Here is a little story of what happened to-day in Stromness which you will not hear on any of the news channels tonight or read in any of the mainstream newspapers. You wont hear this because to them it is insignificant.
Nadhim Zahawi flew to Orkney by private helicopter to chair an ‘islands forum’. He is one in a long line of super wealthy uncaring UK government ministers that drop in on our remote communities mainly to garner ‘peasant’ points – show they ‘care’ about ordinary people and far flung places. They don’t care. It’s all a put on.
A group of us arranged to gather for 9 am – we didn’t know the exact time of the meeting – what the itinerary was –but made a guess at where and when it might be and assembled on the back road at the entrance to the Old Academy building. People of my age will never become accustomed to its new and irrelevant title for Stromnessians but that’s just my personal grumpy indulgence like that folk should say Strùm-niss. Luckily growing up in Stromness you know the real names of things like the’ Shitty Lane’.
Anyway we were a small group, most folk are working or had to use holiday time up to join in. At times like these when you are small and exposed and sticking out against the social norms, I remember the written account of my fathers’ first anti-nuclear protest on the Kirk green of the Cathedral way back in the 60s. I found this handwritten account after I he died and I was clearing the house. In that account he said how exposed yet determined he and his small group were to make their demonstration and complete it despite the curiosity or open hostility shown to them by onlookers. The police watched them from a distance as they marched round in a circle carrying their anti-nuclear banners. At the Boris Johnston demonstration in Orkney during the Covid lockdown I had obscenities yelled at me from a man I have know most of my life as he roared past in his 4×4. He didn’t know it was me as I had a covid mask on, but I know who he is. So it is to be seen and visible in Orkney protesting.
My determination to speak out has usually trumped my reticence at being mocked and vilified and if it has cost me opportunities in life it has brought me much more in terms of a sound conscience.
As we were waiting for Mr Zahawi’s arrival we worried that we might have missed him but as I had previously been to many government meetings I was able to guess that a 9 am start was unlikely – with a coffee and biscuits session the norm before a 10 am kick off. I told the group of one government meeting I attended where the UK civil servants candidly told us how an edict had come from Downing Street not to use the word ‘Brexit’. Deflection is all around as it is today especially in what the media choose to lead on.
The important government peoples’ cars are unmistakeable – Boris’s had blacked out windows, Zahawi’s was similar, a big black 4×4 with 3 or 4 sharp suited men inside. Unless they were going to a funeral this 4×4 was not a usual site on the back road in Stromness at 9.30am. They cruised past clearly heading for the Franklin Road entrance to the Old Primary School. I was in the first P7 in that school. It’s unrecognisable now but how we wished for a grassy playground that we never got – but there it is in all splendour today.
We were glad we hadn’t missed the entry of the big wigs but they weren’t going to get our full effect so what to do? A childhood in an out of every lane in Stromnness is a usefull thing in the face of an evading 4×4. A quick canter down the Shitty lane that opens just before the door of the Old primary school was what was needed and got us there ahead of the be-suited power party.
And so we did, we got our selves on either side of the road with our banners. Small, but hard-hitting.
As the car came forward to drop the big guy at the door I took the chance to step out in front of it. I made it stop and I gave the occupants a cold hard deadly serious stare. I held that stare long enough to know that someone would imminently try and remove me. In my head as I stared right at them, the enablers of such misery, stress, heartbreak and hopelessness, what did I think?
Well this, I thought this and I felt strong,
‘ I can stand in front of your car , you only the second most powerful man in the UK and make you stop. I can stand here and feel superior to you with your greed and selfish disdain. I can stand here and think of the highland women that stood up to soldiers. I can think of my grandfather Dugald born the year before his family were cleared by their landlord from Achabeg. I can think of the people I know that are no longer here who took their own lives because of your cruel government, I can think of the toddlers whose parents are telling me they wish they hadn’t had had children because of the world you are destroying, I can think that I stand on the shoulders of greats and I can think that, my god I feel powerful and I have no fear.’
I could have stood long enough to precipitate arrest and in that moment I knew that, yes I am willing to go to jail for the sake of Scottish Democracy and for the sakes of those whose lives are being trashed by this mafia government of criminals.
A line was crossed for me today.
As the plain clothes guy and the car’s occupants wondered what I might do, I stepped aside and gestured with my arm that it was me allowing them to pass. I gave a mock smile and waved them on.
Have no fear.