Walking To Greenham by Ann Pettitt
Published by Honno
ISBN 1 870206 762
In 1981, Ann Pettitt, who had escaped the rat race of London to become a smallholder in Wales, decided to organise a protest march from Wales to a proposed nuclear base in Berkshire. When they got there, they decided to set up camp at the main gate. At first they were largely ignored, but gradually the camp became a major force in the peace movement - you may have heard about it.
This is an engrossing, extremely readable, sometimes hilarious and often moving account of those times. Anyone involved in anti-nuclear campaigning, whether male or female, will have been influenced by the women's movement, and it's fascinating to find out more about it. But that's only part of the book - it's also about how three women travelled to Iron Curtain Russia to seek out like minded people working, furtively, under great oppression to inspire a different way of thinking in their compatriots, and to confront the state run Soviet Peace Committee ("our Soviet bombs are for peace only") in a dramatic meeting presided over by a colonel in the KGB - a Russian woman who accompanied them to this meeting was later given two years hard labour for her audacity.
As a bloke, I like to think that some of us did a tiny bit to support the Greenham Common Peace Camp, and I can still remember sitting with a pensioner friend of mine who had got his wife to teach him how to knit - his big, calloused, clumsy workman hands struggling with the needles as he tried to make a blanket to send to the women. As grass roots movements go, this certainly fits in with the ethos of self-sufficiency (my version of it, anyway), and as a small holder, the writer is often appropriately reflective:
"Now the US reigns alone, waging its impossible war on 'global terrorism' like a child playing blind man's buff. Patriotism blocks the mouths of critics almost as efficiently as fear did in the old USSR, and a nation eating itself to death believes its way of life is the best for everyone, and any means are justified to ensure the delivery of that enlightenment to a world where most people still don't own a car or a television or a telephone, but do still grow some food and sit down to eat it together."
"...for those who would seek the formula, nothing we did can be reproduced. But fortunately, the spirit in which we did it is infinitely fertile. An effective response to the present threat we humans have devised for our very habitat itself, our planet, will have to be new. As such, all I can say is that it too will appear amateurish, apparently naive, and coming from the most unexpected of places, will at first be beneath notice.
Meantime, if you can, grow vegetables."
By popular demand - The book review section.
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