my london diary index

Apr 2010

Olympic Site & Bromley by Bow
Workers Memorial Day - Stratford
Release Syrian Political Prisoners
Loyal Orange Lodge London Parade
Wandsworth and the Wandle
Olympics and Nuclear Trains
New River & Harringay
BNP Outnumbered at Borders Agency
Olympia Counter Terror Expo Exposed
Big Gay Flashmob at Tory HQ
Tar Sands Party at the Pumps
Defend the Welfare State
Richmond and Richmond Park
Thames Path
The Passion of Jesus
Crucifixion on Victoria St


Stock photography by Peter+Marshall at Alamy

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All pictures Copyright © Peter Marshall 2010, all rights reserved.
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Olympic Site & Bromley by Bow

London. Wednesday April 28, 2010

The Greenway has become a popular destination for guided walks and tourism

Though on Wednesday afternoon it wasn't too busy as this 360 degree view shows
(larger version)
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As I was in Stratford I went along the the Greenway to make some further panoramas of the Olympic site, then set off to walk down the Greenway. I was hoping to then take the path by the Channelsea River to the Three Mills Lock and then across and along Long Wall, but both these paths are still closed for some reason.

It used to be pleasant to walk along the Greenway, with plenty of wild life, but now work for the Olympics has made it a sterile area, with views to both sides obstructed by fences. Along most of it you can't now get to the edge of the path because of the fences, and in parts in seems much like a prison camp, with ten foot fences topped by 5000 volt electrified wires - certainly shocking to look at.

I was surprised to find a barge in Three Mills Lock, waiting to go upstream. But there was apparently not enough depth of water for it, although I waited for around half an hour it didn't move.

I continued on down the footpath by the navigation and across the footbridge at Bow Locks to the Limehouse Cut, leaving this to catch the DLR at the Langdon Park DLR station which opened in 2007.
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Workers Memorial Day - Olympic Site Stratford

Stratford, London. Wednesday April 28, 2010

Laying the Construction Safety Campaign wreath for Shaun Scurry and Henry Sheridan
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A march and rally at the London Olympic site in Stratford on Workers Memorial Day remembered the deaths of workers killed on the Stratford City and Olympic sites. Hundreds of building workers stopped work to remember their dead colleagues and call for stronger safeguards in construction.

For some years the Construction Safety Campaign and UCATT, the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians, which has 125,000 members in the building industry, supported by other trade unions and safety campaign groups, have held events in London to mark International Workers Memorial Day on 28th April. 2010 was the first year that the government has officially recognised the day.

Earlier in the day a ceremony and wreath-laying had been held at the statue of the unknown Building Worker at Tower Hill in London, and a large cloud of red balloons had been released to remember the workers killed at work over the past year.

Late in the morning, around a hundred trade unionists met by the entrance to the Olympic Site in Pudding Mill Lane for a short rally before the march addressed by Tony O'Brien of the Construction Safety Campaign, Simon Hester of Prospect (and an HSE inspector) Liliana Alexa of the Battersea Crane Disaster Action Group, whose son Michael was killed mending his car on the street by a crane collapse in 2006, Len McCluskey of Unite and others. The march, which included family members of men who had been killed at work, then moved off and into the centre of Stratford.

Outside the Westfield Stratford City site they were welcomed by a much larger group of building workers, including people from the Stratford City, Olympic and other local sites who had stopped work to attend a rally and memorial event for Shaun Scurry, killed working on the Stratford City project in December 2009, and Henry Sheridan, a carpenter working at West Ham as a part of the infrastructure development for the Olympics who died instantly when hit on the head by a JCB extractor bucket in December 2008. Several members of the families of these men and others killed at work were at the memorial event.

In a short rally with speeches by Dave Allen, UCATT convenor for Westfield Stratford City and others (including O'Brien and Hester) we were reminded of the importance both of remembering the dead and also keeping up the fight for the living for safer working conditions. There was a minute of silence for the dead men and then wreaths were for them; after the event these were to be taken inside the Westfield site.

Construction is the most dangerous industry in Britain - in 2009 there were 53 construction fatalities, of which 11 were in London. Few of these deaths are truly accidents, and many arise from the deliberate disregard by employers of the safety of workers, "cutting corners" to get the job done faster and on the cheap. Part of the reason this remains possible are employment practices that mean many workers are not on the payroll of the company running the site, which enables the building firm to evade its responsibilities.

Another important factor is the lack of proper inspection by the HSE, which has insufficient staff. As Hester pointed out, there are only 26 inspectors to cover the whole of London, with thousands of sites, and the result is that around 90% of reported accidents are never even investigated. Yesterday construction workers held a protest outside Conservative Party HQ in protest against Tory plans to privatise safety inspections, which is seen as certain to lead to an increase in deaths and serious accidents on building sites.
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Release Syrian Political Prisoners

Syrian Embassy, Belgrave Sq, London. Saturday April 17, 2010

Syrians and others demonstrate for the release of political prisoners in Syria
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Around a hundred people protested opposite the Syrian Embassy in London in an international event on the 64th anniversary of Syrian independence calling for the release of Kurdish prisoners of conscience held in Syrian jails.

Similar demonstrations, organised by the International Support Kurds in Syria Association (SKS, based in the UK and founded in 2009) were taking place in Brussels, Canada, Switzerland, France and the USA. Many of those protesting were Kurds, and the protest was also supported by other SKS members and Amnesty International supporters.

The protesters waved both Syrian and Kurdish flags - these are illegal in Syria - and called for the prisoners, many of whom were shown on placards and posters, to be released and for the repeal of Decree 49. Introduced in September 2008, this controls the movement of people in the border area between Syria and Turkey where most Kurds live, and under it people there have to get a licence to build, rent or buy property.

The roughly 1.7million Kurds in Syria have been systematically denied their basic human rights for many years. In 1973, around 300 villages were confiscated and the land taken from around 100,000 Kurds and handed over to Arab farmers, with the names of Kurdish villages being changed into Arabic names. Both the Kurdish language and celebrations of Kurdish culture such as folk dances have been banned, and Kurds active in politics and others who have called for democratic reform have been given long terms of imprisonment, along with lawyers who have tried to defend them. In 2008 there were reported to be 150 Kurds held as political prisoners in Syria, and the situation worsened in 2009 and at least nine prominent Kurdish political leaders were detained.

Emergency rule has been in force in Syria since 1963 and no political parties are licensed. Last year more than 150 Kurds were detained as political prisoners. A blogger was sentenced to three years in jail because of the comments posted on his forum. Others jailed include human rights activist and lawyers. Human Rights watch report numerous cases of ill-treatment and torture by the security agencies. According to the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office Human Rights Report in 2009 there were 19 cases of Kurds who died during military service, the evidence pointing to death by torture or shooting.

Law 93 in 1962 led to around 120,000 Kurds being stripped of their Syrian nationality, and the number of these 'stateless Kurds' in Syria is now thought to have grown to around 400,000. They cannot move house, own land or businesses, are banned from many jobs, have no passports or other travel documents and their access to medical treatment is restricted.

Syrian security forces opened fire on Kurds celebrating the Kurdish New Year (Newroz) in March this year after the organisers refused to take down Kurdish flags and pictures of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, imprisoned in Turkey. At least one man was killed and others were wounded.

Unlike Kurds in Iraq, Turkey and Iran, Kurds in Syria have never formed an armed separatist movement in Syria but have simply demanded basic human rights in the country.

Today's demonstration was a peaceful one, and there were only a couple of police visible around the embassy.
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Loyal Orange Lodge London Parade

Westminster, London. Saturday April 17, 2010

The march forming up with wreaths to lay

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The City of London District St Georges Day Orange Parade marched through Central London to lay wreaths in memory of Crown Forces at the Cenotaph and of WPC Yvonne Fletcher where she died in St James's Square.

The parade formed up close to Victoria station wearing their traditional regalia and carrying banners, and marched off up Victoria St to the music of the Corby Purple Star Flute Band. To the front were men carrying wreaths for the Cenotaph, including on from the Churchill Flute Band of Londonderry as well as those from the City of London.

Although even with the progress towards peace continuing in Northern Ireland parades such as this are still contentious there, in London they are seen simply as a celebration of a particular Protestant culture and arouse little or no antipathy.

The parade was held on the anniversary of the killing of WPC Yvonne Joyce Fletcher on duty in St James's Square when shots were fired into a group of protesters outside the Libyan embassy, probably from the second floor of the embassy, in 1984. One of the wreaths was to be laid at her memorial in the square.
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Wandsworth and the Wandle

Wandsworth, London. Saturday April 17, 2010
The mouth of the River Wandle with waste transfer station and blue spike
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I went to Wandsworth by bus and took a few pictures from the top deck on the way there and back, but my reason for going there was that a short path has been opened there by the mouth of the Wandle and I thought might provide a new viewpoint.

Unfortunately it wasn't really so, as the fence there for the moment prevents you from getting to a suitable place. Perhaps when it is properly open it will be better. I'd also hoped that the huge clear blue sky without any contrails might work well with the blue spike close to the mouth of the river, and I made a few digital panoramas while I was there as well as single images like these. The sky also seemed to be a subtly different blue to normal because of the ash.
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Olympics and Nuclear Trains

Harringay, London. Saturday April 17, 2010

Protesters near the railway bridge over Green Lanes
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A protest against trains taking highly toxic radioactive waste through densely populated North London was given added moment by President Obama's recent warning that nuclear terrorism is the gravest threat to global security.

Radioactive waste, from Sizewell in Essex, travels in special wagons on two alternative routes taking it through Ilford, Stratford, Hackney, Camden, Kilburn, Hampstead, Kensal Rise and Haringey (where today's protest was taking place) to Willesden Junction on its way north to Sellafield for reprocessing and long-term storage (it will still be dangerous in the next millennium.) Waste from Dungeness also travels by rail through London, passing through Orpington, Chislehurst, Grove Park, Lewisham, Peckham Denmark Hill, Clapham, Battersea, Fulham and Kensington on its route to Sellafield via Willesden Junction.

The waste carried on the trains is spent fuel rods, which are highly radioactive, and a successful terrorist attack on the trains could contaminate considerable areas of London with this highly toxic material. The campaigners say that if spread by the wind following an explosion it could cause thousands of deaths even miles from the incident in a kind of mini-Chernobyl. The toxic isotopes from that disaster were spread far around the world.

They point out that the attraction of this transport of radioactive materials to terrorists is greatly enhanced by the huge interest in the London 2012 Olympics, as the route from the nuclear power station at Sizewell passes through the main Olympic site and contaminating that would obviously be a major publicity coup for terrorists.

In 2006, Daily Mirror journalists planted a fake bomb on one for the nuclear waste trains in north-west London to show how easy it would be for terrorists to do the same. There is no evidence that it would be any harder now, and it would certainly not be feasible to provide adequate security along the whole length of the route. Transport by sea would be a safer alternative, though probably more costly, and nuclear power has already proved uneconomic if the full costs of decommissioning of power stations and safe long-term storage of wastes are included.

Today's protest, which involved around a dozen activists handing out leaflets to people walking along a busy section of Green Lanes, a major shopping street in north London, was called by the Nuclear Trains Action Group and supported by London CND. Quite a few of those walking past while I was there took the handouts and many were surprise to find that nuclear waste was being transported so close to their homes.

The current UK Government wants to build more nuclear power stations to meet a perceived energy gap in the future, although the lead time for building them makes their contribution problematic. More nuclear power stations would mean more highly dangerous shipments of their radioactive waste travelling through our cities, as well as more emissions from the plants themselves into the surroundings. A German study that showed the link between nuclear power plants and childhood leukaemia in the areas around them was part of the evidence that has convinced the German government to stop building them.
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New River & Harringay

Finsbury Park, London. Saturday April 17, 2010

Thanks to volcanic ash, the new river was under a clear blue sky
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It's a few years since I walked along the New River near Finsbury Park, and as I was there with a little time to spare I took a short stroll and make a few pictures. But you can see rather more (and I think better) pictures that I took of the New River and the Finsbury Park area with the Hasselblad XPan in May/June 2002 on my Buildings of London site.
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BNP Outnumbered at Borders Agency

Lunar House, Croydon, London. Thursday 15 April 2010

There were at least three times as many counter-demonstrators as BNP members outside Lunar House
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Around 30 British National Party members demonstrated against immigration to the UK outside the Borders Agency in Croydon. More than a hundred people, including some staff from the agency demonstrated against their presence and policies.

Outside Lunar House in the centre of Croydon the police had set up a pen for the far-right BNP with another for the counter-demonstration organised by trade unionists who work for the Borders Agency and supported by Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and other anti-fascists around 50 metres away to the side of the building.

The roughly 30 BNP members were escorted to the site from East Croydon Station by police, and as they arrived they were met by loud jeering from more than a hundred counter-demonstrators who accused them of racism.

The BNP unfurled a banner reading 'Asylum Seekers Don't Unpack, You're Going Back!' and another stating 'Britain is Full Up!' and displayed BNP signs with the message 'People Like You Voting BNP Putting British People First.' Several of those present were wearing election rosettes, reminding us that their are many BNP candidates in the forthcoming election.

A BNP spokesman made a short speech and was then questioned by some of the journalists present. The BNP want an immediate and absolute ban on immigration to the UK except for exceptional cases, the rounding up and deportation of "criminal and illegal" immigrants (2 million according to their web site, but reliable estimates put the number from 3-700,000) and a scheme of generous grants to encourage immigrants who are here legally "to return to their lands of ethnic origin." We should no longer offer asylum to anyone, whatever the circumstances - they are all "either bogus or can find refuge much nearer their home countries." They would also "review all recent grants of residence or citizenship to ensure they are still appropriate."

Although they claim to be promoting traditional British values, their policies seem to miss those I think we should be most proud of - including tolerance and the respect for human rights. It's very hard to see how this country could manage without the immigrants - both legal and undocumented - who do so many jobs that other people are not prepared to do or where there is simply no one else with the skills. Immigrants - both with and without the proper documents - are vital to our economy and we rely on them for cheap food, for medical services, for social care and so much more.

Meanwhile the chanting from the anti-racists continued and union reps and others called for an end to the employment of BNP members in the immigration service.

The two groups of demonstrators where generally kept at a distance by the police, but a small group of largely black-clad antifascists managed to get close to the BNP pen and make clear the message that racists were not welcome here. One man rushed past the police and grabbed one of the BNP banners, but was immediately grabbed and wrestled to the ground by police.

After a few minutes the police formed a "bubble" surrounding these protesters (and a journalist or two) and escorted them back to the counter-demonstrators' pen.

PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka came to speak to the union's counter-demonstration, thanking those who had come to oppose racism. He said that this demonstration "was an outrageous ploy by the BNP to target vulnerable members of our society who go to Lunar House for advice and help from our members."

"We want to bring people together and we are committed to doing everything we can to oppose the BNP, which only seeks to divide our communities. It is very disappointing that the home secretary said he was unable to prevent a Home Office building being used as a platform for the BNP to spread its politics of hate."

Around 3pm the BNP who had been standing around rather listlessly in their pen while the noisy counter-demonstration continued packed away their banners, collected in the BNP sign and were escorted back to East Croydon station by police with three vans.
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Olympia Counter Terror Expo Exposed

Olympia Exhibition Centre, London. Wednesday 14 April 2010

A man is caught red handed with a terror weapon - RED chalk

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A peaceful protest took place outside the Counter Terror Expo at Olympia against the profits made from terrorising people around the world and the increasing use of surveillance systems to control and document our lives.

The Counter Terror Expo is organised by Clarion Events, who are also responsible for the world's largest arms fair, DSEi, held every two years in London's former docklands. It is sponsored by Thales, a leading manufacturer of weapons and security systems and exhibitors include other leading arms companies.

The protesters point to the role of these products in war and repression around the world, killing men, women and children and to the huge profits that are made from this, while the manufacturers claim their weapons and control systems make the world a safer place. Safer, I think for exactly who? Not I think for you and me, but possibly for a small and very rich elite.

The major focus of this exhibition was on surveillance systems, enabling governments and their agencies to keep track of people particularly through electronic data gathering from CCTV systems, internet communications and web browsing, electronic payment systems, mobile phone movements, automatic number plate recognition, Oyster cards and of course the planned ID cards.

The protesters called for resistance to this ever encroaching surveillance society and to an end to the climate of state and corporation induced terror.

While I was photographing there, one man was arrested by police and after considerably argument was bundled into the back of a police van. The man was alleged to have damaged property by chalking on the pavement, which seemed an absurd charge. Arrests such as this seem often more designed as a kind of instant punishment for people who upset a particular officer than anything to do with upholding the law, and unfortunately bring the police into disrepute. One of the officers present later handed out a leaflet about policing of protest to the other police there, who put it away in their pockets, but it might have been helpful had they got it earlier and read it.
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Big Gay Flashmob at Tory HQ

Millbank, London. Sunday 11 April 2010

Tamsin Omond one of the organisers and Peter Tatchell at the Flashmob

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Hundreds of activists and supporters staged a 'Big Gay Flashmob' outside the Tory Election Campaign HQ today, protesting at the Conservative Party's lack of firm policies on LGBT rights and homophobic statements by shadow home secretary Chris Grayling.

A large cluster of pink balloons marked the Conservative Party Election Campaign HQ on Millbank this afternoon for the event which was organised by Tamsin Omond who is standing for parliament in the 'To the Commons' campaign in Hampstead and Kilburn. She created the Facebook event which more than 1,500 had signed up to attend and Peter Tatchell of Outrage! had worked with her to publicise it. He was given a huge welcome by the crowd and told them of the disappointing meeting he had had that morning with shadow chancellor and Conservative campaign manager George Osborne.

The Conservatives have come up with only two policy promises on gay rights - to erase from criminal records all past convictions for gay sex offences that are now legal, and to have 'zero tolerance' over homophobic bullying in schools. While he welcomed these, he said they did not amount to a great deal and there were too many people still in the party who appeared homophobic - including Chris Grayling who suggested that Bed and Breakfast owners should be able to refuse gay couples. He along with the others taking part in the protest would like the Conservative Party to "come out" with some gay-friendly policies, actively promoting gay rights and equality, and to stand up against anti-gay elements in the party.

The Conservative record is one of lip-service to gay rights at election time but of voting against gay rights, and the infamous 'Section 28' which banned local authorities from "promoting homosexuality" still rankles - and many Tories voted against its full repeal in 2003. Despite a charm offensive towards the gay community by Cameron - including a public apology last year for the party's former behaviour with Section 28 - many still feel the party is basically anti-gay. And they showed it at this event by the repeated chanting that they would never vote Tory.

There were also several times during the party that everyone present was invited to kiss and most seemed pleased to do so, and it was clear that everyone present - although feeling very seriously about the issues - was determined to have fun.

The Conservative HQ was locked and deserted, but there were apparently some Conservatives present and they provided free ice cream for the party-goers. Doubtless too some of them came later and wiped off the many anti-Tory slogans that were chalked on the walls of the building and the pavement outside.

At the end of the event, many of those taking part continued to picnic in the nearby public gardens, but I went home.
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Tar Sands Party at the Pumps

BP, Shepherd's Bush Green, London. Saturday 10 April 2010

BP Sponsors Climate Chaos says the banner in front of the pumps
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Protesters who claim BP's planned exploitation of Canadian Tar Sands is the most destructive project on the planet, with huge pollution, destruction of ancient forests and harm to indigenous communities, closed a BP garage at Shepherds Bush Green for the day by holding a 'Party at the Pumps.

The protest, organised by the UK Tar Sands Network, Rising Tide and the Camp for Climate Action, was a part of a 'BP Fortnight of Shame' aimed at trying to get BP shareholders to reverse the company's decision to take part in what environmental activists say is "the dirtiest and most desperate attempt yet to profit from - and prolong - humanity's crippling addiction to oil."

The extraction of usable crude oil from tar sands takes huge amounts of energy and water, resulting in the overall production of from three to five times the amount of carbon dioxide as conventional oil. Roughly 4 tonnes of earth need to be dug up to make one barrel of oil, starting by stripping off the ancient forest and peat bogs and then using huge trucks and shovels to dig up to 75 meters of the tar containing sand and clay for extraction. But four-fifths of Alberta's tar sands are too deep to be mined in this way and are brought to the surface by the injection of high pressure steam (Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage), which uses roughly twice the energy and water needed for strip mining.

The process produces large amounts of highly toxic waste water, much of which is already leaking into drinking water. There have been very high rates of cancer reported among the indigenous people living in the area as well as other diseases. Moose meat, a staple of their diet, has been found with heavy metal contamination from water sources at up to 300 times the acceptable level. Chiefs from across the whole area have called for a moratorium on new tar sands projects, and several are fighting developments in the courts.

There seems unlikely ever to be any technology that could make the extraction of oil from tar sands clean, and the prospects of carbon capture and storage (CCS) are far more remote than the rather slim chance that this will ever work effectively for coal. There can be no justification for further tar oil extraction until the technologies for 100% CCS and solutions to the even more intractable environmental issues can be demonstrated to work.

BP, unlike the other oil majors, were not involved in the tar sands until 2007, possibly because they realised the environmental disaster involved, but more likely because they had cheaper sources of oil. But in 2007 they signed a deal with the Canadian Company Husky Energy for a large-scale tar sands project they called the 'Sunrise Project' and since then other BP projects have emerged. 'Sunrise' was put on hold when oil prices crashed in 2008, but along with the other dirty tar sands ventures seems likely to get the go-ahead at the BP shareholders meeting on April 15 unless they can be made to see the problems involved and take a responsible attitude to the environment.

The location of the demonstration was a closely kept secret, and those taking part were told to meet at Oxford Circus with a Travelcard. After half an hour of waiting around, a whistle blast was a signal for everyone to rush down into the station, following those with green and yellow flags, a few of whom knew the destination.

The Central Line was pretty crowded and the seventy or eighty people were spread out over a number of carriages, along with a couple of police who had followed them into the station. At Shepherds Bush the message came to get off, and follow the leaders. They rushed out and along the busy shopping street, across the green to the BP garage on the south side, which had already been occupied by a smaller advance group of demonstrators.

Some of these had made their way onto the roof of the petrol station from the scaffolding on a neighbouring block of flats and were fixing a banner along the front of the roof, while others had blocked the entrance with a large banner saying 'CLOSED'. The staff were locking themselves into the shop area and there were one or two police around, but too many protesters for it to be possible to stop the occupation of the forecourt.

Soon there were more banners being displayed, tapes going up around the pumps with the message 'Danger Global Warning' and 'bp tar sands - back to black?' stickers being applied liberally to pump handles and other surfaces.

The Rhythms of Resistance band had also arrived and was playing to make sure everyone in the area would notice the protest as well as to start the partying. A bicycle trailer sound system arrived, and when the band got tired took over playing music.

After the protest had been going for around an hour, a police officer came across with a man from BP to talk to the protesters. They asked when the protest would end and was told it would end some time later in the day when it was over and that there was no intention to cause permanent damage. The man from BP said he was worried about the safety of those on the roof, but was told they were probably capable of avoiding throwing themselves from it and would be able to make their way down safely in the same way as they had gone up.

The police then escorted the man from BP into the shop to talk to the employees there before leaving the petrol station.

A live band played for some dancing led by a caller which perhaps a third of the roughly hundred demonstrators now present took part in. It was a warm afternoon and most were content to sit on the pavement and talk, eat sandwiches and snacks and drink, while some handed out leaflets to the passers-by and explained why the protest was taking place. Those who wanted to smoke made sure they kept well away from the pump area.

When I left after more than two hours on the site the police were still standing around and watching the protest, filming and taking notes but not otherwise taking any action.
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Defend the Welfare State

Temple, London. Saturday 10 April 2010

Pensioners call for decent State pensions and care

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Pensioners led thousands in a march through London today backed by the trade unions to defend the welfare state and oppose cuts in public services, to a rally at Trafalgar Square.

The march was organised by the National Pensioners' Convention, which represents over a thousand local regional and national pensioner groups with a total of 1.5 million members, and was supported by the TUC and all the major unions.

It was very much a reminder to all the political parties who are just about to publish their manifestos for the 2010 UK General election that pensioners are an important political force. There are now around 12 million men and women of state pension age living in the UK, very near to one in five of the population, but the figures understate their political power, as pensioners are far more likely to vote than other age groups. According to Age Concern, more than 40% of votes cast in the 2010 election will be by those aged over 60.

Of course pensioners do not form a single voting bloc, but they do share many concerns, both for themselves and others who are growing old as well as for the rest of society. Age Concern has identified five key issues and these are refelcted in the demands by the NPC and others on the march.

During and after the Second World War, Britain reached a consensus that things had to change and that the state had to provide its citizens with the benefits of what was called a welfare state: state pensions, a free national health service, free education and other public services. Over the years some of these provisions have been eroded (and in a few areas such as dental care, never fully implemented) but now they are increasingly under threat, whichever party wins the general election.

The huge deficits created by handouts to the bankers to keep the economy running, as well as vast expenditure on taking part in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in unprecedented public debt. This is not a matter of Labour mismanagement of the economy, but of pursuing policies which were largely agreed by both major parties, and at least to some extent by the Liberal Democrats.

We have already seen cuts in some public services, in some cases arising from privatisation under the Private Finance Initiative, which has burdened the public sector and the NHS in particular with large debts, and many hospitals, including some in London are now under threat of closure as services are rationalised to save money.

All three main parties are making plans for cuts in public expenditure, and these will fall heavily on the public services which are particularly vital for older people and for children.

The marcher also called for increases in state pensions, which currently leave one pensioner in four living in poverty. More too needs to be provided for the disabled - and many of the elderly are also disabled.

As many of those speaking and marching reminded us, the financial crisis wasn't caused by working people or pensioners, but by the unregulated greed of bankers, many of whom are now once again receiving huge annual bonuses, in some cases an annual amount more than the wages of a typical worker over their whole working life.
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Richmond and Richmond Park

Richmond Park, London. Easter Sunday 4 April 2010

The view from the Terrace on Richmond Hill

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On Easter Day we went for a walk in Richmond Park and I took a few pictures, including a very large panorama from King Henry's mount. Windsor Castle was fairly clear on the horizon and the protected view to St Pauls Cathedral was clear if rather hazy.

We walked past Pembroke Lodge nearly to Ham Cross before turning towards the Sheen Gate past the Pen Ponds. At the Sheen gate we turned around and walked through a new wood planted to replace trees brought down in the 1986 gales and on past Holly Lodge then turned towards the Cambrian Gate and back from there to the station.
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Thames Path

Cholsey - Wallingford - Benson - Shillingford. Saturday 3 April 2010

A pond close to the Thames south of Wallingford
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At Easter I took a couple of days away from work and spent one of them walking with some of my family along another section of the Thames path. We took a train to Cholsey to join the path at Moulsford where we had left it in January.

It was considerably warmer than then, but the weather forecast was for showers followed by rain, but turned out rather better. It wasn't until mid-afternoon when we were at Benson close to the end of the walk that we got more than the odd spot, and when it came on steadily I pulled on my waterproof trousers thus ensuring it stopped almost completely a couple of minutes later. The path was very muddy at times as we've had quite a lot of rain, and I was glad I was wearing boots.

It was the day of the boat race, and this is a stretch of river on which Oxford University have their boat house, a rather new but perhaps undistinguished building (with a large old shed next to it.) Of course this was deserted as they were all down at Putney, though we did see some rowers from Wallingford, who have a rather nicer building in the town.

Wallingford was once a very important place indeed because of its position as a bridging point of the Thames, and its old bridge is fairly impressive (the new one rather less so.) King Alfred built the town to protect the crossing, and William the Conqueror added a castle. It was the most important town in Berkshire and had its own Royal Mint from the 10th to 13th centuries. Devasted by the Black Death, it became prosperous again in the 18th and 19th century with the river allowing it to trade with London and supporting thriving malting, brewing and ironfounding industries. But it rather got left out in the railway age, with Brunel's main line a few miles to the south, and the line to Oxford some way to the west. It short branch line from Cholsey closed to passenger traffic in the 1950s and is now a preserved railway where I was dragged a rather tedious kilometre or so to see Ivor the Engine pulling out of the station on the edge of town.

Benson is best know for it's RAF station, home to lots of helicopters and renowned for its extreme low temperatures - often the frostiest place in Britain. While we were there it was rather damp. And Shillingford is best known at least to me for its bus stop, where Linda made a valiant attempt to miss the bus, which took took us comfortably back to Reading station via Wallingford and a rather lengthy detour around what looked like Oxfordshire's most boring village.
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The Passion of Jesus

Trafalgar Square, London. Good Friday 2 April 2010

Jesus's body taken down from the cross

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Trafalgar Square was packed on Good Friday for The Passion of Jesus, the first Passion Play there since 1965, performed by around 150 devout Christians and a donkey by a group based on the Wintershall estate. London, UK. 02/04/2010.

The highly professional performance related the key events leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, with both narration and the voices of the main characters coming to the crowd over loudspeakers around the square. It was a colourful and at times exciting rendition of what was for some of us a familiar story, but for others present was novel.

The play followed fairly closely the traditional story as related in the four gospels, adding a certain amount of spectacle. Although the flogging of Jesus occured off-stage and the sound effects were rather unconvincing, the crucifixion that followed was a pretty gory sight.

As in the Gospel narrative, the Jewish heirarchy of the time was typecast as villains, perhaps too typecast, and the resurrection too presents some dramatic problems.

Peter Hutley who wrote and produced the play has made a fortune through property development. He owns the Wintershall estate near Godalming in Surrey where he annually puts on a more ambitious six hour 'Life of Christ' around a lake in the grounds, which as well as having more actors also uses camels and a flock of sheep.

Those producing and performing the play see it as a way to get the Jesus story to people now that it no longer forms a part of the essential curriculum in many schools, and so many are ignorant of it.
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Crucifixion on Victoria St

Westminster, London. Good Friday 2 April 2010
A man carrying the cross leaves Westminster Methodist Central Hall
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Christians in Westminster on Good Friday took part in 'The Crucifixion on Victoria Street' with a procession stopping for worship at Methodist Central Hall, on the steps of Westminster Cathedral and in Westminster Abbey.

The procession was led by a large wooden cross carried by men from the Passage, a project for homeless people. Following this were around 500 people including members of the passage, children from St Vincent de Paul Primary School, the Lord Mayor of Westminster, Councillor Duncan Sandys and Westminster clergy and members of the congregations.

Outside Westminster Catherdral there were hymns, a reading by The Reverend Philip Chester, Vicar of St Matthew's Westminster, a mediation by the Reverend Martin Turner from Methodist Central Hall, a prayer by Mr Mick Clarke, CEO of The Passage and a reflection on peace to honour the innocent victims of our times by The Most Reverend Vincent Nicholls, Archbishop of Westminster. He became the third Archbishop of Westminster I've photographed on these steps.

After a prayer for peace led by The Reverend Michael Macey, Minor Canon of Westminster and another hymn, the procession left for Westminster Abbey. By now the rain which had been light was coming down fairly heavily and I left them at this point.
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