Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Happy Red Train

It's hard to explain to a crying child,
Why her Daddy can't go back,
So the family suffer,
But it hurts me more,
To hear a scab say, 'Sod you, Jack!'

Billy Bragg

When I started this blog site back in 2006, I always intended it should be a photographic diary of my life. And that, on occasions at least, the images would dominate, the words coming in second.

In practice, it has been a score draw, with words and pictures achieving roughly equal prominence.

Indeed, I have often ended up fitting the images around the words or vice versa.

Today, though, the photographs are going to dominate.

Laura and I joined tens of thousands of workers on the TUC's Britain Needs a Pay Rise March through central London last Saturday (18 October 2014).

We were marching for a fair deal from a Coalition Government that has utterly failed working people.

The Brighton, Hove & District Trades Council, on whose executive I have been proud to serve for several years now, had chartered a train from Brighton to London (and back) for the day.

A trades council-chartered train is a real treat.

I love seeing anti-Government placards being manufactured in the First Class Compartment, and photographing eight carriages full of joyful comrades.

It was the happiest train I have ever been on.

It was a longer than the usual journey time because of usual weekend works on the line.

We took the two-hour scenic coastal route via Worthing, after gathering at Brighton Station in an excited left-wing throng.

My National Union of Journalists (NUJ) delegation from Brighton brought its own banner.

Our numbers were comparatively small but our spirits were high.

The atmosphere on the Red Train was fantastic - so totally different from that of years of commuting to London on the same rolling stock.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable journey. Big grins, much laughter.

In London, we walked from Victoria to Embankment, had some German fare for lunch and joined the march at a point strategically placed between the nurses and the midwives.

I was applauded by a group of young women for wearing my 'No More Page Three' T-shirt.

Just behind us, out of nowhere, appeared a very vocal youth group.

Their leader skilfully chanted slogans into a megaphone with the supporters responding with the punchline.

We were standing so close that, eventually, he suggested I have a go and I found myself yelling into the loudspeaker: "NO TO ZERO HOURS CONTRACTS." The youths shouted back: "YOUTH ARE NOT SLAVES!"

I shouted into the megaphone: "LOW PAY, NO WAY!" The youths responded: "YOUTH DESERVE A JOB!" My favourite was: "TUC, GET OFF YOUR KNEES" with the youths hollering in reply: "CALL A GENERAL STRIKE!"

Laura and I felt well qualified for the demonstration having, between us currently, one low-wage and one no-wage.

There was tremendous camaraderie on the march.

It was an utterly good natured, peaceful event. The Mirror reported Scotland Yard as saying that not one protester had been arrested.

After marching from Embankment to my old stomping ground at Hyde Park, via Westminster, Pall Mall, Piccadilly, Green Park and Hyde Park Corner, with just three of us carrying the banner, I felt cream-crackered and a bit cold.

We listened to a sterling speech by TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady and a brilliant one from disabled trade union activist Sean McGovern who ripped into the anti-disability policies of the ConDem Government. Glorious!

There were more speakers to come but the band came on and it started to rain. We headed for the Nag's Head, a favourite haunt of mine owned by a former boxing champ.

Beer and food and back on the Happy Red Train to Brighton, picking up a few hitchhikers.

I hope you will enjoy my images of this historic day as much as I enjoyed taking them:

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