REGIONAL RIDES

I do not recommend homelessness, in any of its forms. The form of this book – and its title – are though, in part, a result of it. The summer did not go as planned. Suffice it to say, I found I could not remain anywhere, whether my parents’ home, my brother’s or my friends’ homes, for any length of time, without feeling at least uncomfortable. It soon occurred to me that, instead of, for example, reporting on monthly or fortnightly trips to a random selection of UK parliamentary constituencies for the project, from a home base, I could undertake a tour of the entire country, which, being organised into twelve regions – South West England, Wales, the West Midlands, North West England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, North East England, Yorkshire and the Humber, the East Midlands, the East of England, London, South East England – could be covered on a motorcycle in thirty-six days, giving three days per region, on a realistic budget. It would provide short term relief from my situation, and provide ample, illustrative material for my work, which I would focus on for the foreseeable future, come what may. In early July, I arranged to stay with my Godmother and her husband in Fayence, in the Var, in the South of France, for the last week of August and the first of September. I would depart upon my return.

The imagined thirty-six day tour was, in the event, achieved. My actual itinerary is shown in the table below, with a variety of visits to sites, attendance at, or participation in events, and meetings taking place around the twelve regions. There were some disappointments : several attempts to organise meetings with various trade unions in Wales came to nought; a medical emergency – which, happily, ended well – meant I was unable to record a discussion with prominent members of the Green Party of England and Wales in the West Midlands; unforeseen circumstances put paid to a meeting with a senior UCU member in Liverpool; in other cases, intentions to meet or speak over the telephone were unconsummated; and in not a few instances, my overtures, whether in person, or electronic, met with silence. These were outweighed though by serendipities of one kind or another. Some of my most memorable conversations – recorded or not – were with people I had happened upon, at camps, demonstrations and on picket lines, in streets, car parks, markets, pubs, cafes, shops and, of course, in my overnight accommodation. I had come across sites of historical and current significance, like Walcot Hall, the Shropshire estate purchased by Clive of India; the Altahullion Wind Farm in County Londonderry, and the Torness Nuclear Power Station; North East Organic Growers’ ten acre site, near Bedlington; the checkpoint at the entrance to what may become the largest mine in the UK, outside Whitby; RAF Waddington, in Lincolnshire, with a Vulcan bomber parked at the side of the road; and the main campus of the British Geological Survey, in Keyworth. I was given personal tours of Miners’ Hall, in Redhills, and the North Kesteven Airfield Trail, and witnessed the constituting of the Reclaim the Enlightenment in Belfast, all following chance encounters. My path crossed demonstrations or actions of national and regional significance in Bristol, Manchester, Belfast, Norwich, and London, the last of which has been called the ‘biggest protest of the far right since the Second World War’.

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Members of Momentum Kensington & Chelsea, whom I encountered on Portobello Road, working to respond to the horror and injustice of the Grenfell Tower fire the day before

 

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