W3C A Bolt of Light on Westminster Bridge GARN YAM


I wrote the 'Pete' stories tongue in cheek, although some of them are based on incidents which actually happened. The stories proved popular and were taken up by Baily’s Hunting Directory, Countryman’s Weekly and Earth Dog, Running Dog. They travelled sufficiently well across the 'pond' for Norman Fine to also use them on his Foxhunting Life web site. But you can get too much of a good thing and here is the last in the sequence. However, he may return in book form for as 'Pete' would probably say, “Tha needs me to mek the folk who read thy writing laugh".

We all followed our fathers and voted Labour (well, except me; when I moved away I became a Tory). This was not lost on Pete who always referred to me as “my little Tory” and at well over six feet he could (I’m five feet eight). His conversations when in drink usually began, “The working man of today…” and that was him off for the night; people began to derive entertainment from him, especially at closing time when they would begin a conversation and then disappear into the crowd. Pete, usually in full flow, would accost the nearest body and continue his ‘tirade’, on many occasions in the street outside. This generally awoke my mother (we lived next door to the pub) who would open the window and soundly abuse him. The reply to her exhortations to go home was always met with the same, “Aye mi lass, gud neet”, and his conversation would continue.

We stood in the pub watching television as the Blair’s moved in to number 10 Downing Street. “Nowt good will come of it,” I pronounced, as Blair and his ‘people’s lawyer’ wife stood in the street outside, he grinning inanely and she waving at the crowd like some bloody fishwife. Jack looked pained. “Not today,” he said, “please don’t wind him up.” Pete, buoyed by an electoral landslide smiled benevolently. “The lad’s a good loser,” he said, “have a pint, and let’s toast a new beginning.” The hat he had worn since the election was called, battered and work-stained, sat on his head at a jaunty angle, it’s distinctive red feather standing proud.

But it didn’t last did it? The party Pete had been proud to be a member of all his life became ‘cool’ and ‘new’ and threatened to ban hunting.

The Land Rover approached Kendal, emitting plumes of smoke and the sound of grinding metal as gears crunched and worn-out brakes connected. “Only a larl bit more than 350 miles to go,” I sighed apprehensively. Jack never spoke, concentrating on the driving but Pete began to get agitated. “What’s thy problem?” I asked. “Never been further than Kendal,” he replied. “You voted the buggers in,” grimaced Jack as an Audi cut him up.

And so we found ourselves in Jack’s old Land Rover chugging it in turns to sit in the back which had been specially cleaned for the occasion and the bags of cement removed but the dust remained. We were passed by everything on the M way, thankfully no cycles are allowed or they would have too, but there were many mud-splattered 4x4’s, coaches, more Land Rovers, many with Countryside Alliance stickers, down the M6, emitting clouds of blue smoke at a sedentary pace; we took all heading for London and ‘The March’.

We pulled yet again into another set of services, by this point Pete had been long asleep and as the car stopped he awoke. “What a daft bloody name,” he said looking at the Watford Gap sign, and then, “Is it owt to do wid Elton John, my lass likes him,” and then, “Where is the bloody gap? Looks flat round 'ere to me.”

Dawn found us outside of London at some instantly forgettable railway station, after breakfasting we boarded the train and were conveyed swaying and rattling to a station near the advertised start of the march. On arrival we were surprised at how many were there, and shuffled along with the throng around the designated route. Disappointment reigned when we passed number 10 Downing St, Tony was not there. “Heard thou were coming,” I said to Pete, “Aye and fled,” added Jack. “Wid gud reason,” replied Pete angrily.

Respect for the Cenotaph prevented us yelling abuse in the direction of Blair’s earth. “Shame we can’t bolt the bugger,” said Pete. As we passed the iron railings at the end of the street I paused, and gave Jack my camera. “Get a pic,” I said and stood by the railings with my fingers in a V sign. On the other side a policewoman in body armour with a sub machine gun looked at me. “No,” she said. The only smile of the day crossed Pete’s face. “By god mi lass, th ‘d knock a few pheasants down wid that, is it loaded?” The policewoman smiled at him but did not reply.

We crossed the line and our number was recorded, we shook hands and joined the crowd walking across Westminster Bridge towards the station. Mid-bridge, Pete stopped and, reaching in his pocket, he took out his hat with its distinctive red feather. Worn at every election campaign for years, a symbol of his political affiliation.

“Got no use for this any more,” he said throwing the hat into the Thames; the current caught the hat and it began to move downstream. We stood on the bridge lost in silence watching the hat swirling inexorably towards a dredger coming upstream. The token red feather promptly disappeared beneath the bow wake. Pete sighed and then announced, “Looks like I’ll be voting for thy lot, Ron,” he mused. “What’s yon leader fella's name again?”

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