visit to St.Paul’s “Occupy London”

From Astra (84) poet

On a wet mid-winter Sunday in December via 3 buses, my camera and I travelled to the anti-capitalist Occupation outside St.Paul’s. As I walked around this Tent City, I explained to the occupants that I was photographing for friends who couldn’t visit in person. ( I don’t want to be seen as a voyeur). Everyone I spoke to accepted this without question. In fact, in the Hot Drinks Tent, my tea was brought over to me, my hand kissed and later on another of the young men kissed my cheek.

In the LibraryTent I left three copies of the most recent issue of the Older Feminist Newsletter also three copies each of my poetry collections “Older and Bolder” and “Back You Come, Mother Dear”. I wonder if any one int this Tent City will send feedback. (I made sure to put my name and address sticker at the back of each book).

Now I hear the Occupation will soon have to disband: The Corporation of London wants its pavement back. But another space nearby has already been occupied. And elsewhere in the world more occupations are being formed again and again. And I have my three dozen photographs.


the protester

Women of the year 2011 Friday 16 December 2011 13.00 GMT The Guardian

Time magazine named The Protester as its person of the year, and women fighting injustice take pride of place among the Guardian’s women of 2011. As well as lauding those who press for women’s rights, we also celebrate great achievement – a trio of Nobel winners, political high-fliers and the stars of stars.

HETTY BOWER, PEACE CAMPAIGNER: When Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow told Hetty   Bower he hoped she’d be around for many years to come, the 106-year-old peace ­campaigner replied: ‘Please not. I am now getting tired.’ Given her work this year you would never have known. On the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, in March, she was guest of honour at a wreath-laying ceremony at Emmeline Pankhurst’s statue; Bower’s sister was a suffragette, and her own ­political education began early. She became one of the founding members of CND in 1957. She still marches, and recently spoke against ­hospital ­closures, tuition fees and cuts in services for ­disabled people. She has also spoken at an ­Hiroshima Day commemoration and took part in a Stop the War coalition demonstration. ‘As long as my legs can take me I will be participating in ­anti-war activity,’ she told Snow. ‘What sane ­person could be pro-war?’

child’s view on old age

From D.D (primary school governor and helper)

I am currently helping an 8-9 year old girl who gave me quite a surrealist description of grannies this week. We were reading a book about manners and one of the pictures was of grandmother giving her granddaughter an unwearable jumper she had knitted for her. The message was that the little girl should thank her grannie nicely, even if she hated the jumper.  Unfortunately, the illustration featured a very dated stereotype of the old woman:  grey perm, long frock, pinafore and a gruesomely wrinkled face. I asked the child what she thought of this picture. She told me that her own grannie had given her clothes she didn’t like and that one of our older volunteers had tried to teach her to knit but it was too hard. I asked what she thought of the picture – was it like all grannies? She said “yes”. What did she think of grannies then? She said they were too knitty.

I am going to wear my favourite Kaffe Fasset cardigan next week.

pensions, protest march and old women

Wednesday 30th November was the public sector strike and rallies over pensions. I was committed to present the U3A film at the Lexi and was very frustrated that I could not get my friends together to join the protest march in London as a group of Older Feminists.

I do not usually feel comfortable during protest marches but I felt that this march was important.  After I retired I spent some time taking video recordings and documenting the old people who participated in the protests.  I did feel good as an observer. But I did not keep up with the new technology and abandoned this project a few years ago.

The evening before the screening I was told that the cinema had been booked  for a child’s birthday party and that our film session would have to be cancelled!  Again the question arose in my head “Is it ageism or complete incompetence?” A friend suggested ‘maybe both’?  Although furious about the waste of my time and the inconvenience to so many members of our U3A group, I was pleased to have the opportunity of joining in the protest . A sentence had wormed itself in my mind since the Day of Action had been declared: Who Will Speak for the old and disabled? the title of an article in the Guardian 10 days ago (see below)

On the spur or the moment as if driven by this sentence,  I decided to go on my own to the march and as I could not get organised in time to make the  Assembly point I thought I would meet the march as it entered the Strand and wait for the women’s block. I knew that the OFN banner would not be there so I made myself a little light A4  poster to put around my neck. It said




I stood on the central reservation facing the coming march waiting for the Women Against the Cuts block. Something strange happened then. As the people were marching I felt that those looking in my direction showed an interest that I am not used to –  Lots of young  people took photos of me or of my modest little poster. Lots of people made the thumbs up sign and some came to say they agreed. Lots of people smiled at me.  I really felt that I was making some sort of impression. The Women  Against the Cuts block passed. I decided to remain in the same place observing that another body in a group carrying the same official looking placards makes little difference but that the old woman standing for social care actually nudged the consciousness of the onlookers.  In other words the old woman was visible.

It is not that there were not in nearly every block one or two old women,  more old men and some old couples. But there were mainly there as trade unionists with the conventional placards and chants.

The OFN banner was not there. It was too heavy  for the few women who were there to carry.   Other OFN women could not come because they could not march for too long…that is the way old people become invisible.  Lots of ideas came to my mind on the different ways we could participate in protests and declare that we are here in solidarity or with our own demands.   The ritual of protest marches could easily adapted to suit our own needs.