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Sunday 5th October 2008

I was up early to get a taxi back to Brussels and the Eurostar home. I think when I accepted this gig I imagined it might almost serve as a mini-break away on the continent, but it became just like a regular gig - arriving in a town in the dwindling light and leaving in the morning before anything is open. The people organising the gig had been very kind and attentive, but it seemed like an anticlimax to come all this way and not even had a chance to see a fat man with a big moustache eating a massive bar of chocolate (I did however see a thin man with a massive moustache drinking a beer last night, so all was not lost).
I knew no more about Belgium upon leaving, than I did when I arrived. Except that there was a place called Geel in it. I suppose I had had my day in Antwerp five year ago (really? Five?) to get some of the local colour. And at least no one had made me fill my set with terrible song parodies (maybe it would have gone better if I had).
On the train back I finished off my Vonnegut book (just for pleasure - imagine!) and also read an excellent little booklet from yesterday's Guardian with some picks from Alistair Cooke's Letters from America. So engrossed with these fascinating missives was I that I didn't once think of the song by the Proclaimers. But I just have now. So that will be in my head all day.
Like Vonnegut, Cooke was a wise and considered man, who reported on world events (and sometimes was caught up in them as in this spellbinding and heart-stopping account of the assassination of Robert Kennedy). I was most taken with the article about Rosa Parks receiving her Congressional Gold Medal in 1999. Not just because Parks is a woman who, by the seemingly simple action of sitting on a bus, helped to transform America, but also because of the interesting detail that one of the senators there in the room to honour her, had been one of her fiercest opponents almost half a century before. I don't know who this senator was (please let me know if you do - Matthew Joy got in first - it was Strom Thurmond), but isn't that a marvellous ultimate victory. Time proved him wrong and I am glad they both lived long enough for her to have the recognition she truly deserved and for him to have the discomfort or anger that must have come from having his hateful opinions invalidated.
Rosa Parks was a woman who clearly demonstrated that change can be fomented without resorting to violence - and that if you are right about something then you don't need to start killing people. It's almost inconceivable that a country like America, which is supposedly a bastion of freedom (or at least once was) could have had a policy of segregation so recently. But Parks shows that the way to deal with something wrong is not to use weapons and bombs, but to do something right.
I was back in London just over 24 hours after I had left. As I walked down the steps to the tube it felt like no time at all since I had walked up them. I sat on the tube and decided that if anyone told me I had to move to a different seat because of the colour of my skin I would refuse to do so.
But mainly because I was too tired.

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