Well, this looks to be the last paper-stranger entry of the year. And seeing the deluge of university work coming my way in January, it’ll probably stick for a few weeks after the new year. Thanks for visiting paper-stranger weekly (i.e. you strangers and that one yappy dog) and have a good holiday.
Archive for December, 2009
Taken on the bridge heading to Copenhagen.
“How can I be swayed by something so trivial as personal failure?” – A line from a poem read on the coach on the way to Copenhagen.
I’m not really sure how to start this, other than the fact that I’m disappointed I wasn’t able to stay in Copenhagen for any longer. It was so interesting to meet many new people and do so many things in a short period of time: get stuck in a coach ride for 24+ hours (a few spent on border checks), walk somewhat lost around the north eastern parts of Copenhagen only to encounter a fellow Cantonese-speaking restaurant owner, volunteer at Klimaforum09, eat (free) 100% organic home-grown food, accidentally get on the wrong side of the police, wander aimlessly around the streets of Christiania, fumble clumsily at the confusing train/metro system at Copenhagen, huddle around a communal fire … all that and more, and it was only magnified by travelling with my dear friend Razi, whom without his excellent map reading skills I would still surely be in a ditch somewhere in Copenhagen (or trampled. I am completely serious about that).
I guess it would make the most sense to start from the beginning: Day 1.
We started off at Victoria Embankment where we caught a coach. I think it’s important to specify that our particular coach had mainstream media on it – Danish TV2, and some other main channels that were following the journey of the Climate Campers on the coach ride. This meant that there was a strong possibility of getting less hassle from border control, as having three different cameras pointed at you as you search the bus is – if not just subliminally – slightly unencouraging. But at this point, we were all anticipating the worst. We were clearly briefed by a legal observer as to what our rights are as we crossed borders from the UK (Terrorism Act 2006, right of silence etc.), to France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and then to Denmark. Denmark had tightened border security due to COP15, and if we were detained we would have to give our name, address and date of birth – but nothing else. We were given telephone numbers for legal teams assisting on border support and it was constantly expressed by our legal observer that regardless of our views on direct action, border control is not a good platform to express your viewpoint. There have been stories of people being turned away from the border for having vaguely suspicious items on them (or indeed, any items that could be construed as part of a plan for ‘direct action’, including brochures mentioning direct action). Three activists were turned away the day before, and many had their things confiscated. Nobody on the coach wanted the journey to be over even before it truly started. It probably didn’t help that our bus did actually have quite a few radical activists – a few people had chained themselves to a polluting power plant a few months back, some others are pending multiple law trials … but then again, these are the very people who would have wanted – more than anybody else – to get through border control
I think we all held our collective breaths as the border control came abroad after taking our passports and suddenly – unexpectedly – asked: “Who likes Liverpool?” A hand shot up and the he pointed to the man who put up his hand “OK, Mr. Liverpool, we’ll search you first.” He then pointed to the back row of the bus and said “You guys too.” There was an appreciative laugh throughout the bus, but we scrambled and pressed ourselves at the windows as we saw the policeman pat them down and look through their bags. One man (who was not searched) admitted to having a Swiss Army Knife on him (and this is compliant with knife standards in Denmark, such as how it cannot be lockable and cannot be opened with only one hand) – but he was allowed to keep it. A few people on the bus felt that while the border control seemed friendly enough, felt like he was asserting his authority in an unacceptable and arrogant way. Overall, it took a total of maybe just over an hour for our particular bus to be checked, but we noted it was exceptionally fast and very smoothly done. We sped past the other coaches and rode our way successfully to Copenhagen.
It was well into the night when we arrived at Copenhagen. We arrived in the emergency convergence center where people could crash on the floor if they had no other accommodation. However we had to get to Jægersborg as we had planned to stay with Razi’s friend, Peter, who kindly allowed us to take over his couch and his floor. We walked around first, quite lost, for a while until we asked a kindly Cantonese-speaking woman where the nearest train station was. We eventually found it, but our first encounter with the train system in Copenhagen was not a sweet one. A few very lovely strangers explained how the clipping system worked after we puzzled over the ticket machine for a fair few ten minutes, and getting to Jægersborg was (strangely enough) problem-free. We met up with Peter and after dropping off our things, we headed to København H. The venue for Klimaforum was split up into the actual academic talks with all their polished grandeur, while the other part seemed to exist for activists and volunteers to get free/cheap food and drink, or attend the more radical meetings of the moment. We walked around the volunteer areas amidst the soup kitchens and cafes; we saw people playing flutes and strumming guitars, reciting poetry and huddling around campfires. I really liked the atmosphere of the place.
100% organic food
100% organic food
One showing at the Klimaforum venue:
I volunteered at the information point for the duration of the evening. It was a little difficult as I had no working knowledge of Copenhagen itself and all the events that were going on at Klimaforum were also news to me as well. But over time (and much nagging) I found out what was going on when, where the internet cafés were, where accommodation could be found, where all the parties were at, where the protests were happening, and so on – I really enjoyed it, not to mention the wonderful people I had the privilege of working with.
Razi and I … we tried to get an early night. I’m still not sure if we did, but we arrived home maybe just before 1AM. Razi set his alarm clock for 7:30 in the morning (ha), as I intended to work an early shift the next day.
Day 2: Hit The Production
We woke up late so we decided to head straight to the demonstration/protest at Østerport. I should probably make it clear that I don’t hold radical beliefs nor am I particularly an ‘activist’ in that belligerent sense – I largely attended this particular protest because we had missed the ‘family friendly’ one before (with over 100,000 people walking the streets) due our late arrival at Copenhagen, and I thought it would be interesting to see this one in any case. This protest was organized by more radical members and was in a direct action booklet advocating social justice. And because I am quite lazy, I won’t say too much on this subject. I compiled video clips I managed to take at the protest and I put them all in a shoddily-made Youtube video:
Along with a few pictures that I hope will speak more than a thousand words.
Protesters were told to sit down on the floor.
To be detained.
What I will mention, however: it had potential to be pretty messy. I remember us being shoved incessantly into the corner (where, incidentally, there was no opening) as the police tried to get us away from the protestors, but they didn’t know there was nowhere to move. So I was pressed against the rear of the car until Razi shouted out “there’s no room to leave!” – only until then did the shoving relax. We were told to leave the other end, in which case I was only glad to oblige, but the policeman was roughly pulling and pushing people away one by one. I was pulled aggressively out as my leg came into (painful) contact with the person behind me. In retrospect I should have probably fallen over and made a big deal over it, but nevermind.
After that very tiring and cold event, I volunteered more at the Klimaforum – my role that night was more of a bin-emptier and a signpost more than anything substantial, but it was still really fun to meet interesting people I was volunteering with. Not to mention: free cake and tea at the volunteers cafe! I think I am overenthusiastic about little things.
(Hm. Day 3 will come some other time … too tired at the moment)
(On an agreement being implied & unforeseeable events)
James Scott and Sons Ltd v. Del Sel  SC 592 per Lord Sands at 597: “A tiger has escaped from a travelling menagerie. The milkgirl fails to deliver the milk. Possibly the milkman may be exonerated from any breach of contract; but, even so, it would seem hardly reasonable to base that exoneration on the ground that “tiger days excepted” must be held as if written into the milk contract.”
Tiger days. Awesome.
This blog post is in reference to #11.
The photograph was taken – if I remember correctly – in a quaint place called Grantchester, Cambridge just last summer. We sat in hammocks with sponge cake, tea and elderberry juice and we never said very much. It was probably better that way.
The goldfish are stock photos from Stockxpert. I don’t think it means anything other than my desire to see fish float in the air.
As for the text … well, thinking back on those days where I lived for a majority of my childhood life in a wild, forest-ridden and secluded university campus – I think I miss it (it’s all very neatly compartmentalized now, though). Over here at University, tulips and other outrageously large, flamboyant flowers surreptitiously appear overnight (along with a strong stench of manure). I’ve always found that a bit strange.
Anyway. I promised a dear friend years ago that one day we’ll ride off on dusty bicycles and see how far we go. And well, I haven’t forgotten that.