I awoke surprisingly early, around nine o'clock. The sun was shining. I had a blue sky above me, and things to do.
Around twelve o'clock I left my house to join people at the peace march starting at Embankment; I met my brother and Tiefling and Tansy and others on the side of Cleopatra's Needle, and looked either way to see the roads packed as far as I could see in both directions and yet more people coming across the bridge. I got the feeling that it was going to be even bigger than the march against the war in Afghanistan on October 13, 2001, and the atmosphere was very positive aside from the angry pro-Palestinian crowd who turn up to this sort of thing with posters of dead babies captioned 'Sharon's greatest success' and things like that. (demonising has no place on a peace march, damn it; criticise, yes, but portraying one's opponents as monsters is precisely what allows people to make war on each other as if they weren't humans.).
Possibly hundreds of thousands of people turning out to protest against this war might help in some way? Is Tony Blair determined to do whatever George W. Bush asks of him - of us - however unpopular it might be with the populace? Could this show of opposition - together with the reluctance of his own party - possibly provide him with a useful opportunity to explain to Bush that he really doesn't have the support of his people or his party in any war on Iraq and that taking his country to war in spite of that could be a real problem? (Does he even see this as a potential problem?) If Britain did somehow end up not supporting a military campaign in Iraq, would the USA go ahead with it anyway?
I expect what happens in the United Nations will probably make more difference than what happens in London in the end, but in any case it's good to know that dissent is not quite dead in Britain yet...
So, anyway... there we were, crowds sprawling in both directions, drinking tea on the side of the obelisk and chatting, waiting for the crowd to get moving and meeting people as they turned up, until almost three o'clock when the march finally started its journey towards Hyde Park. Unfortunately, it was just around this time that I kind of had to start walking in the other direction. A few weeks ago, my brother has booked us both tickets to see two showings of Smallfilms productions at the National Film Theatre today, having no idea that the peace march was happening too - so it was miss most of the march, or miss Noggin the Nog, Ivor the Engine, The Clangers, Bagpuss and Pogle's Wood, and Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin in person.
I'd never seen Noggin the Nog or Ivor The Engine although I had books of both, and I hadn't seen The Clangers in ages, and I'd at least showed up to the demonstration to be counted, so I went and watched cartoons for the rest of the afternoon, and I can't say I was sorry.
First up was an episode of The Clangers called The Seed. One of the Clangers planted a seed and it grew at first but then it drooped, so they called over their friend the cloud to rain on it, which did the trick. Grateful for its help, the Clangers decorated the cloud with flowers. Soon though, they realised that their planet was being overtaken by this greenery, so they radioed the Iron Chicken for help. The Chicken in turn called in Skymoos from a nearby planet - great purple quadrupeds with huge maws and a hint of the bovine about them. They muched through the rogue vegetation in short order, drank a pot of soup, and then flapped off into the sky on their wing-like ears (ear-like wings?), twirling their tails happily.
Next was Bagpuss: Flying, the episode with the little basket and twig broom with the song about the woman who went seventeen times as high as the moon to brush the cobwebs out of the sky, and with the mice fooling Professor Yaffle into thinking they've perfected a flying machine using the basket and a couple of fans, until he notices the fishing rod that's really holding them up. Like most episodes of Bagpuss I'd seen it not long ago, but even so it's always a sublime pleasure to watch.
In the Ivor the Engine episode Unidentified Objects, Dai is just telling Jones about Martians - little green men with pointy heads who come down to Earth and disguise themselves as petrol pumps, there's a lot of them around these days - when they spot a squadron of round flying objects not far away. Suspecting an invasion, they set off on Ivor to see what's up. When they get closer it becomes apparent that it's not flying saucers at all, but bubbles: Meredith Dinwiddy, the local gold-miner, has put together a vast, elaborate apparatus with levers and giant bellows, which blows a perfect soap bubble every time. It still takes quite a bit of effort from a human operator though, until Jones has the idea of connecting it to Ivor's boiler to automate the process. The machine churns out half a dozen or so bubbles in quick succession, and the episode draws to a close.
Finally, we had three episodes of Noggin the Nog, the Noggin and the Ice Dragon story. Noggin and friends are called to a valley which is being terrorised by a mighty dragon, but when they find the dragon they realise he's actually very nice, really a thoroughly decent sort who didn't mean to frighten anyone and wanted nothing more than to have someone to talk to for a while and then get back to bed. I won't give away any more of the story than that.
After this programme, we had half an hour before the next section, a showing of several episodes of the much less well-known (black and white) Pogle's Wood, interspersed with question and answer sessions with the genius creators of these shows.The Pogles are simple folk who live in the roots of a tree somewhere near Canterbury with a peculiar creature named Tog who is somewhere between a cat and a squirrel, Pippin, the son of the queen of fairies, and a plant named Plant who entertains and educates them with powerful but benign magic and has a deep fondness for bilberry wine. In the question and answer sections, the self-deprecating Postgate was visibly discomfited by the adulation people kept throwing at him.
By the time we got out of the NFT the rally would have been winding down in Hyde Park so I went straight home, cooked myself some supper, checked the news - the police were admitting to 150,000 on the march, the organisers claiming 400,000 - and then went out again. My local craft centre, where I used to go to make and fire clay models, was having its closing-down party, so I called by to say some goodbyes and to see if anyone could suggest any alternative kilns I might use (which they did). I was distracted while I was there by a ranting comedian who evinced disappointment when only a few of the people in the room said they'd been on the march. He was followed by a talented if somewhat poorly-rehearsed jazz band with a great female singer. She sang It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing), and she had that swing; she sang Fever, and I got the fever; she sang Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye, and I said goodbye and hurried off to the noder meet.
Attendance was down on the first leg of The Neither Big Nor Clever London Noder Meet, and conversation was a little subdued I thought; it was a hot, sticky night, and quite a few of us were exhausted from the march. Still, it was good to see all the people who came. This was the first time I've been to a noder meet where I didn't meet anyone I hadn't met before...