Other Girls Like Me by Stephanie Davies – extract

Other Girls Like Me by Stephanie Davies was published by Bedazzled Ink Publishing on 31 July 2020.

Today I have an extract from the book.

HAPPY HOUSE Siouxsie and the Banshees 

THE FOLLOWING MORNING dawned bright and sunny, and I was wondering what to do with the luxurious day stretching before me when the base gates sprang open and the cruise missile convoy came pounding out of the base, surprising us all. Unlike before, there was no sudden police presence, just a loud rumbling, and before we knew it, the convoy was on its way, white-suited American soldiers brandishing terrifying guns, leaving us unprepared to follow, stunned and indignant on the side of the road. 

“Let’s go to London and lie down in front of the Houses of Parliament,” Lucy cried. 

It seemed like the most rational response, and so we raced in our cars the sixty miles to London, some of us driving first to the other gates to get our sisters to join us. 

When we arrived at the Houses of Parliament, I leapt out of the car and joined the seventy or so Greenham women gathering as nonchalantly as they could on the pavements and at traffic lights, trying to merge in with the bustling urban scene. It was a warm spring day, and many people were in shirtsleeves or summer dresses. Looking around at my Greenham tribe, I was reminded of the suffragettes, doing their best to blend in as they gathered on the streets to set off bombs in mailboxes or chain themselves to the fences at this very same Parliament as they fought for the right to vote. Of course, like them, it was not easy for us to blend in with the tourists, office workers, and passers-by. We had set a time for the action, and had told our press contacts this, but the police presence was getting larger by the minute. 

“Are they on to us?” Sally said. She was holding my hand and looking nervously at the police officers appearing on street corners. 

“Well, we did all yell, ‘Let’s go to the Houses of Parliament and stop the traffic!’” I said. For sure the policemen at Greenham would have called the Metropolitan Police and told them to expect us. 

So before the press arrived, before our London supporters arrived, before we were really ready, we raced into the street as one and lay down on the hard tarmac yelling, “Take the toys from the boys!” “Send cruise missiles home now!” “Women say no to war!” We linked arms as we lay in the middle of the road and I felt happy looking up at the blue sky, thinking back to my early morning walk in St. Mary Bourne when Bridget dared me to lie in the middle of the road. I wished she were here to share this moment, as I heard tooting horns and drivers yelling in the distance and the women around me taking up our signature song, “You can’t kill the spirit/She is like a mountain/Old and strong/She goes on and on and on.” 

I joined in the singing full pelt and felt a tug on my left as Sally was grabbed by a police officer. Like dark blue birds of prey, swooping en masse from vans parked on hidden streets, the police descended on us. We held onto each other’s hands more tightly, then I felt the hard fingers of a police officer grab me under my shoulder blades. He pulled hard, dislodging Sally’s hand from mine. I did my best to remain limp in the policeman’s arms, my boots dragging heavily on the road. My heart pounding and feeling exhilarated—my first London action!—I twisted my head around to see if any press had arrived, but there were no photographers or TV cameras to be seen. I could see the legs and boots of the police mingled with the Doc Martens and jeans of my fellow Greenham women as they, too, were dragged one by one to the waiting vans, and we sang in rounds to the tune of “Frères Jacques,” “We are Women, We are Women/We are Strong, We are Strong/We Say No, We Say No/To the Bomb, To the Bomb.” 

“Why can’t you just get up and walk?” the policeman hissed into my ear in a thick London accent, his breath smelling of sweet milky coffee and cigarettes. I wondered if I would have bruises as his sharp fingers dug into my armpits, and I continued to sing as loudly as I could, looking round at my friends. A second policeman grabbed hold of my feet, and I was lifted into the air and dumped into the back of the police van, where I smiled at two Greenham women I had never met before. 

Inside the police station, we lay on the ground and refused to sit or stand, forcing the police officers to lean over us to ask questions as they filled in their paperwork. 

By the late afternoon we had been discharged, and we drove back to camp in our own convoy of cars, jubilant, even though we didn’t get any press, which was really the point of the whole exercise. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed disrupting the traffic and annoying the police and doing a normal action where normal things happened. 

About the Book

Till now, Stephanie has done her best to play by the rules—which seem to be stacked against girls like her. It doesn’t help that she wants to play football, dress like a boy, and fight apartheid in South Africa—despite living in rural middle England—as she struggles to find her voice in a world where everything is different for girls.

Then she hears them on the radio. Greenham women—an irreverent group of lesbians, punk rockers, mothers, and activists who have set up camp outside a US military base to protest nuclear war—are calling for backups in the face of imminent eviction from their muddy tents. She heads there immediately, where a series of adventures—from a break-in to a nuclear research center to a doomed love affair with a punk rock singer in a girl band—changes the course of her life forever. But the sense of community she has found is challenged when she faces tragedy at home.

 

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