Gary eventually managed to wake me at 5.15 after I’d slept through an alarm clock and a radio switched on next to my bed. Gary had taken a shower before I managed to drag myself off to the bathroom, skipping the shower in favour of a wash with ice cold water to wake me up.
Downstairs we found Geoff had got up before us and made a breakfast of eggs on toast and hot strong coffee. Lovely. He drove the four of us to the picket line at Agecroft, with John and Keith staying silent the whole way. I put this down to the events of last night.
There was only Stan the local nutter and a few others when we arrived but the rest soon showed up. Thery told us that we weren’t going home today as planned but are going tomorrow instead. We are all to be given an extra £8 but anyone who still wanted to return home as planned could go because a coach was leaving straight after the picket. I was glad to see only a few of the older men took up the offer with the rest of us looking forward to spending the extra money.
Geoff left at seven to get ready for work. He’s a lecturer in Trade Union Studies at Manchester Poly and he asked if gary and me could call in to see him at eleven because he wanted us to speak to his class of shop stewards. Just after he left a taxi sped past us and into the pit. I said to Gary that the scabs must be earning good money to be able to afford taxis into work. Gary said the scabs weren’t paying for it, Thatcher is, and I had to agree. One of the pickets then told us it wasn’t scabs in the taxi but two lads from Wearmouth who were planning to storm the canteen and get the scabs! I admired their guts but feared for their safety.
Ten minutes later the lads were marched out through the gates by an escort of pigs, and to loud cheers from us were allowed to rejoin the picket. They told us that everything had gone to plan until they ran into the canteen and found it full of pigs who stared at them in amazement before they were nicked. The lads said they couldn’t understand why they hadn’t been arrested but weren’t complaining. I think the pigs admired their cheek and besides, they hadn’t actually committed any crime.
After all the scabs had gone in Gary and me decided to go to a local shop to get some sweets and fags. When we got back there were only about a dozen lads. They told us the coach was coming back to pick us up so we stood about chatting, ‘guarded’ by two bored looking pigs who had probably drawn the short straw. As we talked a really flash car approached the pit and I shouted ‘Scab’ at the top of my voice, stretching the word out. To my great surprise the car screeched to a halt and a huge pig got out, ramming a swagger stick beneath his arm and striding across the road towards us with a look on his face that said he wasn’t amused. He was a huge bastard, brick shithouse like with a bright red face. I thought I was in for it but instead he marched up to a Westoe picket known as ‘Vic the Brick’ and began accusing him of doing the shouting. Vic rightfully denied being responsible but the pig called him a liar and began poking him in the chest with his stick saying, ‘Why don’t you take these other vermin with you back to Durham where you crawled from!’ Vic is not the sort of lad to take that from anyone, not even a senior police officer and replied, ‘If you touch with that fuckin’ stick once more I’ll wrap it round your fat fuckin’ neck!!’ The pig wisely stopped poking Vic but shouted for the area to be cleared immediately. He looked like he was about to explode, like one of those cartoon characters who’ve eaten something too hot. Pigs came running from the canteen and began to force us away by roughly pushing us down the road, with us putting up enough resistance to make their job difficult but not enough to get arrested. One pig warned us to be careful because that was James Anderton, Chief Constable of Manchester. Vic still wasn’t impressed.
Back on our coach I got another shock when a union official from Wearmouth came storming up to me and demanded that I give John £30 to compensate for his stolen bag. I was totally gobsmacked and said I didn’t have £30. The only money I had was the money collected for our Women’s Support Group who badly needed funds. He replied that the SWP had given me money, and if they could give me money, they could give John money as well. I told him that they had only given us £20, and John had refused half. He then said we should put it to a vote, telling everyone I was trying to undermine the union. I gave in and handed the Judas his thirty pieces of silver. The bastard couldn’t even look me in the eye, and even had the cheek to ask if I could bring his and Keith’s bags to the picket tomorrow because they’d found somewhere else to stay. Gary wanted to punch him but I said it wouldn’t help. The whole incident left me feeling like shit and yet again I’m accused of things I never did by petty bloody officials. Bastards.
At the Poly we were met by Phil Ramsall who had a full day planned for us. I was glad because it would keep us occupied in a positive way. We agreed to meet up at Piccadilly train station at twelve then we headed off to find Geoff’s office.
After a few wrong turnings we managed to find it in an annexe at the back of the Poly. We were asked to wait whilst Geoff went to ask his class if they wanted to let us speak. We chatted with Geoff’s secretary and she asked if we were working miners or striking miners, and were we Geordies. I said yes but ones with brains and taste who support Sunderland. She supports Manchester City and we chatted nicely for ten minutes about football, especially Bobby Charlton and the merits of individual skills.
Geoff returned to tell us his class had voted to let us speak and asked the secretary if she’d like to come along. She agreed but said she could only spare a few minutes because she was very busy. Gary confided he was as nervous as hell but I told him I was as well and not to worry because we’d manage fine.
There were about twenty students present, plus another lecturer, Geoff and the secretary. Geoff introduced us and I began by outlining the reasons why the strike had started, with Gary elaborating on what I’d said before we both settled to answer questions. The questions were the usual ones,ballot, scabs, violence, policing and flying pickets, and Gary and I took turns in answering, backing each other up when needed. I felt we did well because they had a collection which raised £40, including a quid from the secretary who had stayed till the end. Geoff later told us she was a Tory supporter and had initially refused to even meet us so it just goes to show how ideas can be changed through argument.
We had a coffee with some of the students afterwards and discovered one of them was a bus driver and shop steward at a local depot. We told him about the buses going into Agecroft and he went straight to a phone to have it stopped so that was a bonus. We told Geoff we’d see him about five and also told him that John and Keith wouldn’t be returning, and what had happened on the coach.This surprised him as well but he told us not to be bitter because they were only doing what most people do, look after number one.
Gary was elated at our success, and for the first time he said he was seriously considering joining the SWP. At the Railway Club we spoke to about 30 men at an unofficial meeting because the stewards had refused to call a special meeting. I let Gary do most of the talking and he urged the railway workers to come out on strike in support of the NUM, and that overtime bans and one day strikes achieve nothing. United action would give the Tories a real fight. He got a great reception and we were handed £120 which they’d collected! Gary was full of confidence as we left the meeting.
We had a bit of time to spare before we met Phil so we went to a nearby market where I bought a cheap bag, three pairs of underpants for a quid and five pairs of socks for the same price. Two sweatshirts for £2 completed my spending spree, all out of my £8 picket money.
Phil drove us to his flat for a quick coffee and introduced us to two lads from Davey Hulme Waterworks. They were going to take us to a meeting outside the works gates. The lads were brilliant, like a comedy duo, cracking jokes all the way and giving us a good laugh. One of them bore a strong resemblance to Mike Harding the folk singer.
The ‘waterworks’ was really a sewage plant and the smell was bloody awful but we soon had a small crowd outside waiting to hear us. Again all the usual questions were asked and answered, with one man standing out and asking most of the questions. He had a copy of the ‘Sun’ sticking out of his pocket and seemed amazed when we told him the average striking miner and his family were living on £12 a week from Social Insecurity plus Family Allowance, whilst single miners receive nothing at all! A union official told us he was surprised we were here to picket at Agecroft Colliery because when they had a strike the Agecroft men had given them financial support and stood on their picket line! I told him about the union men washing dishes for the pigs and he’s promised to have a word with them to see what the hell is going on. He’s also agreed to try and join our picket in the morning.
As we were leaving the union man gave us £20 which had been collected, but more impressively the ‘Sun’ reader shook my hand and as he quickly walked off I found a £10 note in my hand! That really made our day!
Before we went back to Geoff’s we addressed a meeting of the Socialist Worker Students Society and yet again went through all the familiar questions and answers. At least we are becoming rock solid in our arguments.
Back at Geoff’s we took a much needed shower and then ate a lovely meal which Geoff had cooked. The best I can manage is egg and chips! We had a really interesting conversation about the SWP and Geoff told us he had spent some time in Germany and was active in their equivalent of the SWP. I bet he’s an excellent lecturer!
Phil picked us up at 7.30 to go to Gorton Branch meeting that was also held in the upstairs room of a pub. This was the best meeting I’ve been to so far and the main speaker was excellent, John Taylor from Bradford. He spoke on, ‘The History of the Labour Party’ and he made it very interesting by adding a lot of humour. Gary and me did our bit but this time stressed the role the SWP have played for us as striking miners and how we worked in the strike. Wer had a good time, and for once allowed ourselves to get pissed. Again we received lots of envelopes containing money collected by comrades. All in all a brilliant day full of incident.