The Great Yorkshire/Cornwall sing-off

For a while now, Yorkshire for Europe groups have been getting down to London once a week to support Steve Bray of SODEM, and demonstrate peacefully outside Parliament. Week by week, the Great Yorkshire Songbook has evolved, featuring such memorable numbers as ‘We’re down from Yorkshire just to say…’ to the tune of -what else? ‘On Ilkley Moor baht ‘at’, and ‘Why, why why Theresa?’ to the tune of ‘Delilah’. Cornwall for Europe does much the same, but they have a great tradition of sea shanties to draw on for their songbook (‘What shall we do with this rotten Brexit?‘).

Adrian from North Yorkshire for Europe threw down the gauntlet to Cornwall. The Great Yorkshire/Cornwall sing-off. Challenge accepted.

Yorkshire comes to London.

On Monday, two coaches arrived in London. One from the north, stuffed not only with Remainers in good voice, but Yorkshire flags by the dozen, European flags, Union flags, placards, and Mark’s tuba. Oh, and seven students from Sheffield University, hitch-hiking to Transylvania for charity, via our demo. And a coach from the south-west, idem, except that they had black-and white Cornwall flags and placards, and a Cornish bagpipe instead of a tuba. And no students.

Cornwall and Yorkshire together.

And outside Parliament, we sang. We soon learnt each other’s songs, and we sang, sang, sang. Alistair Campbell came for a while with his bagpipes. Our MEP Richard Corbett came and joined in, so did Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman, and Lib Dem Tom Brake, who brought chocolates too.

Richard Corbett joins the two choirs.

Steve Bray, that stalwart who protests all day and every day, whatever the weather joined in the fun, and was invited to judge the two choirs. ‘52% for one, and 48% for the other!’, suggested some wit in the crowd. Steve was far too polite, and suggested a draw. Team Yorkshire thought that Cornwall had the best tunes, and were more tuneful, but we were LOUDER.

Steve Bray. And his megaphone.
We were even joined by a suffragette….

And at 6 o’clock, we followed Steve’s daily tradition. We trooped after him and his mega-megaphone and bellowed People’s Vote slogans as loudly as possible across to the House where members were about their daily business. If you’d been watching the BBC 6 o’clock news at 6.11, you’d have seen us. And again at 10.00. A friend in Cardiff spotted us on the Welsh news.

Cornwall and Yorkshire united in protest.

During the day there were interviews with Norwegian radio and French TV (Arte is doing a full length documentary on Britain and Brexit, and have been filming in the area for 10 days).

Just one more job to do before the long journey home. Get along to the press hub, and be there while Channel Four does its daily interviews on its 7 o’clock news. More flag waving, shouting and singing, and a bit of trespass onto the lawns with a placard by Steve Bray.

The press zone. Can you spot Steve Bray trespassing? Look for the placard.

We met Londoners, tourists, people from around Europe who’d made England their home and no longer feel as welcomed as they used to. We’ve had our photos taken, had discussions with dozens and dozens of passers-by. Does it make a difference? We don’t know. But we know we brought cheer to so many people who like us, hope that Brexit is not a Done Deal.

Shuffling for Europe

Last week, the one at the end of which the long-planned Put it to the People March was due to take place, the Brexit Drama went from bad to worse to excruciating.  It seemed a perfect time to go to London and make our views known.

We’d been before of course.  Twice.  We’d been last June, we members of North Yorkshire for Europe,  sharing a coach with protestors from York.  We went in October, with a coach of our own.  We went again on Saturday, with three coaches, part of a flotilla of 19 from Yorkshire and 200 from the country as a whole.

Here we are arriving, marshalling ourselves.

And here we are singing one of the nineteen songs from the Yorkshire Remoaners’ Songbook.  Our signature number is this….

We’ve come from Yorkshire just to say (just to say)

All Brexit deals are cra-ap………  

and so on, plus two other verses, obviously sung to the tune of On Ilkley Moor baht ‘at.’

Richard Sadler, Chair of North Yorkshire for Europe, and apparently Director of Music for the day.

It would be untrue to say we started marching.  The crowds were such that we often didn’t move at all, and when we did, we shuffled.  We soon got split up, but it was always cheering to see that wherever we looked, there was a Yorkshire flag – the white rose on a blue ground – somewhere in sight.

Yorkshire for Europe!

There were fellow marchers to talk to – the young girl who’d chosen to spend her 13th birthday marching, the elderly Irish woman who’d come over to vent her anger at how Ireland’s particular issues were being sidelined.  There were witty posters to admire: there are a few at the end of this post.  And more here. 

A newly teenage girl protests.

On we went, making the roads on our route totally impassable for passers-by.  One hour – two hours – three hours of shuffling – we were still only in Pall Mall.  By now the speeches were beginning in Parliament Square on  the other side of Trafalgar Square, and we were still nearly a mile away.  Never mind.

Drummers struck up, and entirely unbidden, our voices, hundreds strong, spontaneously  divided as cantor and antiphon, though the words were the same: ‘Stop Brexit now!’ This little interlude seems to me to be a metaphor for how most Remainers that I know treat one another: cooperatively, in  harmony, and with mutual respect.

And then … then we had to go.  We had to find our coach, due to depart on the long road back to Yorkshire.

Although we were marching to be given a Final Vote on the Brexit Deal, there’s now equally loud pressure that Parliament should Revoke Article 50. Now.

If you’re a British Citizen, and haven’t done so already, please sign here.

And if you’d like an aeriel view of the whole thing, here you are, thanks to The Guardian.  We’re off camera.  We didn’t get to the centre of the action.

Liquid History: a Trip on the Thames

Adam’s splendid birthday cake. The design is full of allusions, only one of which will perhaps be accessible to you.

I love the River Thames, and I love a river trip.  Our friend Adam’s birthday treat to himself and all his friends was just that.  A river cruise taking in everything from the London Eye, past wharves and warehouses, parks and pavilions, bridges and Big Ben.  I didn’t take my camera, expecting not to be tempted by photography.  I was tempted though, so thank goodness for my phone.

A view from the river cruiser.

I was tempted by what always seduces me about the River Thames: the old, battered,  rusted and gritty references to its industrial and commercial past and present.  The juxtaposition with new money: glittering ultra modern towers thrusting skywards, surrounded by squadrons of cranes. Expensive new housing where during my childhood there was only industrial waste.  Even a helicopter, on duty for …. something.

Dirty-British-coasters-with-salt-caked-smoke-stacks* – or their freshwater cousins anyway, share the waterways with commuter clippers, speedboats and long, slow, rust-coloured barges.  Rotting houseboats cling to the shoreline below busy streets and assertively up-to-the minute financial districts.

There are peaceful moments too.  Here is Battersea Park, and the Buddhist Peace Pagoda.  When I was a child, our flat in Victoria looked directly across at the four imposing towers of Battersea Power station.  It’s now decommissioned, and is a housing and residential development, though looking at this image, it’s hard to believe.

A line of cormorants occupies a pontoon below Cheyne Walk, one of Chelsea’s most desirable addresses.  And seagulls choose any old rusting buoy to rest on.

We finish near the Houses of Parliament.  This view is not quite right.  One iconic element is missing, all wrapped up in the manner of a Christo sculpture.  What is it?  No prizes… not even a river trip.

Returning to our riverside mooring. Goodbye, south London.

Click on any image to view it full size.

*from ‘Cargoes’, by John Masefield

 

Ragtag Saturday: Abstract moon, abstract bubbles

We travelled to London for Christmas quite late in the day on the 22nd.  The moon was all-but full as it rose, at first barely peeking over the tree tops before eventually soaring high above us, in a clear black sky. I tracked its progress.   Only my phone was to hand, but rather than lamenting the poor quality of these images, I liked the somewhat abstract quality they had.  Here they are.

Then the next day, off we went, with Tom, Sarah, William and Zöe, to the Natural History Museum.  More fool us for assuming it would be nearly empty so near to Christmas time. Outside though, was a man with a bucket of soapy water, and a couple of sticks linked with string, intent on play.  He made bubbles.  Lots of bubbles.  I loved the abstract play of soft pinks and blues and sinuous curves set against the clean lines of the museum buildings beyond.

Here then is my contribution to today’s Ragtag Challenge: Abstract.

Click on any image to view it full size.

Charles James Barton: vicar of this parish

My grandfather Charles Barton is a shadowy figure: someone I can’t really flesh out into a real person. Partly it’s because he died sixteen years before I was born. Partly it’s because my mother beatified him and painted an unrealistic picture of a man who was beyond criticism.

Charles was a second generation Londoner. His own father Joshua had been born in Suffolk in a village called Layham. So had all his relatives before him on his father’s side: I’ve plotted them back to the 1600s. Every single man had been an agricultural labourer.  Some of them had wonderful names like Shadrack or Meshack: but not, apparently Abednego.

Layham may not have been so idyllic when endless generations of Bartons lived here (Image from Country House magazine)

Joshua was born at a time when a series of bad harvests had made a tough country life even tougher. As a young man he took his chance, went to London and became – who knows how – a wine cooper. He married a local girl, Maria, and they had ten children.

The family was probably what Theresa May patronisingly calls Just About Managing. The children grew up to become gardeners, coachmen, clerks, seamstresses. All except Charles and Harry, sons numbers two and three. I’ll never know the story of how they got places at Saint Olave’s Grammar School and then won scholarships to Cambridge University.  I still have books that Charles won as prizes at school, and while studying at Magdalene College.  I wonder how two working class boys from a relatively poor background enjoyed their experiences in these privileged environments?

This is a prize from school: Sophocles, the Plays and Fragments. It’s in the original classical greek.
Magdalene College Cambridge (Wikimedia Commons)

Harry became a schoolmaster but Charles felt called to be a priest. He worked in a succession of grubby industrial or manufacturing Yorkshire parishes: Hanging Heaton, where he met and married my grandmother Annie; then mining village Sharlston where my mother was born.

St. Luke’s Sharlston. (geograph.org.uk)

Charles taught my mother Betty at home in his new parish in Roberttown until she was eight, and then when she started school pushed and pushed her to achieve academically.  Younger brother Arthur, who was less bright wasn’t given this hothouse treatment.

Charles acquired a reputation for injecting vigour into failing parishes. It was a full time calling.  No days off for him. Ever.  Yet parish magazines and local papers at the time give a picture of a lively parish life: plays, bazaars, meetings, fundraising schemes, discussion groups, clubs all flourished in St Peters Morley when he was rector there, and he was clearly liked and respected.

Then, in 1931, he fell ill, aged only 56. My mother was in the throes of applying for a place at Oxford University: still quite an unusual goal for a young woman in those days. He lived to know that she had been accepted. When he died my grandmother refused to let my mother take her place up. She was needed at home. My mother raged and stormed and so did her school. Annie stood firm. Or almost. Eventually, she agreed that if Leeds University would have her, Betty could be a day student there. And that is what happened.

My mother never forgave Annie. I didn’t ever meet my grandmother, who lived until I was about 14. In my mother’s eyes she was the sinner, Charles the saint.

Click on any image to view it full size.

Ragtag Tuesday: Flying the flag

Last time, we had to get to York to catch the coach to London.  This time, York had two coaches stuffed with its own.  Harrogate and Ripon had two, up from zero.  And Leeds had upped its game from two to five.

Coach to London?  Yes, to support the March for the People’s Vote.  You’ll know there were about 700,000 of us.  You’ll know the arguments.  So let’s just talk about a fun day.

A day in which I could take few photos, because I was on Team North Yorkshire, and often doing duty carrying one end of our banner. We did sing though.  All the Yorkshire marchers who could be found as we passed the Grosvenor Hotel were rounded up for a photo call.  A passing marching band (there were  musicians….)  struck up with ‘On Ilkley Moor baht’at‘ and all right-thinking Yorkshire folk joined in with lots of enthusiasm but little melody.

We talked.  How we talked.  We made common cause with voters from Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency, from Devon, from Northumberland, from Leicestershire – the banners proved that no part of the nation was unrepresented.

And we carried flags.  EU flags, Union Jacks, Yorkshire flags, Italian flags.  Progress was slow.  We snuck off to coffee shops (staffed by Italians) and pubs (staffed by any and every nation) for a quick breather and still easily regained our places.

 

Have you ever tried to fit 700,000 people into Parliament Square?  No, can’t happen.  In any case, thousands and thousands of us were still marching as the speeches started, as they continued, and after they had finished.  That was disappointing, as last time, I’d been inspired and energised by so many fired up and dynamic contributions.

Instead we got street theatre.  Anarchists on wildly decorated bicycles, a Boris Johnson look-alike, a tricycle.  It was, despite our serious purpose, lots of fun.  And tiring.

 

Look.  This is us on the coach home.  Our flags are still in place.

But I’ll end on this story, which makes me in equal measure sad and angry.

On the bus down, a French woman who has lived in the UK for 32 years told us that she no longer feels welcome in the UK, has suffered abuse, and has been told to ‘go home’.  She’d always previously loved Britain’s diversity and felt us to be accepting and tolerant.

And sadly, after two years of this different treatment, she’s decided she and her British husband have had enough and they’re moving to France. Even though she has considered Yorkshire her home for over 30 years.  This is not the first time I’ve heard tales like this.

It’s no secret that I voted Remain.  But nobody, however they voted, seems happy with how things are going.  If you believe that, having been given the chance to vote on continued EU membership, we should now be given the opportunity to vote on the Final Deal (including an option to remain), please write to your MP.  Here’s how.

Click on any image to see it full size.

Today’s Ragtag Challenge is ‘Flag’.

Ragtag Tuesday: London calling – an energy give & take

This Country Mouse, this bumpkin, loves a trip to London.  I love visiting my family above all, especially William and little Zoë (who’s doing alright.  She’s been moved from Intensive Care to High Dependency and back to Intensive Care: out of, and now back into an incubator. These set backs are not unexpected in such tiny babies, but the staff are confident that she’s basically doing well. Slowly she’s learning to breastfeed).

Zoë during her brief time out of an incubator.

I love the neighbourhood shopping streets. They’re often, and depressingly, a bit grubby and litter-strewn.  But they’re full of life.  Turkish, Lebanese, Italian, Chinese and East Asian, English, Syrian, French, Ethiopian, Eastern European, Caribbean shops, take-aways and restaurants rub along together.  There are barbers and hairdressers, some specialising in working with the tight curls of the local black population.  They may not open early, but they’re busy until late.  Markets sell fruit and veg. by the bowlful, and the fish stalls are an education in unfamiliar marine life.  No pictures – sorry.  When I take William to the park, I may find myself making common cause with grannies from Poland, France or Thailand.

I love the happenstance of walking the backstreets almost anywhere in central London.  When I have to get to King’s Cross Station, I often get off the tube at some station beforehand and complete my journey on foot.  That’s how I found myself in Smithfield Market, England’s largest wholesale meat market, trading in meat sales as it has been for over 800 years.  Then nearby is the church of Saint Bartholomew the Great.  It ought to be twinned with Fountains Abbey. One was founded in 1123, the other in 1132.

I like exploring the destinations the average tourist doesn’t have time to see.  The Wallace Collection, the Museum of London Docklands, the Wren churches of the City of London.

Go to the Museum of London Docklands, to explore London as a sea-trading city from Roman times onwards, and you’re rubbing shoulders with the high-rise financial quarter, seen here from the Thames.

I’m energised by my visits to London.  I love exploring, and discovering London’s secret corners.  It’s an interesting combination.  London gives me renewed energy as willingly as it tires me out.

This week’s Ragtag Challenge is Energy.