Saturday, 17 April 2010
Silence in the Bollin Valley
This was the sum total of my conversation with a one of Britain's elite soldiers, who I had just caught sneaking around the perimeter of our protest camp on the site of Manchester Airport's Second Runway.
He was the advance guard of the forces of Babylon, come to remove us from our tree houses and tunnels at the end of the existing runway, and it meant the beginning of the end of my time in the noisiest campsite I have ever pitched up at.
Following on the from the SAS were police in riot vans, swarms of yellow coated security guards in Land Rovers, and watching them a dozen or so cars and vans of the assembled press corps - all being served tea by the mobile soup kitchen of the Salvation Army.
Last night I returned to the Bollin Valley and found a very different scene. The runway has covered our camps in thirty feet of aggregate and the Bollin now flows through a culvert, but the wild garlic still infuses the night air.
Venus as the Evening Star sank slowly into the West following a blood red sun. The new moon hung in the sky over the red eyes of the airport's radar dish. But apart from that the skies were empty.
There were no planes.
Thirteen years ago our camp was rattled every few minutes by the engines of a jet taking off. In my tunnel the high pitch wine of intake was masked but the bass roar of the exhaust magnified. The overladen Air Pakistan jumbo that clipped the top of Zion Tree in the early hours of Sunday morning was so loud it made your teeth rattle.
All changed thanks to Icelandic Volcano.
The protesters produced a tape of songs recorded in the camps. It is a unique musical record, for a variety of reasons, one of which is that most of the songs are interrupted by a plane taking off. Sarah's contribution was called "Silence". Then it was ironic, now it seems prophetic.
In due course the ash clouds will pass and the planes will resume. Newly washed chives flown in from Ethiopia will reappear on our supermarket shelves, and travellers will return from far flung destinations, but for a few days at least it's possible to dream of another world.