Friday, September 20, 2013

Sepia Saturday 195 : Peace, Virginity and Grosvenor Square


Back in the 1960s, two interests dominated my life - politics and photography. Looking through my negative archives it is surprising how rarely those two interests coincide.  I well remember attending the great Anti Vietnam War demonstration in London in March 1968, but until today I thought that I had no photographic record of the event. But in searching through my archives for a suitable image for Sepia Saturday 195 which marks the International Day of Peace, I came across a short strip of negatives I must have shot on that day in Trafalgar Square. Although I have few photographs of the day, I have many memories of it, and so many of them seem to be in the form of mental images. Here are a few of them, fixed in some magical mental acid-hypo.

  • Attending a camp in the woods at Jerusalem Farm on the night before the demo. Talking to a girl around a campfire. She was a trainee baker who had just been sacked from her job for decorating a whole batch of cakes with the peace symbol made out of icing sugar.
  • Being told that the Fish and Chip shop in Luddenden, a few miles down the valley, was owned by a Communist who was giving free fish and chips to people attending the demo. Walking down to the village and finding a vast queue of young people outside the shop.
  • Waking up in panic in the middle of the night, scrambling out of my sleeping bag and running through the woods as the word went around that there was a police raid. Coming out of hiding later only to discover it was a false alarm.
  • Our bus taking us to London being stopped on the outskirts of the city by the police who with typical British politeness asked us all for our names and addresses. I still can't remember whose name and address I gave.
  • The great peristaltic wave that forced the massive demonstration down the street leading to American Embassy in Grosvenor Square. The sight of the line of mounted police with batons holding the lines of demonstrators back.
  • The realisation that a line of demonstrators would make contact with the line of police, get banged on the head or trod on by a horse, and then be carried away by the line immediately behind them, before the next line would advance into battle. The mathematical realisation that I was destined to be in one of the lines that would be hit rather than would carry away the wounded.
  • My managing to work my way to the end of the line and make my escape into a hat shop before nipping off down a back alley.


I was reminded of all this by the Sepia Saturday 195 contribution of Hazel Ceej who quoted the great comedian George Carlin who said "Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity". On that day 45 years ago I like to think that I made my own little contribution to peace - in more ways than one.


See how others have responded to the Sepia Saturday theme by going to the Sepia Saturday Blog and following the various links.

25 comments:

  1. Ah well, it's nice and sunny now, so as someone once said - "turned out nice again" peace or no peace.

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  2. Did you pick up a disguise on the way out?

    I love this anecdote for so many reasons, not the least of which is the determination now that I must have fish and chips for supper! ;-)

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  3. We doubtless all have mind-photos to share of one thing and another. You described yours with picturesque wit. Thanks for sharing something so appropriate for this Saturday's post. Isn't it wonderful we can laugh at ourselves at some point after the fact. And I laughed with you!

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  4. Oh, Alan -- we are alike! I was in the protest in Harvard Yard (Cambridge, MA) when the police maced us all; spent two hours throwing up in a doorway with another protester -- he and I shared Christmas cards and family photos for the next 40 years! Where's Dylan when we need him?

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  5. Terrific shot and some great memories! Thanks for sharing them.

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  6. Sometimes an old black and white photo can trigger memories. Just as well we have the memories and don't rely on the photos though. They do really deserve to go together.

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  7. Those were the days, weren't they? I know we've all kept our principals up.

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  8. Great to read the stories behind the picture.

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  9. I was surprised to read that the two areas of interest that dominated your life were none of the three in the title. Just as well, I suppose. I'm glad you found the hat shop in order to live to fight another day.

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  10. I was a little girl in those days and one of the poignant memories of that time was an older boy in school whose brother had been drafted and then killed in Vietnam...We don't seem to have learned much since then, have we?

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  11. I wanted to do something about the march on the Pentagon in October of 1967 but I had no photographs. Lost of memory pictures but not photos. That was my last march for a long, long time. I didn't understand confronting troops and soldiers with flowers and not even bringing along bandages. That kind of organizing I did not want to depend on.

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  12. A great description of your political experience. I think young people influenced things at that time. I have hope when I saw the occupy movement take place. There will be more.

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  13. 1968 was such a huge year around the world. And where was I? Teaching a grade of 10-year-olds way out in country Victoria, away from it all.
    By the way, loved the detail that your escape route was via a hat shop. Now how do you remember that?

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  14. We went down to London as a treat on the occasion of my parent's silver wedding anniversary. Then my father discovered there was a peace demonstration in Trafalgar Square and made sure we were kept well away from it. I wanted to see what was going on! Students can still be at the fore front of protests - as I witnessed on a visit to Exeter at the time of the Iraq War.

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  15. A Communist Fish & Chip Shop in Luddenden! I Hope You Had Yours With Mushy Peace?

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  16. Your memories are very vivid. The way you presented them made me see the situations you were in. And the escape into a hat shop is almost a comic ending.

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  17. The best read I've had all week. Thanks.

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  18. I salute you for playing your part (in more ways than one) and also for having a great recall; apparently you weren't really there - as you can remember the 60s.

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  19. An eloquent essay, Alan, on the difference between memory and the reality of photography. Today there are too many people looking at a small smartphone screen during events. But real life is so much bigger in all four dimensions, and memory is infinite.

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  20. Isn't it great to reminisce!

    I loved that quote too. lol.

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  21. That girl sacked for baking peace cakes - what an interesting character! Wonderful memories. "mathematical realization" - I like that.

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  22. I remember the 1960s with joy and sorrow- joy for my 3 of 4 children who were born then; sorrow for all the violence of that decade, the war, the assassinations of two Kennedys, M L King, Jr. and the shooting at Kent State University. There may be more, but those stand out in my memory.
    I also remember telling my 3rd graders that the war in Vietnam began with the "Civil" War in what was then called French Indochina when I was in high school.
    I feel sad that little has been learned about war in those who are in charge.

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  23. I enjoyed you recollection. I was at a rally once in the late 1960's, seemed like lots of to do about nothing that would not change but would make the news. It was the only one I attended:)

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  24. Wonderful post. Isn't it amazing how strong your memory is of all the little important bits. I really felt I was there.

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  25. Yes, I can well imagine you counting the odds of finding yourself in the wrong line...
    Great pic!!
    :)~
    HUGZ

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