C is for coal

IMG_2524Last night I did the thing I’ve been doing for decades: I put boxes of things in the back of the car, took them to a community hall, struggled through doors. This is the activist’s life. Billy Bragg: Jumble sales are organised and pamphlets have been posted. In the Sisters of Mercy corridor, a young woman with dreadlocks – very young, perhaps only mid teens – is standing there looking at her phone. “Are you coming to the film night?” I ask.

“No,” she says. “I’m here for the kangaroos.”

She has a European accent of some sort. A backpacker. A little older than I first thought.

The kangaroos of Mount Panorama are being shifted, six by six, to a new home out of town, to keep them out of the way of the car races.  The girl was getting ready to spend some cold hours on the mountain helping to spot and dart kangaroos, lay them out on the cement floor of an old apple shed on old towels and blankets, number them, weigh them, heave their bodies into a big vehicle for the midnight run to Elsewhere.

“Oh, lovely,” I say, and keep going.

I struggle downstairs with my things, dump them. There’s Alice from Bathurst Community Climate Action Network, the organiser of this event, but as I’m the President, and a person given to over-functioning, I’m here, too. The projector works when connected to the laptop but it’s pink, the image is totally pink. Technofiddle.

“I’m glad we got here early,” says Alice.

I decide to hit the “reset” button. Now the image is not only pink but upside down. I want to cry. I’m sick of being an activist. Nobody else cares. Why should I care? I waggle the cord and it goes not-pink. Whew. We arrange a big heavy stack of Stop Adani flyers on the cord to keep it in the right position. On her smartphone, Alice Googles “Epson projector image upside down” and talks me through the solution. The image rights itself. Sound is working fine.

There’s tea and coffee but no milk, no biscuits. Phone calls and texts. Others will come forth with these things.

Not many people turn up. We’ve put out too many chairs. Alice’s Dad comes, with his walking stick. He has cancer. Stephanie, Bev and Bruce turn up, Stephanie with packets of biscuits. She will need paying back out of petty cash. We will need to do this bit of admin. It’s the sort of thing that gets forgotten and then people end up paying for biscuits out of their own money and afterwards deciding to consider it a contribution to the cause because that’s easier than remembering to find the receipt. Stephanie, Bev and Bruce have recently been arrested at the Wilpinjong coal mine protest. They sat on the road with a banner and didn’t move on when warned by the police. And got bundled into the paddy wagon and charged with “interfere with a mine” under the Crimes Act. Maximum penalty seven years jail.

I’m buzzy, unfocused, finding it hard to concentrate or speak to anyone properly. I find events stressful. I’m an introvert. I’m only doing all this stuff because I feel I should. I go out the front, welcome everyone to the night and make them watch a photo-montage of ten years of BCCAN history set to music. Two minutes in, I realise that this is quite long and boring. I hand over to Alice, sit down, and starting crocheting like mad. I listen to the film, mostly, only glancing up every now and then to take in the vistas of land and waterways to be destroyed; the hell-holes of giant open cut coal mines. I’m crocheting yellow and black granny squares to make into the letter C for COAL. I want to finish my crocheted banner – STOP COAL – by next Wednesday May 17, court day for Steph, Bev and Bruce.

After the film, Alice asks everyone to “turn to the person next to you” to discuss the film. I wasn’t expecting her to do this. We normally just have people address the room as a whole. Not this touchy-feely stuff. But maybe it’s good, because more people will be talking, in total. I stress over whether we’re “supporting” Bev, Steph and Bruce enough. They’re at the back of the room and nobody has made a big enough fuss of them. Does everyone know they’ve been arrested? I stand up and gabble about this, but later I worry that I’ve been overly bossy and controlling; that I should have just let Alice and Steph and Bev and Bruce make their own way with it all.

This was my private, personal experience. From the outside, it was just a film night and discussion.

Alice and I stacked up the chairs at the end. I begged off an adjournment to Steph’s for a cup of tea afterwards.

I couldn’t get to sleep. I had my phone playing soothing YouTube clips in my ears but this was not working. I’d wake up and check Facebook. Why? Check Twitter. Why? Buzzing, buzzing. Can’t come down. Worrying about being controlling and over-functioning.

Today: I’ve nearly finished the letter C.


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