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Hussey and The Climate Road Show - Blog 2 'Between The Strap On and The Baton'

All Photos: Adam Sutcliffe at Amelia Magazine. Words by Patrick Hussey.

Continued from Blog 1: 'The Green Pilgrimage'.

If there is a word for the last few days it is…well I don’t know what the fuck it is. How the fuck do you describe the torrent of experiences, the battalion of faces, the million issues that is the Climate Rush Road Show?

Just as dusk was settling on Thursday night I wheeled my crazily over loaded bike into the car park of the King William Pub, the local of a certain village called Sipson. Sipson for those that don’t know (and there is no green guilt for ignorance on this blog readers, believe me before I started this tour I was the eco Jade) is the small village that will be entirely razed if the third runway for Heathrow is built.

I tied my bike to a beer-smeared table and opened the door. There were fruit machines, England shirts and sawn off haircuts. Normally if I stepped into that kind of pub I would step right back out again. But this was different, this was the meeting place . The bemused locals took in my spotless North Face anorak and pop up tent hanging from my hand. A river of tumbleweed passed.

Eventually the spell was broken and I walked into the back room and out again until finally I went outside. It was five minutes darker and my adventure was not going well. Clink. What was that? Clink, the noise came again. I followed the sound of metal on metal into the screety pub car park. It looked like the kind of place for beatings and doggings but I kept on going to the creosoted fence at the back. Stood on the pile of gravel and weeds and peered over. Clink.

There in the field, a surprisingly small field with letters cut into the middle, was the start of the adventure. There were frowning people hammering nails into the grass and three chunky, piebald ponies sauntering around. They spotted me, no one else did.

When I found my way into the field, I was put to work immediately. A wiry, deep eyed man with the kind of tea coloured skin you get from years in the wind turned round and said ‘Grab that tarp, we’re putting the tent up.’ And that was it. The wiry man turned out to be Bradford Steer, the hostler and outdoorsman whose expertise and horses Climate Rush have loaned for the month. He’ll be getting the group (a rag tag collection of protesters and tag alongs) up hills and over motorways all the way to Devon. I looked around the field and noticed the two old fashioned carts and a dog tied to them. ‘Dash’ called out Brad, and the dog lay down.

Soon the tents were up, two primitive structures made of curled over sticks and roofed with thick, mustard coloured tarpaulin. I got my head down putting up my own tent but and people began dribbling into the field. Some were walking around the letters carved into the field. ‘Our land, our climate’ it said. Suddenly it dawned on me, this was the Greenpeace Air plot, the piece of land Greenpeace and other activists had bought then divided into tiny parts with thousands of owners, the idea being to slow down any compulsory purchase order. Like everything you see on telly it really is a lot smaller than you think, two acres or so standing in the way of mighty ‘progress’. More people turned up, a fire pit was dug between the mustard tents and a crop of smaller tents grew up around them.

Now came some vague hellos. Deborah Grayson was there, Tamsin (see Blog 1 for intros to these two) was rushing around hammering an iron stake into the ground. There were a few others, notably a tall boy called Fred who kept stilting round on his long limbs and doing things with wood. Somehow or other after a few hours work the camp was ready, fire was crackling. After an Indian take-away miraculously appeared we ate and then went for a quick drink in the pub. Half drunk and already reeling from all I was learning I crawled into my bed, jammed a toilet roll between my ear and the squidgy floor and went to sleep.

The next morning I crawled out of my tent to be greeted by a new fixture in my life. Porridge a la stick. Yes that’s right oats cooked suspended from a blackened tripod and stirred with a stick. Brad looked up from me and said ‘Hey boy’. ’Hey’, I said back and blinked.

It was very quiet. There was dew on the fields and a steel grey sky. The houses that border the air plot had dark windows. The night before we had met some of the residents in the pub, people fighting for their towns very existence. Here’s a sample phrase ‘I’ll not just be losing my home I’ll be digging up my Nan!’ Yes that’s right as well as being turfed out of their homes, Sipson will have to endure the local cemetery being disturbed.

More people began emerging from the tents, rubbing their eyes and staring about. I was still thinking about bodies being prized out of the ground when Trace, one of the residents I had met in the pub last night walked on the field. ‘Alright love, how you doing?’ she said ‘Remember love if your humming and want a shower just come over to ours down the road. You can have a burger too.’ Trace had been comforting me for having to spend the next month with a bunch of bossy ‘vegatable-farians’ She is the face of the local resistance to the runway...a cor blimeying, sparklingly bright mother of two. She is actually from near where I live in London, a rough estate. I asked her why she liked Sipson so much.

‘My parents were cleaners, their parents were cleaners and we lived came in tower blocks where only one person every floor had a job. Look around you, this is a good place and my kids are not going to be cleaners.’

That was through the smoke of the pub, now in the morning she was wearing a big campaign t-shirt, white with big red letters.

‘No third runway.’

She is the first of many in the field that day, long after the porridge a la stick is has been scooped out to bleary eyed campers people come and keep coming. Banners go up. Journalists arrive in greasy packs, camera men and photographers loaf in corners of the field as Brad rounds up the horses. At about ten more women arrive, more Rushers to join the events. They natter as they duck into tent. Five minutes later they emerge as if from a time warp in their white Edwardian costumes. There faces are solemn. It is time to parade round the perimeter of nearby Heathrow. This is it my first protest.

As I think about whether I believe enough to do it, as I looked at the excited the young tying on hats with furls of lace, a pair of cycling police women turn up with weird smiles plastered on. We’d had a few fly bys from police choppers but this is the first time I have seen them up close. They are stout in their body armour and caution is latent in their masky expressions. They have a few words with various people, smile their funny smiles again before turning round and wheeling their mountain bikes away.

It really is nothing but still it leaves an odd taste somehow. I thought why are they here? Is looking at a few people in a field really necessary.

The Climate Rushers were now up on the carts with silky banners held aloft, hats held on in the fresh breeze and a chant had starting up. ’We don’t want your runway, we don’t want your run way a la la la.’ All the accents mix in, the Cambridge RP and Sipson estuary. Brad called ‘Hoo!’ and the carts jumped into life. Harnesses jingling the horses trotted on and the parade formed up behind them.

After that? We made the forty minute walk the edge of Heathrow and along the perimeter fence. I declined costume but I noticed the tall boy Fred had donned a sash and was striding about handing out leaflets. The TV crews joined up and jogged out in front, presenters standing in front to do their bits. Snappers snapped, people chanted.

From nowhere a huge silver landrover appeared and rolled down its windows. ‘We’ll stop the traffic’says a grinning copper. And they hold up the traffic. I can hear the cameras whirring and watch pissed off faces grimace staring from a Mercedes windows.

It is strange being part of a media circus, there are not that many people there. Fifty perhaps but the Rushers know what they are doing. The props, the dresses, the horses make a tasty story. Later that afternoon we duly appear on the news. A friend leaves an excited message on my phone ‘you were on the telly! I saw you! You were on the Telly!’

The horses cloped on and we rolled back into the field. The Rushers put their banners down, hopped off the carts and rushed into the mustard tents. There was tea to be made and costumes to fold away. I looked behind me and saw the police lurking in a chequered van just outside the field. A thought occurred to me. Between the strap on and the baton, my life for the next month had started.

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