A gleaming drum kit in front of a large wooden cross – right where I would usually set up my wooden crates… ‘Bert Brocklesby and the COs’ might sound like an early rock ‘n’ roll band – but they weren’t. What they were was a band of determined pacifists.
Then I notice that the drums are sitting on a square of carpet.
29th March 2019
‘Porridge before you set off?’ Joseph asks us on Monday morning. I look out at the snowy landscape, sensing the chill morning air.
‘I studied at St Andrews University, Scotland, ‘ he says, ‘and was taught how to make it this way by my landlady.’
I would like to meet that landlady. It was delicious.
25th March 2018
Sunday morning. A snow covered landscape bathed in glittering March sunshine. Old Chatham, upstate New York.
The venue for Sunday afternoon’s performance.
After eggs and hash browns, my host Joseph takes me to the Meeting House, a few minutes drive away – where we have an hour or so to get the sound checked and set-up before we make way for the 11am Quaker Meeting for Worship. Only we don’t get it set up. Connectivity and compatibility issues again. Absence of an important cable. Absence of anyone who can help us out.
1040 is the number of the form on which citizens file their US tax return.
It’s also the name of the organisation Harold Penner belongs to – and it’s ‘1040 for Peace’ that has sponsored us to come to Akron for my first US performance. They each withhold a symbolic 10 dollars 40 cents from their tax bill, in protest against government defence spending, and redirect it to peaceful causes. A small gesture, but accompanied with letters to government officials explaining their reasoning.
On March 9, I set off with some trepidation and a fair amount of excitement to the USA where I have only ever spent 5 days in all my 60 years – (and those five days were in New York) – travelling there now in order to present the compelling and inspiring stories of Britain’s First World War conscientious objectors – ‘THIS EVIL THING’ – to a number of sympathetic religious institutions, colleges and a few Quaker Meeting Houses too.
This all came about thanks to a chance meeting with an American, who saw the piece when I first presented it in Edinburgh in 2016 – and who said to me, ‘You should bring this to the States.’ To which I replied, ‘I’d love to. But how?’ ‘Let me have a think,’ he said.