Green politics, philosophy, history, paganism and a lot of self righteous grandstanding.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Top Five Fictional Road Protestors

The real anti-roads activists were a fairly colourful lot, and I expect the new lot will be just as cosmopolitan, so you wouldn't really think we needed to invent fiction ones, but that's what authors and screenwriters have been doing for the last thirty seven years.

There have been a surprisingly large number of them too.

I'm going to have to disqualify Bob Louis and David Briggs, alias The Detectives, as they were only undercover police pretending to be protestors. I'm also going to disqualify Laura, the heroine of Laura's Way, a middle aged woman disenchanted with her dead marriage and finds love up a tree house, on the grounds it's sub-Mills and Boon style tosh.

Besides, she doesn't practise safe sex in her treehouse. Everyone knows you need to clip on first.

However that still leaves a number of candidates in the running, so here we go for another highly subjective top five.

5. Geoffrey Lester from Gobble by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman (TV, 1997)

Lester (played by Geoffrey McGiven - the original Ford Prefect) was the unfortunate Minister for Agriculture who, in order to reassure a public concerned about Mad Turkey Disease, fed his daughter a Turkey sandwich only to have her keel over due to a hereditory heart condition.

He then dropped out of politics and took up residence at a local road protest camp. Pleging to "get this anarchy organised", he endeared himself to the protestors by unmasking one of them as an MI5 informer - who in turn outed another as a Daily Mail journalist.

This TV play by Hislop and Newman (he used to write for Spitting Image) is not particularly funny, but was at least slightly prescient. Not about the spying - everyone knew that was going on - but the real Geoffrey Lester, John Gummer, did turn into an eco-warrior of sorts and whilst he never, as far as I know, squatted a tree, but he did continue to turn up at conferences after the Tories had been booted out of office and on occassion had to sit with the Greenpeace delegates as no-one else would speak to him.

4. Kaz from Joining the Rainbow by Bel Mooney (book, 1997)

I don't know if Kaz, a fourteen year old girl from a nice middle class family who joins the protest against a new road running through Twybury Hill, can really count, as she isn't really fictional.

The book is by the Daily Mail journalist, and former wife of Jonathon Dimbleby, Bel Mooney and is based on her experience of the Batheaston protest.  It features thinly disguised versions of real people from the campaign whilst Kaz herself if Mooney's daughter Kitty.

You wonder what happened to Kaz. Probably not in a squat in Brixton living on cold baked beans and pot. Maybe working for a big environmental NGO like many of her Earth First! pals.

Or, like the real Kitty, married to soldier in a wedding featured her mum's paper and working for an ultra-respectable force's charity. Oh well.

3. Spider Nugent from Coronation Street (TV, 1997 to 2003)

In early 1997 Swampy and co. decended on Manchester to oppose the building of a second runway at its airport. Bizarrely he was a hit with the public and local schoolgirls and so perhaps it wasn't too surprising that there was a carry-over into Manchester's most famous soap, in the form of eco-warrior Spider Nugent, played by Martin Hancock.

Spider though didn't spend much time in the trees and instead moved in with his Aunt. One wonders where they got this idea of crusties hanging out with older ladies from. He did do a spot of protesting, trying to save the local park, but eventually sold out and worked for the Benefits Agency.

Hmm, becoming a bit of a theme here.

2. Blott from Blott on the Landscape by Tom Sharpe (book, 1975 and TV, 1985)

Great though the nineties were, everything we did then had been done before, and often better, in the seventies.

And when it comes to TV protests, Blott makes Spider look like the wimp he is.

A former German POW in the book - an accident Communist defector in the TV series - Blott, played by David Suchet, lives in the gatehouse of Handyman Hall.

The Hall, owned by a corrupt politician Sir Giles Lynchman, sits next to picturesque Cleene Gorge. When Sir Giles supports the building of a road over the gorge so he can claim compensation, Blott takes action.

Defending the countryside of his adopted nation with a passion that inspires the locals, he's not exactly fluffy. Concreting himself into his house is all very well, but when he launches a 'false flag' attack on his own gatehouse with guns and explosives he's gone a little beyond traditional None Violent Direct Action.

1. Arthur Dent from Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (radio, 1978; book 1979; TV, 1981; film, 2005)

Blott got his way and Handyman Hall is saved, but our winner had no such luck.

Not only did Arthur Dent get to witness his house being knocked down whilst he popped to the pub with is mate Ford Prefect, he also gets to see his planet being destroyed to make way for a Hyperspace Bypass.

Well, that's how it goes.

Everything I ever tried to stop ended up being built, with the exception of the Mottram-Tintwistkle bypass - and that's expected in 2015.

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