as we passed Wembley that once famous stadium with the twin towers (how well I remember
1987 and all that went with it on cup final day) sadly now although a new stadium
I have yet to appreciate the architectural design.
Into the concourse at Euston before melting down into the underground to head towards
Westminster where emerging into the sunlight a quick check on our bearings before
heading into Parliament Square to join the others. Suits were quickly donned plenty
of banter between groups more and more white suits appearing by the minute now we
were beginning to see some strength in numbers, mobile camera teams were conducting
interviews and sourcing opinions ready for the news desks later that day.
After a brief speech by Ian Gibson MP for Norwich and our BBKA President off we moved
chaperoned by Blunkett’s bobbies across the road, the traffic gets quite excited
when you keep going and the lights are in their favour so a quick pump on the bellows
leaves them fuming in a cloud of smoke well primed for the occasion. Past the Houses
of Parliament and the statue of Richard Coeur de Lion and up Whitehall, A taxi halts
quickly, down comes his nearside window a camera flashes and off he goes again; opportunist
he may be but he may never see a sight like this again. Japanese tourists looked
agog but then this is London 2008 cameras whirring, this is a rarity (we probably
featured on the Fuji “One show”) past the cenotaph which a few days later would be
a picture of wreaths to mark the fallen in two world wars. We then drew level with
Downing Street where a small group was allowed to present the petition. My only previous
experience of this famous Street was in 1953 when my mother and father took me to
London to see the sights shortly after Queen Elizabeth 2 Coronation, that day a limousine
drew up open came the door of No10 and out stepped the great man himself Winston
Churchill cigar alight together with V sign, as the car drove by a tide of emotion
swept over the crowd and several had to be pulled back; my mother included.
Cheers echoed along Whitehall as our leaders told us the the petition had been presented,
now we returned back towards the Houses of Parliament another burst of smoke at the
traffic junction just to let drivers know they were privileged to see us, smokers
now going full tilt as we needed to use the fuel up before we entered the House of
Commons. A dunking bucket was available to extinguish the most prolific smoker, still
with bee suits on we queued orderly to gain entrance to the Commons
photographs taken, search conducted “Oh leave your smoker here Sir, pick it up on
your way home” and into the Great Hall and finally the lobby where we outnumbered
MP’s by a substantial margin. Our MP’s were reminded that no bees meant, no humans
and certainly No Parliament, they were courteous and listened to our case.
Time then for a cup of tea and a cake in the Commons café before collecting my smoker
from security and then disappearing into the evening night, one last look at Big
Ben the Great British institution that we all set our watches by before heading onto
the underground. Time to reflect on the events of the day and had we achieved what
we set out to do.
As a settled back into my seat on the train home I thought where else in the world
would you be allowed to have a rally, police escort, use your smokers in public,
stop road traffic, gain access to the House of Commons and lobby your MP. Us British
have a lot to be proud of.
November 5th and All That.
The 5th November has through history been remembered as the day Guy Fawkes was discovered
hiding in the cellars with barrels of gunpowder waiting to blow up the House of
Lords during the state opening. 400 years have rolled by since then and when the
BBKA gave a call to arms to march on Parliament and lobby our MP’s my immediate thought
was they could not have picked a better date.
I am no stranger to London having commuted daily for seven years until 1993 and
although I had been a trade unionist, strangely, never had the opportunity to join
a protest march so this was going to be a first. It was with a mixture of excitement,
nervous apprehension and a sense of occasion that a small group of us boarded the
train heading to London. En route are several places of interest that can be viewed
from the carriage window. The former carriage & wagon works at Wolverton where the
Royal train was stabled. The bridge at Cheddington where the great train robbery
occurred in 1963 and just north of Watford where the last highwayman was caught and
hanged (the tree still remains) and looking to my left