Wednesday, March 11, 2009

1984 revisited: The nick

As I commented in Monday's post, 27 women were arrested at the demo outside the American base at the beginning of 1984. As darkness fell and the majority of the demonstrators headed for the ferry through the snow that was beginning to fall, the women from Dunoon & Holy Loch CND decided that we couldn't abandon those now in police custody and agreed to meet at the local police station in an hour or so. Just time to go home, get warm, eat something (and in my case cook something first, for my chaps were panicking) and find something warmer to wear.

And so I ended up spending that Saturday evening outside the doors of the police station, wearing Mr B's duvet coat, singing loudly to encourage those held within. Every so often, the doors would revolve and spit out one of the women, released for now, uncertain of whether or not the ferries would still be running but glad to see us waiting. We took it in turns to ferry carloads to the pier, gave out chocolate, reassured them about timetables. The snow continued to fall, and we scuffed huge CND symbols on the grass. Learning that if we made enough noise the women still held inside could hear us, we made a great deal. There was in immense sense of family and responsibility. After all, these women had travelled from the south of England to demonstrate at our base - the presence of which had turned Dunoon into a garrison town, a chunk of Ardnadam into foreign territory and the Holy Loch into an obscenity - and we were grateful.

By eleven o'clock we were informed that the four women still in custody would be remaining in police cells till Monday morning. We should go home, the duty sergeant told us, not unkindly. Come back the next day if we liked - we could visit. So there I was, having my first ever chance to visit those in prison, turning up on the Sunday with cartons of orange juice, some toothbrushes, toothpaste, books. And my first ever time locked in a cell - brown gloss painted brick walls, bright red gloss on the door, bench on two walls, plastic cushioning in blue. Funny, I can't remember the individual people I visited - only their gratitude, their smiles, their resolve. They didn't seem to me worthy of incarceration, but they must have upset someone.

As the weekend ended in a raw thaw, I contemplated work, normality, and a return, as it were, to Thatcher's Britain. I knew that I felt completely alienated from the government - and that normality seemed more strange than what I had just experienced. 1984 looked like being an interesting year.


  1. Hi Chris. Thought the duvet coat was a missprint for duffle coat. But reckoned I should Google the phrase and found there is indeed a duvet coat. Didn't know such a garment existed. I need to get out more! More seriously, on the CND thing I've never been able to picture Jesus anywhere else but in the place of protest. And to vist those in prison...forasmuch as you did it to the least of these my sisters....kind of makes Christian discipleship excitingly costly, huh? And protest for peace as one of the,likelier places to encounter Him! Blessings.

  2. That night, I needed the big puffy coat to get out more! I appreciate your comments - you may be interested to read further installments of this extraordinary year.