normanstrike

Posts Tagged ‘Sasha Strike’

135. Friday January 4th, 1985.

In Uncategorized on January 4, 2010 at 11:35 am

According to the NCB 72 scabs went into Westoe today, 3,177 in the North East Area. No difference on the picket line, passivity and resignation, doom and gloom. The end seems nigh.

This afternoon I decided to take Jen and Sasha down to the picket line because I knew there’d be no trouble but just in case we stood away from the main body of pickets. I just wanted to explain to them what has been happening for almost a year, and to show them the scab buses and explain the kind of people who were hiding inside. I know that Sasha is only 10, and Jen 12, but why shouldn’t they know why their mam and dad are splitting up?

Predictably a television crew had turned up from Tyne Tees Television to film the 3 buses going in so that passive miners who still have tellies can see how quiet it is. Some of the lads jumped in front of the camera to ruin their filming as the scab buses went in, and one of the escort vans full of riot police stopped and they poured out ready for action, pushing roughly into our lads and trying hard to get them to retaliate. The lads knew their tactics and didn’t respond. I pointed this all out to my daughters and told them never to forget what they were seeing, and hearing, in January 1985. Sasha said,’They should push the police back, I would’. Out of the mouths of babes!

The pigs crawled back into their van and continued to mock the pickets by waving money at them. I again pointed this out to the girls and explained what the police were doing before leading them off to return home. We had just turned the corner when a police van pulled up just ahead of us, and an inspector, two pips on his shoulder, leant out of the window and said,’Hoy! You! What were you saying to those children?’. Anger welled up inside me and I snapped back,’What the hell has that got to do with you? They’re my kids and our conversation is private!’ His response staggered me! ‘I hope you weren’t trying to warp their minds against the police!’ I can’t remember exactly what I said in reply because I was fuming but it was something along the lines that things hadn’t got so bad that I was forced to repeat conversations with my girls to the police. His response shocked even me, a hardened picket,’I’ll tell you what then mate. When those kids, pointing at my terrified daughters,get fucking lost, or something fucking worse happens to them, don’t phone for us, phone for fucking Arthur Scargill!’ The van sped off and I was left trying to console my frightened kids. What the fuck have we come to that innocent girls have to be scared witless because their dad is a striking miner?

132. Thursday December 20th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on December 20, 2009 at 11:20 am

My luck is changing! A comrade who works in the DHSS rang to tell me about a special grant being paid to single miners living in Newcastle, £126. Because I’ve been staying in Benwell, off and on, since November I qualified for the payment and went and got it, no problems at all. I spent the afternoon blowing every penny on buying presents for Kath and the girls. Stuff the future, and it was worth it to see the look on Kaths face when I got back. At least xmas hasn’t been cancelled this year for the girls. That’s what this fight is all about and their happiness comes above all else, to me at least.

130. Monday December 17th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2009 at 7:04 pm

Today we had our Xmas Dinner in the kitchen and it was brilliant! The place was packed with families and single lads and we had entertainment, live music and a three course dinner with turkey and stuffing. There were also presents for the kids given personally by Santa but provided by all our supporters. I felt really proud at how things have grown since our small start, all thanks to the hard work of Gary, Florrie, Marion, Alison, Maureen and George, and the support from the long list of donors on sheets of paper hanging on the walls. We have achieved what we set out to do and that was to provide a focal point where people can come and sit in the warm and share their hopes and fears, and have a really nice meal. Jen and Sasha love it there, though Kath never brings them, probably to avoid questions about me.

Strangely I felt a bit like an outsider until Gary told me to come back down to earth and get back to being a poverty stricken miner instead of hobnobbing amongst the stars. He is right, but it was a good experience, even if it does make me feel guilty. Nowt new there then.

122. Friday November 23rd, 1984.

In Uncategorized on November 23, 2009 at 1:55 pm

I heard from my solicitor in Newcastle this morning that my trial in Edinburgh has been set for February 7th, no bail conditions. Civilised people, the Scots. Me mam always calls them Scotchies.

Gary rang and told me only 7 scabs have gone into Westoe this morning because they’d been visited and shown the error of their ways! Good! Mind you, the NCB have offered another bribe of £175 plus back pay to any miner who returns to work before next Friday. The bastards are getting really desperate now, but their 30 pieces of silver will only succeed with a tiny minority.

The majority of us will treat it with the contempt it deserves, especially as it comes straight after the tories deducting a further £1 from the pittance a miner’s family is supposed to live on, about £14 a week, all normal bills expected to be paid. Debt! Single miners get nothing, not even picket pay for me just now, a charity case living off handouts from supporters.

I met some ambulance drivers in Kenton and was given £20 in cash, and the promise of regular sums to be sent to the kitchen. If all this money from London is written down on the sheet at Westoe it should really give them heart to see the range of their support.

I can speak to Jen and Sasha on the phone, but Kath refuses to speak to me. Bloody hell! I just don’t think I deserve this.

101. Thursday October 4th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on October 3, 2009 at 2:34 pm

As expected, the jellybacks in NACOD’s have gone into talks with the NCB through ACAS. It’s a bloody tragedy! After recording a strike vote that surprised us all the bastards have backed down. They could’ve done what we’ve so far failed to do, make Thatcher do another U – turn, and stop the scabs in Notts and elsewhere. I hope I’m wrong but I think they’ll reach a compromise.

Gary, Keith and me had a meeting this afternoon at Gary’s house. It was a useful exercise and one we hope to repeat on a weekly basis. The most important thing to come out of the meeting is our decision to reopen the soup kitchen at Harton which closed during the summer due to lack of funds and customers. Our first task is to start building up a reserve of cash to ensure we can keep it running once we start. We think it will be excellent because it can serve as a focal point for the pickets and be a place where everyone can discuss their problems. At least it will give me something constructive to do.

Today is the 10th birthday of my youngest daughter, Sasha, and thanks to Kath’s final pay packet we were able to give her a nice present, which is more than most striker’s kids will get. We’ve been lucky and it’s a pity Kath can’t appreciate that.

87. Wednesday September 5th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on September 6, 2009 at 5:07 pm

I’m actually writing this diary on Saturday September 8th after having spent the last 3 days in Durham prison.

The day began at 7am when I left the Armstrong Hall in Neil Tate’s car to go picketing at Wearmouth as usual. I told the lads I was with that we shouldn’t just stand around being passive but needed to take some positive action.They all agreed.

We arrived at Wearmouth at 7.30 and joined the fifty or so men already in the car park. I had a chat with Dave Hopper, the Lodge Secretary of Wearmouth, and asked him why the fence hadn’t been removed because it was a real hindrance to us having a proper push against the pigs. Dave agreed with me but said there was nothing he could do because the pigs were at the pit 24 hours a day. He also told me that Sunderland Magistrates were taking a really hard line with arrested pickets. Two of his lads had been remanded in custody to Durham prison. I know one of them really well, Alan Margham, and I asked Dave to pass him my regards when he saw him. Little did I know that I would see him before he did!

By 7.45 there were at least 250 of us in the car park facing a line of about 200 pigs directly in front of the main pit entrance, only seperated by the bloody metal fence. a group of us began moving around the pickets because we were really pissed off with the passivity. After having had men lifted on a daily basis the hard core activists were also being reduced, and the picket had become really stale. We couldn’t allow it to continue because a passive picket would just encourage more scabbing. We started telling the lads we were going out onto the road on our right to form a push and asked everyone to join us. Accordingly about twenty of us moved onto the road and began shouting for everyone to join us. We soon had about a hundred men but the majority refused to move, even when we yelled at them and called them ‘plastic pickets’ and worse. I have a very big gob and my throat hurt with the effort of shouting but it did no good.

The scab bus was due so we formed up into a solid mass and started to move towards the pigs, who had rushed  to form a reinforced line in front of us. We chanted our battle cry of, ‘Zulu,Zulu,Zulu’ and then crashed into the pigs. Initially we made progress, forcing the pigs back a little until more reinforcements joined their lines. We could have broken through easily if the ‘plastics’ watching from the sidelines had joined us. As it was the push was broken by a group of pigs attacking us from the side and splitting off the front two lines from the rest of the lads. I was roughly grabbed around the throat by a pig and struggled to fight back and keep my feet. The bastard was choking me and he dragged me through the police lines. He threw me to the ground, and as I struggled to get my breath he leapt on me with his knee across my chest. I could see he was an inspector by his flat hat and he said”Got you at last, you big mouthed bastard. That’s your picketing days over’.I wondered if I’d been singled out as I was roughly  dragged backwards and thrown into the back of a police van. Within minutes the van was full, with 8 pickets and six pigs and we were driven the short distance over the bridge to the same police station we had stoned the week before.

Inside Monkwearmouth police station, which was so small it didn’t have any cells, with my ‘arresting officer’, a young PC, we were told to stand against the wall to have our photograph taken by an obese sergeant(is there any other kind?) with a polaroid camera. He told me the photo was for ‘official’ records,ie the photo albums they used to identify activists. The sergeant pressed the button and all four flash cubes went off and unexposed film shot out the front. I laughed out loud and so did the young PC but the segeant wasn’t amused. Cursing, he fitted new flashes and loaded new film. We composed ourselves, with me trying to look defiant and the PC smiling broadly. The same thing happened, flashes and film spewing out the front. I was laughing madly when an angry inspector burst into the room and demanded to know what the hell was going on! The fat sergeant said he couldn’t understand it because it had never happened before. He tried one more time with exactly the same results. The inspector grabbed the camera and threw it in a bin and ordered the sergeant to go and get a replacement.

Finally I was photographed and then taken into another room where the angry inspector was waiting impatiently. He said to the young PC,’What kind of abusive language did this scum use?’ The young lad was either very naive, very stupid, or a mixture of the two because he replied,’Sorry sir, but I didn’t actually hear him saying anything’. I thought the Inspector was going to explode. He yelled for the fat sergeant to take me away. As I was being taken out I heard the Inspector say,’Now what did you hear the bastard say?’ No doubt that cleared the young lads memory.

I was taken outside and locked into a tiny cell on one of them pig buses you usually see parked at football grounds. An uncomfortable hour later there were 12 of us in the cells and we were driven to Gill Bridge police station in Sunderland and locked into two cells, six to a cell. I was with three Westoe lads, one of whom had only been doing picket duty for a fortnight! I grew up in the same street, Chaucer Avenue, as one of the lads,Davy Larsen, and we spent the time chatting about our experiences over the past six months.

During the morning we were taken out to be photographed, again, fingerprinted and questioned, and finally charged. I was charged with,’Foul,insulting and abusive behaviour liable to cause a breach of the peace’. The officer charging me asked if I had any outstanding charges against me and he grinned when I told him about Bilston Glen last month.

We were allowed to see a solicitor provided by the NUM and he told me we would probably be bailed and banned from going within two miles of Wearmouth, which is what I was expecting.

We had dinner of soya pie, potato and turnip which was bloody horrible but I ate it anyway. We were then let out of the cells and told to wait at the foot of the stairs that led up into the courtroom. We whispered amongst ourselves. I recognised one of the lads, Bob Robson, who had been one of the most voiciferous supporters of of going to jail in Bishop Auckland but had bottled out and phoned the TV instead. He got me worried when he told me the solicitor who had seen him had warned him he might be refused bail and be remanded in custody because of his previous arrest. This had happened to men who appeared before the bench previously. It wasn’t looking good. I was feeling a bit pissed off because he had seen a woman solicitor, as had most of the other lads, with only a few of us seeing the man. I suspected he must be a trainee or something because he told me I would probably be bailed.

It was 3pm when the first six lads were led up into the courtroom, and when they came back they told us they’d been bailed and weren’t to go within 2 miles of Wearmouth, as they’d expected. We were called up and I was a bit  surprised when the magistrate called the first four lads to the bench and left Bob and me to one side. The four lads were all released on the same bail conditions as the other six.

We were ordered to face the magistrate and he glared at us as if we were two lumps of shit. Bob was dealt with first, and despite the pleas of the female solicitor, was remanded in custody to Durham Prison until September 14th. Bob was led down looking totally shocked. I faced the magistrate and received the same sentence, with the magistrate saying I was being remanded because of my disgraceful past record and that he believed I would ignore any bail conditions imposed upon me. He also said something about me being a danger to public order but I was too gobsmacked to take it all in. What evidence did the bastard have that I would ignore bail conditions? He ordered me to be taken down and the guy who led me away said the time would soon pass. Easy for him to say. He wasn’t on his way to Durham Prison!

After being held in a cell for half an hour we were taken up to a yard and handcuffed together before being put into a van. It was an uncomfortable journey, made worse by the gobshite sergeant who accompanied us. He was one of those ‘ some of my best friends are miners’ types and was constantly trying to be friendly. I ignored the bastard but Bob chatted happily with him. The pig was condemning Scargill and picket line violence, and Bob was agreeing with him! I couldn’t believe it and wondered why he’d been on the picket line in the first place. Bob said he couldn’t wait to get back to work and that it would happen soon because there was no way we could defeat Thatcher. It made an already depressing journey worse and I worried about what Kath would say when she found out, and how Jen and Sasha would react. I was also angry that none of our lodge officials had been in court so how would Kath find out? I hoped Keith or Gary would call round to tell her. I felt as if I was about to start a life sentence instead of a few days on remand and resolved that in future I would content myself with being an ‘indian’ and leave being a ‘chief’ to others.

Once inside the prison gates the handcuffs were taken off and we were taken into the Search Tank, which is a room beside the main gate where incoming prisoners are taken to be searched. They searched everywhere, even the soles of my feet, and it was a humiliating experience. After the usual jokes about my surname we were taken into the reception area, and after another lengthy wait we were taken into another room full of men waiting to be admitted into the prison. One of these men was a long term prisoner waiting to be transferred to a prison in Scotland. He told me he’s been in Wakefiels Prison for seven years and this was the first time in all those years he’d been outside. He told me he was doing life for murder yet despite this I felt sorry for him. The other men were burglars and con men who passed the time by bragging about all the crimes they’d gotten away with before being caught for something trivial. When they heard what Bob and me were in for they were very sympathetic and gave us loads of advice on what to expect and what we could get away with. Bob said he’d done some time as a younger man and started talking and telling tales of his exploits as a criminal, trying to be the equal of the other men, daft bastard. He’s a bit of a know all is Bob. Anyway, I was glad for the advice and felt a bit easier in my mind.

We were examined by the prison doctor before being forced to have a bath in cold water full of disinfectant. The towel I dried on was like sandpaper! We were then issued with our uniform; one pair of underpants, one vest,a pair of socks with holes in the heels, a blue striped shirt, a pair of brown trousers that were too big, and a brown jacket stamped with ‘HMP Durham’ in case anyone tried to steal it. The whole outfit was completed by a pair of battered black slip on shoes, with mine having holes gouged in the heels, making it uncomfortable to walk, not that I expected to be doing a lot of that!

Washed, dressed and given a number, all we had to look forward to was prison food. I was bloody starving but when I saw what was on offer I almost lost my appetite. I was handed a plate with a blob of mashed potato, shrivelled up peas and a solitary hot dog sausage. A plastic mug of unsweetened tea was provided, presumably to wash away the horrible taste of the food which I gulped down with a minimum of chewing in the hope that my taste buds wouldn’t be irreparably damaged.

After our meal we had another long wait. I passed the time chatting with a con man who was on a three year sentence, and if he was to be believed, had £30,000 stashed for his release. He entertained me with stories of his many criminal exploits and the time passed quickly. He also gave me some cigarettes, which was great because I’d finished the few I’d been arrested with. I am grateful to the ‘screw’ who gave me the fags because prison rules stated that only sealed packets were to be given to prisoners. He told me he supported the miners, which came as a pleasant surprise because I had expected the screws to be bastards like the pigs are. In fact, all the screws we had contact with were great, with one in particular, being an ex – miner himself, doing all he could to make our stay less uncomfortable.

Bob and I were to be kept together, which came as a relief because I’d heard all the tales of homosexuality in prisons. Not that I’ve anything against homosexuals. I just didn’t want to experience it myself at first hand! At 9pm we were given a sheet, a pillowcase and a blanket. We carried theseinto B Wing because the remand wing was full. We climbed the metal staircase and I thought of the prison in ‘Porridge’. There was thick wire mesh strung beneath the landings to stop men throwing themselves off to escape the food! We were on the second floor, in cell B2 – 30, and it was really depressing when we went in and the door was locked behind us.

Our cell was bloody horrible. It was filthy, with fag ends on the cracked concrete floor. The arch window had thick glass panes that were filthy, and six of them were missing, causing a chill breeze to waft around the cell and circulate the stink from the plastic bucket full of piss and shit that stood in the middle of the floor. The decor was post – holocaust,damp grey walls and cobwebbed ceiling. We each had a metal frame bed with a thin ‘white’ matress that was full of stains, and mine was decorated with a schoolboy – ish drawing of a naked woman. We also had a blue plastic mug each, an orange plastic washing bowl and jug, and a plastic razor with no blade. Two wooden tables completed the furniture, all crammed into a cell no more than six foot wide and twelve long.

The screw, who Bob kept calling ‘Boss’, told us to make a final trip to the bog. The first thing I saw on entering was a contorted face behind a half door, complete with sound effects as he strained to shit. He put me right off and I was determined to hold my bowels as long as I could.

Back in the cell Bob was the first to spot two books and immediately grabbed the cowboy story. I was relieved until I saw the other book was a biography of Martin Luther. I skimmed it and quickly decided it wasn’t for me. I would happily have swapped it for the cowboy book.

At 10pm the light went out and we settled down to sleep. I was knackered but it took me a long time to drop off. I worried about Kath and the girls, and for me that is the worst thing about being locked up,not being able to communicate with your loved ones, and not knowing what is happening to them.

70. Saturday July 14th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on July 17, 2009 at 2:38 pm

Today should have been the 101st Durham Miners Gala but because of the strike it’s been called a rally instead. I fail to see the logic behind the name change but there you go.

The Westoe contingent, two bus loads, left the Armstrong Hall at 8.45, half an hour late due to another cock up by our Lodge officials. It was pissing down with rain, and on a normal Gala day this wouldn’t have dampened our spirits but 18 weeks into a strike it did. Everyone seemed quiet, though a few of the pickets were in a very optimistic mood due to the dockers having come out on strike earlier this week and they talked enthusiastically about Thatcher not being able to fight on two fronts. Admittedly the dockers have the power to really damage the Tories but the bastards are clever and I can’t see them letting it happen. They’ve come too far and will find any way to compromise, just as they did with the railway workers. I hope I’m wrong, but the TV and the papers are doing all they can to stop a dual front.

The rain was still pouring down when we arrived in Durham and we tramped onto a wet field to get ready for the march. I had brought Jennifer and Sasha along with me and they were just enjoying the whole experience. Kath had refused to come, choosing to go shopping instead. I wasn’t too surprised when it was discovered that the poles for our lodge banner had gone missing, and when they were finally found and fitted, we were almost last in the procession.

There were banners from every coalfield, including Scotland and Wales, and it was a really colourful spectacle. We lined up behind the Cortonwood banner and there were ‘Victory to the Miners’ and ‘Unite to Fight’ placards everywhere. Some people had even turned them into rain hats. The brass bands were playing and we set off to march through the city, down towards the racecourse by the river where the rally was to be held. Jennifer and Sasha’s faces were glowing with pride as crowds of people lined the streets and cheered us on, and I was proud as well, proud to be fighting back against Thatcher and the Tories.

Scargill gave his usual defiant speech, full of passion and anger at those unions not supporting us. Dennis Skinner was excellent, equally full of passion and fire, and one of the few true Socialists in the Labour Party. A low point for me was Betty Heathfield, wife of Peter, General Secretary of the NUM, who was appealing for Women’s Support Groups to come down to London so they could hand a petition to that champion of the working classes, the Queen! I hope no one turns up!

The real moment of magic came when Kneel Kinnock stepped up to the microphone and made most of the crowd disappear, but not before they’d booed him loudly for his traitorous lack of support for miners and their families. The bastard is more concerned about getting Labour elected than he is about his core supporters, and he even had the nerve to criticise violence on the picket lines. I was glad to see people turn their backs on him and walk away, especially as this was the same man who only a year ago had got a standing ovation. Miners at least now see him for the soft reformist he is.

Anyway, despite the rain it was a good day out and the girls enjoyed playing with other kids whose dads were also on strike. I’m glad I took them.

26. Friday April 20th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on April 20, 2009 at 8:32 am

Well,here we are in Skegness, at the Derbyshire Miners Holiday Camp. Kath and I have been given a lovely bungalow close to the children’s dormitory.

The journey down was a bit uncomfortable because the minibus was a bit overcrowded, but our driver, Anne, was excellent and the journey only took five hours so it wasn’t too bad.

After registering we went to explore the camp and I was relieved to find that there is plenty to keep Kath and the girls occupied. Jennifer and Sasha are thoroughly enjoying themselves and have already made loads of new friends.I doubt they will sleep much because the dormitory was full of noisy kids when I looked in at 10.30pm. As long as they are happy, that’s the only thing that matters, and  it will allow Kath and me to have some time to ourselves and that is very important just now because the strike is beginning to cause us problems. Hopefully this weekend will help us to sort things out.

We spent the evening having a drink with Dave and Jean Farham, and meeting people. This is the big weekend for the SWP and it was great to see so many friendly people.I was pleased to meet Jim Tierney again because I met him up in Scotland the other week and we have a mutual friend in Stuart Hepburn.

The programme for the weekend looks excellent and I am really looking forward to seeing Paul Foot of the Daily Mirror speak.

We’re having an early – ish night and Kath is having a bath so roll on tomorrow.