It was great! My day started at 04.00; by the way, how/why is it that you always wake up before the alarm? Out of the door at 04.45 and there was only light icing to scrape from the car (after all it is only 10th MAY!) so the drive to Inverness airport at that time of the morning was quick and uneventful. The 07.00 flight was also unremarkable apart from being allocated a seat next to a terrified young woman with halitosis (why me, God?) and we were in a wet and windy Gatwick by 08.40. I had taken the precaution of buying my train ticket on-line, so that would speed up my transit through a busy airport. Silly me. I had an ‘off peak’ ticket which meant I couldn’t arrive in London before 09.50. Can you wait on the platform? No, said dragon lady, in case you are tempted by evil and try for an earlier train. So it was a mad dash through the gate to the train; thank goodness I had only a small rucsack, people encumbered by giant suitcaes, push chairs and flight-tired children had no chance. Into London Bridge at 10.15 I met a dear friend, who lives and works near there, for coffee and brioche in a very trendy coffee house in Borough Market. Then it was on the tube to Westminster, where I had arranged to meet my brother. Thankfully the rain had eased off and by 12 noon, the appointed hour, we were at the site of the demonstration – the Department of Health at 79 Whitehall. For those of you who don’t know, Whitehall is at the very centre of, and synonymous with, the UK government: a four lane road but wide enough to land a ‘plane on (except for the lamposts). The green flags and bunting of the Lyme protest were, from a distance, somewhat overshadowed by an adjacent demonstration on behalf of Professor Davinderpal Singh Bhullar – a sikh held in solitary confinement under sentence of death in India. Both demonstrations were oddly silent and polite, but physically penned behind barriers. Perhaps this was because they were literally opposite the entrance to the gates of Downing Street. God forbid that a handful of sick and desparate people be allowed to threaten to safety of Dave or Nick. Actually Dave was in Russia, meeting Poot-in, and who gives a toss where Nick was (or is, come to that)? There were one or two journos there, but more interested in the London Lyme threat than the story per se . One notable ‘meeja’ personality was there in a private capacity: a man who presents a weekly TV show on the BBC was there in support of his sister – a Lyme sufferer. It’s funny how you recognise a face (I watch the show every week) but, out of context, can’t put a name to it. Anyhoo, I introduced myself just as his sister, with whom I e-correspond, gave me a big hug – so that made me persona grata rather than just another gushing, “I just love your show” fan. He was charming.
The gang had made loads of flags with personal stories, hanging them on the barriers, and made placards and signs. I had designed some self adhesive, vinyl, signs which looked great stuck to street furniture and caused some positive comment. I’ll post a couple of images from the day. At some point the 5000 signature petition was handed in, but I missed that as I had decided to try to ‘engage’ passers-by who showed interest. Any negative observation seems churlish: it was a spectacular effort, brilliantly executed, and certainly got the attention of the broadcast media. Nevertheless I did think we were too introverted: being a small community, whose relationships are mostly conducted over the internet, we spent a lot of time looking inwards, literally in our pen, exchanging experiences and information instead of facing outwards to the public. I met a man who was infected by a tick he got from a dog grooming business in Chelsea and many fellow Lymies who are, or have been, much sicker than I and who have had limited or no treatment. Of course we mustn’t forget the many who were there ‘in spirit’ but too ill to travel. I still feel relatively lucky, but I’m only too aware that this is a long fight and it may never be fully won.
Trying to grab the attention of Londoners on a major tourist route, and on a Friday afternoon, will always be a challenge (even if your message might be a life-saver) but Londoners have perfected the art of ‘ignoring’ as they move about the city. Consequently almost everyone I spoke, or handed leaflets, to was a foreign visitor. I did accost a teacher shepherding her class across the road: “I don’t want your money, but please read these leaflets – you might save their lives”. Sounds pretty pompous now. I’m glad I took my folding tripod stool as there was no way I could have stood for 4 hours. My brother stayed for two hours, good on him, but I forgot to eat lunch, and only had one drink (tea) all day, so I was absolutely shattered by the time I got back to Gatwick and my feet were ‘fizzing’. Well done Nicola (UK event organiser). WELL DONE EVERYONE!! Hugs and love all around, including Judy who, in the run-up, put up with an even more Lyme-distracted husband than usual.