Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Joyeuse Marche No. 4

No apologies for the French titling (the name is Chabrier's for the most gorgeously dotty and lopsided march ever; and that allows me to slip in a by now well-worn aperçu of mine about the connection between the opening of Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 and Delibes' "Cortège de Bacchus" from the ballet Sylvia, which EE would have known as a player in Worcestershire 'pops' programmes). This is the fifth time I've joined a demo for remaining in the European Union in a year. I didn't actually march on the first one, only able to turn up in Parliament Square for the speeches in September 2016. The fair-weather progress started for me properly in March 2017, resuming in June 2018 and beginning the parade of the 700,000 in November. They've all been exuberant, polite (this should have been called the 'sorry/excuse me' march), friendly for dogs

and families,

humorous, sometimes carnivalesque (though for that the anti-Trump march took the biscuit). The band above was actually playing 'YMCA', to a big singalong, halfway down Piccadilly.

I gave up on several alternative plans to meet folk, including one to join the West London Group led by my MP Andy Slaughter, which turned out also to include the great Alf Dubs, and came straight out of Hyde Park Corner tube, which once again like the train itself was packed with others heading to make up the million-plus - including my nice young neighbours -

to find the streets closed to traffic. So I headed for a grassy mound at the east end of Hyde Park Corner and immediately got various coigns of vantage - towards Park Lane, where Mrs Mayhem was to be seen spearing the economy with her ever-growing nose

and towards Piccadilly and Green Park.

Only when I saw my neighbour clicking some counter or other did I look at his coat and notice this:

Thought of asking him very politely why he was joining us, but didn't want to risk souring the general sense of well-being which held, as before, throughout the afternoon. There were much more interesting signs and declarations to be read. Many need no explanation, though the first, for anyone who hasn't watched the best entertainment/artistry on telly, is RuPaul's catchphrase for the contestant of the Drag Race week who gets to stay ('sashay away' is the phrase to the loser, which is probably on the other side of the placard- rhymes well with 'Theresa May').

The fearless Speaker of the House of Commons makes his first appearance on a march.

and there's at least one learned reference (bit surprised to be asked who Hannah Arendt was by two friends. Recommended them the surprisingly good biopic based around the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem starring Barbara Sukowa.

And so to the ridiculous, referencing Dumb Britain as represented by Love Island, which I've never watched.

Here's the clip to explain it.

Eeeuw. Time to slip in (not for the first time on the blog) the aforementioned Chabrier by way of intermezzo. I posted my favourite performance, Ansermet's, before, so time for Beecham.

Consumerism wasn't conspicuous on the march, but our delightful friend Orfeuo, just over from the Netherlands, added some retail colours. We met him, appropriately, outside the Ritz, fresh from a shopping spree.

Then we joined the march down to St James's Palace. I had a nice chat with these people, who'd adopted the consummate posters highlighting the tweets of the hypocritical mini-horror clowns for their boards.

The poster campaign was run by the creative heart of Remain, Led by Donkeys. For this ingenuity alone, obviously not my pic as it could only be seen from above in Parliament Square (click to enlarge a bit), I gave something for their campaign - you can, too, here.

Now we approach St James's Palace.

And here the enticing notion of lunch at the ICA took us away from the main procession and along the Mall.

I haven't eaten at the ICA in over a decade. The cafe used to be run by a nice Italian family who served cheap and excellent plates of pasta daily. They were replaced by a table-service-only restaurant with pretensions, no good for fast-ish food. Now there's an excellent restaurant and a fine cafe downstairs, and you no longer need to belong to the ICA or pay for a day pass to get in. Our lunch was splendid, and I met an acquaintances of J, Trevor Horne, and his wife Linda Morris. She happened to be sporting the same Tillmans T-shirt as I was, a first in my experience on any of the marches since I got mine,

and he was bearing, amongst others, the Tillmans banner I wanted to make myself but in the end didn't (the one on the left about Putin, Trump, Le Pen and the now-superseded Wilders supporting Brexit).

Time passed quicker than I realised and I got to Parliament Square just after the last speech had finished. I regret it even more since Heseltine's was one for the ages, spelling out the strong message of peace from one who was alive when that was the driving force of the European project. Do watch all 12 minutes.

I still caught a couple of excellent posters - there are two more 'anti-saints' on the reverses; but can anyone remember what "Saint Theresa" is, and what she was/is to be crucified on? -

and the legendary unicorn just before I descended to St James's Park tube for the journey home. The bike was then sitting with a flat tyre in Berkeley Square; yesterday I got it fixed at the superlative Cycle Republic off Upper Regent Street and while I waited for it to be serviced took a big loop of a stroll up to Regent's Park, around and back on the most perfect of spring days.


Susan said...

Thanks for these wonderful Notes from the Field. The photograph of the EU and UK flags in a bit of grass and daffodils was particularly poignant. May sanity prevail.

David said...

We still live in hope and this is the week to fight as fiercely as possible. Fortunately all those requests to 'email your MP' can be safely ignored as I know what mine, Andy Slaughter, who as I mentioned led the West London group on the march, will do.

honza_kl said...

Thanks for the link to the speech delivered by Michael Heseltine. He certainly knew what he was speaking about! It reminded me of his brilliant speech in the Oxford Union EU debate in 2016:


In an attempt to mock the March, someone (an MP, apparently) has labeled the people who participated in it as 'fans of the Glyndebourne Opera'. To me, that looks like a good company!

David said...

Well, that was me and my friend Deborah on the day of the 700,000 strong march - but what we went on to was a tour opera, ie for all (as is the main season if you get a cheap ticket or a standing place). And though the general air was one of politeness, how the hell would anyone know what the social constitution was? 'Middle' and 'working' class labels no longer really apply.

Who'd have thought Heseltine would become a hero? It's rather like the new-found dignity of the Bushes in the Horror Clown era over the pond. At least they were politicians, for all the negative connotations that word may imply.

David Damant said...

The word "politician" should not have negative connotations. We should cherish and support our politicians. One principal reason why the image is negative is the constant nagging from the media - Private Eye, Today Programme.....they claim that they are holding the politicians to account, whereas the basic thinking in doing that is entirely negative - they try to dig out the worst. Also, a politician has to see his or her way through the various opinions powerfully expressed. The present government has to deal with Boris in a way that we do not have to - we can simply say that he is a clot - the government has to reckon with the power of the Tory constituencies who think like Boris. Thus a true statesman often has to point in one direction and move in another ( Harold Macmillan) or manoeuvre in a devious way ( Harold Wilson) These are necessary traits and should be recognised as such. And if I might repeat my underlying proposition, Parliament should be sovereign and we should not constrain it by the device of demagogues a referendum or by the foolish nonsense put forward by the party faithful in the country, who should be stuffed like their envelopes

David said...

Unfortunately there is no good case to be made for the pitiful, serpentine so-called leaderships of both parties. And a Parliament that says 'no!' eight times is not exactly giving the idea of politics as service to country a good name. The good UK politicians currently in the Commons that I can think of are very much in a minority. As in America, the degradation of government makes us look back to the time when even the opposition had some degree of perceptible dignity.

But you seize on the negative when the post is a celebration of the positive. Looks a bit small, whatever your motivation.

David Damant said...

One has to look at underlying causes and what might put things right. Expressions of opinion may be positive, but celebrations are premature without the support of real forces.

David said...

And does one have any idea? I certainly see what might put things right, and I think one million on the march and six million on the petition to date have a fairly clear idea, too. This was neither premature nor prophylactic, but a statement of common sense which Parliament has lost completely. So yes, you still look a bit small.

David Damant said...

The British Constitution is most efficient and has worked for centuries. It dealt with the revolutions of Attlee and Thatcher. But Parliament is now constrained by two logical and fundamental distortions

(1) Parliament is sovereign, but the present members feel themselves bound by the result of a referendum ( Cameron's idea) which has no place in the British Constitution and with which result many and indeed most MPs disagree. Hence the present chaos

(2) Members of Parliament are not mandated delegates,.see Burke. But the constituency parties - that is the local activists in each parliamentary seat - are, in the case of both Labour and Conservative parties, exerting their influence to try to get their members to toe the line set locally by the activists ( who are more extreme in policies than the general public, and more unbalanced than MPs)......... In the case of Labour this has gone a long way because it has been the activists alone who chose Mr Corbyn and his policies, and many and indeed most Labour MPs do not care for the choice of either Mr Corbyn ( who is not of the calibre to be leader ) or socialism. Hence the present chaos. This is the result of the foolish Labour Party constitution implemented by Ed Milliband

It is not that the MPs lack common sense, but they have been constrained. One can hope that the one plus six million plus the good sense of many MPs ( currently hidden) will remove the constraints - it is no good pretending that the constraints are not there

Never in the history of the British Constitution have two men made such a mess in such a short time as Cameron and Milliband.

David said...

The choice of Labour leader was by due process, surely? Many of us had perhaps foolish hope that Corbyn would do some good, though I was always wary of his links with Russia. Ludicrous to band Miliband with Cameron, though. And now the British Constitution is broken. Something new is needed or we slide towards total meltdown.

You still won't give a generous sign to the spirit of the march. Sorry for you about that.

David Damant said...

I am fully behind that spirit but it is a delusion to think that high aspirations alone will achieve the result. My point is that the British constitution is ( at least temporarily ) broken by the referendum and by the power of the local constituency parties. We need, as Attlee said, and Burke said, representative government which means that our MPs make the decisions. They cannot easily at the moment because of those two factors. So we do not need something new but something old that worked for centuries. And as for Corbyn it is a disaster that the due process was based on a constitution - stupidly set up by Milliband - which gives enormous power to the activists. He is of poor calibre and embraces the failed policies of socialism. On a more positive note, it looks as though nothing will pass in the Commons. Then the second referendum will be the only way out ( since the no deal exit is fortunately disliked by all except the mad Brexiteers)

David said...

Yes, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel. But all this HAS played its part, not least in getting Corbyn to whip his party for the Beckett vote (without great success, it has to be said). It's all connected.

Susan said...

Coming back to this post and reading the comments reminds me of something Elizabeth Warren said today in a rural forum in Iowa. She said when she first arrived at the Senate, the first bill she proposed was to address the crushing load of student debt. At the time, there was no activism around the issue, and the bill netted not a single cosponsor. Instead, as she described, each student loaded down with debt carried the burden of it all alone. Since that time, students have spoken up, and we all have become aware of the injustice. As a result, when Warren reintroduced her bill the last time around, she netted several cosponsors. Often, at least in the States, this is the way it works: activists create awareness and push for change until legislators feel compelled to address it.

David said...

Well put, Sue, with the perfect example. We need to take special note of American activism in these dark terms and realise that we can make a difference. The Brits are not natural protesters, unlike our fellow Europeans across the Channel...