Our two person blockade, Faslane, 27th Feb. 2007
We’d wanted to contribute to Faslane 365 but it seemed so far away: fuel and time consuming, and expensive (we live in Bath). Also, we wanted to be arrested if we went but that would complicate time and travel issues, because the time it would take would be unknown. Eventually, we hit upon the idea of combining it with our annual tour of northern friends, which takes us as far as the Inner Hebrides. We rather foolishly booked bed and breakfast in case we needed it (we should have simply looked up a few possible places and then tried them on spec).
Anyway, we arrived at the Faslane camp, from Kendal, around lunchtime on Tuesday 27th February. We were able to borrow additional waterproofs, for which we were very grateful as the rain was torrential, and two regulars from the camp, along with one visitor, accompanied us to the main gate. They acted as support and observers, taking the photos that appear on this website. As we were only two, this felt good.
We wore tabards made from old sheets, with ‘No nuclear weapons in my name’ on the front and ‘Jobs for life, not death’ on the back (realising that this horrible enterprise is one that provides local employment).
Almost immediately, we were approached by a policeman, who asked if we meant to block the road. We said, ‘Not at the moment’ and he thanked us for our honesty. We could see three van loads of police in the vicinity.
We had taken a collection of poems to read to anyone who was there, so we read them to the police, first on one side of the road and then on the other. By the time that was done, the paper they were on had almost disintegrated in the rain!
We had taken a spray can each with us, with a view to writing our messages on the road, but the rain was so heavy we knew the letters would be washed away before they could be written. In a way, this was a relief, because we had wondered whether to sit down first or do our writing first, being aware that we were unlikely to be allowed to do both (and that in any case our slogans would probably remain half written).
We began to feel rather useless, with no audience, so decided to move straight to the next stage and sit down. We had brought our newspaper-in-plastic-carrier mats to sit on, so stepped into the road, put them on the ground and sat on them. No sooner had our bottoms touched down than we were surrounded by police and being asked if we would moved and warned that if we did not we would be arrested. We replied that we would not, and next moment were being charged with ‘behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace’ (how silly – not obstructing the highway, which we certainly were) and arrested. We offered to save their backs and take ourselves to the van and our offer was gladly accepted. We realised that other blockaders worked hard to make their removal as difficult as possible, which is a great idea in its own right, but since we had not done that we felt OK about taking this rather streamlined option.
We were taken in a van of police officers to Clydebank police station, a good many miles away, where they could accommodate both males and females in their cells. The police were friendly enough (except when we tried to text our daughter when they’d said we couldn’t phone her!) and one suggested we were likely to be released before the night.
When we got to the station our possessions were taken from us and put in polythene bags. Then we were asked if we wanted a lawyer and one other person contacted and we used the Faslane legal number for the first and our daughter (who spent two years at Greenham) for the second. (Suppose if we’d thought harder we could have had a personal number rung each.) Then we were shown to our separate cells.
Since I (Diana) spent some of the eighteen plus hours we were there writing haikus, I will let them take up the story. (I don’t really know about haikus – only that they have 5, 7 and 5 syllables per line. I suspect it’s incorrect to use capitals and I’m not sure about stresses in multi-syllable words. Mine were just a means of self-entertainment – not a serious poetic endeavour!)
Cream paint on the walls
Red paint on the concrete floor
Loo in the corner
Twin grills for aircon
Spy hole and speech flap in door
Bright light above it
Thin blue mattress bed
By wall on concrete bed base
Blankets old curtains
First I read a bit
Then sing songs that resonate
Later take a nap
Food comes through the flap
Veg ‘lasagne’, kindly given
Drink in plastic cup
Pencil and paper
Come through the flap as asked for
Haikus fill the time
Now I’m told Cath* knows (*the daughter we asked them to ring)
She’s proud of us my friend* says (* a very kind police woman – my minder)
Kind of her to say
I think of Nico* (*what I call my husband)
Know his time drags, as mine does
‘See’ him in his cell
A sudden banging –
Drunken inmate beats his door
Shouting angry words
The light’s switched off now
Sleep comes with surprising ease
Noisy checks each hour
Rattled keys, banged flap
And light switched on serve only
To declare her care
That’s where the haikus stop. The person banging the flap every hour was my minder, who presumably was supposed to make sure I wasn’t doing myself a mischief.
I’d spent a lot of time reading the (admittedly old) newspaper from my ‘mat’ but my minder brought me Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping! Imagine my chagrin the following morning when I discovered that Nick had been given The Times!! I did manage to keep myself entertained, but not having a watch was strangely disorientating and there was no daylight in the cell. I could just see through the glass bricks in the ceiling whether it was dark or light.
I was offered a choice of food that included both vegetarian and vegan. The first meal was really OK but when I asked for a ‘little something’ before sleep (having guessed and then been told that we were being held overnight) was informed that there was nothing in the building but meals and that a breakfast was the lightest thing on offer. This consisted of veggy sausages and other unrecognizable things more or less soldered to a paper plate. (By this time I’d given up on the dark brown, sweet instant tea and stuck to water.) I was asked if I thought Nick would like something and thought I’d be on the safe side and say yes. They took him black pudding and other things!
At six thirty the next morning we were brought another breakfast. We both went to sleep again. Then I rang for attention and said that I wanted to use the loo without fear of interruption and that when I’d finished I’d ring again and ask to wash. This was agreed, and at the same time I was told that we were about to be released.
Soon I was receiving back and signing for my possessions, and found it was 9.30. A few minutes later, Nick joined me. We were not even given a verbal or written warning. We ordered a taxi back to the base, where our car was (taxi number supplied by the police), since we needed to press on north. The driver was amazed to look at our white hair and ordinariness and to hear that we had spent a night in the cells and why. He said we were doing it for his eight year old daughter and took our photo by his cab when he put us down.
We drove back to the camp and had a quick chat with Angie before heading off North. I think we’ll be back. Diana.