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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.