‘All the fun of the fair…’

Dan Seeger was a Vietnam era conscientious objector. At that time, 50 years ago, COs had to answer numerous questions before exemption would be granted – one of which was:

‘Do you believe in a supreme being?’

In British law, even as far back as WW1, exemption was not reserved exclusively for religious objectors. But in US law it was.

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‘No business like show business…’

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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.

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Heavenly Eggs and rock ‘n’ roll

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.

‘Yes please.’

‘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.

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Clearly visible – two ten year old boys

Friday morning – March 16th

Stomach still playing up.  But a simple breakfast in the hotel lobby doesn’t do any harm – apart from the fact that the milk comes in quarter-pint individual cartons.  I use very little of mine and ask the staff what will happen to the rest.
‘Oh, you can just dispose of it, sir.’
‘But…isn’t that a bit wasteful?’ I suggest.
‘Let me take it, sir, and I’ll bear the burden of disposing of it.’
‘Oh.  Okay,’ I reply, handing him the almost full carton.  ‘But maybe someone else could use it?’
‘Let me take it, sir.’

A morning to myself, lying low in my very clean but characterless hotel room, and then Maria and Cara collect me at lunchtime to head to Wholefoods Market to get a healthy lunch.  My local branch of this store in Clapham Junction back home is the size of a broom cupboard compared to the vast emporium we visit. (Everything’s smaller in Clapham…)

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It can’t have been the Amish cashew nuts, surely?

March 14th/15th

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.

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Shoofly Pie and an early retirement

So much is happening here, if I wrote it all up it would be the length of a travel book or memoir (maybe one day…) rather than a humble blog.

Let me try a short hand account for now instead …

Tues.  March 13th, 11am – leave Bill’s to drive north to Akron, Pennsylvania for the first US performance of This Evil Thing.

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Letters from America: Crates and a Washington Post

Mar 11th: Four New Crates (and a Suitcase) 

Bill has gone to his grandson’s birthday party in New Jersey, so I have Sunday to myself – to go for a good stiff walk in Patapsco Park and check out the cascades and waterfalls on another crisp, chilly but sunny day – and then after lunch to get to work accustoming myself to my crates – four new crates knocked up by Bill and his brother the other weekend.

I was so chuffed that they did this for me – because along with the wooden box I brought in my luggage and the small period suitcase that RADA in London loaned me, I can do the play pretty much as I have been doing it in the UK. I’m one crate and two pallets short, but the staging needs to be changed only a little.

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Day 1: Prince Harry does me a favour

The US customs officials that dealt with me so swiftly on my arrival at Baltimore yesterday – were they pacifists on the quiet?
They were pleasant, smiling and really sincere, so it seemed to me, in their wish for me to ‘have a good time in our country’.
I intend to.

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‘This Evil Thing’ – USA tour 2018

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.

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The Olivier Theatre of North London

March 2nd 2018

Saint Augustine’s church, Haringey, is not easy to find – up a small side street off the ever-busy Green Lanes. Along with the house next door, it is home to the London Catholic Worker, who offer it as a house of hospitality alongside their many other charitable activities – especially their work with destitute and homeless refugees.

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