Sunday, March 09, 2008
Much of central London was shut down yesterday. A taxi driver gave one of those immemorial taxi driver shrugs when I asked him why. A seven-foot tall motor-cycle cop was standing in the middle of Lower Regent Street next to a temporary no-entry sign erected to prevent traffic reaching Piccadilly Circus. I asked him what was going on. The answer was interrupted by a scooter attempting to sneak past him. 'If,' said the cop to the scooterist with a deadly pause between each heavily italicised word, his leather pants creaking as he bowed, the better to fix the attention of the offender, 'you don't know what this sign means, sir, perhaps you ought to get a 'Ighway Code. I pointed that way...' he gestured down Jermyn Street, '... because I wanted you to go that way.' He turned back to me, his back straightening stiffly. 'It is a demonstration ...' his tone had now become ironic/official, '... about the rights of women in the Middle East and countries like that.' 'Oh,' I said, baffled. Soon afterwards I found the vanguard of the demo bearing down on me. I tried to work out from the signs what it was all about. The word 'women' was visible everywhere and there was a big sign promoting the view that violence against women was a bad thing. Rows of bystanders were watching, bemused. It was, I now know, International Women's Day. Neither I not the women in my life had ever heard of this and nobody had the faintest idea why a demonstration closing down central London was necessary. No particular, urgent issue was a stake, rather there was simply a determination to support women. They may as well have been marching to demand niceness or good manners. I suppose it was happening because, when the organisers approached the authorities, nobody had the balls to say no. I bet that cop would have told them where to get off.
'Madame, I cannot get my 'ed round your desire to paralyse the 'ub of empire on a Saturday afternoon all in the name of your deep hintuition that women is a good thing.'
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 6:24 am