The fourth instalment of my teenage diaries. The rationale behind the project is here. As always, I will change all names and identifying details, and remove anything that is too easily identifiable. I will also correct all my spelling.
This entry is largely self-explanatory. Polly is my sister (sorry Polly; you don’t get to be anonymous!)
16th February, 2003
I went on the march against war in Iraq yesterday. We drove to London by car but a lot of people were going by coach (including Jenny Mackintosh and her posse). [A politically active girl in my year.] Apparently there were 70 coaches from Bristol alone. While on the motorway we drove past a lot of coaches, from all different places, Plymouth, Wales, Devon, Bristol. All the coaches had peace signs in the windows, or signs saying ‘Not in Our Name’, ‘Stop the War’ or simply ‘No’. Me and Polly decided that we should have one too, so we wrote ‘Stop the War’ in big bubble letters on the back of Polly’s mock Year 9 SATS timetable. (It was bright yellow so we thought it would show up). So the sun didn’t shine through it we paperclipped two sheets of paper to the back of it with a bright pink paperclip, which simply added to the general professional appearance of the sign. As all the coaches also had signs up saying what number coach they were, and from which place, I tried to put a sign up saying No 1 Coach, Conkwell. It was too small for anyone to see it however.
When we got to London, it was amazing because they’d closed most of the streets in central London and you could walk down roads that were usually full of traffic. Dad couldn’t get over it, he kept on going on about how much quicker and less stressful it was. We walked around for quite a bit before finally managing to join the march. There were so many different groups there, loads of people from something called ‘Stop the War Coalition’ who were handing out free stickers (I still have one stuck on my coat). Some socialist groups, some Palestinian people with placards saying ‘Free Palestine’ (I recognised their flag; we had it on our notepaper at MUN [Model United Nations] last year), groups of Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, all sorts. There were huge numbers of people. We marched quite fast at first but when we were going along the Embankment it slowed right down to almost a standstill. That was the most exhausting part as my legs and back got so stiff. We were hardly moving at all and could only shuffle forward a little every so often. But finally we came round the corner into Parliament Square and the pace picked up again. There were a big group of Kurds (as Dad told me they were) with yellow flags with a picture of some leader of theirs on them.
Everyone was blowing whistles and these sort of horn things. The whistles made an awful noise. Dad bought one and hung it round his neck on the multicoloured string it came tied to. It was really annoying.
Many people were chanting things. The one I can remember that seemed to be chanted the most was “One, two, three four, we don’t want this bloody war.”
After marching for about three hours we finished and went to the huge Waterstones at Piccadilly.
I was exhausted but it was worth it. It was definitely an experience and on the radio coming home they said, several times, that it was the biggest protest in British history. There were at least a million people there. At last I have an historical moment to write in this diary!
I think anybody looking for accounts of teenagers’ engagement with politics had better look elsewhere. What I find most striking about this entry is that it’s almost all observation, with no internal monologue. I’m not sure if I simply had nothing to say about the war other than ‘it’s a bad thing’, which I presumably felt was obvious from the fact that I was attending an anti-war protest, or if I didn’t feel confident enough to write anything. A later entry from March 2003 describes a debate about the Iraq war held at my school, where I was confident enough and interested enough to ask a question, but again there is nothing about the content of the debate, just the experience of participating. (‘I did ask a question, which I thought was quite good because out of the whole crowd termed ‘the floor’ there were only 4 questions asked. Unfortunately when Mr — asked me whom I wanted to address the question to I immediately forgot everyone’s names and ended up just pointing to Hazel and the Labour MP and saying “Them… that side…” which the trevs who had invaded the room got a good laugh at.’) Judging from this, then, I think that I was interested and engaged, but wasn’t sure what to write. Unlike my usual entries, I obviously felt that I was composing this one for posterity and so must be more serious and adult than usual.
There is a real jump in eloquence and fluency between 2002’s and 2003’s diary entries. I’m not sure if I was simply writing about less emotional subjects (I’d finally got over Sam), but my entries are much better-written, and more carefully full of detail. More on this next time, when we reach 2004.