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.

New life

William’s parents were expecting a baby. We were all looking forward to meeting her sometime in late October. But things suddenly got dramatic, Sarah got whipped into hospital, and the focus changed to keeping Sarah and the baby stable for – please – just a few more weeks. Or failing that, a few more days.

But the baby was born on 7th August, at only 28 weeks old. She weighed 1.19 kg. (that’s 2 lb. 10 oz. in old money). And so far, all is well, with both mother and baby. I went to meet Zoë (for such is the baby’s name) today.

I was a little wary to tell you the truth. What would I feel about this little scrap, wired up and screened from us in her little plastic incubator, surrounded by a phalanx of monitors, recording graphs and banks of numbers?

It was easy. I fell for her, instantly. Those delicate attenuated toes with their tiny nails! Those gently waving arms! Those slowly blinking, unfocussed blue eyes! She’s a proper little person. We can’t wait to get to know her.

And hooray for the NHS. Between Ellie and this little baby, our family has had its money’s worth.

Ragtag Tuesday: Pulse

Pulse.  Pulse.  William and I were drawn towards this tank in the Horniman Museum’s Aquarium. 

Diaphanous sugar-pink wraiths trailing long floating tendrils pulsated gently round their royal blue tank: hypnotic: mesmerising.  They neither paused nor hurried.  They simply oscillated, surged, ebbed, flowed.  These ethereal creatures didn’t merit their prosaic name of Black Star Northern Sea Nettle.  Who dreamed that one up?

When we finally left them to it, we discovered we hadn’t finished with pulsing creatures.  Here was a Blue Spotted Ribbon-Tail Ray.  He gently wove round the tank, his flat body slowly rippling to the rhythm of his inner pulse.

William helpfully points out the Blue-spotted Ribbon Tail Ray.

Then there were the frogs.  Look at these two Amazon Milk Frogs.  They had nothing to do but regard us without interest, as their chests swelled and deflated  – pulse, pulse.

Two Amazon Milk Frogs, so called from the sticky white substance they secrete through their skin when threatened.

‘Pulse’ is Tuesday’s Ragtag Challenge.

Ragtag Tuesday: Reflection

One of the minor pleasures of being in London is seeing its architecture and street life reflected in its many and varied plate glass windows.

The journey from Kings Cross to William-and-parents’-house starts as I take the Docklands Light Railway from Bank to Lewisham.  I pass the busy financial area of Canary Wharf with its skyscrapers and waterside plazas and docklands.  Here are reflections a-plenty: even, as we travel through a tunnel, the passengers in our own carriage reflected in the window of the next.

Travelling on the Docklands Light Railway.

 

On my way home, I might pass through the City of London, as I did the other day when visiting the Mithraeum.  I didn’t call into St. Stephen Walbrook this time.  I confined myself to admiring its exterior as reflected in the new office buildings which surround it.

And city life continues at ground level too.

This week’s Tuesday Ragtag Challenge is Reflection. 

The Temple of Mithras

In the city of London, wedged between Cannon Street and Bank stations, is hidden the London Mithraeum, or Temple of Mithras.

The modern and ancient cities of London meet at the London Mithraeum.

These days, the site is more easily identified as belonging to the financial company Bloomberg, but enter their building to be directed downstairs, and there you’ll find the temple, dating from the last days of the Romans in Britain – maybe from about AD 410.

It was first discovered in the 1950s, during post-war reconstruction of the heavily blitzed City of London.  The remains of the temple were dismantled and reconstructed elsewhere in the 1960s, but its inaccuracies were widely criticised, so when Bloomberg acquired the site they worked with conservation specialist to dismantle and then reassemble and partially reconstruct the temple closer to its original position, and with a fuller understanding of the materials used and its original structure.

The deity Mithras is a mystery. He was worshipped by men only.  There are images of him killing a bull in temples dedicated to him found throughout the territory of the Roman Empire.  Perhaps this is part of a creation or fertility myth: nobody knows for sure.

Head of Mithras.

Here in London, we can visit the foundations of the temple, and witness an evocation of the kind of ceremonies that might have taken place there: chanting, hazy light, an aura of religious fervour. We can imagine the congregation seated in the two side aisles, looking into the central nave of a windowless building, lit by lamps and torches, and gazing at the statue of Mithras housed in the apse – now only the head remains.

The remains of the Temple of Mithras.

On the ground floor above the temple remains is evidence of the prosperous London community where the temple was situated.  Here is a display of combs; keys; drinking vessels; leather shoes and boots; bracelets; glass phials; pewter vessels.  They tell a story of a busy commercial quarter, crammed with small workshops and dwellings built on ground reclaimed from the marshy land surrounding the river Walbrook.

A display wall of Roman London life.

This slice of Roman London life is so well interpreted.  There is plenty of time to explore the temple site, and to examine at your leisure (with the help of freely provided inter-active tablets) the hundreds of artefacts recovered nearby.  And as you enter the space, you’ll find ‘London in its Original Splendour’, an installation by Paolo Bronstein  which envelops the gallery in a complex and decorative ‘wallpaper’,  rich in Renaissance and Classical architectural detail – a homage to the likes of Christopher Wren and John Soane who were themselves indebted to the architectural legacy of the classical past.

Exploring this site takes about an hour, but the impression it leaves of life in Roman London will last far longer.  And it’s free.

This Brexit Business: marching for the People’s Vote

The march, as seen in a plate glass window.

On Saturday morning, we got up at 4.30 a.m. and didn’t get to bed again till 12.30 on Sunday morning.  In between, we drove to York; forked out £60 for tickets and travelled in a coach to London where we spent the day marching, before reversing the procedure in the early evening.  At our ages – we’re both long past retirement age – you don’t do things like that unless it’s for something really important.

It is. For us, and on behalf of our children and grandchildren, this Brexit Business matters more than almost anything else.

We are members of North Yorkshire for Europe, and joined for the day with York for Europe.  We came to London to march and campaign for a People’s Vote on the Brexit deal.

York and North Yorkshire organise themselves.

Don’t talk to us about the Referendum being the last word on The Will of the People (a barely more than 50% of those who voted changing the course of a nation’s history?).  Don’t tell us what The People voted for – nobody exactly knows.  Don’t tell us that when companies like Airbus and Siemens warn they may have to leave the UK in the event of a no-deal, that they are simply part of an irresponsible Project Fear.  Yes, we are fearful of Brexit: for us, for our families, for those in insecure employment, for those European citizens now resident here who had considered the UK their home.

On arrival in central London, we joined 100, 000 others on a slow two hour march down Pall Mall to Trafalgar Square and Whitehall and into Parliament Square, which completely failed to accommodate us all.

Despite our serious purpose, we had fun.  Look at the banners, the flags, the posters, the facepaint and wigs; the young, the old: marching, hobbling, manoeuvring wheelchairs and buggies – you’ll even spot one fellow being carried by Donald Trump (as if …).  We enjoyed Mexican cheers (the vocal version of a Mexican wave), bouts of chanting (‘What do we want?’ ‘A People’s Vote!’ ‘When do we want it?’ ‘Now!’).  We chatted with marchers from Wales, Devon, Germany, Reading, France, Lambeth, Scotland…..

Then speeches. Rousing, energising speeches from the likes of Caroline Lucas MP, Tony Robinson, Vince Cable MP, David Lammy MP.  Passionate speeches from a hospital consultant, from the young people of OFOC (Our Future, Our Choice).  Video contributions from a WWII veteran and from Chuka Umunna MP.  We cheered them all, and at the end, especially the courageous Tory MP Anna Soubry.

What we want is a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal, because apart from a principled few, most MPs are obeying the Whips and toeing the party line, regardless of either their own beliefs, or those of their constituents. If you voted for Brexit, and the government comes up with a good deal for the British people, you have nothing to fear from a People’s Vote.  The government will win the day, and we Remoaners will have to shut up.

If you think that, having learned the terms of the Final Deal, the people should have the Final Say, please sign the petition for The People’s Vote.  It’s here.

PS.  The Daily Express front page on the day of the march…..  there are no words…. don’t they read the news?

  Click on any image to see full size.