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May 24, 2020

New post on new website!  I still haven’t worked out how to get sign ups… bear with 🙂

Click on the cake below.

New Website!!

May 14, 2020

Hello all my faithful readers – I am in the process of getting my new Betty Bites website up and running.  I haven’t quite worked out how to get people to sign up, and haven’t yet linked it to an email newsletter type set up.  One step at a time…  Until I figure it out I will alert you to a new post via the old site.

However, I have posted a couple of times and think maybe it’s time to let you see it, so, with out further ado, here she is

www.bettybites.co.uk 

and to tempt you to click here is picture of some borek, recipe for which on new website 🙂

Slow down, you move too fast…

February 14, 2020

Slowing down doesn’t mean stopping thinking, although you have to do that to begin with.  If you  can stop, and just sit, with yourself your mind will begin to free itself.  If you place yourself in a setting with others who are doing the same thing, with no pressure from anyone, your creative synapses begin to spark and snap, your thoughts come tumbling.  If you let it all come you will find it makes you want to do things, make things, talk, walk, eat and open your eyes to look further than the next text, instagram post, meal to be made or work deadline to be reached.  It will awake your curiosity and creativity.

 

The Slow Movement began in Italy with Carlo Petrini having a wonderfully Italian response to a fast food chain wanting to open a restaurant in Rome in 1986.  Slow Food was born and is a now a world wide organisation with spin offs everywhere with slow parenting, slow travel, even slow gaming. It’s about thinking about what you are doing at any given moment, and getting the most out of each of those moments, shaking off distractions and focussing.

Slowing down is hard for normal people, with normal lives.  It’s almost a badge of honour to get less than the required amount of sleep because of being too busy.  Technology is nipping at our heels all the time, the demands of work and family can be relentless and life just seems to get faster and fuller with information less than a second away from the tip of your finger and from so many sources it’s impossible to work out what is right, wrong, upside down or sideways.   It’s not good.  It’s not healthy.  We absolutely need to be more mindful of ourselves.  Slowing down is not woo woo stuff, its common sense (which contrary to popular belief is not as common as we think).

In order to remember who we are we need to go slow.  That way we can rediscover what is important, shed the unnecessary claims upon our lives and get bit Maire Kondo, only keeping what sparks joy.  Add to that what we are facing as a species on this planet the requirement to slow down is even more vital.   So where can we go to start the slow process?

Mention the word retreat and yoga springs to mind, lithe young woman doing impossible things with their bodies atop a mountain against Mediterranean sunset.  As a women whose litheness, if it was ever there, is a distant memory, when I was asked if I’d like to go on a slow retreat in the Forest of Dean I was a bit, weeeellll, not really sure it’s my thing.

But, as it turns out…  Firstly, no yoga.  Don’t get me wrong, I love yoga and do my own, weird, slightly stiff version at home, alone, sometimes, but me and yoga bunnies in the same room, nooo.  Secondly, this was just about just slowing down, having some time to recalibrate and re-find a creative spark.  Which at that point in my life was precisely what was needed, and what was delivered.

Inspired by Carl Honore’s ‘ In Praise of Slow’ Liz Lewitt created this retreat in her fabulous house, Mill End, in the Forest of Dean, which can be booked for any kind of get together, not just Slow Retreats, and can be self catering or catered by the fabulous Bordello Banquets, with added props for extra glamour and fun.

Eighteen women of all age groups, walks of life and backgrounds got together to try and slow down, to just be, for three days, with a focus on creativity and in this instance learning about raw food ‘cookery’.

The rooms at Mill End are absolutely top drawer, as Katherine Hepburn might have said, beautiful, stylish and each one unique.  They are warm and comfortable with gorgeous crisp white bed linen.

After being shown our rooms, acclimatising and adjusting, slightly nervously, to the fact that we had hours and hours stretching ahead of us in which to do absolutely nothing, if we chose that, or, as it turned out, we could do lots of things, very slowly.

There is a large hot tub and other spa facilities available at all times, and the setting is within minutes of beautiful country walks.  You can help yourself to tea, herbals and coffee any time.  All food was included and wine should you feel the urge (and several of us did, just a little bit) can bought in the village shop.

The raw food demo by the deliciously talented Deb of Deliciously Raw, was followed by dinner of raw food.  If you’d told me I’d enjoy that before this retreat I’d have laughed, quietly and respectfully, but with absolute surety that you’d be wrong.  I was wrong.  It was delicious, very satisfying and also extremely pretty.

There were pens, pencils and paper scattered around.  There were books on creativity, slowing down (lots of copies of Carl’s book!), food, fashion… endless creative inspiration.  There was a clay play table.  There was a wood burner for cosiness, there was space to hide away, space to gather.  For an added cost you could also book to have your angel cards read or some reiki, which is where it got a bit woo woo but it’s always good to open your mind to things that challenge your cynical core I find, and lots of us did and got a huge amount from it.

So we all slowed down.  And now we are feeling groovy*.

This article was written by Liz Haughton when she was a participant at the first Slow Retreat in November 2019. Together with Liz Lewitt Liz Haughton now runs the retreats and will be cooking gorgeous, organic food as part of the nourishing and nurturing experience of Slow Retreats.

*apologies for the Simon and Garfunkel ear worm

Hope

January 23, 2020

I recently challenged myself to write 500 words per day, asking friends to give me a one word subject to help me on my way.  I Haven’t always managed 500 per day, but the I have often written lots more in one day so I guess it evens out.  Most of the words I have picked have been woven into a story, or collection of vignettes you might call them, I’m not sure.  Anyway, they are not ready for the world yet, but today I found myself writing this after staring out of the window for a while, my cup of coffee warming my hands, words just arriving in my head.

Hope.

We live on hope.  We hope for better weather, a better, cleaner future.  We hope that you have a happy birthday or that your mother’s death isn’t too paralysing.

Is it another word for praying?  If you have no particular faith is hoping what we do instead of talking to god?   Hope is by its nature optimistic, there is an intrinsic expectation of positive fulfilment.  By hoping for something we feel are half way there, or at least we are nudging that desire in the right direction.  Hoping for a happy birthday for someone is usually a pretty safe bet.  Hoping that the death of someone much loved doesn’t paralyse you is a less safe bet, but the action of expressing that hope will help it on its way to becoming reality.  Hopefully.

Prayer is hope wrapped up in religion.   In an increasingly secular world (or is it?) we squinch up our eyes and hope to god (Gaia, air, humanity) that what we want will come true.  It’s not the same as regular and organised prayer, like going to the mosque and intoning learned verses with choreographed movements, or sitting in a pew in a grand church listening to plainsong as it sails up to the rafters and out and up to whoever your god is, the words from centuries past asking, please, this time, to bring us aid, save our souls, make it all better.  Or shuffling rosary beads though our hands, muttering the same prayer to a young girl who lived and died centuries ago over and over.  Or sitting cross legged on our yoga mats, being mindful and setting out our wishes, hopes and intentions for the day, regularly, rhythmically.  If we remember. 

Squinching up your eyes and hoping against hope that the orange terror currently running the most powerful (apparently) country in the world rots and turns to pungent blue dust, just like real oranges left in the bottom of the fruit bowl, is hoping where there is little chance of that becoming reality, therefore against hope.  In truth I would be happy to avoid the pungent part as I imagine that would be like the acid yellow haze that hangs over heavily polluted cities, only blue.  Nobody wants to breath him in.

Hoping with hope, with or without squinched up eyes, doubles up the optimism power I think; it’s a prayer, without a church, but with a congregation.  I hope with hope for a better world.  It’s a massive and unwieldy hope, and a daunting one.  It’s a hope that takes a battering daily by listening to the news, but also is boosted by seeing people like Greta (spell check wants to make her name ‘great’ which is quite apt) Thunberg rallying the young people of the world to shout at the olds to bloody well get their act together.  It’s boosted by talking to my son and hearing him talk with clarity, focus and wit after a long time of that being absent.  It’s boosted by attending public meetings about local issues, even if there is going to be a massive and ongoing fight ahead. 

People.  People give me hope.  At the same time as vile and greedy people (and corporations are designated people so extra power to them right there tragically) are hoovering up this planet’s resources and spewing out the toxic byproducts, other people, the real people of this planet, are fighting back.  We may be small, but we are mighty.  We can do this.

The word was given me by Rob Wicks.

Ready to roar?

December 30, 2019

This is the bit before the bit just before the end of the year, and in this case the decade.  We are about to re-enter the roaring twenties and there is much to roar about.  So much work to do – get rid of Trump,  create a new business, finish the jigsaw, end plastic pollution, stop the right wing from wheeling further right, reverse climate change… busy busy busy.

Clearly we don’t want the kind of build up the last roaring 20s brought, with the Wall Street crash, followed by the great depression, followed by, well you know, the rise of Hitler and his chums.  Begins to feel uncomfortably familiar, doesn’t it?

So, anyway – among plans for sorting it all out I am also working on smaller, more personal plans.  I won’t call them resolutions, partly because that almost always means they will be dropped by the end of January.  Here they are:

  • Write more – I have submitted a short story into a competition, and while I have no illusions that I will win, especially after my friend Diana, who suggested it, has submitted hers, it was a great exercise and one I want to repeat a lot.  And no, you can’t read it now.
  • Create a wonderful and welcoming Slow Retreat format with Liz Lewitt in her gorgeous place in the Forest of Dean (it can be hired for anything you fancy just you so you know)  I attended the first one she organised and it was a great experience, the idea being to simply slow down, let go and breath a bit.  Due to other commitments Liz can’t organise any more on her own so that’s where I am stepping in.  If you are interested please contact me for further information.
  • Look into making more delicious and natural lotions, potions and balms.  I have made a few already and they have been big hits.  Going form making for friends and family to commercial might be a leap too far but worth looking into.

 

WHAT ARE YOU PLANS AND RESOLUTIONS?

 

The handsome man I live with and I are travelling to the wilds of Somerset for New Years Eve, a lovely low key one that I hope will involve roaring log fires (on theme there), excellent company, food and the finest wines known to humanity.  I am making a lemon tart for my contribution – I will post pictures of it on instagram, because that’s what I do.

See you on the other side faithful follower, and a happy new year to you and yours.

How it ends/begins.

December 4, 2019

A friend of mine recently wrote an article on Linked In about how it feels when a business ends.  I identified with her words, which were characteristically clear and heartfelt.  It can feel like failure, no matter what the reason behind it.  It can set you adrift, no map, no compass.   

It became increasingly clear to me from about this time last year that my business was struggling more than usual.  Usual struggle meant hand to mouth trading, staggering through the quiet periods of the summer months and the Christmas and early New year weeks, hoping to make the wage bill, plus holiday pay, pay all the suppliers so they could enjoy their own breaks or quiet periods, keeping the minimal customer base happy and loyal on a skeleton staff while being tighter than ever on waste.  That’s the usual.  Add to that punitive VAT rules in the catering world (it’s my bugbear, get me started if you like…), the increase in minimum wage, a rise in employer’s national insurance and pension contributions (all valid and just but crippling to a micro company) and rising food prices and you have a perfect storm.  Sadly George Clooney wasn’t part of this storm in his plucky little fishing boat , but the storm was real and on the 31st August this year all three of my cafes ceased trading.  That two of them were resurrected, most staff re-hired immediately and service to the loyal customers resumed very quickly was in no small part due to my negotiating and working with the mostly very understanding and helpful landlords.  I will take some credit for that. 

I was also offered advice and help from a local company who work with independent businesses in the hospitality industry.  It was meant to be a quid pro quo deal but ended up with them simply being generous with their time and knowledge for no gain to themselves.  These kind of people are, to me, the essence of hospitality, “a great soul that cares for the whole universe through the ties of humanity.”  That might be over egging it slightly, but these are good people who do stuff because they can, not because they must or might gain from the act.  I dislike the description of hospitality as an industry, but I digress, as usual.  Without them and their calm assurances I would have been even more stressed and out of my depth, and probably ended up in a much worse situation.

So there I was.  Out of business, in debt, no income, no idea what I could do to get myself back on track.  So I applied to be a Christmas elf at John Lewis.  Not really.  But I did apply to be temp staff there over the Christmas period.  I was offered the position – minimum wage for ten hour days.  I didn’t take it.

Reality kicked in.  My body, which had up to then supported the stress and anxiety of the last few months using tension wires in my neck and back that Brunel could have used in his bridges, gave in.  Everything hurt.  I cried.  A lot.  I grieved. I gave in.  My husband gave me support and love and reassurance.  Still everything hurt.  My stomach revolted.  I won’t go into details but suffice to say that tomorrow I will have a camera  sent up where the sun don’t shine to ‘rule out’ possible causes.  Today I am eating cake and potatoes.  Could be worse.

The limbo of business liquidation does not make for an easy feeling, despite so many people saying ‘oh, it’s nothing, I’ve done it loads of times’.  It’s not nothing when it’s your first time, and it’s after thirteen and half years of trading.  I want it done, over with, but it drags on, chuntering away in the back ground of my awareness.  I believe it will be a few months before the final seal is put on the whole sorry mess and it will be officially be done, dusted, finis.

But.  Big but.  Out of an ending comes a new beginning.  It cannot be any other way, no matter what comes next, it will be new.  I am in an extraordinarily lucky position of being able to take some time to explore possibilities.  I am also able to sleep in the day if I choose to, take a walk, take every bit of fabric I possess and pile it up in front of my sewing machine and wait to see if I make anything with it all, then put it all away again.  I let the guilt of these non-occupations move through me and out, like the nausea that moves in waves through me almost daily.

I have been looking at what I can do, my strengths, my talents, playing with ideas.  I can cook (don’t want to do that for a living any more), I can draw (need more practice), I can make things (everyone loves an egg cosy don’t they?).  I can write.  I can write. 

Everyone knows the story of the phoenix, or thinks they do.  “In ancient Greek folklore a phoenix is a long-lived bird that cyclically regenerates or is otherwise born again. Associated with the sun, a phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor”.  A little over dramatic perhaps but a good metaphor.  I have a phoenix tattoo on my back.  I had it done to mark the death of a lover.  He had one on his arm as a defiant, fuck you gesture to  his cancer.  He lives on in his son, in my tattoo and in the memories of his family and many, many friends, so, fuck you cancer.  I’m digressing again but there is a point. 

We all do this in our lives, end things, whether a natural closure, or against our will.  We all start again, or at least generally have the option to.  Jobs, relationships, homes – they come and go.  For me, this is just another re-birth, another new start.  That I should maybe have done it years ago is something that niggles but either way, here I am, phoenix rising.

 

 

 

XR, pickles and the middle classes

October 15, 2019

Dear faithful reader, it has been some time since my last confession.  No, that’s not right.  My last blog I meant.  Imagine if you said that in the confessional (only catholics, lapsed or otherwise will get that) – insert startled face emoji if you like followed by!!??  Anyway.  This post was meant to be about pickles.  I am in the middle of recalibrating my life (why is for another post further down the line) and want to do more writing, but somehow couldn’t get started.  I found a list by the wondrous Elizabeth Gilbert on how to just do it which starts with the advice to write as though you are writing to a friend.  So I picked Lucy and asked her what she thought I should write about.  I don’t think you are necessarily meant to ask the ‘recipient’ for a subject, but I did because we were talking about it on our walk that we do semi-regularly with our Nordic sticks.  Lucy was having trouble with her pickles so she suggested I write about pickling.  Which I will, but just not right now

Because now I am going to take my bother Luke‘s email that he wrote to friends and family (obviously taking the number one piece of advice on the list and multiplying it) and put it on here.  But not without a little bit of my own thinking, observation and opinions, because it is my blog after all.

Unless you have been living under a rock for quite a while and have just emerged, pale, confused and perhaps a little tearful, you will know that thousands upon thousands of people have been taking to the streets over the last few years, as the various governments and people in charge of this burning world are showing themselves to be increasingly inept, venal and in most cases stupid.  So we have had the Women’s Marches, the People’s Marches, the Brexit marches, for and against, all over the country.  Bristol marches have been well attended and loud, accompanied by the meaty rhythms of local Samba bands, some of which I have joined (the marches not the bands).  I am against Brexit, for the record, as are most of the people I know.  But I believe that the only way to stop the chasm that is opening up in this country, and the world it seems, is not to dismiss people who don’t think like I do as morons (even if that is my knee jerk reaction), but try, somehow to engage and talk with them.  Pretty hard when I don’t any but I’m open to a discussion.  I try to take a Bernadette Russell (kindness campaigner) attitude, often failing, but she’s a good bench mark for how to behave in this life.  I digress.  It is my way.  Sorry.

So now we have Extinction Rebellion, or XR as they are known because Extinction Rebellion is quite a mouthful.  I think XR is great.  I especially like the Red Rebels as they appeal my love of theatricality and colour.

XR Rebels | Group of XR rebels dressed in red to represent ...

I am white, middle class, middle aged, middle privileged, educated to an adequate standard and English, and therefore lucky to live in what still passes for a democracy.  I am not a crusty and I don’t smell of hemp.  Although hemp is the fabric of the future FYI; you read it here first (maybe not) . I did try CBD oil to help ease my arthritis and that really hummed and tasted vile so I stopped – clearly I am not a hardcore hempist.   Questions about diversity, inclusion and equality are alive and kicking even in something so apparently egalitarian as XR which is right and proper because these things need to be addressed everywhere.  XR appears to be made up of middle class, hemp wearing, crusty lawyers, doctors, priests, children, carpenters, able bodied and less so, employed, unemployed, tourists, students, breast feeding activists – a rainbow of people of all ages, hues and spiritual beliefs – but its not perfect.  I have not joined up, but support mildly from the sidelines.  I feel guilty about that.  I feel guilty about a lot of things.  Catholic upbringing with a hefty dose of Jewishness and there you have it – confusion and guilt – who exactly is the Messiah anyway?  Has he been?  Is she coming?  Oy, so many questions.

Here are the XR Demands of the government (you may well ask what bloody government but that would lead to a very lengthy tangential piece we don’t have time for right now) which I don’t think are really too much to ask, do you?

Tell the truth

Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.

Act Now

Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.

Beyond Politics

Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

Am I doing my bit?  Is there such a thing as ‘my bit’ that I can tick off on a list. e.g. I didn’t drive today, excellent work Betty; I didn’t buy bottled water for nearly a year – bravo, here’s a a gold star.  The short answer is no.  The long answer is no, but…

I am sure no one has the time or the will to read about my personal guilt trips and attempts to lead a greener life, I sure as hell haven’t.  I do some stuff to help and have modified my life a little bit to try and be more sustainable, I march a bit locally, I have joined the Woodland Trust who do so much to preserve and extend our woodlands.  It is not sufficient, I know that.  The list of things I haven’t done is endless.  Nothing that one person does is sufficient, except maybe Greta Thunberg, which is why governments need to act now and why XR is so important and why we all should support them and carry on with petitions to Parliament,  carry on with marching and shouting and bashing drums and making noise until the greed of the few is replaced by the good of the many and the planet can breathe again. It can be done.

The arguments for meat/no meat, flying/not flying, march/stay at home, reduce, reuse, recycle go on and on and so they should.  I am part of that.  One day you may meet me on a bridge in London, standing next to my valiant, very human brogue wearing, be-tweeded brother holding a banner in his wood worker’s hands that says ‘wake up and smell the coffin‘.

Here is his letter – it is very long, please take the time to read it.

Some thoughts from just behind the front line.

I became involved with the hemp-smelling crusties, as our leader is pleased to call XR activists (and with whose number his father rather delightfully places himself), because Lizzy gave a talk last Autumn in Bruton and, because it was Lizzy, and because it was in Bruton, I went along. Prior to that evening, like many people, I think, I had been reasonably worried about the environment and climate change, my response being to be reasonably good at recycling, buying mostly organic food, giving lots of thought to almost certainly cutting down on meat at some point, and feeling guilty about how much driving I do. So far, so middle class angst cliché. [now that is amazing – the computer has just put an accent on that e for me, and I didn’t even know it had one. Anyway.

After the talk which Lizzy and her chums gave, I had a very different view of the problem. From being reasonably worried, I quickly became appalled and fearful, and, in my small way, active, because the problem that we are facing is so much greater than I had understood, the consequences of doing nothing, so catastrophic, what we have to change is so very much, and the time in which we have to do it is very short, that I felt I had no choice but to do something. So, last Autumn I went down to London for the demonstration on Waterloo Bridge, in April I was back there again and this week I was once more in the Great Wen, variously on Lambeth Bridge, Millbank, and Victoria Street. So here is how it was for me:-

Sunday evening.

I went up to Marble Arch with Bruton XR chums, to see what was going on there. Various speeches, the odd poem, a certain amount of singing, all of which frequently inaudible – which was not necessarily a bad thing – due to the considerable traffic noise, a rather excessively refreshing breeze, and a rather unreliable megaphone. No matter, we were there, a few hundred I think, and we knew our purpose. Another megaphone was attached to a poltroon who kept well away from the centre of things, but wittered on about how we shouldn’t worry about climate change, we should just have a big fat spliff instead, and how all the men there would serve our cause very well by having vasectomies (which is kind of going in the right direction, although a mass suicide might be more effective I suppose) and how we should all go and get jobs (got one thanks) or maybe that was another idiot. Anyway, he was largely ignored, and I resisted the urge to stick the megaphone up his fundament as I felt it would not be in keeping with XR’s doctrine of non-violence. Hey-ho. And so back to a good supper, good wine, good cheer and a warm bed, unlike the many, much hardier spirits, who were sleeping in Hyde Park.               

Monday morning.

By river-bus to Lambeth Bridge. The earlier arrivals had already taken the bridge, Millbank, Horseferry Road, Trafalgar Square and  other sites around central London – not sure which. I wandered about a bit, checked in with my Bruton chums, found Lizzy, who was in the thick of things, so very much left her to it after giving her a supply of flapjacks. I passed much of the day holding one end of a banner across the bridge, more or less shoulder to shoulder with some of the Met’s finest – two on either side of me. And so we talked, the police officers and the rebels, of why we were there, of jobs and children, of food and of London, of cabbages and kings, and there was some understanding between the two groups in this strange situation – the polite, friendly, not-quite-conflict between two groups who basically want the same thing. Most of the police officers with whom I spoke are sympathetic to the cause, but don’t actually get the very extreme seriousness and urgency of the situation. Like most of the rest of the world. Oddly, I didn’t want lunch, so was able to stay at my post for three or four hours, until I started to seize up and handed my portion of banner to one of my chums. I had offered this task to one of my new friends in the police, but he regretfully declined. I think that I may have gone up to Tate Britain at that point for a pot of adequate tea and quite reasonable millionaire’s shortbread, which stood in well enough for lunch, but I can’t remember if that was the Tuesday . Then a tour of the nearby sites, which were sprouting tents and gazeboes at a rate. I think there were maybe a thousand or so on the bridge and Horseferry Road roundabout, with perhaps a hundred police. Weather, cool, cloudy, grey. Arrests, maybe two hundred. A good supper in a Sechuan restaurant with ho hum beer, fine company and a warm bed, while others were sleeping in tents on the tarmac of central London.

Tuesday morning.

After taking a somewhat baroque route through the city I arrived at Millbank at about ten. The police had cleared the bridge and roundabout the previous evening and so the Southwest group had gone up to Marshall Street, which I think is where Defra do their business. Anyway there were some hundreds of people standing, sitting, milling about, singing somewhat. There was a lorry parked across the road which had been there since Monday morning, there were many tents and so forth, there was chanting and there were more arrests. Also various people asking me if they could photograph my placard, which was nice. I stood about feeling slightly pointless for a bit then went back to Millbank where quite a few arrest were being made – all very calm, very civilised. Also lots of chanting and singing.

Chant: Tell me what democracy looks like! Response: This is what democracy looks like. Chant: (pointing towards the Palace of Westminster) Is that what democracy looks like? Response: THIS is what democracy looks like.

Mostly led by an amazing chum of Lizzy’s called Miriam. Very invigorating and cheering. Lots of smiling and laughing. And I definitely saw smiles on the faces of some of the police.

And then, as I met lovely Honor, who had come all the way from Putney to bring me some food, the drummers arrived. Ah, the drummers. While I understand that there are people who find the sound of drumming and nothing but drumming not to their liking, I think that anyone with a pulse, who was there, then, would have felt the hair rise on the back of their necks, would have found it very much to their liking. They are loud, very loud, the drums are large and small and there are tambourines and cowbells and rattles. The noise is tremendous and exciting and immensely encouraging to those whose morale might be flagging. Because of course that is a problem – when you have taken time out of your normal life, or put your normal life on hold to work for the greatest cause of our time – of any time – and when for every positive response you get from the public, you get several more which range from “yes I agree with you but you shouldn’t be disrupting people’s lives” through indifference to “you should get a job”, then your morale might well flag.

My brief experience of handing out leaflets was largely temperate – most took them with a nod and a smile and occasionally words of encouragement. The only negative response I had was from a man of the cloth, who, pointing at the postcard sized piece of paper that I was proffering, said “That’s damaging the environment”. Fairly pathetic really – way to go vicar. My response, had he not been striding pompously away down Victoria Street would have been that if it takes me and many others like me handing out leaflets to try and wake the world then that is a miniscule price to pay. There are a great number of lazy minded fools who will use any pathetic pretext their feeble little brains can come up with to avoid or deny the truth of the matter.  We all live in glass houses and we should leave the stones on the ground. Especially if we purport to be a man of God. Anyway.

Wednesday morning.

Once more down through the city and the Inns of Court and along the river, with lovely Rosie and small but important dog, to find that Millbank had been cleared, but Victoria Street and other sites were still strong. Many tents on Victoria Street, in one of which Lizzy and Fergus and some of their chums had passed the night intermittently in the arms of sweet Morpheus, the permanent overhead presence of the police helicopter notwithstanding. They all looked approximately as if they were at a festival. More chanting, singing, drumming and the dear Red Rebels came through (or was that Tuesday?) and lots and lots of passing workers and tourists stopped to have a look and take pictures (THIS is what democracy looks like) and moronic selfies (tautology). And lots more people asked if they could photograph my placard and a young journalism student asked me if she could interview me – which she could, although it wasn’t much of an interview as she asked me a question about what I was doing there and I gave here an answer that was so long that we both forgot what the question was and she had to go off and have a little lie-down, and I couldn’t as by that time I was holding the end of another banner, another street.

For a while Lizzy was with me, eating potato curry and dahl which were being provided in endless quantities by the marvellous Hare Krishnas, and then she had to go for another of the Loya Jurgas with various of her fellows. And I stood and held the banner, and a few feet away were two women who had elected to do a lock-on, which is where you join hands through a length of pipe which makes it very difficult for the police to move you, so they have to get specialist extraction teams in to cut the pipe, which slows down the process of moving people off the streets. Which is the name of the game. And I will happily explain to anyone why we (and that is the first time I have substituted XR with we) need to do this and all the other stuff to do with NVDA, but you will have to buy me a pint.

Anyway I was there for about five hours and so were they. And one of them had said to me (before the lock-on) that her emotions had been doing like this – and she drew switchbacks in the air with her finger and I said yes, me too. And then the drummers came, hurrah and they drummed for glory and all, and then they parked themselves right by me and my end of the banner (they were fifteen or twenty strong, I think) and they were about to get going again when a fiddler who had been regaling us and the passing crowds with the one about where sheep may safely graze and the star spangled banner theme-tune, for some hours, came over to suggest that they didn’t drum as this was his pitch and they were going to bugger up his trade, so briefly passing my end of the banner and my placard to a passing hemp-smelling crusty, I strode over to the scene of discord and suggested to the fiddler that if a tenner would subsidise a brief intermission, then I would happily furnish this sum, which proposal he gladly accepted. So the drummers did their thing, right in front of me, which was ten pounds well spent. And then they were gone and then Fergus came to say goodbye as he was heading west and I stayed at my post and smiled prettily for the cameras.

At about four the police who had been gathering some yards away came over in a line and one of them asked me if the banner was mine and when I said that it was and it wasn’t, asked if I would mind taking it to Trafalgar Square, which was where they wanted us all to be and I said that I didn’t want to do that and he said well then I shall have to arrest you if you continue to stand here with this banner. And then my small store of courage failed me and I handed the banner to the officer and said you win. And then I was on my knees crying because I am a coward and I let the side down and the impossible hugeness of the task that we have given ourselves was just too much and too impossible and there they were those women who had locked on, offering me strong, warm words of comfort that I couldn’t hear, as I knelt there with my placard, and a man I had never met gave me a hug and gave more words of comfort and I couldn’t hear those either. And I gathered up my small belongings and bequeathed my placard to whomsoever should want it and left the field of battle, my brief visit to the front line ending not with a bang but a whimper.               

And now I am back home. I don’t, at the time of writing know how things stand in London. I believe that more people are on their way to London. I was told by a policeman that 89,000 shifts had been allocated to policing the two weeks of action – whether that’s normal shifts or the twelve hour shifts that they are doing this week, I don’t know, but either way that’s a lot of shifts. I don’t know how the rest of the planned fortnight of actions will pan out – whether it will even last the whole two weeks. And I don’t know if what passes for a government will pay any real attention, although I believe that there has been some interest and support from individual MPs. I don’t know if any of this is going to achieve anything in the very small amount of time we have left to change things, but I know that I will be going back there, and I will keep going back there until, one way or another, it’s all over.           

I am not a fan of naked emotion and so forth, but this week has left me a bit bruised, so I thought I would share. Feel free to delete now. Or you could forward it to whoever. Also, if you want to know more about XR, you can look at the website and all that stuff. I don’t know quite the thing you have to do but I get lots of newsletters and so forth so if in doubt ask a teenager how to do it.

                God bless, my lovelies,

                                Luke”

 In case you wondered Lizzy and Fergus are Luke’s children.