Monday: I was just about to leave the house for work. I turned off my record player which had been blasting some early B52s. I reached for the front door when I noticed a letter stuck in the letterbox. Strange, it looked like junk mail, Michael Parkinson selling insurance again? NO, it was hand-delivered by (my friends) Marsden Bailiffs. “Cough up or we’re gonna come round and take ya stuff type thing.”
I immediately dived behind the sofa, pulled myself across the floor on my belly and peeked out the window. Nobody visible. Phew. Jesus, this sort of thing is becoming really annoying.
By the afternoon my crew from Hastings Against War (HAW) had turned up to paint a giant (ex-freezer) cardboard box black. It was going to be part of a town centre prison installation for Nakba day on Saturday. It would also highlight the plight of Palestinian child prisoners.
The HAW folk all arrived separately and each experienced the doorstep inquisition. “Are you sure it’s Fernando?” “John Lynes who?” “Gill, Jenny, yeah, I suppose it is you”. As we transported the massive box into the garden we all went into covert mode: “Psst. Coast clear: go, go, go.” That night I went into red alert: batten down the hatches; sell my records, books and CDs, secure the record player and juicer.
10pm: I picked up a text from my lawyer. “Hi Maya, we need a press quote for the High Court hand-down on Thursday, the judge has totally sided with us”. Apparently, we had quashed an amendment and the judge made much criticism of the government. It was an outright victory to us.
Tuesday: I cautiously left the house for work. Struggling down the steps with my bike I noticed a rather burly-looking young man knocking on next door. My immediate instinct was to flee, save my bike and the clothes on my back.
I looked at his Marsden clipboard: “Excuse me are you a bailiff, I think you might be looking for me”. He swaggered down the stairs: “Are you Helen?”. “No, I’m Evans”. I fished around in my rucksack for the hand-delivered letter. I decided honesty was the best policy, and besides I could always leg it on my bike!
I immediately launched into a spiel about my anti-war action against horrid politicians who are responsible for the deaths of British soldiers and Afghan civilians. He seemed to be taking it all in: “Yeah, a lot of my friends are ex-servicemen, the equipment they’re sent out with isn’t right”. At least we were reading from the same hymn sheet. In the end it turned out he was issuing court warrants and wasn’t involved with my case.
Wednesday: I decided to take control and phone bailiff HQ to explain the whole situation, appeal to their compassionate side, urge them to return my ever-increasing fine back to the court. Besides there isn’t anything worth taking. I ended up speaking with a rather stressed-out woman who stated: “There’s nothing I can do, it’s up to your visiting bailiff”. Click. Darn it!
Thursday: I woke up and headed straight for the computer. What news of my high court judgement? So far nothing. I brainstormed a few sound bites as I got ready for work.
By the evening, I started to get a barrage of text messages from friends: “You’re in the Evening Standard... the BBC website... the Guardian... the Daily Mail... What does it all mean anyway?”
Wow, it felt really strange, I hadn’t even left St Leonards. I felt delighted that we had been successful but I was so detached from the action that the excitement wasn’t really impacting on me. Friday: Jenny and Gill turned up in the afternoon to paint the second huge box and stick pictures and facts about child prisoners on the outside. Again we were wary of the bailiffs and under time pressure as we stretched the last of the black paint across the massive panels.
Saturday: Woke up and immediately headed into work. I was borrowing one of my boss’s life-size human puppets for the prison cell installation in town. The puppet was perfect for the job, it was multi-jointed body with an expressionless face, no one would guess it was originally used in a show about the model Jean Shrimpton.
My boss was reluctant: “You will look after this, it’s very special to me”. I assured her I would as Gill rolled up in her car and we piled the puppet into the back.
We erected the life-size structure in Hastings town centre amid Saturday shoppers and native American pan pipe buskers. It was something of a struggle as we wrestled with bits of cloth, tape and glue to the soundtrack of John Lennon’s “Imagine” (pan pipe version).
Finally it was up, two large cardboard boxes painted black with a blindfolded naked puppet of Jean Shrimpton sitting on a small box. My boss’s daughter was passing by and stopped: “It’s really disturbing”.
Within two hours we had gained 48 signatures on the petition and generous donations in the bucket. Without a doubt it was one of the best stalls we’ve had in town.