Chapter twenty seven
-‘running and laughing together down the concrete highway’-
Barry stood up, calm as usual, and surveyed the scene, at nine a.m., in the big, low, badly lit basement. There were about two hundred of us there, all sweating buckets, mostly men, and stripped off to the waist.
The place was buzzing with loud excited talk. All the tattooed Clanners milling down the back, in kilts and thongs and caps and hanging pockets.
Young fresh faces and faces lined and balding. some contending with wobbly bellies. Others old already, with alcohol and frustration, plus a bit of hard labour as well.
Muscles bulging and males bonding.
Fists banging on flimsy formica tables.
Barry was brilliant at facilitating these precarious Assemblies. The trick was to flee forwards, with concrete proposals. So common needs and interest could come before the grudges, jealousies and feuds, just bubbling into eruption. ref 3 anarchism, ref 19 fictional revolutions
That must not happen now. This was the most vitally urgent Coordination yet.
Barry raised his hands and clapped them in front of the mike.
-‘Are you right then lads and ladies, we’d better get moving.’- he shouted. -‘Can we close up the doors now and can you all pull your chairs forward. You yunkers there’s no use sitting back there no one will hear you.’-
There was loud scraping of chairs as Barry continued.
-‘Okay my name’s Barry I’m the ‘dynamator’ and as you know we’ve called these meetings to make some basic links and coordination in a time of rapid change.. These are the Pools delegates.’-
He glanced down, pointing at Maggie, Paul and Franky.
-‘Then here are the Free Dockers and Logistics Union and they have an important proposal for us tonight, um…
…Are those doors closed up?… Then we have power, cement, customs agents,, teachers, warehousers ,er. All you lot from the occupied Works and railways, Free Transport Pool, CLAN Coordination, The Cleaners, Council Workers, Free-Uni, Works extension.. Observers from Womens Rescue, and Gay Rescue of course, Autonomous De-Schoolers and lots of individual Pools and yunkers Projects. Sorry I don’t have all the names.
Here beside me is our friend James Smith from -‘All The Answers’- and he has a fascinating report for us. These fellas in yellow arm bands are the security, just mind your manners okay, and they won’t beat you to a bloody pulp!’-
The big basement had gradually gone silent, but for furious whispers. Barry yelled less loudly, but went on quickly, waving his arms.
-‘This is a closed door meeting we’ll have to decide our media message if any. Okay? That’s my job done, and the first speaker today, Ladies and Honourable Gentlefellas.. Yes you guessed it… Is Mr Micky O’Bryane from the Free Dockers Union.’-
Barry sat down relieved on his fold-up chair as a little chubby man got up. A small man but a big speaker. Micky knew how the crappy PA worked, and sent his voice booming round the long cellar.
Making clear brief points, the miserable declining wages, the layoffs, the redundancies, the final miserable sell-out of the traditional Unions.
The bitter Container Port disputes were reaching a climax, uniting the staff of factories, yards, customs offices, warehouses, logistics companies and the Dockland Pool, uniting under the banners of the new horizontal Free Union.
Micky was up on a chair. Fists shaking, he came to the crunch of his speech.
Tomorrow would be the dock-wide Assembly. They would vote to strike. Close down the semi paralyzed port. Occupy it as a Free Area.
And they asked for, nay, they demanded, the support and integration into the CoOp Pools, the financial backing of the CoOp Credit Union and armed support from the CLANs Assembly. They would treble the Pools controlled area, extending from the adjacent Transport Works, now also Merca Pool all the way to the sea.
Barry, Maggie, Paul and Franky were consulting in furious whispers. Micky had just publicly used the word ‘armed’ for the first time.
His words were a shock, a deliberate plot, a bid for power.
His tactic would split the Federation right down the middle.
-‘You gotta stop him right now.’- said Maggie -‘He just put Civil War on the agenda.’-
-‘But I’m the dynamator, I can’t just .. ‘-
-‘Just bloody do it Barry or I’ll throw a wobbly myself I swear.. !
Barry was back on his feet as Micky sat down, amid a storm of clapping and stamping feet.
-‘Okay fine can we just have a bit of silence before the next speaker, just to clarify, does this request for er, physical force have the backing of the Free Dockland Union?’-
Barry’s job was to dance in the middle but he just couldn’t stay neutral any more. Now Micky was back on his feet, swallowing the bait by answering.
-‘Yes certainly we believe it has overwhelming support. It’ll be proposed at our Assembly tomorrow.’-
-‘So only if your, er, unusual personal suggestion were tabled and accepted in a future assembly would it be a real democratic request.’-
-‘Out of order. Out of order.‘- someone was shouting.
-‘Well, er.’- Micky’s colleagues were almost exploding. -‘Yeah of course, we’re just telling you all what to expect.’-
-‘Thank you. You can sit down now. Of course the Pools delegates will pass on requests from your Assembly. But hardly the dangerous individual suggestion of one man..’-
There was confused muttering. How could the facilitator be putting down their wonderful leader?
-‘Our next speaker is James Smith, who will briefly outline a new technical report, you should all have copies, the green one.’-
-‘Well done Barry.’- said Maggie. As James’s amplified voice filled the basement.
A dark suited figure, impassive and out of place, James quickly outlined the disastrous state of the Dockland area. Pointing to detailed breakdowns and property lists, legal and financial structures…
-‘Taking over the port is like pulling a trigger, if the State lets you control imports, exports and immigration, they will get totally abandoned by their international backers, who will have to cut their losses. Then the alternative system would soon spread throughout the country.
But that would be seen as a shocking example to a whole lot of other small bankrupt countries and so-called ‘Failed States. We’d be seen as threatening the hegemony of the trans-nationals.’..
That’s it folks, you have all kinds of details in the report, and we’re happy to help in any way we can, what you decide to do here this morning will affect the very survival of one of the most advanced social experiments in all of human history..
Our advice would be to avoid a confrontation if at all possible. And steer well clear of the remains of the international monetary system.’-
James sat down quickly, relieved. The place burst into applause and excited conversation.
Barry had to work fast to maintain calm, intervening for quiet and introducing speakers, as the takeover of the whole port area became an urgent reality before their eyes.
Maggie got up for the Pools Federation, the first woman to speak, as she immediately pointed out. They too would call an emergency assembly They could promise material support and pass on the request for armed help only if endorsed by the Dockers. But it could not be agreed without a general vote which would take days. Micky O Bryane must have known that.
However they would propose a compromise plan, to barricade the Dock area, and offer the CLANs Defence if the State attacked first.
-‘So that’s about all from us. Please read that ‘All The Answers’ report and only agree things you’re sure won’t cause a Civil War or invasion of this country.
I’m personally shocked by you guys getting all testerical. Your own family might get massacred you know! You have no right. Your whole attitude is an enormous Shit-On by exclusion!..
If this meeting were half women, as it should be, there’d be no question of chancing all our futures on the ideas of one fella, fantastic little Napoleon though he is to be sure.’-
No sooner had she finished than Micky himself had slipped across to where our lot were sat. Suddenly popped up, wearing an empty shoulder holster on his bare chest, and grinning, despite Maggie slagging him.
-‘Hello there boys and girls.’- says he. -‘I’m sorry to be making your life difficult.’-
-‘Stay here a second.’- said Maggie, hotly. -‘Why did you have to ask for guns?’-
-‘Because it might just come to that. Better shock and stir up everyone beforehand.’-
-‘So you want our kids to fight the cops for you.’-
-‘Tell me one thing.’- Barry broke in. -‘When exactly will you start the takeover of Docklands.’-
At this moment Franky got back to the table.
-‘The CLANs are calling a red alert right now.’- he said. -‘And I’ve got the list.’-
-‘Good news’- said Micky in a loud whisper. -‘Because we go ahead tomorrow straight after our Assembly. We’re just hoping the cops don’t move on us tonight.’-
-‘Yeah well..’- said Maggie -‘We need to have our own Assembly and this is gonna be totally divisive and destructive. You really shat on us Micky, plus ours is an assembly of power-less delegates anyway. So we fuck each other up. Your timing is way off man… ‘-
-‘I know I know, I’m sorry. Our proposal is this.. You call a countrywide Assembly for tomorrow with on line voting for those who can’t come.’-
-‘What are you saying now.’- said Franky.
‘We suggest you have it in the Docks. In our huge warehouse. That way people can show mass support . Live and direct, zero bureaucracy.. We need masses of people, and you need to shortcut a debate that’s sterile. Because we’re going ahead anyway. Don’t you see?’-
-‘I see some blatant manipulation that will put a lot of people in danger without their consent.’- said Maggie, red in the face.
-‘No no. We’ve organized a safe exit route for people who want to leave, and kids and all. I know this all looks casual but they’ve been planning for months. Our technicians could set up online voting from there, with your help .’-
-‘Well we’ll consult about that immediately. I like the idea myself.’- said Franky. – ‘I mean, inside a shit situation. Er, Paul has a new bulletin from Supplies Coordination. Things in urgent short supply in various depots. When will they computerize this?’-
-‘Consider that done!’- he said.
-‘Yeah well, there’s going to be one hell of a row if this takeover comes off.’-
Micky smiled, bowed slightly over his little beerbelly, and was off.
-‘Shit shit shit shit.’- said Maggie -‘We’re being railroaded all the way. You’d better do something with this meeting Barry.’-
The low hall was milling with excited people. A camera team were setting up lights around the dockers.
-‘Get up and do your thing Barry, it’s a bleeding madhouse in here.’- said Franky.
-‘No stop stop.’- said Maggie. -‘We need to decide if we’ll call our Assembly in the Docks as they want.’-
-‘We can’t decide that, for everyone.’-
-‘So why not do one of those Snap Surveys! Maxie knows how to do it.’- she suggested.
-‘Is there time?’- Franky asked.
-‘Why not. People do it every day. Three sentences outlining the problem. Suggest General Assembly in docks with on-line voting. Yes or no. We leave it on the message boards for a few hours just. They’re really accurate they say… ‘-
-‘Great idea, um, Paul could you try and organize it..’-
-‘Yes sure we can do it! No problem I’ll get help now.’- And he vanished off into the crowd.
-‘Hey Maxie, it’s back this way.’- shouted Maggie.
Me and Bernie tried to turn around, all irritated, itchy and sweating, trying to push Moonbeam in her pushchair, through the excited angry mob.
We were looking for the Kid-Space in this great history-making Assembly in the Docks, but it was packed out, like a bar at closing time..
There was a big group of women blocking the way in, and chanting ‘Civil War..Out the door!’-
Moonbeam joined in. Standing precariously in her buggy, yelling and clapping gleefully.
Maggie was part of the coordination, hundreds of women and Pools were mobilizing to stop the Civil War sparking off. They’d taken over the empty Customs office in Perkin Street.
We found the Kid-Space, it wasn’t as bad as we had expected, for a mostly male Free Union, and Moonie was happy to stay, for snacks and games.
Outside this old union codger Christo Rylee was up speaking, all sweet and reasonable. While the long warehouse got hot and was getting hotter.
With storms of shouts and clapping and stamping feet.
Till finally Micky got up. Their big power grabbing leader, though he was only little. With a gang of ugly looking dockers dwarfing him. We could only see his raised arms.
But he got everyone all sitting and quiet. They had to shut up to hear his quiet voice, and the first white cards were being collected and things got moving. Explanations and requests and messages.
They were dividing up the people into big groups of about a hundred, under various coloured flags.
To us it was blatant manipulation and it stank.
Later we in the Pools would have our meeting but the takeover would have already happened, and we’d be dragged into a total confrontation with the State, which we weren’t ready for.
Okay I did feel bitter, they would destroy what we’d built up. But still you had to admire them. They were just a gang of normal fellas. Embarrassed, hands in pockets, a bit disheveled. Squinting into the lights up on the stage..
But they were talking about revolution.
They were throwing down a brilliant and daring challenge to the whole world!
Voting for an all out strike, of course, but it was the second unexpected card that was the key, the strike was just a cover.
They voted to take over the entire industrial dockland area and integrate with the Free Pool CoOps!
When this was announced they all went testerical and hopped with glee. Me and Bernie, though not Maggie, were leaping up and down with the rest of them. They nearly lifted off the old asbestos roof!
Only now did we really realize it was happening then and there! I suppose it had to be a surprise. It was instant takeover. Just add supporters. Their defence groups had left already, bulldozing their way out the doors, to close the roads.
They were calling forward the big groups, assigning the coordinators with flags and sending them off on various tasks. Mainly to back up the pickets, but also to occupy offices, tour the factories,
secure the machinery and the wharves. Stop ships leaving, take over the Customs headquarters with their Union. Later, the police station itself.
That’s some of it. They had it well thought out I must admit.
We went with the third big crowd, a lot of people from our Pool. Out the side door we had come in. We got purple pass cards in the yard, dunno why, and were offered heavy sticks.
Then we followed the megaphone. Just jogging, but down the middle of the road. It was lined with offices and industrial units. Towards the North entrance, about a kilometer away.
Groups of people were cheering and clapping us. Flags flapping in the boiling sun.. I think we all felt that physical surge of liberation, running in the salty wind. An image of freedom to remember!
The first part was really slow, me and Bernie slipped off our shoes and jogged along. Barefoot, in our Clan Earth denims, tassels and waistcoats. Maggie suffering in her long jeans.
We could see a lorry pulled across, blocking the Dockland Gates, and a traffic jam building up ahead.
Then this vanload of police appeared, led by a Special Police car. Careering out of a side turning. Off towards the road block. We yelled after them, waving our sticks.
Maggie had a stitch. She and Bernie dropped back. But I was enjoying myself. Running up the front.
The police were at the road block. Skipping the queue and hooting madly. Sirens shrieking.
We were almost up to them. There would be a fight. Only then did I realize the danger! The Special Police spilled out of their car. Guns in the air. The peelers were abandoning their van.
But just then the lorry moved forward a little to let them slip past. We were nearly on them. Two fat coppers running like the clappers. A stick whistling past their ears…
We all stopped there, panting, hands on knees, and watching the others all catching up. Laughing and gasping and clapping each other’s backs.
There was Maggie, shirt open and face bright pink.
All freckles and her shock of red hair flying.
Oh Maggie my darling why did it have to be you!
They were calling for us to link arms across the road.
The traffic would have to turn back. But no one was complaining.
Hadn’t they just seen the Law running for their lives!
The rest were lining up. But I just sat. Sweating on the hot tarmac and drifting off.
Suddenly drifting right off. Into a dizzy faint.
I heard my name faraway and tried to slip out the hole. But it was too narrow, and too white and bright to see anything. I was alone, shaking and swallowing back vomit, wrapped up and dazzled and trapped.
That prickly heat. Crawling like a poisonous centipede inside my neck. And I was slipping right out with it. Just popping slowly right up out of myself. Observing like a camera, without the least concern, what I could see below.
-‘Now let me see that’s Macker, falling I’m afraid.
Shot down from behind in the trees. Quite faded into the future.
Me, falling fast, backwards from a very high place.
Curious motions. And so much blood.
Killian Bate, laughing silently and wagging a red dripping finger
That was Barney clearly, taking a dive as well.
Face down in it. Splat. How odd.
And Maggie. Oh dear me. Why can’t I see your face..’-
-‘Maxie, wake up now, come on.’- She was dabbing tepid water on me from a small bottle.
I opened my eyes but it was much too bright. I was dizzy and felt like puking, half lying on a sizzling hot road. But now Maggie’s face was normal. Scarlet red, but normal, and I hugged myself tight to her.
Pushing in between her mama breasts, and sobbing that I’d never let her go.
I’d had a premonition again, but I didn’t really know what I had seen.
We stayed there for about ten more minutes just. Back up at the railway bridge, a huge crane was lifting containers, from a line of lorries. Sealing up the bridge and road. Then we would pick up Moonie. Our gate was already a Pools area anyway. It was the south gate that had the Bands and the cameras and the human blockade and the army due to move in at dawn.
Maggie sprinkled me with more water, in the shade of the barricade. Loose wrapped in her shirt, she rubbed my back. I’d give anything to be in her arms again.
But just then I was much too nervous. And getting worse not better. The meaning of my premonition sank in.
It’s only in my head, I know, but I’ve been right before.
And like before I tried to forget, and just got more upset.
-‘Maggie, I know it’s just auto-suggestion, but when I fainted on the road I saw Barney falling into a lot of blood, and you, I couldn’t see your face, um. I’m sorry to tell you but you both have to go away somewhere safe, right now.’-
-‘Oh come on Maxie. It’s perfectly safe here.’- she said, very stupidly.
-‘We’ll get Moonie and Barney and go home right now okay.’- I insisted.
-‘We’ll go home for tea right enough. But we’ve got to come back and prepare the Assembly, I mean, you didn’t really see us hurt did you?’-
-‘No Maggie I know I’m right, you just got to go. Do it for Moonbeam.’- I tried the old moral blackmail.
-‘Don’t be silly now.’- she snapped. -‘If something’s going to happen to me it can happen here or there or any bleeding where. See I’m a poet.’-
-‘You don’t believe me! How can you..? You think I’m crazy. How can you treat me like shit when I’m trying to save your stupid life!?’-
It really was too much. She wouldn’t listen!
-‘But Maxie, we’ve got to stop them taking up arms. We gotta get a vote accepted and win it. Really. It could save thousands of people’s lives!’-
-‘But lose your own maybe.’-
-‘Come on.. we can’t say -‘resist them passively’- and then run off home ourselves and watch it on TV. Anyway. It was you said it’s just auto-suggestion. I mean, you didn’t see me hurt.’-
-‘Coz you stupidly woke me up when I.. ‘-
-‘Ah fuck off Maxie, you’re giving me a headache.’-
-‘Fuck off you, I’m gonna look for Barney he’ll tell you it’s true.’- I said, not making much sense.
-‘What would he know he doesn’t even… ‘- she began.
But I’d shed her shirt, and was away off up the road, carrying my shoes. In fact I had to meet with Macker and Sol.
Sol had arrived back here from Italy. Now he was making a documentary on the Dockland takeover. With me and Macker helping him.
A Criminal Conspiracy
It was a truly beautiful room, massive sparkling windows overlooking the Castle courtyard.
Round the polished mahogany table sat three Generals, the Police Commissioner, and a bevy of lesser worthies. Shuffling their papers, muttering in quick whispers.
Among the grey heads sat young Peter Kennedy, spotless and dignified, personal aide to the aging General Mulcatty.
Only one thing was out of place in the ornate room, and only Peter knew it.
Captain P. Kennedy was a traitor and a spy.
Lerriman stomped into the meeting, at the head of seven of his Cabinet. It had been a difficult day. More economic meltdown. Then this ludicrous and dangerous business in the Docks.
He stood before the marble fireplace. Skipping preliminaries.
-‘Right Commissioner You’re in the hot seat. How in God’s name did you let this happen?’-
-‘Yes Sir.’- The police chief cleared his throat. -‘At about 11.00 am. this morning in an Assembly in Mackenzie’s warehouse the new General Dockside Trade Union set…’-
-‘Get to the point man for Christ’s sake.’-
-‘They were voting for another strike attempt. Then they gave out a secret red card, calling for a general occupation of the entire industrial area, and voted it through, um. They had big cranes and.. And they sealed up the three entrances with piles of containers. It’s a live media spectacle, you..’-
-‘And they’re still blocked?’- Lerriman interrupted.
-‘Oh yes. And most of the companies are voting to join in. Their staff I mean. Right now they control the dock area, the warehouses, customs, the river, the railways, er, the local council, the customs facilities, I said that, all the offices, two schools and all the old blocks of flats and The Mercy Hospital, the old museum, social security offices, oh a lot of stuff. One gate is open to pass holders and there’s lots of movement and traffic.. ‘-
-‘Aren’t they on strike?’-
-‘They’re committing wholesale robbery sir. Two major convoys have gone out through the Pools areas already. Shipping is beginning to move again. They’ve been doing deals all right.’-
-‘And the Police Stations, couldn’t you even save them?’- asked Bruton. the Special Police chief, sarcastically, smiling as he lit a slim cigar..
-‘Oh no. They never took them, er,. The staff are still working but..er ‘-
-‘But what? Come on.’- said Bruton, butting in.
-‘They voted to um, integrate with the Pools Assemblies, um, not with us…’-
-‘They what? They’ve mutinied!’- Lerriman burst in, waving his hands. -‘I want this stopped right now! This is an enormous conspiracy man. Don’t tell me Commissioner that you didn’t know!’-
-‘We have been warning you for months, about this Free Union. But till today just a few people knew about this er, takeover.’-
-‘And you were one of those few!’- shouted Lerriman in triumph.
Letting an A4 sheet of paper skim out across the mahogany.
-‘Here’s a copy of a letter, warning you of the takeover, sent to you yesterday by the Special Police. Do you deny that man?’-
-‘He has a whole Section devoted to discrediting me.’- The Commissioner pointed at the
grinning Bruton. -‘He sends me paranoid letters every day!’-
-‘Paranoid!?’- Lerriman was grasping his own head in two hands. -‘Negotiations! What is it they want?’- He was glancing about. -‘Flatson! Are you the Minister for Employment? Or is this the fucking Monkey House.’-
-‘Yes Sir. I mean no Sir. I mean.. We do have a meeting fixed for next Thursday with a Coordinating Assembly.’-
-‘Next Thursday! Commissioner, before I fire you. What is your plan to recover the Docks area?’-
-‘With respect Sir. That is not a matter for the civilian police. In fact we can’t do it.. ‘-
-‘Why the hell not. Bruton! What do the Special Police say? Has the Commissioner lost his marbles?’-
-‘Not entirely Sir. There is a logistical problem, er, and right now a very big human blockade that we need to clear away, um. His police are demoralized, and they haven’t been paid this month. Let’s face it. Also they’re infiltrated and getting goods and services, in a Credit Deal with the Pools Federation.
I’m afraid it’s true, Sir. They wouldn’t do it at all. And the Free of course are still playing pacifists. When we know they’re armed and trained. Plus they’re showing the whole confrontation live on their media. Like a ridiculous er, morality play, so we can hardly just suppress the facts.’-
Bruton shrugged and lifted his white palms in the air
-‘Of course we would do it, Sir, but our forces are too small, General Mulcatty is your man now Sir.’-
-‘General Mulcatty?’- Lerriman asked, between his hacking smoker’s cough. -‘What is the army plan to stop this rebellion?’-
Mulcatty was coughing as well. A big man, now overweight and grown old, plagued by high blood pressure and a nasty gastric condition. He felt his stomach flip, as his name was called, and he coughed again, suppressing a grimace.
-‘Yes Sir of course. Our plans are not yet finalized, er, but basically we would take the weakest point. Unfortunately it’s protected by railways, the river and the sea. As I say. Our commandos take the key points. We saturate the area, cart away the ringleaders.’-
Lerriman glanced around. Realizing that this was just pathetic. Everybody was studiously looking down. Except the smiling Bruton.
-‘You like that plan then Bruton.’- he asked.
-‘I can’t really say if his old tanks will go through a pile of containers. But they’ll surely mash up the thousands of women and kids standing in front of them.’-
-‘Oh yes’- Mulcatty broke in. -‘I forgot to mention. We fire standard crowd dispersal material. They’ll have to move away.’-
-‘Right you are General!’- said Bruton. -‘I’d like to send some of my boys along to help if that’s okay. Providing of course the army doesn’t switch sides as well. So if you’re giving the order chief?….’-
Lerriman sat calculating, cheeks in hands. His fortune was safely offshore.
Technically he was an embezzler, he thought, though morally his services well deserved it.
-‘It’s a grim choice we must face up to like real men. We won’t get another cent in credit till this is controlled. Either I resign and finally leave the country with the rest. Or I have the guts to give the order. I mean, we have to suppress these people.’-
-‘Quite okay with me.’- said Bruton. Flexing and cracking knuckles. -‘These fellas are getting far too cocky.’-
All the rest either nodded minimally or sat frozen. Eyeing the cameras and wishing like hell they weren’t present at all. This was history not to assist in making.
-‘That’s it then. You can go along Bruton, and liaise with the police and army. I want a military conference at eight o clock. Just one thing Commissioner, I’m relieving you of your post. You’ve done a fair job but times have changed.’-
The police chief had shot to his feet. Went to storm out,. Then stopped.
-‘You are making your fatal mistake Lerriman. Putting police matters in the hands of a senile General and a sadistic megalomaniac! Good day to you.’-
And he disappeared, with an explosive bang of the old oak door..
Fear and embarrassment reigned. Then Lerriman spoke.
-‘You really think you can handle this then General, give us some details now.’-
-‘Yes well as I say. We go straight in by surprise. Through the South Gate at dawn tomorrow if we can arrange it.’- He glanced at Peter Kennedy and the generals who nodded and shrugged nervously. -‘Yes at dawn. We’ll set up a little diversion, send some boatloads of soldiers down the river.’-
Lerriman’s eyes gleamed and he smiled at last, rubbing his hands.
-‘At dawn tomorrow, yes that sounds more like it. Maybe we’ll even catch them sleeping.’-
And Bruton’s laugh came braying, long and loud.
The chandelier had flickered off. Now it came on, brighter with the backup generator.
-‘And our media needs preparing.. Saving the country from anarchist bandits.. Preventing invasion of foreigners.. Where’s Chintzer?’-
-‘I’m still here, I don’t know why.’- said the Minister for Communications. -‘We have bad news if it’s of any interest to you, The Herald has closed down, all our outlets are controlled by Nooz Corporation.’-
-‘But their boss is on our side’-
-‘This morning’s keynote Times editorial is titled.. SEND IN COALITION TROOPS NOW.’-
-‘Nobody reads that. Anyway that might be a good thing.’-
-‘Fine, fine. And all the flunkies on the planet will copy the line. But you’re right, no one reads our press anymore.’- He sat down abruptly.
-‘Okay that’s all boys. Let’s go for it!’- said Lerriman, clicking his briefcase shut.
Provoking several non committal grunts, as the conference concluded.
The Docks Area Takeover..-‘Not another one’- said Damo.
-‘Lift me papi’- Moonbeam was pulling my leg.
Macker’s siblings, Damo and Tessa, were finally out of the Youth Protection prison and living with us in Little Agnes Street.
-‘Either we provoke a civil war or just take the whole country.’- I was saying.
-‘Our daughter’s going to be three next Friday.’- said Maggie. We were unfolding the pram in the hall of the Little Agnes Street house.
-‘I know I know, big girl Moonie!’- says I, swinging her in my arms, she’s heavy! -‘How about a party on Saturday at lunchtime. Jenny said she’d help and bring Oona.’-
-‘Yes yes, good thinking Barney but Sunday would be better, we’ll talk later. Is everyone ready? We’re leaving!’-
-‘I’m just coming, one minute okay.’- said Jerry. Bounding back upstairs.
-‘Do we have to go? I think I’ll stay home.’- said Tessa with a moan.
-‘There’s gonna be a big yunkers’ concert. Come and have a look anyway.’-
-‘Let’s take our bikes then.’- said Damo. -‘So we can escape fast.’-
-‘No way I’m cycling with you!’-
We were off to yet another Assembly in the Docks, but this was the big one. To decide if we would start armed resistance
With online countrywide voting, and all that media circus.
-‘Don’t wanna go in the pram.’- said Moonie.
-‘Hey Uncle Barney we saw you on the telly.’- said Tessa.
-‘What? Barney or Pardy?’-
-‘They called you Pardy Brown, a well known figure, but it was you.’-
The great thing about being recycled is I get some time to be me, whoever that is, and spend some time with Moonbeam while she’s small.
So people ring through to an eager group of yunkers instead.
Now I’m Pardy Brown, who’s putting together a Play Projects guide.
I work upstairs in the back room, looking out at the windmills and the rain.
Often entertaining my daughter Moonie. Yes, I’m recycled and I often like it.
I refused to move house but I do take precautions. A few people on James’s death list have really been murdered or had suspicious accidents. Today I’m sporting my short mustache, sweating in my trilby hat, and my boringly respectable half length pants. Well, so there goes my cool laid back image!
The Earth fashion for men round here is ridiculous cut off tights, and peeny belts, all set at ‘well hung’ or longer, amid flashing tassels, hanging tools and pockets. Some trendy guys cut the tights altogether and give everyone a glimpse, half hiding their sexy swinging treasures…
-‘Why don’t you stay at home with Moonie and watch it on TV?’- Maggie asked.
-‘Why me?’- says I -‘It’s you that Maxie is worrying about. Really. And her premonitions are always right.’-
-‘Yeah well, I’ll risk getting bumped off. She didn’t actually see me dead in her dream…’-
-‘Everybody ready. I’ll go out the back and meet you out in the street.’-
It’s just a detail. I slip out by the back lane, never the front door. It doesn’t make me nervous or anything.. I love to feel streetwise, and this day the place was buzzing with life..
This Assembly is the real thing. Like a key chess move. Taxing imports and exports is their last source of big money and credit.
The atmosphere was electric all the way down. A marching band, drums and trumpets, flags flapping in the gale. Then shouts and running feet. There were fist fights and yelling matches, between transport workers and Poolers up from the country to say -‘NO NO NO.‘- to armed force. See Glossary. Clan Fashions
We were me, Maggie and Moonie, plus Jerry, and Damo and Tessa. Macker and Maxie were there already, in Sol’s super film team.
Bernie was away, with Josie as well of course, gone with lovely Lucia on a Soli-Fest tour of Europe.
The whole road was blocked, by the Women against War groups and the so called PAWS, Pacifist Warriors leafleting and arguing, menacing with broom-handles, in their improbable pigtails, short denim waistcoats and legbands.
Maggie and Tessa shot off, with some women to picket an access road, leaving Moonie with me.
We followed through the crowds, dodging the scaly prehensile tails of a whole class of Yeti Clanners, you know, masked up with snarling dragon heads on their bare chests, with nipples for eyes and high spiky hair. Others in mili-belts with bulging pockets.
Moonie was up on my shoulders, of course, shouting and pointing.
Then some Coppice Clanners came dodging through crossways, with blowpipes and green painted bodies. All of them laughing their heads off.
-‘Stay with us Damo, at least till we see Macker.’- He was about to disappear.
Down beyond the marquees we could see a crowd of little dome tents. Campfires throwing sparks into the orange and deep blue twilight.
And across the tracks a makeshift stage. Windmills whizzing, and a band playing.
Summer was coming again. And every gathering would blossom into a festival.
The giant warehouse was filling to the corners, one side a long line of computers, cables in pipes. Queues of people behind them were still voting.
Someone had recycled a lorryload of carpets and they were being rolled out, or hung on the walls, along with flags and banners.
-‘Over here, over here!’- Jerry had spotted some of our Pool.
Just then they announced the army and police attack at dawn next morning. Confirming the rumour but still scary. We were inside the area, after all.
Our media were showing the whole thing live. Macker and Maxie and Sol were in the middle of it. The Free Unions had been calling for a General Strike since early afternoon.
The great warehouse was humming, people making five minute speeches. I had been asked to speak for Ragwort Pool, a well known figure, though I expected to evade it.
More news in my earphones, people were marching in from the outer suburbs in growing crowds.
Instead of tea and telly whole communities were walking into the city.
Riot situations were kicking off, outside the defunct Central Bank and Stock Exchange, and in front of the still operational Police Headquarters. The Assembly and voting was being relayed live.
The first ballot would close in half an hour.
-‘You have to rest Maxie.’- said Sol. But I wasn’t tired at all.
In fact I felt exhilarated, the vast energy of the resistance surging through me. I was learning all about filming, working with Sol and Macker. Well, Macker knew less than me, but he’s a genius, and adorable.
I was still really worried about Maggie and Barney. I’d warned them and shouted at them and threatened them. Their hard luck, I told myself. And anyway I wasn’t too sure about my premonition. I needed to forget it and I had distractions
-‘..My name is Richard Daly and I’m seventy four years old. Me and my family have been in the CoOp Pools from the start and we done a lot of work, building them up…. ‘-
The Assembly was boring. We headed for the South Gate for a joint report. Sol, and me and Macker.
We were sat in a band of shade, waiting for them to set it up. It would be my turn to ask questions, but I had the list in my hand and I wasn’t afraid.
-‘Tell me Sol.’- says I. -‘Is it possible to repeat a premonition, to check out the details?’-
-‘All is possible my friend.’- says he. -‘But my experience is that you can not believe nearly nothing of these visions, and a forced replay can be even less. Also it could be dangerous for you.’-
-‘But it is possible, a, um, replay?’-
-‘Oh yes claro que si. Of course you can. You need someone who understands you, your mind, your life, your body. Barney might.. ‘-
-‘Shh we’re ready to start!’-
-‘Are you ready Maxie?.. three two one.. ‘-
-‘Here we are at the South Gate, standing under the cool shadow of this high barricade of containers. We have here Brian Harper from the Docks Defence. Brian, can you tell us what is planned to happen here if the army really arrive at dawn tomorrow as we expect?’-
-‘Yes well that depends what the Assembly decides and how people are voting up and down the country. But all these people you see sitting here outside the wall have decided already on the human blockade, and we’ve heard that thousands more are on their way..’- Brian explained clearly.
-‘So you probably won’t resist with arms.’- I said.
-‘Well if they decided on arms it would be very awkward, because we have no guns here as you can see. And in any case we could never start shooting with all these people sitting in the street.’-
-‘What do you advise our viewers to bring if they’re coming to the blockade?’- I asked, in my best voice.
-‘Gas masks if they have any, lemon helps, something to sit on, drinks and snacks. Helmets if you have them.. ‘-
-‘You’re expecting a gas attack then?’-.I knew that worried lots of people.
-‘Tear gas, a water-cannon and warning shots. But if this gale keeps up the gas will be useless, and the water could be refreshing, it’s so hot.’-
Sol switched to a cloud of agile gulls, diving and screaming, as some kids chucked bread in the harbour.
-‘So what will happen then?’- I asked.
-‘They need to refuse to fire. The officers must refuse to give that order. We’re preparing reception centers already for soldiers and cops who come over. The Pools are offering them a Deal.. credit cards, jobs, housing, health and old age care, what else, education..
Later we’ll interview a soldier who’s come over. As you know police posts and councils across the country are now declaring they wish to integrate into the Pools Federation….’-
We had two cameras. Macker on one and Sol doing little clips that he was able to slot into the interview. Instant editing. Thousands singing together. A crane loading a ship. A cormorant diving in the port. Boys flying kites, up on the container wall…
-‘So listen cops and soldiers, tell your mates. They offer you double bonus for tonight and tomorrow. It’s another obvious lie. They admitted it in their meeting today and we have it on tape. They’re broke and can’t borrow more. What about last month’s pay? It’s all lies, bringing back pensions? Desperate lies. The Pools are offering you the Credit Deal, so check it out on line. ‘-
-‘But how can police and soldiers know who to trust?’-
-‘Talk to your colleagues. We’re all wearing red armbands in the morning.. It means you won’t fire gas or bullets at your own people. Plus maybe you’d prefer to be part of the Pools Fed. So put on an armband they’ll be handed out.’-
-‘That sounds like a good idea. Finally Brian what’s your personal opinion about this?’-
-‘I was working as a warehouseman. Shitwork, by the day. But we’ve had no work all year. Now at last we’re getting the docks moving again. The government want to stop us. They’re instigated by a handful of capitalist bosses and foreign banks. Just to get another loan so they can rob more money off us.
It’s stupid and pathetic, it’s a scam…
If they really want to stop us they’ll have to kill thousands of innocent working people to do it. It’s incredible, people are gonna sit in front of the tanks, with their babies and their grannies and..’’-
-‘And if they fire on the people?’-
-‘A civil war… I imagine myself that the CLAN militias would take over in a few weeks, however .. ‘-
-‘Thanks very much Brian. We’ll be back here a bit later on. Now we pass you back to Patricia live and on the spot at the Assembly, and then we’ll interview one of the catering and reception groups.’-
collage for Tunisian activists. 2011