Glancing from the ground I caught sight of Maria on a chair, her face drizzled with tears and sadness as she apologised for letting us all down… I cried too that any of us was going through this at all and that such an honourable woman could imagine she had let anyone down… she’d been bloody amazing, enduring over 9 hours locked-on. The absurdity of what we were in the middle of, also struck me…
A caravan (but “this was no ordinary caravan… this was an M&S caravan” not quite the right initials but you get my drift) had been parked dead-centre of the entrance to the fracking site on PNR (Preston New Road) at 2:10 am Tuesday 22 May 2018, inside it were 5 individuals locked-on to various devices in every position possible in a little caravan. Welded metal grids were behind the plastic windows with their unassuming maroon curtains and the door was half welded shut/half barricaded with metal.
Outside the caravan, a further 2 individuals had their arms locked on to devices that connected to devices and others within the caravan… as the police peeked and peeled back bits, it was clear that even puzzle-professionals would have scratched their heads in puzzlement. We have some clever pixies in all areas of this phenomenal movement and the skills needed to match ever-changing conditions, are evolving, improving and exceeding expectation every time. Yay our lot!
Either side of the caravan in the entrance to the fracking site, were swollen, strange devices roughly the size and oddly the shape of a baby walrus to the right and a chubby eel to the left.
Each device contained the locked-on arms of two individuals. On the eel, the individuals were locked-on to their own pins inside and in the baby walrus (where I was with my niece Becky - our first ever lock-on), we were locked to each other. We’d made dedications on our devices and ours was for my Mum, Becky’s Grandma (Narnie is what they called her).
Back to my friend Maria though… she was individually locked-on in the eel as was Jo alongside her… so when she self-released, it had no impact on the time it took as the device still needed to be hacked apart to get him out. The cutting team had been doing the job on the beautiful beast of a thing and it resisted and showed its metal (quite literally) at endurance; sparks were flying, grinders grinding to breakage over and again, heat and smoke, vibration and smell, generators buzzing and failing and getting replaced and perplexed faces earning creases in the growing heat… all manner of ingredients goes into these things and this batch – was magnificent. The frenzied cutting and accompanying vibration impacted Maria’s health and she made the right decision. We ask a lot of ourselves but we all need to listen when our bodies say no too.
The outcome of this ‘Caravan of Love’ operation ended up at 41 hours of awareness raising and disruption to site and involved 13 individuals - although the spaces were for 11… but an odd thing happened on the way to my own personal demise and de-locking with my niece at 11pm (after 21 hours since start).
The cutting crews had been challenged throughout the day and not made enough headway to even come across to the baby walrus that Becky and I were hugging and they went home early evening; thing was though I had reached my personal breaking-point at 4pm and each moment that followed was truly challenging. The dilemma in my head was that the device had taken someone a huge amount of time and energy to build… they’d obviously intended on it doing its job and impacting the development of this site and raising awareness and if I just gave up, I’d be giving up their work too and that was an unfathomable place to be when the heat-stroke of relentless sun and ache of limited movement had kicked in to such a degree.
Our simply brilliant Welfare Team (Protectors who look after those unable to move by keeping us hydrated, nourished and cared for including sanitary requirements) also work to boost morale and keep us going… a bit like the ring guy in a boxing match at times. Although our wellbeing is paramount to welfare… so too I think is the shared aim of ensuring we see the operation through to maximum achievement… so lovely Barbara and Julie were ‘firm’ lol and dragged my whingey, moaning arse through the dark bits when my thumb clicked about with the lock and the temptation to run, be free, cool down etc nearly overtook me. The small but deeply felt waving of the fingertips of another who was in the caravan, also scooped me up as I knew they were cooking in there too and in even more awkward positions.
Once the sun bedded down, the pain at least of the burning was eased. I endured much of the rest out of fear of falling into the care of the police at the time which now included a notorious officer 322… he was leaning against a police van, whispering to younger officers whilst looking at me intently and they each then turned to laugh. It was humiliating, uncomfortable and downright bloody creepy.
An angelic visitation in the form of Olive at around 10pm (one of our Wednesday Women and a respected, kind elder), it was a beautiful thing as she massaged each remaining Protector who was locked-on; soothing our backs with her strong hands and our spirits with her soft words and wisdom. The kindness is what you take away after a thing like this and we had bucket loads of it. Although it was somewhat surreal too and an officer was heard to say “I sometimes wonder what world I’ve woken up in” as Olive entered the Caravan of Love to administer to the feisty inhabitants and the vehicle started rocking with the sounds of men being relieved of aches!
Nearing 11pm I got waves of nausea… lovely visitors had come from Maple Farm with food and generous spirits but the heat of the day and the fact I wouldn’t eat more than a nibble of a biscuit during the entire time (practical reasons!) finally got to me and I knew if I didn’t run at that minute, then I would be ill all over everywhere and everyone. I released my lock and got up to make for the shed that has the loo in it just up the road. I hadn’t been arrested so not considered that I was leaving the police area as a problem until an officer stopped me and said I was under arrest (apparently this happens either when they begin cutting you out or when you self-release). I explained the predicament that I needed to be sick and along with a female officer I was taken to the shed.
Then it was straight to a waiting arrest vehicle to be whisked off to the cells. The empty device (my niece had been released by my action as we were locked together) though didn’t stay empty as two who’d come up, dived into the opportunity and saved the bloody day!! I had not dared to hope this would be possible… circumstances with security behind and police in front certainly made this seem like (quite literally!) a ‘pipe-dream’.
So our baby walrus made it through the night with two new inhabitants as my niece and I endured 12 ugly hours in police cells. Every minute in the cell I regretted my choice to release; at least when I was locked-on, I was CHOOSING my actions and not locked into a nightmare where doors don’t open and there are no choices. I reacted really badly to this part and think it has something to do with my having once been a passenger in a 7-car pile-up; although quite some time ago, I have a residual repulsion and fear of being held in place by anything other than my own free will.
Days have now passed since the Caravan of Love and the cell experience has paled in significance and as I’ve reviewed my actions… I’m content with all my decisions and although I wish I’d endured, I was more than relieved that others could. I feel changed in some indefinable way and have learned much about my fellow Protectors that I could never have understood before. My admiration and awe is stratospheric and I feel honoured to have been a part of something that contained so much pure intent, strong moral core and beautiful humanity. Our Legal Observers, Welfare and even the Police cutting crew and Medics, acted with professionalism and care and my fellow locker-on-ers – will forever hold a special place in my heart that’s reserved for the sacred things
*UTMOST respect though goes to the cooks and recipe makers behind the devices – your creativity and ingenuity deserve acclaim but sadly most of us don’t even know who you are to say thank you… but thank you xxx