Sunday, 13 December 2009

An Uneventful Bus Trip

The Bus Journey. 1600 Fri 11th Dec - 1500 Sat 12th Dec.

The Climate Campers were instantly recognisable, a rag tag bunch of bedraggled youths loitering beneath the bridge surrounded by backpacks and clanking camping equipment. One of the teachers - the campers charged with seeing each coach through the mammoth trip unscathed - patiently signed people in and appointed them to coaches depending on the degree of their personal aversion to the mainstream media. Some of these meeja folk were already milling around with their giant cameras, including, strangely enough, Chinese State TV. I wonder if they film dissent in their own country so keenly?

As it neared the departure time one camper commandeered a megaphone and marshalled us all across the road, bringing traffic to a halt and invoking the wrath of London cabbies and irate motorcyclists. Soon after we pulled away, a convoy of three coaches slipped into rush hour London traffic, the sort that pumps vast quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, all so the suit from Morgan Stanley can get home without having to mingle with the proles. To widespread delight we'd been blessed with a toilet. Despite countless warnings about drinking too much for risk of pissing ourselves because the ooaches would lack such basic amenities, we actually had a toilet on board. It's the little things in life, especially when you consider millions of people don't have access to such sanitation.

We waxed lyrical about corporations and the environment, laughed at photos of the Danish police detention cell (think Danish interior design meets Gitmo) and forged friendships with the many likeminded folk (200 odd) who had made the choice to venture to Copenhagen. Close to Dover our legal observer took the mic and gave us our briefing about getting out of the UK. Much had been made about the police and border agents' propensity to use schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act to hinder activists travelling abroad. The legislation gives authorities the right to detain people for up to nine hours to ascertain whether they may be taking part in terrorist activity, the definition of which is so broad it could include travelling to Copenhagen to put pressure on our leaders to reach a fair deal. Corporate lobbyists are exempt, natch.

A number of activists who tried travelling to Copenhagen weeks earlier had been questioned - it's a criminal offence not to answer quesitions, so forget about your right to remain silent - and some prevented from leaving the country. An email circulating around the campers warned we may be pulled aside and asked quesitions such as: "What do your parents do? What papers do they read? What papers do you read?". In the end, nobody asked anything. Immigration control didn't even ask to see our passports. We were waved through with all the attention a Daily Mail reader pays to a tramp in the street. The authorities must have been busy watching Hollyoaks in the comfort of their huts, or something.

On the ferry across the channel we sank pints, offered interviews to some of the 'embedded' media and wrestled on the deck in the freezing cold. Bonding, I assume. Then it was a swift drive through France and another stop in Belgium where some poor sod manning the service station shop alone was inundated with scores of hippies trying to determine which of the sandwiches in the chiller cabinet were vegetarian.

Coaches were not designed for sleeping in but we made a sterling effort nonetheless. Among the most interesting of positions were the dead bodies approach adopted by the couple in front of us, who collapsed in a pile on top of each other and didn't stir for hours. Or the "sleeping in the aisle" tactic as used by my travelling buddy Helen, which pleased me because it meant i could curl up across both our seats.

We woke up in Germany, where you have to spend a penny to spend a penny in the service stations. Or to be precise, 50 cents. Of course, few of us actually did pay 50 cents, opting to hop over the turnstile instead, as did I, quickly followed by the attendant who had glanced at the CCTV in time to see a lanky, hairy Yorkshireman vault the barrier. Despite having my penis in my hand he charged up to the urinal and demanded 50 cents from me. I played dumb and claimed I had no change (actually, I didn't) and exclaimed I'd pay after. I didn't travel all this way to get busted for ducking out of paying for the toilet.

We forged ahead, barreling down the autobahns towards the border with Denmark. Now that the sun had risen we could see the full extent of the German delectation for wind turbines. Clusters of them dotted the landscape, hundreds of them in fact. Whenever we looked out of the window there was another wind farm. It puts the UK to shame. Denmark is no different, albet on a smaller scale. At any one time, look out of the window and you will see a wind turbine, even if it's only one, somewhere in view.

The wires were telling us that our intended and long winded route by road into Denmark was subject to delays of up to five hours as border police searched coaches and passengers meticulously, so we opted to go for the ferry at Fehmarn. This turned out to be a canny decision as we were waved through on the German side without any hassle. We expected more on the Danish side and held our breaths as our coach was pulled over and our passports collected. Beside us, a car carrying a family of activists was being searched with the help of a little labrador. At one point, police removed a bag of what looked like boiler suits from the vehicle, but before we could dwell on it further our passports were returned and we were sent our way without so much as a single glance from the police. Only the open road lay between us and Copenhagen.

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