Obviously I had no intention of going, but The Poet set off and I cheered him on from my sofa in the solitarium. It was the Stop Tesco Opening in Mill Road March, yesterday. Mill Road, I learned, is called 'the most multi-cultural street in Britain' by The Telegraph - in what tone I can't say. And I live directly off it. It is a very fine road, full of shops selling ingredients for, or the food of every cuisine under the sun, well, Chinese, Indian, Korean, Italian, Japanese, Turkish, American, New Zealand; and bicycles, old fashioned hardware, electrical bits and pieces, organic this and that, as well as booze, printer ink, computers, electronic music stuff, toys. There's a mosque, a couple of chapels, and a new age bookshop. And Tesco has just discovered a triple fronted vacant shop to begin the ruin of it.
But my foot doesn't walk half a mile without pain, I've got a streaming cold that's refused to go away for a week, and as well as being entirely idle, I've got an aversion to crowds, actually an aversion to more than three people on the street at the same time. I've avoided demonstrations, though mostly they have my whole-hearted blessing, since that march on Grosvenor Square in 1968 (was it?) when they got the horses and backed us up against the trees in the square and I was anyway speeding and it was all a bit much quite honestly.
But the drums and whistles of the Mill Road march could be heard all the way up in my solitarium. Really great drumming, and I'm a sucker for anything with a powerful beat. After about half an hour, I couldn't bear it, and headed off down the road, just like one of the rats in Hamelin, inveigled by the Pied Piper towards the river Weiser deep and wide. And there I was on my first march for 40 years or so (OK there were a couple since).
Actually, the march had just reached the top of my street when I got to it, and the proposed Tesco site is about 100 yards away from it, so to say that I marched would be stretching it. I found The Poet, who waved me towards him in the crowd of a good few hundred. I got there in time to hear the man from Al Amin, grocer and post office, make his speech and to cheer, though I declined the placard The Poet offered me, even though it said 'Every Little Hurts'. We reminisced with a couple of friends about the old days of throwing ball-bearings under the horses' feet to unseat the police, but decided that animal welfare considerations over rode such behaviour. Anyway there weren't any horses, there were community police officers who for the most part were taking photos on their phones - not for the records, like they used to - but to take home to show their mums. And then the crowd gradually dispersed to do their Saturday afternoon shopping in the deli, Al Amin and the co-op, or have a coffee in the Black Cat Cafe; the dreadlocked, the pink-haired, the grey haired and the bald went their amiable ways. And, unless Tesco have not been cowed and continue their vile plan to ruin our excellent street, I have had my quota of exercise and activism for another forty years.