I’m sitting drinking the first cup of tea of the day, in a flat in Wembley. I’m starting to realise the enormity of what I have signed up to. It puts a trip to Liverpool Tate, a day at an Oxford museum, driving to London so far into the shade that you’d need a long train journey to get back to the sunshine.
I’m going to march outdoors (anxiety trigger) with a huge number of people ( anxiety trigger ), in the presence of loads of police (terror trigger), with helicopters (fear trigger) flubb-flubbing overhead, in a strange place (anxiety trigger). I’m starting to wonder if this is not a bridge too far, a mountain to high, a river too wide.
Everybody is chatting randomly. I so want to have a day like that, where what is about to happen doesn’t affect ones ability to function. I’m acting away like Gielgud on speed. All seems to be fine with me, I’ve even made a joke about helicopters and police. I’m even trying to kid myself with affected bonhomie.
The present is reasonably pleasant; a flat I have been to before, daughter and her partner who I know, a cup of comforting tea. I’m trying to live in it. The reality is that even when not considering this afternoon, it hangs like a pall over me; it is the cause of the tight diaphragm, the small but persistent hamster trying out a plethora of wheels in my head. I’m having small narratives about consequent actions. All the things that might happen.
I’m going to have some muesli.
I’ll update before I go. That’ll be fun.
Happy weekend, people!
I’m getting kind of jumpy now, unable to settle, wondering what I am doing, finding it difficult to settle. It’s disconcerting to think I haven’t even been outside yet today; even the thought of that is beginning to be more and more scary. I can vaguely see loads of people in the Asda car park opposite, and realise it is relatively empty compared to where I am going soon.
Can we talk about something else for a while ? Wine, music, postage stamps? Something to take my mind off it.
I’m so cloudy even these words are taking a Herculean effort to pass out; it’s constipation of the worst sort. I’m doing breathing exercises. I’m starting at one and doubling figures in my head. I feel like going to sleep. I want to escape. I don’t want the police to kettle me. I don’t want to hear the helicopter.
But I need to stand shoulder to shoulder with my comrades in arms.
We will leave soon.
If you do, please pray.
If you don’t, please send cash.
I’ll write later.
Safely back to my daughters flat in Wembley.
I’m a little shell-shocked, but otherwise ok. I feel like a punchbag loaned to one of the more burly pugilists for training.
Noise, police, helicopters, people, lively chaos, strange city, tube, train, Oyster cards.
But we were there
In amongst a hurumphing, happy crowd that just wanted to show their feelings. More left wing/anarchist factions you could shake a stick at, more causes and protests than you could accommodate in a linear week. And my head buzzed with the vibrancy of it all, nerves jangled at its raucous vitality that threatened to – but never did – burst out in to song; no jostling, but people being overtaken, and I, in my turn, being passed by those impatient to hear the speakers in Hyde Park.
Police lined the route, surreptitiously muttering into their radios, eyeing me with complete disinterest. Above a helicopter flummmppped it way over my head, causing the usual desire to run, and hide, to swear at it to ‘go away’. But I was in company – included within many children and a wire haired terrier that seemed to get into almost every picture I took – and that required control.
At that point it was too overwhelming, and I sought salvation in the company of a morning star seller, who was also selling ‘atos kills’ badges. Money changed hands, the din receded, and I moved on, thanking them for they knew not what.
Queuing for the toilet in Hyde park was not too difficult, unlike actually micturating with all the sounds of festival only a thin sliver of fibreglass away. I concentrated by reciting numbers.
The crowd started to swell, and we moved nearer the stage. I managed to clap and shout at the right places. People were reading my tee shirt and I felt very exposed and vulnerable. Any one of these people could have been following me. The helicopter frimmframmed overhead. I was alert and very very nervous all of a sudden.
Still, we sat by a fence, and ate out luncheon – a nice brown BAP with meat filling, and a muesli bar. I had forgotten to drink, something I continued to forget for the rest of the day.
The tube home was easier that the outward journey, even though I was now sporting the obligatory placard.
I’m ready for sleep, ready for peace, ready for quiet. But I survived. No one knew I was in difficulties, and no-one knew I was winging it as I went along.
It was, for me, a triumph.
I’m going to lie down now.
Well, recede into the background and be quiet.
And return anon.