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Tavistock Square : Hiroshima Tree

I arrived at the end of the Peace Pledge Union remembrance gathering in Tavistock Square. I spoke with Professor Paul Gilroy of the London School of Economics. “All the war-mongering this year”, I complained, “I can’t stand it. The Libyan assaultit wasn’t even about Gaddafi.”

He asked after my interests in peace, and I described my ambition for renewable energy. The only way we can have peace and security is to have distributed energy solutions : homegrown climate-protecting energy in each country.

I paid my silent respects at the Conscientious Objectors Stone. White poppies placed on the memorial were blown to the ground by the humid breeze, and lay there, fallen, with the leaves. The fallen. Although it was unusually warm for the time of year, the day was quite grey, but punctured by hopeful, weak sunshine.

I sat down on a park bench to meditate on the poems chosen for the day, facing the British Medical Association, recalling how its stone facade was sprayed with innocent and misguided human blood on the day of 7th July, 2005. I was sitting under the weavework of the Hiroshima tree.

I saw a woman making her way towards the plaque under the tree. She was carrying a movie camera. I knew why she had come. She saw my white poppy, and realised I could answer her enquiry. “Is the peace meeting here at 2.30pm ?” I explained it had been at 12.30. I invited her to sit down on the bench next to me, so we could share.

Her name was Tomoyo Nakao, and she is at Okayama University in Japan, teaching in oral history. She was wearing Fair Isle design legwarmers given to her by her students. I gave her the sheet of paper with the memorial service poetry printed on it. I introduced her to Albert Beale of Housman’s Bookshop who had called the gathering, and was still in the square.

Together with Bill Hetherington of Peace News, they sat down on the bench. And that is how I became their cameraman, recording their discussion about poppies, peace and politics.

And then Tomoyo invited us to tea. Albert gave her a copy of the 2012 Peace Diary. And we carried on talking. As we walked past Gandhi’s shrine. We did a lot of remembering today. Tomoyo had been at the other end of Tavistock Square on 7/7. She took a picture. Albert had heard the bus blow up, but hadn’t known what it was. I had been in Stirling, at the EcoVillage camp convened for activists there for Make Poverty History and the G20 summit, and had listened to the radio in someone’s car over the course of several hours, as it became clear the scale of the atrocity that had been committed in London.

We talked about Fukushima Dai-ichi and the realisation in Tokyo of the risks posed to the people on the coast because of the city’s high power consumption. The unstable coast, where Tectonic plates regularly scrape and shake. We talked about why countries are deciding to walk away from nuclear power. We talked about safety concerns about nuclear power stations in America. We talked about the sense of coerced, artificial nationalism at the Albert Hall Festival of Remembrance the evening before. “It was just like my country in the 1930s”, Tomoyo said with anxiety. We talked about the people at the Occupy camp by St Paul’s Cathedral, and how they were wearing white poppies.

We shared what we knew about Japan trying to negotiate surrender before the atomic bombs were dropped. About why the bombs were dropped. We talked about depleted uranium shells, the lasting impact of war on generations of family, of nationalism being a response to austerity. We spoke about the reconciliation work going on in Japan, and how some things are being swept under the carpet, but should be remembered, explored, absolved. We spoke about the peace movements, the anti-nuclear movements.

Tomoyo finds her life in tension. She is criticised for pointing out problems in the way her country is handling the crises of the present and the past. People say she is against the peace movement. I said that she needs a strong heart. She must keep telling the truth. She is a prophet.

On the Tube, I met a 94-year-old woman with bandy legs, chest stiff with medals and the insignia of the Freedom of the City of London. She had been at the Cenotaph.

Later on the Overground, I saw a young man in a tee shirt that read “War is Over“, ironically also wearing a belt of bullets.

Yes, if we want it, war is so over.

One reply on “Tavistock Square : Hiroshima Tree”

Hi, I was very surprised to find my name here– I sent you the tweet. I wonder if you are interested in seminar on Emperial/Colonial Encounter in during and after the WWII ASIA.
WIll be held at LSE 18th Sept.
Please e-mail me if you find this — or tweet back to me. Thank you.

We are all concerend about Syria crisis, and Power problems re. Olympic etc.
And the reflection over Japan’s case in WWII — on POWs, Deplomacies, Japanese war propaganda, Rembering the Japanese Killing Locals in Dutch East Indiees– might be of youor interest. — Since Japan is a kind of model for ‘civilise/democratise the problematic country (i.e. Japan) by Military- bombing. — Worth looking back what were going on. to see current issue.

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