former view, but then I would, wouldn't I? One of the violent, dangerous defendants (accused of sitting down outside the gates of a drilling site vacant except for two persons that day, and having a back entrance if emergency exit was needed) is my MP. The other four don't look very threatening either, although I can't speak for their having hairy armpits or not. The Public Proescutor favours the latter, but then he would, wouldn't he. Our judge appeared to feel it was a pretty point of law, and though he's looking really tired of all this, he allowed our learned friends to mull it over with him for two mortal hours yesterday afternoon.

It's fascinating, it's totally Dickensian, I'm gripped, as if by quicksand. Must get back there now.

Frack Free Brighton

Monday 24th March, a cold night, Mars very bright, more a livid pimple than a pinprick now the moon is down; frost on the decking, & down to the Magistrates' Court, Edward Street for 9am, to join the throng for the media (another meat in the room call), as today's the day Caroline Lucas goes on trial for obstructing the highway. Talked to the Lush contingent, starting their working day like this with the campaigning firm's full approval, and to a sussex university Climate Change student, who tells me her lecturers are clearly against fracking, but maybe "they can't say so". (Oh? Why not?) & another young man whose party had all come down from london and were staying in Brighton B&B (who says fracking isn't good for the economy?). We discussed the BBC's piecharts (provided by the energy industry) on the tv last night, demonstrating totally fictitious UK dependency on Gazprom, But the news coverage, he said, is shifting a bit, and I agree: you hear far more now about how difficult it's going to be to get communities to accept the devastation they face, how over-the-top violent the police have become, ( I mean, it's not just ordinary police violence anymore) and less about the puzzling antics of a few bad apples. And that's a good thing. Ate a chocolate biscuit, waved a yellow triangle for Greater Manchester, and cheered as my MP arrived. That's all so far.

I'm off there again at noon, it's going to be a disrupted few days, and more on this later.

Later: It seems the trial of the Balcombe Five may need longer than five days. Not much achieved today before the lunch break & now I'm back at my desk for the afternoon.

See Radio Free Brighton for details of tomorrow's public meeting in Brighton. Brighthelm Centre, North Road 7pm 9.30pm, and please check the Frack Free Sussex page.

Courage, Constancy, Success

Wednesday 19th March, cold and luminous grey sky, chill breeze. There's very little bird action in my garden this season, owing to loss of neigbour trees, safe places to nest, congregate and watch out for cats (the big cypress from 3 doors down, the acacia from two doors up & the sycamore, all gone since this time last year). But the wren sings valiantly every morning, still. Tadpoles are doing fine.

Small Beginnings on My Day Out

Up to London, to assist at handing in a petition to Amazon, about the dreadful working conditions in their warehouses. As I had surmised, it wasn't much, and "meat in the room" badly needed. A few organisers in hi-vis vests with logos, a banner, a photo opportuinity of thirty or so interested citizens; a symbolic box of signatures. Interested citizens attempted to hand out info to passers-by and to exiters from the huge splendid blockhouse of wobbly glass spaghetti, on Holborn Viaduct. The exiters dodged, hands in their pockets and heads down: understandably. Amazon employees are told at interview that they will be fired if they join a union. They can be and will be fired without notice, for any reason, and they are always under surveillance. I'm an Amazon associate myself. I've given up buying the physical products, until they get the living wage thing sorted out: but they sell my ebooks, and I take the money. They sell my physical publishers books, and I take a cut; and I can't quit this association. Best I can do is come along to this here, and encourage people to register their disgust. Photos were taken, the box was delivered, but did not get further than about 2 metres inside the revolving doors. Oh well, you've got to start somewhere.

Then I walked up the river to Tate Britain, a place I really like. It's so far away from anywhere, it's so quiet. On my first visit, long ago, a little girl in a huge black jumble sale coat, I saw the Rothkos here, and sat looking at them, bowled over, thinking, this is where I'll stop & despite the huge refit, it feels the same. I visited the original of Misha Connelly in Phoenix Cafe, and the inspiration for the Inundation Festival in Spirit, among many. Nothing calms me like looking at pictures in a gallery. A quiet gallery.

The Sylvia Pankhurst exhibition was very touching, the Angel of Freedom on her tiptoes, apparently smoking a long churchwarden pipe, the fine pastel sketches of girls and women at the pit head, in the potteries; factory and craft work. Sylvia's account of Holloway, published in the Pall Mall Magazine, a different kind of grim from her later account of force-feeding, a far cry from women's prisons in the UK of today: these helpless, humble souls, obediently scrubbing their bedboards, shedding tears at prayers.

This is a major, global industrial revolution, I was thinking (amazon's de facto slave labour; the absolutely staggering degree of surveillance, and data mining, and government corruption, that we now accept, the world over; and the rape of the commons; the death of policing by consent, the gagging of civil society). It's happened before, it'll happen again. Like every industrial revolution back to agriculture, globalisation enslaves: turns people into cattle, monetises and destroys the living world, and creates wealth. Can't live with it, can't live without it.

Can resist. Can tame it, if we put in the effort. Possibly.

But never say die. If you give up, you get nothing. If you go on insisting on making your point, you get somewhere. Or someone does, further down the line. I do actually have the vote.

My Fracking Round Up

Dear Mr Cameron, are you sure the voters are ready for the degree of police brutality we're getting now? Are you sure this is going to work out for you? Won't the kind of people who dismiss brutality against law abiding legitimate protectors as no more than they deserve going to vote for that cheery chappie anyhow?

"Shocking GMP brutality on the walk in today! Numerous people assaulted, grabbed, pushed, kicked, punched in the face and ribs, slammed against trees, thrown to the ground in the worst police violence we have seen so far. Sit down protests were attempted to stop the TAU brutality but we were moved on. Officers were even told to walk into people lying on the ground! One disabled man was pounced on by 8 officers who dragged him around on the ground and then arrested him. Several protectors and locals are injured. 4 confirmed arrests not counting the two in the lock on but there is more awaiting confirmation."

"The policing at Barton Moss this morning was the worst, most brutal assault on the protectors yet. One man, after being pushed so hard fell over, the police just went straight over the top of him, trampling him.

There were at least 2 arrests, both good, peaceful and caring people. One was arrested with an arm around his neck. We were treated like animals.

When the police look at us, what do they see. Do they look at us and see criminals? Animals? Scum? Because this is how we are being treated, this morning, more so than ever before. How do they look at us and see these things. Don't they have a shred of respect? A remote care about the future of their drinking water, their environment? What happened to make them act in this way. Because for the life of me, I wouldn't and couldn't treat other human beings with such little respect and dignity as we have been shown this morning."

Mancs don't want fracking (73% said no, in a Manchester Evening News poll). The Fracking Conference scheduled in Manchester for April has decided not to risk it, and gone to Birmingham instead. Meanwhile, down here, Celtique Energie has been given another extension to fix its planning application for Wisborough Green; decision now delayed until June. Nobody is optimistic about these delays, but why should that make us change our minds? It won't.

So, any way

At least I understand what's happening in the Crimea now, having checked out the Ukraine to integrate with NATO strand. . . For heaven's sake, you USians and your nutcase foreign policy bright ideas. Were the Russians going to stand for that? The Black Sea fleet! That's just mental. Still, however, do not understand why Putin gets called Hitler, instead of the obvious historical monicker, on the grounds that "Hitler annexed stuff". Huh? Wasn't there a sovereign nation called Poland (1945) And a few others, if I recall.

Foregoing the Tuesday riches of The Mentalist, Shetland and Silent Witness, we went to see Under The Skin at the Duke's last night. It was nice, arthouse scifi, somebody had a lovely time with those soundscapes, and Scarlett Johannson, doing a good line in blurred confusion throughout, possibly wondering what season it was, and how to fill up with petrol. She so has that bruised, slightly fleshy Monroe look down. You feel like your fingers would sink into her. A bit slight, though, in the end. More I cannot say, although given the advertising I would hardly be guilty of spoilers. I think I'll read The Crimson Petal And The White now.

And the clear night sky was brilliant. As starry as is humanly possible, given our location, and that livid red-orange pinprick to the left of the moon, that's Mars all right, I checked.

Reading: Andre Gide, Les Faux Monnayeurs, a book about writing a book. Loving it. Everything a French novel ought to be. & my father's marginal notes, like the sound of his voice.

This is called Repose on the Flight to Eygpt, Glyn Warren Philpot. I want to have it for a Christmas card, wonder if the Tate would agree. I love that cheerful black sphinx.

The Welcoming Committee

Saturday 8th May, another beautiful clear and bright spring day; not only International Woman's Day (whatever that means) but highly significant as this year's inauguration of the frog conservation nursery. The spawn in the ponds and in my holding pens (so to speak) is fertile, and today I moved one mass into the plasterer's tub, reserving a small clump of inhabited jelly to bring indoors; and rear as pets, if all goes well. How amazing it is to see the tiny round black balls first becoming oblong, and then developing that little fat bellied curly tailed embryo shape, so universal; so ancient. There's also a smooth newt in the smaller pool, lovely to see. Hope it's not alone. We have never, to our knowledge, had any live efts in our water features. What a first that would be!

But since it is International Women's Day (whatever that means), and since, on the strength of my Aleutian Trilogy work, I've spent most of this afternoon talking about how to greet the unknown I thought I'd share with you my answer to one of the questions, comprising my wishlist for the welcoming committee, should they ever arrive. (After having pointed out that if the visitors arrive the way I think they would, first contact will be made with whoever they choose; maybe just through happenstance.

Anyway, assuming we're going to do this : the welcoming committee.

The Political Leaders
Angela Merkel. Obviously
Christine Lagarde. Because there are bound to be global financial angles to sort out
Joyce Banda, President of Malawi, educator and human rights activist. A steadying influence.
Caroline Lucas, My MP, but that's not why. I felt I really ought to include a representative of the UK parliament, and she's the pick of the bunch. Honestly. Ask anyone.
And then for the arts
Angelina Jolie. I think we have to have a famous face, and I like her. She's a good communicator.
Arundhati Roy. A terrific novelist, and staunch outspoken defender of civil society.
for science
Fabiola Gianotti. She leads (led) the ATLAS Large Hadron Collider experiment team at CERN. If you've read White Queen, you'll know why someone from the great Collider had to be involved.
And then, since we must face facts and there might be trouble, my security council:

Noorzia Afridi (SAWERA)
Lydia Mukami (Mwea)
Berta Cáceres (COPINH)
Three women I know for sure to be very, very brave. As women's human rights defenders on the front line, they know how to stand and fight, how to face death daily; and keep a cool head under fire. Whatever other qualities our chiefs of staff might need, that's got to be a good start.

I did consider Susan Rice, but she makes mistakes and gets found out (not good), and I don't know if she's personally brave at all, so I crossed her out.

And finally, but equally important, the "wives", so to speak. I'm choosing:

Pope Francis
Desmond Tutu
The Dalai Lama
And Bill and Melinda Gates

I think that "covers all the bases".
(Not sure what that means, but probably to do with Baseball)

The keynote image says We Are The Spring, in Arabic; I hope I got it right. An image from the video Husam Helmi (editor of Enab Baladi) showed us, when he came to Brighton last year, about the Syrian Non-Violent Opposition Movement. In the video nb, it was written on a shard of white concrete, in a destroyed city; destroyed, and still insisting things could be different. It seems appropriate for IWD, somehow. We are the spring. The primroses, however, are from King Death's Garden, and will be my March calendar picture.
Many thanks to Mr Olsen Wolf and his team, who asked the questions.