Hurricane? Business as usual!

The one thing the hurricane didn't flatten was the non-stop picket

'It was a dark and stormy night...' Penny and I were due on the picket at 4.00 a.m. She drove us through a hail of tree timber to arrive at 4.20. "Hold your hands in front of you, Mike, in case the windscreen shatters!" In strong winds it is not uncommon for the odd country road to be closed due to fallen trees, but Northumberland Avenue? Chelsea Embankment?

The picket was three strong: Patrick, Martin, and Steve Kitson who was holding the furled banner against his shoulder and looking to all the world like something blown inland from the Cromer lifeboat. They had seen scaffold planks and twenty-foot hoardings blown down from the front of the National Gallery. The police of course were tucked up snugly in their white van with the headlights on and the engine running - winter hibernation. Penny let Martin have her car keys so that he could doss down in shelter for an hour or so.

So, when Steve went, there were three of us. At 4.30 the lights went out. I mean all the lights. Ten minutes later the Embassy lights came back on again. They have their own generator. We had brought two flasks of coffee which were useful until the cups blew away. And we stood holding the soggy banner and trying to stay upright in the wind.

At ten to six Penny had to go to work. She's a bus driver. But the buses didn't run, the cafes and the banks didn't open. Brixton tube station didn't open but Theo walked to the picket to relieve me at 6.45 a.m. Only on the Non-Stop Picket was it business as usual.

Michael Burgess 1987

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