‘I’ll meet you by the donkeys opposite the park gates’ said my octogenarian friend. French, Marxist, veteran demonstrator and former colleague, C was shocked that I hadn’t been to visit the Climate Camp already. After all, this was the fourth day and it was located on the heath at the top of my road. I mumbled something about it being a secret, but in truth I'd heard a rumour. I was just busy getting ready for my holiday.
The camp area was fenced on all sides, obliging us to listen to a convoluted explanation of the connection between capitalism and climate change from a well-spoken youth guarding the entry gate. He was sitting on a bale of hay.
Bringing down capitalism appealed to me much more than my ecologically-conscious friend D’s approach. Her latest claim to the moral high-ground includes knitting waistcoats for rescued battery hens. I’d much rather man the barricades.
There was an air of conspiracy about the camp; a notice in one of the marquees warned against discussing ‘business’ in case of listeners with long-distance audio equipment.
The protagonists seemed innocent enough, sitting or standing around with plaited hair and cotton skirts - women included - like villagers at an annual fete or grown-up characters from the Malcolm Saville book I was once given as an attendance prize Some were chalking notices about workshops and film shows. I’d have liked to attend a screening of ‘Dr Stranglelove’, but it wasn’t on until 9pm.
As we strolled around the camp C confided she felt like shouting ‘More power to your elbows’, which alarmed me on two counts. I didn’t want to call attention to our status as incomers, and it didn’t seem quite approprate – especially as regards the people peacefully lounging around on the grass.
The young man on the hay bale had concluded his talk by inviting us to sample free food about to be served in one of the tents C’s eyes lit up, then she saw the queues. She inspected the overflowing plates of people turning away from trestles laden with huge vats
‘Couscous! Just because I ‘m a protester, doesn’t mean I have to turn vegetarian !’ expostulated La Gourmande. Meantime I was thinking I’d had enough of camping for one year. Maybe we’re both getting too old for demos.