london diary

sept 2005


my london diary

since 31 july, embarrasing our government by telling the truth about their policies within one kilometre of the houses of parliament has become an arrestable "serious organised crime." the new labour government has undertaken this arbitrary restriction on our freedom of speech, which is enshrined in our history, not least in the traditions which evolved from the magna carta, signed either in runnemede or staines, beside the thames, a few minutes ride from where i am typing.

my own freedom of action has been seriously restricted on medical grounds for a week or so, with a minor knee injury making it painful to walk more than a few steps. on friday i got on my bike to search for a peace campaigner who is supposedly making his way down the thames in a coracle with an egg containing messages of peace. however he failed to turn up at the time and place given on his web site, so perhaps his protest has been designated a serious organised crime too, or more likely the wash from the many speeding thames cruisers has sunk his coracle. I cycled home slowly beside the thames.
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saturday i was in whitehall, opposite 10 downing street, for a protest by the campaign against criminalising communities, supported by liberty, the haldane society, statewatch, stop political terror, the green party, the muslim parliament, peace and justice in east london, the campaign against racism and fascism, sutton for peace and justice, respect, 1990 trust, justice not vengeance and several other groups. the main issue was the arrest of 10 men on august 12 with a view to deporting them to countries where everyone but our government knows they are almost certain to be tortured, and possibly to be killed. 'diplomatic assurances' which the government is seeking have proved in the past to be totally ineffectual.

if these men are guilty of any crimes in britain they should be tried in britain; if not, we should continue to offer them asylum.

another case brought up was that of a former brighton resident - his family still live there - who is still being detained at guantanamo bay. omar deghayes is not a british citizenbut has had refugee status in britain since 1987. his whole family were granted asylum following the murder of his father by the gadaffi regime in libya; only omar has not yet become a british citizen, because he was out of the country when his application came up and arrested before he could return to complete the process. his arrest in pakistan is allegedly a case of mistaken identity from a poor quality video.

our protest was I think legal, as application had been made well in advance (6 days is the normal requirement) and we stayed within the very strict limitations imposed by the police. these included a ban on the use of any amplification, so speakers had to struggle to make themselves heard above the traffic. can a megaphone really be a weapon of mass destruction?

So apologies if I got any of the names wrong. It wasn't always easy to hear, and a few are missing for that reason. I also made the mistake of climbing up onto the small wall by the edge of the grass, which produced a nasty snapping feeling in my knee, leaving me in pain for the whole of this event.
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nelson's final prayer, on 21 october 1804 included a plea for god to grant victory "to my country and for the benefit of europe in general." he continued: "may no misconduct, in any one, tarnish it, and may humanity after victory be the premominant feature in the british fleet." these noble sentiments were not empty words, and when the battle was over, british sailors would risk their lives to save those of their french counterparts.

i thought about the humanity towards refugees and asylum seekers currently being shown by our new labour government during the new trafalgar diispatch events at staines on sunday and felt a sense of shame about my country.

but we were celebrating greater times, although 200 years ago, the events were also tinged with sadness. along with news of britain's great victory, lt john richards lapontiere also brough news of nelson's death in his rapid voyage to falmouth and express post-chaise journey from there to london - covering the 271 miles on land in 37 hours. one of the many places his coach picked up fresh horse was the bush inn at staines, then one of the main towns of middlesex, and only two stages from the admiralty in london.

the bush is long gone, as also is the bridge across which his coach ran, but sunday saw actor alex price playing the role of lapontiere coming by coach from homebase just down the road (more or less on the old staines boundary) into staines and onto the bridge where he was met by the mayors of runnymede and spelthorne and the lord lieutenant of surrey (all women.) it was a day full of anachronism, as neither runnymede or spelthorne existed at the time of trafalgar, when staines was one of the major towns of middlesex.

after a brief ceremony on the bridge, proceedings moved on to staines old town hall, a fine victorian building given away at a derisory price recently by the local council to the disgust of most if not all locals to become a pub. another short performance there ended with copies of the new trafalgar dispatch and a copy of the original being officially presented to the mayors and surrey, before a plaque was unveiled on the town hall wall and an anglican service held at a 'drumhead church' in the fountains (off for the day.)

i'd stayed in staines for this event partly because of my painful knee. i was surprised to find how much i had to move around event to cover a relatively simple event such as this. And yes, it hurt.
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a visit to my doctor's produced some tablets that soothe the pain, and the advice that physiotherapy on the national health involves a wait of several months - by which time it will probably be fine anyway. private treatment of course is available more or less on the spot, and he recommends the physios based at a local sports centre.

its not the cost, but the principle that stops me ringing them to make an appointment. i grew up with the national health, orange juice and cod liver oil from the clinic, medicines and treatment when you needed them - not just if you could afford them. prescription charges were a first step in the dismantling of the system, now more and more of it is being privatised in one way or another. national health dentistry has more or less disappeared (and looks like going completely with government reforms next year.)

so I'm limping on, or rather trying not to limp, but get some gentle exercise without causing more damage and hoping time will heal. it felt good enough to take a walk around highbury fields before going to see friends on saturday, then to spend a few hours on my feet at the mayors thames day on sunday.
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thames day reminds london of its river, and its heritage, as well as providing some free entertainment. some of the activities that make it up perhaps lack visual interest, and it didn't help that the day was grey and dull. The flotilla of boats disappointed, although the sight and smell of a coal-fired screw steam tug in the upper pool brought back some memories.

the river police also were obviously having a good day, showing off the fairly impressive speed of their launches, and it was good to see the river looking almost crowded at times.

the barge race seemed rather false, relying more on weight and fitness of a crew rather than the traditional skills of watermen, who often managed such vessels single-handed.

then there were various performances, including a large and enthusiastic children's choir in the scoop, and some japanese drums and dance. it livened up the day for lots of londoners (and tourists) and the fireworks (i didn't stay for them) will have given them some evening entertainment too.
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"what a fine mess you've got us into" is probably the conclusion of most of the british people about blair's decision to join in with bush's iraq invasion in 1973. quite how many of them turned up on the 24th to march for a british pull-out is a matter of contention. both police and organisers estimates - ten and a hundred thousand respectively - seem to me extremely unlikely.

so i was there with probably between twentyfive and fifty thousand people, walking across parliament square in front of the houses of parliament. despite it being a saturday afternoon, with no business taking place inside, the ban on the use of amplification within a kilometre of parliament was still in force, so the event was a little quieter than usual. Some did choose to defy the ban and the police appeared not to notice.

gate gourmet supply in-flight meals for british airways. it used to be a part of the company, but was separated out, then sold to american management. rather like what is starting to happen in our national health service, and of course british airways was also originally owned by the nation.

the company takes advantage of a largely asian labour force living around the edge of the airport, paying them relatively low wages. the new management decided to cut labout costs even more by bringing in casual labour to do much of the work (while apparently employing more managers!) when the employees held a meeting to protest, they were sacked.

pressure from both ba and the union (tgwu) led to the company offering to take back some of the sacked workers, but not all, and the strike continues. some of the strikers came to take part in the rally, to publicise their case as well as call for a withdrawal from iraq.

most of the usual people were there at the march, and i took their pictures again - and some are on the site. when the march started i hung around in parliament square to watch it go past before walking rather faster than the marchers up whitehall.
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by the time i'd reached trafalgar square and waited againfor the end of the march to pass, my knee was beginning to ache and i didn't feel up to walking to hyde park. i sat down and ate my sandwiches contemplating the new sculpture on the 'fourth plinth', 'alison lapper pregnant' by marc quinn. this 15ft white marble shows lapper, an artist born without arms, sitting naked and eight months pregnant, and will stay on the plinth until april 2007.

it is a striking piece of work and was obviously attracting a great deal of attention from the tourists in the square. i took my time sitting and looking at it while i was eating, and then walking round it from all sides (slightly impeded by the preparations for a juvenile tv show to be broadcast from the square the following day.) lapper herself works with photographs of her body, and this statue is perhaps too like her black and white photographs, with a rather unpleasant surface, sometimes more soap than marble. i found myself thinking thank goodness for the pigeons who were perching on it and doubtless adding their contributions to it.

its position up there on a plinth is not ideal. this is work that would be best seen from roughly the same level as its base. the other plinths are occupied by men on horses, which raise their figures more suitably above the plinths. perhaps when it leaves the square a more suitable display place can be found. of course, its present placing is a great for catalysing debate about disability. of course another disabled figure dominates the square. nelson has his back to her and does not need to call upon his blind eye not to see her.

'roots to reckoning which opened at the museum of london on septermber 29 is the work of three jamaican-born londoners, photographers charlie phillips, neil kenlock and armet francis, whose work shows an inside view of black life in london since the 1960s. i don't often take pictures at openings, and hadn't bothered to take a camera, other than the little digital ixus that lives in my handbag.

like most digital compacts it has its own ideas about timing, especially when shooting flash, but i did mange to catch a few at the right moment.

the exhibition is a reminder of how much there is to show about the many aspects of london. the work from all three photographers that excited me most were the more documentary images, although the portraits (including muhammed ali and bob marley) were attracting more interest on the night. if you are in the city before 26 feb, 2006 its worth a short visit and entry to museum and show are free.
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some of my work gets put into nice organised websites.

this isn't meant to be like that, but you can see some of the rest at

london pictures
londons industrial history

and you can read what I think about photography at


All pictures on this section of the site are © Peter Marshall 2005;
to buy prints or for permission to reproduce pictures or to comment on this site, or for any other questions,

contact me

your comments may be added to the site - or not.
Payment may be waived for acceptable non-profit uses.

some of my work gets put into nice organised websites.

this isn't meant to be like that, but you can see some of the rest at

london pictures
londons industrial history

and you can read what I think about photography at


All pictures on this section of the site are © Peter Marshall 2005;
to but prints or for permission to reproduce pictures or to comment on this site, or for any other questions,

contact me

your comments may be added to the site - or not.
Payment may be waived for acceptable non-profit uses.

River Thames

Shepperton, Fri 2 Sept, 2005
No sign of a coracle anywhere along the river.
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Whitehall, London 3 Sep, 2005

Jean Lambert, Green Member of the European Parliament for London; like all speakers she had to make herself heard without a microphone, but there were several groups filming and recording her message.
Stuart Hemsley of Pax Christi speaking to the meeting.
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The New Trafalgar Dispatch

Staines, 4 Sept, 2005

The coach carrying the dispatch is led across Staines Bridge by the mayors of Spelthorne and Runnymede.

Actor Alex Price plays Lt John Richards Lapontiere, who brought news of Trafalgar from the battle to London
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Short Walks in London & Staines

11-17 Sept, 2005

Holloway, London, 17 Sept 2005.

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Thames Day

River Thames, London, 18 Sept, 2005

Steam tug and barge in the Upper Pool - a reminder of London as a port. Sept 18, 2005


Barge racing - the leader is well ahead of these three teams. Thames Day, London, Sept 18, 2005

Japanese drummers and dancers outside the Festival Hall, Thames Day, 18 Sept, 2005.

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March for Peace and Liberty

Westminster, London, Sept 24, 2005

Gate Gourmet strikers ask for solidarity - and for the troops to come home
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Go ahead, Profile Me!

Justice and Peace for All
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Alison Lapper Pregnant

Marc Quinn, 4th plinth, Trafalgar Square, London Sept 24, 2005

Pigeons to the rescue

See brief review at left of page.


Roots to Reckoning

Museum of London, 29 Sep, 2005

Photographer Charlie Phillips signs exhibition catalogues at the opening of the show.
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