Respect my Existance or Expect my Resistance

Recorded and knit together by WSM. First aired on KWMR.org

Who knew that two lemon pits and a piece of soap could cause such anguish but it doesn’t take much when you are older, like the dishwasher and I. Teetering close to the edge of center, we were saved by beloved Ali and Sinder. No need to call the Sunday plumber who would have drained our wallet along with the dishwasher outlet pipe.

A late afternoon errand walk is prescribed to clear the cobwebs of dusty tears. A few people are making their way home preparing for week-twelve of their new reality. Even this late, Parkway Greens is restocking produce, and soon my string shopping bag is full. Turning into Camden behind a group of young police officers walking ahead of us, I am anxious, but they stop in front of ‘Five Guys 5 star hamburgers’ and easily join the young people returning from the afternoon’s march all waiting together for their takeout. There is very little traffic. Camden has never looked so quiet since when – probably since the last war years. Most shops would be boarded up, while a few remained open. Then there would have been posters about safely and thrift. Today’s posters are of George Floyd and Sean Rigg. On the last cross street before the Canal a new mural is looking down on us of a young black woman with her hair swept up and the words.


Respect my Existence or Expect my Resistance.

Camden Town Graffiti

Seems pretty simple really, a modern hip version of the Golden Rule.

Walking slowly home I am thinking back and remembering a road trip I took in 1996 searching for one story and finding another. A friend of a friend, David Grant, was caravanning around the world with his family: his wife Kate, three children, a dog and their horse Traceur. Overwintered in town, Traceur stayed at the farm and the family camped in the caravan up on the Mesa. Most mornings I would find their elder daughter, Ali, curled up in the hay barn asleep or reading. She reminded me of myself, sheltering in such a barn at such an age. Their trip gathered a certain amount of news interest and was good filler for when we were short a war or two. Doing some independent radio I was happy to follow along and record another moment of their journey.

So a few weeks after the Grants headed off I followed, up through Northern California, across Nevada and into bleak and desolate Idaho. Bleak became bare, bare became barren, and then the road the Grant’s had taken turned into ‘Unpaved for 12 miles over the pass.’ I turned the old Honda right onto ‘unpaved,’ driving slowly as the road twisted up a moderate incline for the first 5 miles. Soon the road became rockier, the climb steeper the sides closing into a high canyon and I began to feel nervous. How on earth had Traceur made it up this trail? This was truly tough territory and I began to wonder if I had lost my way.

But suddenly around another corner, just as I was really beginning to doubt myself, the rough road opened up and so did the rock face on my left. Beyond was a large meadow. And in the meadow there were people, and army trucks and what appeared to be a buzzing military camp. I stopped the car in the middle of the road and began, as one does in the middle of nowhere, to think, when suddenly a very fit khaki-clad middle-aged man came running towards me with a rifle over his shoulder. He lent forward and rapped sharply on the car window. I pressed the button and the window lowered. Breathing deeply I summoned my Mother.

“Good Afternoon. I wonder if you can help me.” Pure Home Counties with a smile. He stopped, pulled back a foot and touched his hat.
“Good afternoon, Mam.”
“I’m looking for a family in a horse drawn caravan. Have you seen them? Is this really the road to …”

All the time I was looking beyond him into the meadow trying to take it all in. This was a home-grown militia operation camp, practicing formation drills and target shooting and I had driven straight into it. There was even a visible archery range. If things went wrong I would not be the first or the last to go missing on this mountain pass. Luckily to him, I sounded more like an aspiration than a threat. He stood straighter still and courteously told me that yes I was indeed only six miles from the next town and that he had heard about this traveling family. If that town was where they were heading then they too would be on the road ahead. I thanked him and he touched his hat again. I didn’t ask him what they were doing. A question can become just an invitation to lie and I certainly didn’t want to hear his truth.

The Grant family did finally make it a back to Scotland. I got my story which aired on CBC in Canada. And those men in the Hills of Idaho? Some have grown old, some have died, but their sons still live. Life and a living is hard in Idaho and like many people who are isolated and feel left behind they are frightened. They were – and maybe still are – preparing with the only tools they have and know – calling out for their version of the American dream,


Respect my Existence or Expect my Resistance.

This has been A Letter from A. Broad
Written and read for you by Muriel Murch.


Easter Weekend 2020

Easter Weekend in London brings news and time for reflection.

Some days swirl by in a non-specific haze, leading to a confusion of thought, and a seeming inability to get anything done, so that the by day’s end one wonders what did actually happen. Like older relatives and parents who cut out articles from the newspapers and mailed them to us, we now swap internet links and stories. “I thought you might be interested in …” and we often are.

Thomas arrived for my birthday. He had been hinted at, noted, ordered from our local book shop and was wrapped up to serve beside a pot of coffee for breakfast.

Thomas at Breakfast

Hilary Mantel’s “The Mirror and the Light” brings Thomas Cromwell’s life to an end. For three days and nights I managed to resist him, continuing to read an evening chapter from “Jock of the Bushveld” an old favorite book of my mother’s.

But before even a week was over, I had picked up the hefty tome of 880 pages. I said (to myself) “I’ll just take a peek”, as if “I’ll just go for a drink with him. It’s nothing. I can get up and leave whenever I want.” But now Jock is laid aside, and Thomas has my heart and mind. I love him, more than a little bit, and am infinitely in awe of and grateful to Hilary Mantel. I am not alone. Others I know read him in this gifted time of solitude. We will go with him to his end and close the book with sadness.

When Susan Sontag published ‘The Volcano Lover’ in 1992, she went on her book tour. I was fascinated with the history and had lots of questions prepared for speaking with her at KPFA, Pacifica. But as the conversation relaxed and drew to a close, I asked about living alone in New York City. “Are you ever lonely?” “How could I be,” she responded. “I have two thousand years of history in my library.”

Here in London we both have small libraries crammed full of books that we cherish. We are both re-readers, I returning to history while he explores science. Though I’m a one-at-a-time gal there are at least seven books piled behind “The Mirror and the Light”.

My father would have been in his 70’s when I was first old enough to become conscious of his reading habit. And for him, too, this age was a time of re-reading books that he welcomed back into his life as long lost friends.

Saturday morning began in the new quiet, but by noon a helicopter began to circle overhead. There is no Prince traveling from one palace to another, and the air ambulance is hardly needed now that the London streets are almost empty of traffic. This is the police, boys with their toys, circling Primrose Hill and Regent’s Park looking for those, oh no, sunbathers and loiterers. Later, when we take our walk a police patrol car is cruising The Broad Walk. They are not walking to give a face to their presence, nor even on horseback when I might get lucky with a bag full of droppings for the compost pile.

The evening news program brings the government representatives out to the podiums with their daily bulletins. Mathew Hancock, Minister for Health, speaks his coverup nonsense “Maybe the NHS are hoarding gowns and masks which is why there is a shortage.” Priti Patel, the Home Secretary says, as one does when knowing there is a need for an apology but not ready to give ground, “I’m sorry the situation makes you feel that way.” As of this writing 8 national health doctors – all of them UK immigrants – have died. The number of nurses to have died is unknown. Today at over 11,000 deaths, England is set to overtake Italy in the number of Covid-19 deaths.

On Easter Sunday morning, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson was discharged from St. Thomas’s Hospital and driven to Chequers, the country seat of the current Prime Minister. Whatever one feels about this Prime Minister we are grateful that one more life has been saved. And so is he, giving public thanks to the nurses who cared for him; particularly Ward Sister Jenny McGee, from New Zealand and Staff Nurse Luis Pitarma from Portugal – again – immigrants.

Easter Sunday is when some look for a miracle. Not necessarily the one of a life returned, but possibly of the recognition in this moment of gratitude by the Prime Minister, for the nurses, doctors and all staff working in the health service. Doctors may cure but it is the nurses and hospital staff that keep us alive.

Old into New – again

A strange part of all of this is trying to accept that my job is to be out of the way, not on the ‘front line’ – not helping. But what to do? what is next? The table napkins are next, the first one already torn and sewn to make a face mask. I take up a needle and mother’s cotton threads while listening to history unfold itself again.

I bow my head over the work as a gentlewoman would in the Tudor time of King Henry and his Lord Privy Seal, Sir Thomas Cromwell.

This has been A Letter from A. Broad. Written and read for you by Muriel Murch.