Saturday 19th October: Max and I were both up and out of the house soon after sunrise to walk Teddy over the Hogs Back and down onto Pilgrims way. We returned home about an hour later, in time to make a brew, get settled on the sofa in front of the telly and tune into the end of a pre-match build-up for the 2019 Rugby World Cup Quarter-final between England and Australia. Both sides were at each other out of the blocks, England went down in the first 12 minutes or so as the Wallabies forced a penalty error and slotted a kick through the bars for three points. England’s response was to step up the intensity playing total attacking rugby, winning a try about 15 minutes later. It was a magnificent game and it felt like it could have gone either way until the last 20 minutes or so when the gap in the score-line looked too much for Australia to recover and the harder they tried and the more risks they took, the more England punished them, accelerating away with a couple of fabulous tries in the last 15 minutes and a comfortable win. The final score was 40:16 to England.
After the Rugby we enjoyed, breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast and coffee, managed to get a few weekend chores done around the house before Sonja and I set off to London in the early afternoon. We walked from Waterloo, over Westminster bridge to Parliament Square to join the fourth ‘Peoples Vote’ march in Central London calling for a second referendum.
Westminster bridge was swarming with people on foot heading to and from Parliament Square which was rammed with protestors. The whole area around Parliament square, Whitehall, Trafalgar Square, across to St James along the route of the March was closed to traffic. The closer we got to Parliament Square the more densely packed the crowd. The atmosphere was buzzing. As we were walking off of the bridge there was a huge roar from the square . The atmosphere reminded me of a big rugby match, maybe with more than a hint of carnival about it (not as edgy as a football match). All ages were there, kids to OAPs
The media reported on Sunday that a million people had turned out in London to lend their voice to the call to stand-down from Brexit. I’m guessing that most people on the march will have felt they could make a difference and influence the country’s current direction. To me, it felt more like like a protest march against the inevitable and it really did seem to me that this was happening just a little too late. There are so many different anti-Brexit groups but there is not one leader or a single party that remainers are prepared to coalesce behind. Without a unified voice, what chance do the remainers have to claw back to a position of strength. What I really struggle to understand how politicians believe they achieve their desired political outcomes by leaving their party and then go independent or set up new party. It seems to me this fragmented approach can only dilute the strength of the argument further, dividing the possible vote further with pulls in multiple directions.
Another unusual event on this day was that Parliament had convened, on a Saturday, and the march was timed to coincide with the planed vote in the House of Commons on Boris Johnson’s revision to the (Brexit) ‘Withdrawal Bill’. Underlining the pressure and intensity of the UK’s political climate at the moment, this was the first weekend sitting in the Commons since the Falklands War In 1982.
There was a big covered stage erected on the Westminster Abbey side of Parliament Square with a stream of animated anti-Brexit speakers calling for action and encouraging the protestors to be ever more vocal and shouty.
A big screen had been put up to one side of the stage with proceedings in the House being streamed live. It was packed and difficult to work our way through the crowd. As we got close to the corner of Parliament square that links to Whitehall the skies opened up, a proper torrential downpour ensured for 10 or 15 minutes and anyone without a raincoat or brolly must have been drenched. Sonja and I were very close to one of the covered walkways so managed to get under cover. Just. As we had found a place to stand out of the rain the audio in the Square cut over to the House of Commons which was live streaming the vote on Oliver Letwin’s amendment to prevent the UK leaving Europe without a deal. The bill just got through at 322 to 306. There was a huge roar from the crowd.
When celebrations and the rain had subsided a bit Sonja and started to pick a route across the square towards St James. As we were getting closer to Birdcage Walk an an announcement was made the Johnson had bulled the vote on his amended Bill and another huge roar went up across the square. We eventually got through to Birdcage Walk and then headed north across St James’s Park . As we approached the St James Park Lake the skies opened up again so we took shelter from another torrential down-poor under a big and beautiful Plane Tree just south of the lake. We must have been there for 15 or 20 minutes waiting for the deluge to pass before continuing on our way to The Stafford Hotel, St James,
We were heading to The Stafford to meet Richard (an old buddy of mine from Uni) and his new partner for afternoon tea. I’d had a call out of the blue the weekend before to say he was hoping to be in London for a few hours on this weekend. We’ve managed to maintain or friendship since university and I cherish the relationship, distanced only my physical miles. He splits his life now between San Fran, New York and his current ‘home’ in New Zealand. So now we’re lucky if we manage to get together once a year. This was one of those stoop-over / flying visits en-route from Skye to NY. When I meet up with a true friend, even if I haven’t seen them for a year or two (or sometimes even longer) we’ve obviously always got a tonne of stuff to catch up and (inevitably) not enough time to talk about everything. It often intrigues me that, although you’re slightly rediscovering each other when ever you meet-up (as we’ve grown up a bit more, got older, circumstances have changed) on the other hand it often feels just completely normal more like like it’s just a couple of weeks since you last met-up. This little get-together was no exception, such a simple pleasure to meet up with an old mate, with our partners and talking the afternoon away over high tea. Thanks old buddy, absolutely brilliant to see you!