The Mood Is Changing

Today was the fourth Cake and Liberty Saturday, and the first where it was just me. There is something to be said for the solo protest in that it does force you to get out there protesting, engaging with the public, by removing the option of a cosy chat with like-minded fellow Cakeists (a considerable temptation, since they are invariably interesting).

And I cannot imagine how it could have gone any better: I met the most wonderful selection of people, and I need to set it down while it’s still fresh in my mind.

I have developed a pattern: I bake on the Friday – chocolate chip brownies and banana bread are both fairly foolproof – and first thing on Saturday I load my basket of cakes into my car and drive it the mile or so into town and park it close to my base. Back home I get ready into what has become my colourful uniform, and stroll back into town with my ‘End the Lockdown Now’ umbrella unfurled and causing traffic to slow as the drivers wonder what on earth is going on.

As I approached the square that serves as the Cake and Liberty base (Church Square, next to the statue of Hamish the Cat for those who know St Andrews), I was met by a lovely woman who handed me a bag full of exquisitely wrapped portions of Rocky Road and explained that her daughter Rachel follows Cake and Liberty on social media*, couldn’t come in person this week but wanted to make a cake contribution. I can’t begin to express what it meant to me, and knowing the care and effort involved in making it happen, it just blew me away.

The minister at Holy Trinity, Marion, was waiting outside the church to meet some parishioners, and we fell into conversation. During the week I had been stopped in my tracks by the sound of choral singing coming from the church, it turned out to be a recording, but it was nonetheless just so beautiful to hear and a desperately poignant reminder of the lost beauty of choirs, music and social communion, and I told her how much I – and barefoot George with his dog who had also been drawn by the sound – had appreciated it. We spoke about lockdown and the effects it was having, especially on Marion’s previous inner city parish.

I walked loops around the centre and met and distributed cakes to families, day trippers, a charming older lady who was thoroughly fed up with restrictions, a Marxist who was most concerned that landowners were planning to revoke the right to roam (priorities, people!), the owner of a local very nice grocer & deli who is quite subversive too and who took a selfie with me, many students, our resident vagabonds (who now perk up in anticipation when they see me), a vastly accomplished accordionist playing in the square, and people sitting in the sun on benches enjoying a coffee. My rule is not to approach anyone in a queue for any of our coffee shops, since I don’t want to lessen their takings, but once their customers have left the shop having bought whatever they were going to buy, I consider them fair game. I was cheered on by a young couple with two very small children, and had a long and heartfelt conversation with a thoughtful and friendly couple who were as baffled by the continuing restrictions as I am – she suffers from schizophrenia and has found the isolation and mask wearing terribly detrimental to her mental health – and we parted ways all of us buoyed up by our meeting and our joint determination to make a stand against these punitive restrictions to our liberty.

The mood IS changing. It really is. I know it’s anecdotal, and I am a universe of one, but in the four weeks I have been doing this, the response to my protest has been increasingly positive week on week, with more and more people expressing sympathy and support, even the ones you wouldn’t necessarily think would be in agreement. I have learned not to assume that just because someone is masked doesn’t mean they don’t hate it, and think it’s pointless, they are just in the habit of being law-abiding (as indeed I was only a short time ago).

Hold fast.


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