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Category — Politics

NFS….Normal for Stroud

I’m home, I’m teenaged out…and I am due some normal time (please? someone point me in the right direction?). It feels good to be back in Stroud, and immersed in our green valleys again. It feels good to be doing what I usually do at home – knitting, working in the garden on my laptop, herding cats… you know, the sort of thing that I’ve come to expect in this circus we call everyday.

Over in these parts we even have our own facebook page called ‘Normal for Stroud’ and the disturbing thing is, it looks completely reasonable to my eyes. Sigh. It was no surprise to see that a photo of our pink scarf pitched up on it this week, randomly. O.K, in this last week of August, here is a little roundup of goings-on in my ‘Normal for Stroud’ life…..

First up, no sooner had I landed home, we were carted off to Treefest, sweet little local festival, with a healthy dose of axe and chainsaw tomfoolery for obsessive woody people. And why not. Whatever floats your boat. What was floating mine, big time, were the churros with cinnamon sugar and hot chocolate sauce. Here is concrete evidence that you can distract these woody people in a nano second with the right sort of carrot….ha ha ha…..

…not so focused on your woodturning now, are you, my little sawdusty friends…..

Back at the ranch there was plenty of time to dust down the old jazz classic ’78′s (and torment the dog with the promise of a biscuit on a turntable); mix up a jug of ‘Mushion Moules’ (a ridiculous and less sober interpretation of the better known Moscow Mule), and to round off the evening’s entertainment (after the fun of teasing the dog had waned) a little game of “tie a doughnut on a string and torment our blindfolded guests” – my how we laughed…..

Other noteworthy distractions have been: meeting a wizard with some rather interesting potions and resins; getting a little ‘makey’ with some blackberry and currant liqueur, stitching a couple of hops and lavender sleeping pillows; and rolling out an 80 meter piece of peace scarf down our road as you do, for a little pinky try out.

Is this normal for Stroud? I don’t know, all I am beginning to realise is that it is normal for me. As regular as these green wooded hills that we walk, and as fab as the people that pitch up at a moment’s notice – whether it is to hold up meters of knitting or to protest another awful war in our struggling world. Happy normal weekends to y’all…

August 29, 2013   No Comments

Reasons

I have been thinking about Peace. With a capital P. I have been trying not to be worthy, or self righteous, or so very dull. But the truth is, it’s been 68 years since human beings dropped atomic bombs on other human beings, causing devastation in the most brutal way imaginable. It changed our world forever. We are still making these bombs. What more is there to say? 

I want to acknowledge this pain of what we did, what we still do. I also want to hear peace in my own words, peace in my thoughts, peace in my body, peace with my pathway, peace with my pace. I really do. 

So, where to begin. Ah ha, at a Peace Camp. And why ever not. Okey dokey, sixteen reasons then, to upsticks from my lovely Stroudie life, and hoof over to an Atomic Weapons Factory, like you do, with little more than a few balls of wool and some sticky backed plastic. (we all know this to be a very big lie)….

Reason One: Because ModPlods are so very clever at hanging up colourful peace banners. Left a bit, right a bit….ah, that’s perfect!

 

Reason Two: Because its very lovely sitting on green grass knitting pink pieces of scarf with people you like alot

Reason Three: To learn new skills like making Japanese Peace Cranes out of coloured paper and then stringing them together on the fence – colour is where it’s at when it comes to the Ministry of Defence

Reason Four: Trident – can’t think of a whole lot it’s got going on that is positive. But a Peace Camp? What can give you more pleasure than subversive stitching…



Reason Five: You get to chalk around your dear friend making Hiroshima and Nagasaki shadow pictures onto military owned tarmac with kids chunky crayons, – now if that doesn’t feel naughty, then what does?

Reason Six: You get your own little ‘Get Out of Jail nearly Free’ card – should you be abducted by aliens or even more exciting, arrested

Reason Seven: Because (still wowed by the chunky chalks) graffiti is sooooooo much fun

Reason Eight: Because you get to hang out with mad French activists disguised as Breton pixies, and they will most certainly teach you jokes in their own language, protest songs, and if you are really lucky, lewd French drinking songs. Yay to that then.

Reaason Nine: Because you can decide on the spur of the moment to see what would happen if you block the main gate with several meters of pink scarf that brilliant people have knitted you.

Reason Ten: Because you get to conspire with super-smart people about how on earth you are going to pull off the mother of all insane 7 mile plans

Reason Eleven: Because you get to remember how precious and small and soft your new born baby was in your arms all those years ago, and wonder how frightened and desperate you would feel in those first moments if your world was devastated by a nuclear bomb

Reason Twelve: Because you will stand in the middle of Greenham Common and marvel at the power of nature to reclaim what was once an American base for Cruise Missiles. You will feel the presence of thousands of women around you, feel their courage in the face of so much conflict. It always seems impossible until it is done…..

Reason Thirteen: You will sit and wonder who is more wary and scared of who – us looking in on uniforms, guard dogs, machinery, war. Or them looking out at us with our rainbow colours, banners, chalk, singing, fasting.

Reason 14: Because insane, crazy out there things will just happen – like being chased by herds of wild ponies, galloping and snorting as you run for your life. Or singlehandedly holding a surprise skype conference with 80 French people and singing them the only french song you can remember from Primary school, to fill in the time.

Reason Fifteen: Because you will be in awe of the determination and ability of activists who can fast for 4 days, only drinking water, and still cheerfully go on huge long hikes between the bases.

And finally, Reason Sixteen: Because. Just because. There are some amazing people out there. Believe it. And even though they are a little crazy, and scarily unplanned and spontaneous, they are courageous and clever and we are a safer world because of them.

August 10, 2013   1 Comment

Scarily Fabulous

Oh this life as a hardened activist can be an exhausting one, don’t you know? But I am committed I tell you…..especially committed when there is a promise of cocktails and water splashing in 30 degrees.

But it’s not all Pina Coladas and paddling pools…well, ok, busted. It was this weekend. 

Oh you fantastic bunch of Aldermaston Peace Camp Women – how did I get so lucky and stumble across you? I wasn’t the most likeliest of candidates at the end of last year…but 6 months on, with mad hair and a nose ring I am really quite at home with the new me. And I was really quite at home at your camp, with its women centred, non hierarchical, gentle, fun, anything goes vibe. 

We prepared food together, sang together, talked, danced, slept, and steamed in soaring temperatures, and it was fab. Our camp angel had to be Margaret, with her lovely, calm, smiley energy as she washed dishes, made delicious food and looked after everyone with her gentleness.

Camp superstar had to be Lucy for bringing outrageous dressing up clothes that tipped us over the edge into mad squealing during the impromptu disco from my little iPod – sisters are definitely doing it for themselves.

Camp hero has to be Rebecca doesn’t it? – for leading us to a magical alder grove for an elegant synchronised swim on Saturday afternoon – we were water nymphs at their finest (sadly my camera didn’t get grabbed to record that little treat, maybe just as well, as our muddy bottoms and nettled legs could be slightly distracting in celluloid).  

Other camp wonderfulness was a fantastic watermelon salad, our own camp cinema on Saturday night for a screening of ‘Carry Greenham Home” and Lisa spoiling Ann and I by feeding us spoonfuls of melted chocolate as we lounged in the coolness of the paddling pool – you fabulous girl. Just too many treats to list them all. 

Wool Against Weapons was there of course – our beautiful, growing, pink peace scarf decorating our space, and reminding me all the while of  you generous, amazing knitters and your clicking needles.

I took along a big basket of wool and we all got stuck in – we even had a knitting vigil on the roundabout outside the main gate. Ask me what I am knitting? Well, PC Rob, it looks like you’ve just been hijacked by a bunch of crazy women and are knitting for peace, pet. What do you know? 

But you know what? All things balance in life I find. And just in case this intrepid activist wanna-be got carried away here on the glamour of it all, let me tell you this. This was no girl guide’s jamboree. We were there for some really scary reasons. There’s some pretty heavy stuff going on, on the other side of that fence. They make bombs. Bombs kill. People, animals, environment, our souls.

And in their wisdom (??) the Government is wanting to spend another £120 billion on keeping this weapon of mass destruction going. Hey ho, hospital beds, education and our safety are probably hugely overrated anyway. Hmmmmm. 

But here’s the thing. We have a choice. Come closer, I want to whisper something desperately secret to you. Are you ready? Once you’ve heard it, it will make you as insanely dangerous as me.

Up for it? O.k, it is this – we are powerful, each and everyone of us. We can think independently, choose to be different, speak out, get together, resist. There it is. The R word. RESIST. Afterall, its sheep we’re up against. 

If each and everyone of us told their M.P, (preferably in a letter), like they did recently in Scotland, ”Listen Bud, if you are up for this bomb they call Trident, then we simply won’t vote for you” – then girl, will they start shifting nervously in their pressed suits, and wonder what the hell to do next.

Sure, you can tell me it’s complex and multi-layered, but REALLY is it? We do not want this nasty, nasty WMD in the world. Not in this land, not anywhere. Let’s begin somewhere. 

And what better place to begin than with a small bunch of thoughtful, committed women, intent on changing the world*. Indeed its the only thing that ever could – along with some cocktails, some songs and a whole heap of belief and a gutsy attitude. Bring it on.

* Margaret Mead “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

 

July 19, 2013   No Comments

A question of focus

Well, my garden leave neatly dovetailed in to another ocean escape, so here I am, back in Norfolk, breathing out and watching the most stunning sunsets over my precious salt marsh, where our caravan lives.

Of course it isn’t all one big picnic…that journey took a circuitous route via GCSE’s, orthodontists appointments, doctor’s visits, card orders, tax returns, car insurance, housework, and the general hassle of living. But after a trek across London and East Anglia with a backpack, at last I’m here, and even though I have brought work with me, this is an official week of escape.

Stiffkey is a small village on the north Norfolk coast, and I’ve been coming here for nearly 25 years; it feels like home. And it’s small shop has the best cake ever…didn’t dare photograph the cake incase lemon lips had me arrested (I’m on a final warning) but here are some other lovely things i found there…

I love my time here. There are long walks in pine woodlands, walking and splishing by the shoreline, and supper with old friends

This week we’ve even had a small piece of summer (clever me for catching it, as it flitted across England, bound for luckier places like Spain) – here I am bleaching out, crisping up and tuning in to my favourite iPod playlists

There are fab things to rest your eyes on here – miles of pristine unspoilt salt marsh, hares in the fields at dusk, wild, empty beaches. Beauty is everywhere. It made me realise how very hard I sometimes have to work to see beauty back in my everyday world. And yet it is there, despite the nonsense that we are fed from the news and in the papers about what a dangerous, nightmare of a society we live in. Sure, there are some pretty scary things going down. But listen up! The EC has banned neonicotinoid pesticides to help our bees. Saudi Arabia has its first women in its previously all-male Shura Council, and Scotland is aiming to meet 50% of its electricity needs from renewables, having just exceeded its previous target.

Shall I go on? O.k, well, the Governments’ plan to sell our woodlands has been dropped after overwhelming public pressure, vandalism and gun crime has fallen to a 20 year low *, and proposals to protect the Arctic by creating a global sanctuary around the North Pole have drawn worldwide support.

And lastly, just to get it off my chest, whilst this is not a peaceful world, there are actually fewer wars now than ever, and 48% of the world’s populations are living in established democracies. So don’t let this over culture of lies tell you otherwise. Ooops, I think all this sea air has made me a little feisty. Seriously, good things are happening people….its all just a question of where we put our focus.

So, let me put my focus back onto the lovelies that I have been spying all around me up in these parts….

and finally these….

Forgive me for drawing you in with nice pictures and then wham! A big hit of world politics….but there are so very many things to be excited about, that are simply not being reported. O.k, time for me to get back behind my camera…and go and chill out with the seagulls. Sending love and sea breezes from the wild English coast.

* Official figures from the Crime Survey of England and Wales, 2013

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May 29, 2013   1 Comment

Stop Fooling with Nuclear Weapons

How rock and roll do you want me to be?

I am a bit of a Libran at heart, and so my thinking world is often very grey in that I can see all sides, value lots of different ways of seeing issues. On Monday, I travelled to the Stop Fooling with Nuclear Weapons Protest at Aldermaston, and had one giant dose of black and white dished up to me. I don’t really know where to begin.

O.K, so to set the scene…there were lots of different gates and a very big wire fence surrounding the bomb factory – and many, many fab rainbow people gathered around each of the different gates. Knowing I couldn’t get to visit all of them, I concentrated on two – the Women’s gate and the Faith Gate. First job – hang up a length of our pink peace scarf – oh, for longer legs…

There were some very moving things tied up there, including these beautiful origami peace cranes that had been painstakingly arranged despite fingers being so numb they were nearly dropping off.

…and fabulously colourful stitched banners…I am determined to make my own banner of loveliness – anyone up for helping me?

Hey, check out these little crocheted birds that had cheekily yarn bombed their way into one quiet corner….

O.K.That’s enough of the stitchy angle, lets get down to business. I have to tell you that I met some AMAZING people that day – people of hope, people of faith, people of determination, smiley people, articulate smart people and just plain awesomely wild people!!

This is me talking knitting to one of the oldest women in the U.K. Her name is Hetty, and at 107 she was totally up for protesting nuclear insanity. Go Hetty! Next to us is the M.P Jeremy Corbyn – he had some totally inspiring things to say too.

Dr Rebecca Johnson was there (one of the awesome people I mentioned earlier) – now she has some feistiness that I wouldn’t mind a little of. Here she is reminding us that what we do locally feeds into political debate globally. Oh yes, people, we can and do make one hell of a difference.

Kate Hudson, CND General Secretary was there and up for modelling a bit of our pink scarf – yay! And there was also possibly the most formidable women I am ever likely or lucky enough to meet. Here she is with Kate – Pat Arrowsmith. She is a peace campaigner of some standing, has had prime ministers quaking at her sustained heckling, is a voracious gay rights advocate and having served 11 prison sentences was force fed when on hunger strike in Gateshead prison as a younger woman. That is some C.V.

There were some gorgeous Somali women who I had fun dancing with when the time for making noise and banging pots and pans came. And oh! I was ablaze with cheekiness about asking people to be photographed with that scarf of pinkiness – I knobbled Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, and several others – some needed to be incognito – they were obviously on more secret missions…sssssh….

Oh yes, this was a day of anti-nuclear frolicking to be sure – and with 19,000 nuclear weapons in the world, someone had to do it. There was a smackeral of glamour too – here I am trying to advise Katharine Hamnett on the ins and outs of a knit and pearl (yes, so she is Queen of the World when it comes to all things textiley, but hey! I was unstoppable by then….)

I need to tell you how exciting it was unrolling those first pieces of pink peace scarf that we have all knitted. Wool Against Weapons is on the map, and on Monday was in people’s hands, draped around shoulders, hung on the fence, and most of all being talked about.

So, I stepped into that whole rush of black and white thinking, and it was good. There is no middle land in this debate – Trident has to go. We cannot afford the £100bn in renewing it, and our dear planet certainly cannot afford the consequences of something so morally reprehensible and vile being fired. There, was that rock and roll enough for you..

As one of the brilliant banners said – “Resistance is to make yourself one safe republic of unconquered spirit” – well, I saw many of those such spirits there, and wow, did it blow me away.

Actually, what really nearly blew me away was being handed a pink megaphone in one mad moment, in front of the crowd at the Women’s gate – and fired up on a few too many virtual coffees jumping up and going for it….ooops! This is Jaine Rose (again), unzipped and crazy pink, signing off

April 3, 2013   No Comments

Alice in Freakyland

No sooner was I back from my beautiful dreamtime on Dartmoor, I was catapulted in the most alarming way into an adventure of a very exciting and strange kind. Curiouser and curiouser. 

Having survived giving umpteen presentations on nuclear war to hoards of teenage Year 9 and 10′s – oh yes, really…. – I packed a little bag and headed off for the campaign launch of Action AWE in Reading. Oh, this was going to be fun……

Action AWE is a grassroots campaign of non-violent actions determined to halt the production of the big, scary weapons of badness at Aldermaston and Burghfield. I got massively inspired by all the people I met there, including the two great speakers Rebecca Johnson and Kate Hudson who gave us a lively evening with their sparky ideas and messages of hope and empowerment. 

Not only that, but we got to wear great t-shirts too, eat biscuits and laugh a lot

Next up in the surreal, you’ve gotta be kidding stakes, was a meeting with Thames Valley Police, to talk through, among other things, the logistics of stringing a 7-mile long pink scarf from one bomb factory to another in the summer of 2014. Now, as everyday conversations go, that was out there. Oh, and do you knit, Inspector?? “Very funny, someone get this mad woman out of my police station…(handcuff her first)”

Ah well, after a packed lunch, on to the said Atomic weapons-making factory, to suss out the potential for some fabulous yarn bombs on their front gates. Grey metal is such an unimaginative colour, don’t you think? It is my absolute duty, I do believe, to jazz it up a little. My mind started clicking with ideas….

It’s a pretty scary, Alice-in-freakyland place really. Electric fences, Mod-plods with mad uniforms, signs saying no photos to be taken (whoops….) – all the ingredients for a splendid day out. Oh, and should there be some nasty nuclear disaster while you are walking around the perimeter fence? No worries, they have that covered too. Clever Burghfield

O.K, I may sound a little sarky here, but it is in-your-face real, and just plain frightening, when you think about what these weapons can do. Each warhead (and there is a potential of 192 in the U.K) can unleash a destructive power 8 times greater than Hiroshima. So now I am less skippy, as I drive the route that our pink scarf will take.

Of course, these guys really meant it when they said ‘no photos’ and I guess an insane pink-haired woman hanging out of a car window with her Sony SLS constitutes a good enough reason for a rather jolly ‘stop and search’ – too much fun. Do knitting needles and pink wool arouse suspicion? I do hope so….

Yup, this has been a million miles from my precious time at Dartmoor. But one more step along my path of pink revolution. I am fearless, I am bold, I am tenacious. I am pink. Kate Adie, eat your heart out….

March 7, 2013   1 Comment

V Day

“The greatest thing your’ll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return” – so begins one of my favourite films, Moulin Rouge. Following hot on the heels of Imbolc and pancake day is Valentines Day – o.k, I know, its a horrible Hallmark commercial nightmare….but love! Oh, its really the only thing that counts, isn’t it?

It is true that love may ‘weave strangely’ and we all have twists and turns in the journeys we make towards finding it. Who do we love and why? And how? So in the run-up to this love fest, my hands were busy with making little pieces of thank-yous for people I love, felted hellos for new sisters, hidden paintings for old ones.

There is close to home love, happening right here, where I am.

And then there is an ‘out in the world’ love, of a different kind. For Valentines Day has just been reclaimed by women. It is now V Day. 

One Billion Rising, started by Eve Ensler 14 years ago, is the most amazing call to women and men across the planet to rise up and use our collective strength and solidarity across the borders to refuse to accept violence against women and girls

One in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. One billion women violated is an atrocity. One Billion women dancing is a Revolution.

Yes, it seems that hearts, flowers and chocolates are no longer going to cut it around here…time to get out the paint and step into a more proactive and vocal land of love…

And so what of this feminist tsunami? It is one women’s vision to dance an end to the violence, to shake the earth into awareness. Well, I am with her. And so too, millions of others today, across this wonderful earth of ours, in all its colourful diversity.

Did Stroud rise with the thousands of other cities, towns, and villages across the planet? You bet your red and black t-shirts and wiggling hips it did! We are Stroudies, we ‘do’ protest and drumming and mad dancing, and loud singing. And we do it well.

So this Valentines Day – this fabulous V Day – I have told my special loves that I love them, I have loved my friends, and danced and sung among the community I love, in the town that I love and call home. But most of all, my heart has almost burst with the thought of the love of sisters I will never know, but am willing to stride out for, to speak up for. Know that we see you, that you will never be alone with this. We will not stop until the day you are safe.

Together we are stronger.

February 14, 2013   4 Comments

A quiet surviving….

Quietly, without ceremony or fanfare, Imbolc arrives. Candles are lit, Brigid’s crosses are woven, and my eyes scan my days for bluer skies and light returning. I have made it this far through the winter.

What is Imbolc then? What does it bring? It is a wonderful fire festival, a reminder of what burns inside, what endures. What waits and grows. The seed, a dream, dream seeds. And just to help us remember that all things return, the very first snowdrops arrive in our woods.

When everything seems bare, and barely there, what is it that keeps me going? Where are my strong roots? What is it that I believe in?

Do I have roots that I can trust, or am I just the palest of flowers that is brave enough or foolish enough to poke my head above this cold winter earth?

I want to tell you about a woman who is surviving, who is enduring, who will not let go or give up. A woman with strong, strong roots. Her name is Haneen Zoabi, she is my age, and she is a Palestinian Israeli citizen, committed to finding peaceful solutions. She was brave enough to stand for Knesset, parliament, in the recent elections, despite continued bullying and death threats by people who are afraid. I am not for or against any person, group or cultural idenity. I am pro-peace and I love her vision and absolute resilience.

She is the first female MK in an Arab party (Balad), and she is focused on employment for women, an end to violence against women and girls, education and children’s rights. She believes, as I do, in equality for all. Those are deep roots.

While the world keeps turning, wars keep going around and around in circles, and my little stream keeps flowing through my valley – we need a quiet surviving of spirits that are determined and brave, that will not be flattened by strong winds, by winter, by darkness.

People who carry on, no matter what. Women who can ride storms, live with being afraid and hated and still weave amazing ideas in to a big scary not-ready-for-them world.

This woman, like so many intrepid women today, means business. In 2009 she met with Code Pink and the Women’s Coalition for Peace, in 2010 she boarded a flotilla with other activists to protest the Occupation of Gaza. And then there is my small world. Where is my energy this Imbolc, where will my thoughts be in the coming seasons? Where we put our words and our hearts, well – it counts. What we focus on grows.

This Imbolc, let there be colour, imagination, growth in brave directions, a holding out for better ways, more peaceful days. Let us cheer on these women, in their quiet surviving.

February 2, 2013   2 Comments