Saturday 15 May 2010

An 'I'm Blogging This' moment.

So there I am at the gates of Downing Street, at around 3pm this afternoon, with a moderately raucous throng of people in purple demanding 'Fair Votes Now.' We're here to hand in a petition as thick as a man's thigh, demanding a referendum on proportional representation.

And it's all got a bit noisy and spontaneous, in a shufflingly British sort of way, and I've managed to end up at the front of the line, just behind all the people with the huge cameras, who are always there at protests in London but don't really count. This is the closest I've ever been to Number Ten and aha, here come the vans.

Three riot vans screech up and police in yellow jackets pour out of the hatches like predatory lymphocytes to sterilise the dissent. They stream into formation and edge us back from the gates, politely for now, but extremely firmly. One young policeperson's face is really close to mine as he shuffles us unseeingly back, and suddenly hey, I bloody know you, officer.

Last time I saw Officer X, he was wearing my underwear and a red velvet corset.

This was about three years ago, at a photoshoot for Genet studio show we were both involved in, in which I played a cross-dressing lesbian hooker in 18th-century Paris and he played, funnily enough, a career sadist. We were all set up in an empty wine bar to do the shoot for the publicity posters, and we decided it'd look great and also be kinda hot if we swapped clothes.

So we did, and then we did the play, and then we left university and went our separate ways in the way that young people do, me to urban squalor, activism and writing, him to be a state t-cell. I recognised him instantly, because he was doing the same flinty, murderous, slightly suggestive gaze into the middle distance that made his character so effective. He's clearly not going to be on the beat for long.

So I say, hey. And he says nothing. And I say, hey, name. And he says, oh- er, hi!

His flak jacket is still all up in my face. We exchange awkward pleasantries. Because he's a copper now, he asks me if there really are another thousand of us coming. Because I'm an activist, I deny any knowledge of anything.

The crowd shifts, surges forward behind me, a shifting sea of quiet human rage. We're losing each other in the swell. The moment of connection is gone, and time rushes back with the noise of the chanting and more vans turning up.

We promise to contact each other on Facebook, and I disappear into the crowd.


  1. Best protest story EVAR.

    Send it to the Guardian, you know you want to!

  2. Ha, ha! At least he kept his sadism at home and didn't whack you with his big baton. Did you have a safe word?

  3. I think it was 'you're nicked'.

  4. It was nice to see you again. I've never been likened to part of the immune system before.

  5. Hope you'll forgive the cheap poetics hon, I thought it was wonderful.

  6. Peter Bradshaw16 May 2010 at 08:32

    This may not be the most appropriate place to write these words but I have to tell someone that nominally Labour MP for Birkenhead, Frank Field, is joining David Cameron's government as its newly appointed "Poverty Tszar".

    If you think I'm lying check out the following link:

    Field was the man that Tony Blair asked to "think the unthinkable" about welfare reform. Trouble was his ideas were so extreme that both they and their author were unceremoniously dumped by the Labour Party, which in those days believed that workfare was wrong. If you think Freud/Purnell/Cooper are harsh, just wait until Frank Field dusts off his old report and gets it implemented by the Tory coalition post haste.

    What a complete and utter arsehole!

  7. PC George Dixon16 May 2010 at 08:54

    Policemen are people too don't you know?

    Fair dos for coppers I say.

  8. Awesome story hun, glad it didn't get out of hand there. You really should get this one published elsewhere if possible, it's a great way to show how we can be connected across the lines.

  9. Brilliant story! I was there yesterday, one of the best humoured demonstrations I've ever been to. Big thumbs up to everyone who attended, was a great day. Also, which Warren Ellis is that quote from - writer or musician of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds fame? (both are equally awesome in my eyes)

  10. Absolutely brilliant. :-D

  11. Great story, made me chuckle but the important question is - have you guys connected on FB yet - just imagine the possibilities, you could be corrupting the law enforcement branch, one copper at a time, LOL!

  12. I once got stopped by a copper who was once a known purveyor of illicit substances. He puts a hand on my shoulder and said 'Why do I know you?' I couldn't stop laughing. He clocked why when I told him my name. His colleague was baffled and the gent in question literally squirming. Nice guy, very strange career choice.


  13. That's definitely a picture story!

  14. May I be the first to offer my comiserations on missing out on the Orwell Prize but temper them with continued congratulations for being shortlisted.


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