By Arachne


Salisbury - town of the water meadows, those intriguing thin blue lines on the map; town of Constable's cathedral spire soaring heavenwards above the water and the trees; of the Magna Carta, that surprisingly small, impeccably written parchment challenging the king's power and setting down a basis for human rights and democracy. Over 800 years old and still important.

And now, town of an exiled Russian and his visiting daughter; of police tapes preventing locals and absent tourists going into a large part of the heart of the city; of numerous uniformed police officers strategically placed. Town of questions and anxieties. When will the visitors feel safe enough to return? If it's going to take the rest of the year to decontaminate the shopping centre, the restaurant, the park and a door handle, why has the hospital not been closed? And is there any connection with nearby Porton Down, testing centre for chemical and biological weapons?

Some shops in Salisbury are inside the contamination zone so have stopped trading. The waiter who served my friend and me in an independent Thai restaurant told us that regulars were staying loyal and he hoped that the tourists would return soon. Meanwhile the local authority has waived all car parking charges.

The two of us then went to Salisbury Playhouse to see A Dangerous Woman, a powerful one-woman show by Manjeet Mann, addressing growing up in the UK and the clash of her family's expectations with the opportunities she wanted to take up. Fear, control, physical and emotional violence, resistance, survival and independence... 

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