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Hussey and The Climate Road Show - Blog 3 'Olive vs. Fred'

This is a blog on the fly. Why readers? Because we hit the road with a vengeance the day after the parade round Heathrow. A reel of places and faces has rushed by all accompanied by the jingle of the horse’s tack and the clatter of our carts. For the last three days we’ve been walking hard, high viz jackets on and lorries whizzing by. The pilgrimage has begun. Truth is though I haven’t been thinking about saving the world, or even about the police van that shadows us, lurking in lay bys and behind bushes. I’ve been thinking about our last day in Sipson.

That final day was taken up by the ‘Festival of Community Resistance’, a gathering of ‘resistors’ from around the country, in other words people from other communities afflicted by big business. There was a rep from Rossport in Ireland where Shell are trying to drive a pipeline through people’s back gardens, two guys from the Vestas wind turbine factory and some lovely people from an unspellable Welsh town. An open cast mine is poisoning their kids. They bought scones.

All day the air plot had the feel of a fete. There were flags and stalls and people nattering. The idea was for everyone to get up and tell their story. Having met the amazing Trace of Sipson the day before I was keen to meet other people like her, people standing up for themselves and refusing the bulldozer. However this wasn’t proving to be easy, a pattern had begun to emerge. My idea of coming on the tour as a lofty writer, hanging in the background and tapping out blogs had already died a death. If I went anywhere near a Rusher I was generally given a task.

‘Fix that banner! It’s drooping!’ a women in Edwardian costume would shout. ‘Can you get some wood? It would be really great if you filled the water butt.’

I had already started to develop a technique of circling the perimeter of camp, only dashing in when no one was looking. Unfortunately early that morning I had mistimed. Tamsin spotted me and said ‘Ah! You up for getting the music stuff?’ Collared. There was nothing to do about it. Up and coming folky trio Peggy Sue were playing for us later that night and needed an amp. Fred and I were dispatched to find one.

Now before I tell you what happened in our bizarre trek to Hayes let’s just fill out the cast a little. The campsite was full of comers and goers but a team had started to emerge, the people coming on the tour with us. As well as Tamsin and Deborah, Brad and Dash (the dog) the extras were starting to line up.

First of all the horses, the ones who peered at me two nights before as I looked over the pub fence, have names. Kim, Minusha and Blossom, three Irish Cobs with chests like living iron. The humans coming with us were harder to pin down but after a while I found three definites for the whole trip. Fred the tall boy, Milly the Climate Rush press intern and Joie. Fred talks about mournful country singers and has a sweet, professorial air. Milly studies sociology and smiles a lot and Joie? Joy is the type who dangles wheat from her teeth. More of them later, just now Fred and I had a task in hand.

Earlier someone somehow had met a woman willing to lend us amps for the gig. Thing was she lived in the next town over, Hayes. We dashed out of camp, caught the train and chatted about socialism and Star Trek. We had no idea of the world of weird waiting for us in Hayes.

Hayes, readers, is an odd place. It’s a clump of Sixties buildings, a high street and a station. The tower blocks lollop around the rail track and attached to this withered centre is miles and miles of housing estate. In one of the dreamy, brick cul-de-sacs our amps were waiting…and so was Olive.

I came on this trip to meet new people but I never bargained on Olive. A short, Irish woman with filmy eyes and a motor mouth she never stopped talking. As we entered her flat she told us she had three businesses. Aromatherapy, counseling and nursing. She was constantly looking up at the tall, easy mannered Fred and saying bizarre things like ‘I know Aikido, I could work a few pressure points and you’d know about it.’ She would then look at me as if to say ‘He’s a funny one this tall fella.’

After the threats came the reassurance. ‘Ah it was a joke, Jesus where’s the sense of humour? He missed out on that queue eh?’ All the way through Fred smiled and answered her list of accusations. He was too tall, no humour, a funny looking kid, no idea about anything. Olive machine-gunned him with derision. He would sass her back and a weird tennis match of tease and counter tease rolled on.

I looked around at the flat, at the life I had temporarily been let into. There was an open sofa bed, made up and awaiting a guest, a glass bookshelf and a ticking clock. The telly dozed in the corner and the fake wood floor was dappled with dusty shafts of light. Olive caught me looking at a photo of her on the bookshelf. ‘That’s when I used to be a famous model.’ she said. I had come to find out about the environment but here I was in the eye of a strange and ordinary life.

In the corner I spotted an aromatherapy table, covered over in towelly material and piled with coloured ring binders. That was when I tuned back into the tennis match, just as Olive was about to play a winner. I don’t know what Fred said to get this but here is what I heard. Olive reached out as if to touch his chest then stopped letting her hand hover. ‘I could give you something you know, to ease you over. Your spirit’s dead. I can tell, it needs to be released. I could help.’

Fred, a twenty four year old who lives in Chelsea took a moment to realise he had just been offered euthanasia. He probably wasn’t expecting it. He looked downed at Suzie in her Gaelic games sports top, black leggings and trainers. I looked at Suzie’s filmy eyes and wondered if she had done it before. I looked at the table.

After that we picked up the amps. Mercy murderer or not Olive was very generous, offering us anything we liked. She had managed bands she told us, they were all famous now and this equipment was just cluttering her flat. We chose two small amps and shuffled out to the bus stop.

Olive came with us and waited. One last time she looked at Fred then finally spoke to me. ‘I prefer you,’ she said ‘I like a chilled out man. This one?’ She hooked a thumb over her shoulder ‘Not a clue.’ But she turned round then and smiled sweetly at Fred just as the bus was letting him through its rubbery doors.

Later that night we gathered round the campfire and Peggy Sue sang to us. They sung from the back of one of our carts, the campfire between them and the audience of protesters and curious locals. The heavy, September dusk gathered.

Peggy Sue is a good band, with an edge of melodrama in their harmonies. I had missed all the talks from the ‘resistors’ and had learnt nothing about the environment that day. Truth was I didn’t really mind. As I looked at the little amp wedged beneath the cart and the guitarist’s foot I couldn’t stop thinking about the little Irish woman we had met. Olive the model. Olive the band manger. Olive the killer.

The song finished and I looked around for Fred but the fire was dieing and I could make only half faces. Probably though he was thinking about her too.

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