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A Very British Protest

Not much of a march, really. St James's Square, to Parliament Square. How long's that going to take? Twenty minutes? Half an hour, tops. We assemble under the auspices of the Army and Navy Club. They've put their flag out for us, UNITATE FORTIOR; now that's nice. I admire the fine placard created by one of the scientists-against-Brexit contingent, and am allowed to take a photo (L). We wait. It's another of this summer's sunny but somehow lightless days. Not too warm, but the air is poor; occasionally, throughout this afternoon, actually stinking. We wait. The Lib Dems, similarly imprisoned in the other outlet from the Square, are getting restive (Peter and I are with the Greens). There are many homemade placards. There are also, as far as the eye can see in either direction along Pall Mall, hordes of people waving the blue flag with the yellow stars. Contrary to punditry, a large contingent, it looks maybe as much as 40-50%, seem to be over fifties. But younger people too, and teenagers, and families. What do we have in common? We are all able to figure out that two and two make four, and neither five nor three. We can see where the lady ended up, in the shell game, but we would never be such fools as to bet money on her position. And crucially, it seems from where I stand, we are good-natured.

Relatively privileged, of course, on the raw data. First since we can all afford to travel to the centre of London, and more importantly since we've escaped or resisted the mass-population dehumanising efforts of successive Tory governments. However far we are, individually, from power and influence, we still believe we are human, and citizens. We may be subaltern but we can speak.

I used to work in a jobcentre, many years ago. What goes on in those places these days sickens me.

There's a rumour that we're being held in these pens because the whole route is packed solid, the flood of numbers is so much higher than expected (the plan had been for a few hundreds, max?). Another rumour that we're being bunched together for a more striking effect. We wait, patient and good-tempered.

Peter & I wander about, cross Pall Mall. We eat our excellent tortilla sandwich, from the Spanish grocers at the bottom of Trafalgar Street,, and juicy late-season Valencia oranges, sitting on a kerbstone. We read placards (we have none of our own, or a flag). Sporadic roars rush through the crowd, like waves up a beach.

And we're off, for a short walk down to Trafalgar square, where the lions and Nelson are screened off for a rather late Eid celebration fete, and on into the land of war memorials, and pedestal-mounted "old blokes in 'ats on 'orses". The familiar, wailing cry of "OOOOh Jeremy Corbyn" causes puzzlement to be expressed in the ranks, and quickly morphs into the more appropriate "Where's Jeremy Corbyn?" But unfortunately the leader of the er, Opposition, so to speak, is a Brexiteer, for political reasons, and the lad is not for turning, no matter what the hell damage the break inflicts.

Rude words are bawled out, to anciently popular tunes. Placard messages favour gentleness, and good old British politeness . . . It's a meme, obviously, this rudeness and the good manners. Dogs trot to heel. Time, traditionally, for me to wonder why I'm here. Am I convinced @theresa_may is secretly a good guy, and I want her to know she has support for her cunning plan to sneak out of this daft impasse at the last possible moment, when her tormentors Johnson-Gove-Rees-Mogg et al are looking the other way? (No). Do I believe that the "Protest March", "raising awareness" tactic works? (It's been known to happen, but not around here). Am I here because it's just what I do; an unbreakable habit? Good point. It's true, I'm not one of those people who regards "the government" as something small and far away, that I can't possibly influence (like that innocent little cloudsy-wowdsy called "climate change"). I vote. I do more than vote. I believe I'm responsible for what the government does, and I communicate my concerns. It's called democracy. A pitifully imperfect union, like the EU itself, but, like the EU itself, worth hanging onto, because all the alternatives are much worse.

I remember when I knew this was true (instead of just wanting to hold on to EU welfare and environment regulations, EU workers, global market share, science base, security & all that other trivial stuff the Brexiteers brush away). It was when Jo Cox was murdered. . .

I was told, for days, that I absolutely MUST NOT, shame on me, make the gross error of confusing the action of a poor crazed motiveless lunatic with the ruthless, xenophobic rhetoric of the Leave campaign. The murderer himself upset that apple-cart, when he came to court. But it made no difference. The Leave campaigners, Blue, Red or Purple, really did not care . . . That's when I knew.

Ah, we're here, so I can shut up, and the speeches can begin. Gina Miller kicks off. Sir Vince Cable goes astray, trying to convince us of things we already know (or we wouldn't be here). Tony Robinson delights everybody by announcing that he has a cunning plan . . . Caroline Lucas channels Churchill, in a really stirring speech, laying down of the hard facts that we face and telling us what is to be done. The tower of Big Ben is wrapped like a package; like the Eid fair, and Ella is wondering what Jeremy Corbyn is going to tell the children, when they ask him . . . The trees around St Margaret's are in full leaf, and somewhat obscuring the screen, but we can see well enough, and the sound system is good.

It's over, for today. We tip our hats to the Suffragettes Scroll in Christchurch Gardens, and retire for a pint of local ale at the Greencoat Boy.

The Season of Living Without Apples

Guess, just guess, how I happen to be holding the great tit's child in my hand? You're absolutely right. Dear Tilly came bounding in and leapt onto the piano keys, jaws full of desperate flutter: look what I've brought you! So then I was bad:rescued the little bird from her soft mouth (she'd make a good gun dog), got her by the scruff, shouted at her and dumped her outdoors. The juvenile great tit was fine: bright-eyed, cheerful and brave . . . as you'd expect from the family's general demeanour, but cat was outdoors, bird indoors, exactly the opposite of what I needed. A useful moral lesson, more haste less speed, if only I could profit from my mistakes (never happens). I had to leave the infant in a box in my office & and cajole Tilly, while she sat on Claire and Steve's compost bin two fences away, very hurt and ostentatiously not looking my way. Anyway, it ended well. The infant flew away, soon as I was sure it was undamaged, and Tilly has forgiven me.

It was a privilege to see a beautiful little bird so close up, anyway. Thank you, Tills.

& This is what a condemned elm tree looks like . . . The last of the mature elm trees on our road into town has got to go. It doesn't have the bug, it has fungal rot, and the Council has decided to remove it rather than risk having to pay up if it suddenly falls on someone's car or something. A reasonable decision or a detestable mindset? On this occasion, I could go either way. But the rise of UK local and national government's pogrom of the trees is certainly a detestable phenomenon, and inexplicable to me. Trees embellish the land (that's Chekov). They make our cities beautiful and liveable; they improve the air, they steady the traffic in towns, they improve human well-being, they're an economic asset. Destroying them, however, seems to be a vital element in UKGov's strategic planning:

Along with destroying renewable energy, "building" new Nuclear Power Plants, at cataclysmic public expense (but thankfully without success); destroying lives and the economy by throwing out all known or suspected "immigrants", sucking up to Donald Trump and the DUP; etc etc.

But what do I know? Only that I'm certainly not getting more conservative as I grow old; except in the protect and survive sense of the term. Not getting any more resigned, either, for what it's worth. Still hauling in the opposite direction from this grand, global movement of history towards kleptocratic chaos, any small and decent way I can.

My Fracking Round Up (obligatory feature)

Oh, look, fracking in the UK is in parliament, how exciting!

Nah, not very exciting. "The Minister contradicted herself ". . . hardly even news. The message: "exploration has to go ahead" no matter what the evidence against these developments, could not be more clear. INEOS has acquired extrajudicial rights over nearly half the land area of the UK, and presumably "Jim Ratcliffe" (a general term, meaning the fracking industry profiteers) has paid for the package, under the table somewhere.

Latest news on the ground is that support grows (notably from individual investors, who don't live near well-pads, and are just hoping, like Lucky Jim, for a quick killing); and resistance grows. Outcomes (ie wells in production) there are as yet none.
(Long, but comprehensive.)


Eleanor Marx: A Life, Rachel Holmes

Eleanor Marx, youngest of Karl Marx's three surviving children (others died in childhood and infancy), a political radical and Bohemian by birth and passion; active in the Paris Commune disaster as a teenager; ran away to Brighton to support herself at eighteen, as (unlike the rest of her family), it upset her to be leeching on the long-suffering Engels the whole time . . . What a grim world for women! So many pregnancies, so few surviving children, so many fine minds and talented individuals, crushed under the wheels of radical politics. Derisory numbers, of course, compared to "crushed under the wheels of privilege and rampant capitalism", but a shocking reminder that the women were always there. As gifted, as dedicated, as resolute, but doomed by biology, custom, and the complacency of the men they supported.

A big fat biography recommended by my friend Elly last year. I'm slowly getting through it, I'll be sorry when it's gone. It's very interesting, moving, and a real education; esp if you never knew the Paris Commune was a feminist issue, or if, like me you've read and loved the fictional versions of this story: eg Olive Schreiner's The Story of an African Farm,and -sublime to the ridiculous-but-enjoyable- Mrs Humphrey Ward (various); or "Baroness Von Hutten's" Pam; What Became Of Pam.

The Storyteller and His Three Daughters, Liam Hearn

This book is just lovely. Set in 1884, in a Japan just opening up to "the West", but actually far more interested in its Korean adventures. Not as fantastical as the more famous Otori series (although there's a spooky strand), or its Shikanoko historical prequels, but a really delightful reading experience from start to finish.


The Breadwinner

Animation, from the people who brought you Song Of The Sea; adapted from Deborah Ellis's highly praised young adult series of the same name. Lovely to look at, gripping and moving, don't miss, but like Song Of The Sea, a little bland at the centre. I think because of the timeless-fantasy frame, and the way it seems that nobody did it. Nobody is responsible. Women are courageous and cruelly subjugated, that's just the way things are. Men are vicious bullies, with one or two marvellous exceptions, "good princes" as it were, and that's just the way things are. Afghanistan is unfortunately placed on the global map, it's nobody's fault. Kabul never was a modern city, where fearless young women wore mini-skirts and went to university . . .

This Is Congo dir. Daniel McCabe

All the politics, sexual and global (Big Man culture/aka toxic masculinity is at the heart of what's wrong with Congo); but the fantasy comes with; this element supplied by the original Leopard-skin Pill-Box Hat Man (I mean Mobutu) and his wannabe- successors. You've seen Black Panther? Great movie, wasn't it? Lots of fun, and affirmative as all get out. Now see a different story about that fabled country in the middle of Africa, with its natural riches beyond belief, its super-power endowing mineral wealth,* and (oops, not featured in Black Panther) its dreadfully poor, articulate and courageous masses. This one hurts.

Try this link for more details and a trailer:

*Literally, super-power endowing. Did you know it was Congolese Uranium, rich and yellow, that fueled the bombs that fell on Hiroshima?

Targeted Advertising

Would you like to go to Iceland? The large chilly island, I mean? With the hole that leads to the centre of the earth. I'd love to go to Iceland, and maybe I will, one fine summer. Meanwhile, an NZ pro-review site spotted the Iceland reference (it's the drained magma chamber you can visit) in my Proof of Concept Acknowledgements Page and asked me to post their 100 best things to do in Iceland feature. It's a good list, so I will:

Living Without Apples?

It's June. The earliest of English apples will turn up soon, and I can wait. I'll stretch a point for some EU fruit and veg, but only idiots buy "organic" to feel good, if the product's flown in from Argentina. More poetically, you can take the title of this purely cultural and a-political post as a generally refusnik statement, and a plug for my secret weapon: You are not trapped helplessly in your "we've got planets to burn" lifestyle choices. You can do without stuff, lots of stuff. It's easy, once you try . . .