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Easter Sunday, 8am. Another dull, overcast morning in East Sussex. I looked out the window of the number 100 bus from Hastings to Lydd.
The flat, desolate expanse of Camber and Romney with its fields of sheep and giant pylons seemed to stretch on for ever.
I was on the bus with three other members of HAW (Hastings Against War): Jenny, Fernando and John. I’d been looking forward to this for ages.
As we pulled into the village of Lydd, six members of Christian CND came into view, standing in a row outside the 16th-century parish church. Everyone was wearing raincoats in preparation. One of the members was clutching what looked like a garden patio torch.
As I stepped off the bus, I noticed three police vehicles lurking in the background. Apparently three phone calls had been made to the organisers of the 10-person cross-country peace walk. Someone was taking our protest for nuclear abolition seriously.
HAW and Christian CND had pledged to cover the 21-mile leg from Lydd to Hastings with the Olympic-torch-style “Flame of Hope”. It was hard to believe that this modest torch was going to make its way over to New York and be presented to world leaders at the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Someone started reading an Easter prayer while the torch was ignited. Being non-religious, my mind drifted and I began thinking about how symbolic icons can grow in significance greater than their physical existence. Could it be possible that people in 2,000 years’ time would wear Flame of Hope necklaces and praise the day of nuclear abolition?
Dungeness nuclear power station was omnipresent in a Lord-of-the-Rings-Mordor kind of way; it seemed to suck life from the featureless land. Giant pylons hummed with the vast energy they were transporting.
Jenny, Fernando and I slowed to a snail’s pace as we chatted about theology and faith. It felt like we were in the middle of nowhere and we had been walking for ages.
We stopped at Jury’s Gap, a viewing spot on top of a dune. Dungeness was behind us, Rye in the distance and the sea lapped at our side.
We had a prayer for the children of Chernobyl; those who are divided will join and walk together. I wanted to trust that people with differences could unite but my frame of mind wasn’t allowing me to believe this.
After lunch, we left Rye, to April showers and springtime sunshine. The walk was way behind schedule and we needed to be in Hastings by six for a welcoming reception with our MP; I volunteered with a few others to get a lift.
I felt like a cheat as we strolled from the car into the Friends Meeting House to the sounds of cheers, but I figured it was about sacrificing personal satisfaction for the good of the walk.