Friday, 25 September 2009

missing Bristol for the town that time forgot

I'm sat in St Andrew's church, Cullompton.  It's tucked behind a high street on which every shop is individually owned.  We entered Devon today and I am in the sweetest town I've ever visited.  As we walked round town giving out copies of our 'Here Comes the Sun' magazine I saw Peggy's Pantry, Pickwick's tea room, Moonlight Pizzas, Alfie's hardware, a tattoo parlour, a lot of charity shops.  And then I walked round a corner, onto Church Street, and there was this building - 15th Century, huge carved tower, painted inside, bright stained glass.  And the seagulls outside.  

It's a special place - on our arrival Jackie leant over to me - 'See - the England I grew up in is still out there.'  It's been left forgotten, even by Tesco Express.  

There's been a notable gap in these blogs... again... For which I'm sorry.  Bristol went undocumented (although it will be put down in a different blog soon) - my own experience of the events we put on there is just one speedy drive through the city.  My mum had come to our camp (under the flight path of Bristol Airport) and on her way out I jumped a lift to town.  As we neared the centre we got stuck behind over 300 cyclists - this was the Critical Rush that we'd promised Bristol, and they had delivered.  Ten minutes later we were biking down Stokes Croft and I yelled as I saw Joie and Elly flicking paint at one another.  Standing through the roof window I waved at the incredible mural they had painted over one half of Jamaica Street - such beautiful artwork which won't be painted over for a month.  Go and see it today!

But mostly I have been walking.  Groups of rushers peal off, give out zines, organise events, do talks and I just keep on walking.  I've walked through Bristol and out past the Clifton Bridge.  I've trudged down to Taunton,  I've got pissed off with the A38 and it's busy-ness and I've passed over two borders in a matter of days - both Somerset and today Devon.  I've really been toning these legs of mine.  And what's been happening along the way.  

I've met a Lot of people and heard hundreds (literally) of different opinions (all very STRONGLY felt) and been so surprised at how much people already know.  I guess when you're moving through the countryside you're in a place where people are experiencing these strange weather changes the most.  After just one month I can tell the time by where the sun is.  I've felt the difference pre and post Equinox.  I guess the longer you stay the more you understand nature's rhythms and the more aware you are when they start to get out of sync.  The number of men in waistcoats who have given me a pound coin and patted me on the back for what we're trying to do... it fills you with hope.  These people love to be spoken and listened to.  They have so much to say, but all agree with one thing - one mega disempowerment that Climate Rush is trying to blow sky high... we cannot do anything.  If this problem is going to get sorted it needs people with a lot of power and influence to begin sorting.  And whatever you do, don't tell them to become vegetarian... 'Vegetarian - I am a veggie - I love three veg and a good bit of meat!'  Same old men - not always the greatest senses of humour.

And so - when a man in a cattle farm, outside Bridgewater, started to tell me how pointless our choices are, and how paddy fields let off far more methane than cows, I was so excited because the day before I'd glimpsed the front cover of the Guardian.  And that cover told me... that internationally things are beginning to move.  Each small step that we take echoes across the choices of other individuals worldwide.  Each shift in policy that one country pledges sets a marker which other countries must meet, or indeed beat.  Things are changing and we'll all be part of that change.  

As I was sat here earlier a parishioner came in and asked me what I was doing.  He'd come by to cut the grass and we were soon drinking coffee and talking about how cold the earth was this year, and how birds were starving for lack of earth-worms.  He took fifty copies of 'Here Comes the Sun' so that he could give them to the other members of the church this Sunday.  He showed me a prayer corner of their church that the Sunday-school kids had decorated.  It was very eco-focused.  There we drawings of deserts, yellow and black patterned cats with 'EXTINCT' writ large across them.  He took me round the back of the church and showed me the enormous pile of compost.  He then told me about the church's ongoing struggle with the town council over their desire to build a wind turbine.  He loved the picture of the bee on the front of our 'zine.  He told me all about the different varieties (some 87) of bees that are all being seen less frequently.  He snorted at my city girl obsession with the bumble and the honey bee.

He's just one guy I met along this road.  He's not as scary as the BNP-proud barmaid under the Bristol flight-path or as sweetly generous as the grumpy farmer who almost set the police on us when he discovered us in his field - before listening to our purpose and returning with a bottle of scrumpy and plenty of delicious apples - 'Good awn you missus - and safe journey tomorrow - you Will be gone tomorrow?'  But he's got one same concern.  Everyone I'm meeting can get distracted off immigrant hating, or telling us off - when you get them onto the subject of climate change.  Everyone has an opinion and everyone is hoping for a solution.  This town, Cullompton, might seem everso forgotten - but even here climate change is well on the agenda.

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