That evening the Prime Minister appeared in a simultaneous transmission on all major television channels – he was flanked by union flags, and Mr Fluffy stood behind him, one paw on his shoulder.
“Good honest people of this great nation of ours… patriots… citizens… fellow travellers through the great adventure that is our noble history – the shared journey along the narrow, up-hill path towards excellence. I know you want me to tell you that the current condition cannot be endured. It is time to call a halt.
“There is to be a rally in Parliament Square tomorrow morning and I want you all to be there. Do you not wish it so? Once assembled we shall, together, march to Tower Hill, regroup and be joined by the duly empowered upholders of law and order before proceeding down Royal Mint Street, along Cable Street and on into Limehouse and Poplar. The right-minded citizens of this fortunate isle, our happy band, will retake the docks, by force if absolutely necessary, restoring normality and stability to the nation.
“Heavens to Betsy, we are not covetous for wealth, nor care we for the mockers and sceptics. Such material concerns have no place in our desires. But if it is a sin to covet honour, we are the most offending. We do affirm that he who has no stomach for this fight should shy away – we would not march in the company of any man that fears to suffer and triumph with us. He that survives tomorrow and comes home safe will stand proud when our deeds are named. He that strives in our company, and sees old age, will yearly on the anniversary of our victory roll back his sleeve and show his scars, and tell his grandchildren, “These wounds I had in Cable Street.” Then shall our names, familiar as household words, be forever remembered. We happy band of brothers – for each that sheds his blood with me will be my brother – shall tomorrow join the company of heroes. And those that sleep and cower at home shall think themselves accursed that they were not there, and hold their manhoods cheap whilst any speaks that fought with us upon our glorious day.”
The broadcast ended with the Prime Minister standing to attention, hand on heart whilst Rule Britannia and the National Anthem played out under slow mixes to old footage of Battle of Britain Spitfires and selected clips from Sink the Bismarck. The final death throes of the mighty battleship segued seamlessly into an aesthetically disappointing commercial for haemorrhoid cream.
Early next morning a council of war was convened in an upstairs room in Charlie Brown’s. This legendary dockland public house, legendary at least amongst the world wide maritime community, is more properly named the Railway Tavern. It sits on the corner of Garford Street close to the gates of the West India Dock and is always referred to by the name of its renowned, broken nosed, ex-pugilist landlord, the self proclaimed ‘Uncrowned King of Limehousesailortown’. The five storey high edifice, crowned by a copper-covered cupola and aspiring to a bastardised Baroque style, dominates the surrounding slums and hovels, a haven for the lost and homesick, refuge of the tattooed filles de joie and dispenser of lukewarm Charringtons’ Anchor Stout. The drinking rooms within are a museum of curiosities gathered from all parts of the world, gifted by seaman sailing into the docks of East London. Souvenirs from the Far East, Polynesia and Southend crowd the shelves, dried puffer fish hang from ceilings, shrunken heads and scrimshawed whalebones are nailed to the walls. Faded pornographic postcards and obscure examples of foreign currency are skewered behind the bars. The rooms above are considerably more austere and unkempt, but on this morning they buzzed and bustled with adrenalin fuelled excitement.
Boz was making a stab at chairing the meeting, which was degenerating into something of a buffet, cheese sandwiches and beer having been provided, on the house, by the burly proprietor. Ginsbergbear coughed and Phoebles banged a beer mug, freshly drained, on the table. The ships’ cats and a small contingent of Kronstadt sailors, being more inclined to action than the rest, shushed the disparate anarchist and communist factions and eventually gained their attention. Boz recounted what he could remember of his one sided conversation with Slasher McGoogs. Much of his concentration had been taken up at the time by the ugly automatic pistol that was being pointed his way and he was still a bit shaky.
It was agreed that the march that had been fanfared on national television must be stopped and that it would be halted in Cable Street near to St George’s Town Hall.
The Brick Lane Zapatistas were put in charge of constructing and manning a series of sturdy barricades, whilst members of La Columna, well versed in techniques of street fighting, all be it only in re-enactments at English Heritage venues, would help to secure the side streets and alleys.
Those Marxist-Leninists, Trots and Maoists present put aside their doctrinal differences and, declaring that the time was not yet right for action, retired to The Prospect of Whitby, close by the Pelican Stairs on Wapping Wall, to wait out the coming events.
With time of the essence the company then downed their beers, polished off the sandwiches, made use of the tavern’s urinals and litter trays and proceeded down Cable Street to make their preparations.