Saturday, 12 September 2009

Between Towns Road - words

Tamsin writes...

It’s true.  This blog has been a little infrequent… But it’s difficult, cause every day that we don’t walk 15 miles plus, we are running from event to event, raising awareness about the big threat: climate change.  It’s an ambitious programme and one that we are all living for and enjoying a lot, but boy it does make you sleepy at the end of the day.

So from our early beginnings in Sipson, with representatives from many sites of environmental struggle visiting, to us here in Oxford – visiting one of those representative: Miriam.  She was our representative from Radley Lakes – the lakes that N-Power poisoned by filling with ash cause they couldn’t find anywhere else to put it.  And now we’re staying on her field, or at least the field where she stays, which actually belongs to Nuala – a green councillor in Oxford and a prison veteran (CND) with a past at Greenham Common. 

When we arrived last night it was late.  We’d pushed on all day, completing a route that we’d allowed two days for -  and finally we were crossing over into Oxford Town, under a bypass, round a ring-road and then we were promised a vegan curry, hot and ready, feed for the horses, two cans of meat for Dash, the dog, and (best of all) the first lie-in of the roadshow.  By lie-in I mean 8.30 – which after the 6am starts we’ve been having seemed enough bliss to make walking into dusk and night worth it.  We were planning to stop en route – find a field and lay some canvas over the carts to create a make-shift bed, surprising a farmer the following day.  But that would have meant another early morning and with a 1pm appointment at Oxford Airport the following day we’d have needed to make tight progress.  Instead we stopped for a late lunch in a layby along the way.  We grinned as truckers passing by honked their support (I guess) and climbed under a bridge to soak our feet in freezing water, which was mega-lush.

What exactly happened yesterday is all a bit of a blur.  It was long.  The tarmac was hard.  Our bag were heavy and Cadi and Elly kept lifting spirits with their everso well polished camp-fire songs.  The layby that we stopped in was only a little while (in a car) from Oxford.  We pulled over cause five minutes before we’d had a very well-spoken man informed us that we’d ‘created a tail-back over eight miles long and it’s getting nasty!’  We were suitably shocked and apologetic before a car screamed past this time with some arsey little kids shouting ‘stoners’ followed fast by old ladies telling us quite how much they really liked our costumes. 

Cadi and Elly’s singing was best.  They have a repertoire that includes protest songs, camping songs, Christian songs – anything with a bit of a melody, a sad refrain and a catchy chorus.  Most of the walk I’d wangled Joie’s bike – a rickety old thing, that I keep getting told ‘reminds me of the bike I used to cycle in my youth’ – it’s one of those back-pedal affairs, so that it’s kind of difficult to control when biking slow.  You need to remember to stop pedalling, to actually exert some pressure backwards cause otherwise you’re gonna keep clipping the heals of the person in front of you.  Unfortunately for Cadi and Elly I just could not get enough of their voices so stayed fast behind them.  Every ten minutes or so I’d shout to Cadi, just too late for her to mind the front of the bike grazing her feet.

There were a fair few injuries yesterday.  I guess it’s bound to happen if you’re pushing to do over 25 miles in a day (we took a Very long way round from Haddenham to avoid any hills).  Quite early in the morning stint Anna, friend of Yamuna and new Rush recruit, strained a ligament yet somehow managed to soldier on for another 20 or so miles… And then there were Millie’s blisters and my big toe and poor poor Vlad with his tummy bug. 

Thank God – Cordelia has returned.  She’s the artist behind the beautiful banners we’re taking with us on the road and she is also a tidy person.  Since Vlad got ill she has been in charge of health and safety and I guess that is the major reason why his germ has not got spread.  Her return also means daily meetings were we work out all those important things that are worth working out, like who exactly is going to wash-up, cook breakfast, build the fire in the morning etc.  It’s a blessing – cause she doesn’t moan nor nag, she just reminds us how nice it is when everything feels just a little more sorted. 

Right – so the story of yesterday was it was mighty exhausting but a big reason for pride cause we walked far and then we arrived and then we set up our tents, said a tearful goodbye to Elly (and the most exciting gossip point of the camp…), said a big hullo to Clover, drank a little can of beer and then slept til 8.30 and woke to this morning and today (unfortunately my darn camera had bruk by this point) when we got Sufragetted up and made our merry way to London Oxford Airport. 

So this is the point when my words are gonna have to make do for the photos that we should have got.  I met up with Yamuna and Deborah to help them carry the guacamole and bulgar wheat mix that they had made out to the Airport.  The rest of the gang were packing costumes, banner, sashes, a violin and croquet set (I know – it’s gonna be terrible for that darn posh protester image – but the woman whose field we’re staying in had a set to spare, and I’m sure it’s in keeping with the history of the Suffragettes… and the kids there did love it!)

We met up on a corner some ten minute walk or so from the Airport.  So why target that airport?  Apart, of course, the usual desire to shut down carbon intensive infrastructure… Well they expanded their runway last year – the biggest structural expansion of the airport since WWII – and now they want more flights.  Apart from the private jets that fly daily they now want daily business flights throughout the week, to six new short-haul European destinations – including Plymouth, Geneva and Amsterdam.  They also want to increase the number of leisure charter flights they run – to Newquay and Jersey (at least).  They’ve rebranded the airport ‘LONDON Oxford’ in a bid to attract budget airlines like RyanAir and EasyJet.  I guess they’re kinda keen to key into the incredible business that Stansted has enjoyed just by virtue of it being close enough to London to be called LONDON Stansted.  And more flights can only mean more emissions, more noise, more local pollution.

So we decided it was a worthy target for our tour of sustainable solutions and climate criminals.  It came down on the side of climate criminal by the way…

Joie was a wonder (as ever) with the kids.  Whilst she plus many an under -12 played croquet on the lawn that had been allocated for our protest we decided to picnic in the road in front of the airport, blocking any traffic from entering.  The police stood on watching and warning us, from time to time, that if we stayed there we might well encounter a problem.  When one of them told me that I might be about to start breaking my bail conditions (I’m not supposed to go near any airport for… ‘unlawful purposes’) I decided it was time to shoot off and luckily for me my godfather had appeared and was able to provide a hasty exit.

The protest was fairly well attended but it did lack a certain spikey edge.  The Climate Rush has always towed a line between the most respectable of protests and pushing boundaries , rubbing up against the powers that continue to promote high carbon lifestyles.  I guess it’s a real difficulty, turning up in places, putting on events and hoping that the people you find will be as frustrated with expanding airports as those who have spent their lives fighting the cancer of Heathrow.  Radical action does not come easy.  And on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Oxford it’s easier to hit the cafes or parks than to join a protest against a distant expansion plan.  As I walked through the crowds of shoppers on the Cornmarket I remembered our bike rush – when over 500 climate rushers had been a spectacle for the tens of thousands of shoppers on Oxford Street on a sunny evening in June. 

In the zine that we are handing out as we go along – ‘Here Comes the Sun’ – there is a quote.  It goes something like – ‘no single action brings about revolution.  A revolution is the weight of thousand of individual acts.’  I know that this is true.  I know that the future we hope to promise, the idea that we can mobilise against the threat of climate change, or at least, at very least, prepare more hearts and minds for what that future may be, will not be realised any time soon.  And yet, I do wish that the enormous energy and power we have found with the Climate Rush would hurry up and transform our world.


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