Observation 2 / Toronto
Showing their rage
One group of senior dissenters has fought injustice for 30 years. We meet the Raging Grannies.
It is a crisp sunny afternoon as Kate Chung, 74, rummages through her bag in a Toronto park. She unfurls a glossy black sheet with five holes cut into it, which she spreads out between four other women aged from 53 to 87. One by one they pop their heads through the holes above white signs pinned to the sheet, forming the words “oil spill” in big black letters.
This demonstration highlighting the perils of fossil fuels has been planned for weeks and is taking place even though temperatures in Toronto have dipped below freezing. “If the Grannies say that they’re going to be somewhere, we usually turn out,” says Chung, who goes by the protest name Granny Kate.
She and her fellow agitators are just a few members of Raging Grannies. Formed in 1987 to protest against US nuclear submarines operating off the British Columbia coast, the crew has grown into an organisation (or an “un-organisation”, according to the Grannies) of hundreds of women, usually aged 50 and older, in cities and towns across Canada and the US, as well as in a handful of European capitals.
Sporting colourful, clashing clothes – a jab at clichés about how the elderly dress – and singing protest songs set to melodies such as “She’ll be Coming ’Round the Mountain”, they have become fixtures at demonstrations against climate change, government surveillance and nuclear proliferation for 30 years. “We started as a peace group,” says Chung. “But we’ve become a bit distracted by all the other injustices in the world too.” In January, Raging Granny groups – “gaggles” as they’re known to their members – joined demonstrators at women’s marches in cities across the US, Canada and Europe the day after Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration. It was the largest protest in US history according to some estimates.
“We inject a bit of humour,” says Dee Stapleton of the Toronto gaggle. “But we keep people aware that it’s important to protest when things don’t look right. I’m in my 88th year. I don’t know how long I’ve got to go but I want to continue.”
“We need to act silly to give other people the courage to speak up,” says Maria Kasston, a 67-year-old folk singer who has been a member of the group since 2004. Past exploits have included sailing out to sea in dinghies to take cups of tea to the captains of nuclear vessels and attempting to enlist in the US army as a protest against the US-led invasion of Iraq. The California National Guard was found to have spied on a gaggle in 2005 for planning a Mother’s Day anti-war protest.
“The hope is in the young people,” says 69-year-old Penny Bettson. She notes the fissures that have appeared between old and young in votes from Brexit to the US election. “I’m in awe of people who try to bridge that gap between generations because technology has done its worst in destroying the connections between us,” she adds. “Maybe protesting could bring us together again. I truly believe that.”
As the UK hurtles towards life outside the EU, Frankfurt is set to be one of the biggest winners for relocations. Here are a few reasons to get excited about Europe’s best-connected city.
Frankfurt has good housing stock and numerous cosy corners in Sachsenhausen.
The main railway station has some of the best newsstands in Europe (London, take note).
As home to the world’s biggest and most important book fair, the city is well served when it comes to bookshops – art and architecture in particular.
Furniture brand e15 is a perfect source for kitting out your new office; Frank Landau is good for midcentury modernism.
With some of the highest purchasing power in Europe, the shopping is top notch. Kleinmarkthalle (the main market) will sort dinner-party needs.
Sushimoto is ranked as one of the better old-school Japanese restaurants in Europe.
You can drink the night away as bars stay open much later than London’s 11.30 last call.
There are plenty of outstanding nightspots: Maxie Eisen, Bonechina, Bar Plank, Bar ohne Namen and Jimmy’s in the basement of the Hessischer Hof.
If you want more for your money and a funkier vibe, live in nearby Offenbach. If you want to feel more establishment, commute in from Bad Homburg.
There are many swimming clubs. If these don’t suit, Palma de Mallorca is essentially a Frankfurt suburb with more than 10 flights a day in high season. You can fly non-stop to much of the rest of the world as this is also Lufthansa’s main global hub.