In my glory days, back in the early noughties, I worked in London as a trainee staff writer at a trade magazine. It didn’t last long. The truth is that it was not as glamourous as it may sound and in the end I returned to the Midlands, defeated by London. When a man is tired of London he is tired of life they say. And I left London both tired and a little jaded. London had been fickle to me.
But occasionally I would still go back to the capital. On one journey I met the anti-war protester Brian Haw in Parliament Square in his makeshift protest camp in support of ordinary Iraqi families. He died from cancer as he was a smoker (but this one fault did not outweigh his great principles – he was a man of genuine conviction).
I talked with him a little in Parliament Square. I mumbled about how he needed to be heard in the media and how he deserved to be taken seriously. He spoke to me of how one of the large established churches in London had rejected him and his cause even when he had asked them for help. That was very sad as he was one of the most conscientious Christians I have met and he deserved to be supported. He wore badges on his hat, some of them Christian badges which praised God, others were badges of protest and resistance. He stood (or rather sat) to defend humanity – to defend the ordinary people of Iraq who were suffering because of UK sanctions and who later suffered even more from UK war intervention. He made great personal sacrifices to protest and was treated with disdain by the British Government of the time who preferred war, for their own agendas. The Government considered him to be invisible, as they do to many of those who oppose them. To ignore someone is often an act of enmity.
When I met Brian, he asked me to fetch him some tobacco from a newsagents and I went to the shop and bought a pouch of tobacco for his roll-ups. I didn’t know that he would later die of cancer – I just wanted to be of help at the time. When you are consciously resisting the Government day and night you really do need some kind of comfort and some human faults can be necessary.
And Brian Haw showed me a book which he was writing. It was a handwritten diary of his experiences and life story. He had no computer. He only had pen and paper and principle.
And sometimes, late at night, I wonder what happened to that book.
What happened to it? Where did it go? Why was it never published?
I’ve searched for any reference to Brian Haw’s book over the internet but I can’t find anything. The distrustful, jaded side of me speculates that it was ‘appropriated’ by Government. But it seems to me that it is a little like Anne Frank’s diary. One document is lost, another is held as rightfully important. Sometimes important things are lost or kept private. Sometimes the truth doesn’t out in this lifetime. And how can it without people working towards that?
We all have stories to tell. They are documents. They are often important testimonies to the events which we experience and which we cause. Some are more important than others. But many deserve to be told.
And Brian Haw’s is one of them.