Tuesday, 20 October 2009

As a Spark Ignites the Flame...

And so it begins; I got the call. I'm moving out and moving in. Out of my house and into theirs, whoever 'they' may be. Not quite yet, but I have been officially accepted, sealed with a handshake and a friendly smile.

I found the door but had no means of communication. My phone was dead and, although there was a buzzer, I didn't know which floor Dan was on and didn't want to risk rousing a neighbour; do they know they've got squatters? So I put my shoulder to the brute of a metal door... and it started to budge. This was a totally unexpected event; am I actually going to break in? Is it even possible to break in to a squat? I was about to find out when I heard a soft female voice behind me say, 'Do you know someone here?' Ah, yes, yes I do; I'm legit. A call has been made. Another call is made and someone removes the metal pole that's wedging the door shut; saving me from a first attempt at breaking and entering which was doomed from the start. I'm in.

As it happens there were no neighbours. The whole four floors are theirs. The first two are the living quarters and are fully plugged in and connected in most ways imaginable. I had to wait to be taken into the main communal area ,because a life model was currently sitting in there, so I took the tour.

The top two floors are without any power but are huge; you could house fifty people up there without anyone doubling up. We got to the top floor and Dan explained that the view from the roof was one of the finest in West London. He also explained a little more about squatting; it was the first time I'd heard the word 'squatted' used in the possesive. When they first move in, the Police, saying they came in peace, had tricked the group into letting them in and, once they had gained entry, proceeded to arrest them all. Once they were released, however, they went back to the building and 're-squatted' it; made it a squat again. The Police had locked one of the groups possessions inside and he needed to get them back, which, legally, gave him the right to re-occupy the building. Strange thing, property.

The model was in a more acceptable state of undress so I was allowed into the communal room to meet those that currently make up The Oubliette. Other than the model around the corner, all three people in the room were sitting on the floor, painting. In the kitchen, making coffee, was the soft female voice from earlier; one of two Brasilian girls who, for a while, had kept me out of the squat because of a collective desire for a more representative squatting community. Me, I'm more modern, but when I told an aging hippy friend of mine that I was being positively discriminated against (a notion which has so many double negatives, it's in a pretty confused place) by a squat, he laughed his ass off.

I'm on the first floor and my neighbours will be two strapping young Canadians. One had spared my breaking and entering blushes earlier; the other, when I met him, was doing yoga in the room that would be mine. My other neighbour, a German named Pablo, was out.

And so was I, collar turned up and walking towards the tube. I shall go to work tomorrow and no-one will have any idea that in a fortnight's time I'll be living in on the fringes of society - in one of the most prestigious locations in London. It couldn't be more central, I couldn't be more in the city. On Monday, The Oubliette will hang a giant flag from the top floor of their new home and announce their presence to the world. Should be interesting, it seems I'm getting on board at just the right time; as a spark ignites the flame...

1 comment:

  1. Without it, I would be an entirely different man today, a product of an utterly different environment. I would not be talking to you this way...