Monday, April 24, 2017

The first time I met Jeremy Corbyn

On the 24th of November 2010, we were demonstrating against a raise in student fees from £3000 to £9000. Following the demonstration at Millbank, the Tory HQ (10.11.10), the police were particularly nasty on those demos, and much of the marches were taken up with cat-and-mouse attempts to kettle us.

That day around 20,000 marched, and in the end several thousand of us ended up trapped from 1pm in the Westminster end of Whitehall from just past the Cenotaph. It was bitterly cold: hovering around zero all day, and we quickly ran out of water and food. There were no toilets and nowhere to sit apart from the freezing ground.

The hours were spent trying to convince blank faced cops in riot gear to let the younger kids out of the kettle. It was the time when they were facing losing their EMA, (now long gone) and a lot of young people had come to the demo from London sixth forms. The police were apparently letting people who were under 16 out: it was a struggle to make this happen in reality.

I ran out of filter tips, and spent a lot of time wandering around trying to borrow some. Once it got dark around 4pm we had to move to stay warm. People burned placards and danced to portable sound systems.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Rhizom and blues

We’re waiting for the asparagus, my sister and I. We have to wait three years for the roots of these slender green plants to become strong and densely networked enough to produce the delicious asparagus shoots. Every year for three years we have watched the straight green stalks sprout up directly towards the sky, and then turn into a waving, ferny forest of feathery leaves across the asparagus bed.

When can we eat them? I asked.

The root systems have to grow for another year.

I knew that.

But we can watch the leaves grow, and remember they are sending power to the roots.

I’m no biologist but this was interesting, and vaguely familiar.

People often invoke the metaphor of a plant putting down roots, or uprooted, or with roots spreading over the globe, to describe a migrant experience. We know you need roots to grow leaves. But I had forgotten that you also need new leaves to grow roots. Without the fresh green shoots photosynthesising like crazy, no solid stable base can survive, let alone expand. We praise the values which we impose onto roots: immobility, duration, strength, inter-connectedness, community, history. But we forget to praise the fronds and the tendrils which channel the sun’s energy back to them.

Without mobility, and novelty, and adventure and development and movement, no roots will be strong enough to keep the plant alive on their own. The roots and the shoots are inter-reliant. The roots keep the rainwater, but the stems and leaves reach, capture and transform the rays of sunshine.