Friday, 6 November 2009

A life model visits...

Wednesday 4th November

The Oubliette were due to be hoofed out on Thursday but managed to get an extension until Monday; backs had been mutually scratched previously, which bought us some time. Apparently, they were once served an eviction notice for the same day they'd planned to put on a play - highly inconvenient, clearly. So, a call was made and it was suggested to the bailiff that he take the four thousand pounds his empolyers had given him to fast track the eviction through the High Court, put it in his back pocket and come round on Monday when he would find the squatters gone and the property clean and empty. A profitable understanding for all involved.

My first full day of squatting consisted mainly of scouring London for new (old) properties. Most people had been suprised by my decision to move in so close to them moving out but life is short and I a, wanted to live in Leicester Square and b, wanted to be evicted from Leicester Square. Friends have since asked how exactly you go about looking for a new squat and the answer is as simple as, by looking. This was my first new experience; the second was cycling around London.

Cycling around London is like any new experience, indeed, it's like life itself; highly terrfying at first. In fact, wouldn't it just be easier to get the bus, or not bother and stay at home in the first place? But, once you've mastered it, it becomes easy - something you've always done - and, ultimately very rewarding; a tyranny conquered. Everyone's just vying for their place on the road and, if you don't clearly make a stake for yours, you'll get run down. You only need to assert yourself enough that you don't become road-kill - a bloodied curbside corpse - but not so much that you mow someone else down in the process.

A day full of novelty, a third new experience was a culinary one. What we put in our bodies, that which sustains us, is so important that some people can't quite get their heads, or their stomachs, around the idea of Freeganism. Indeed, on the face of it, it's quite galling. This stuff has been thrown away, discarded; it's lying in bags on the side of the streets, no one wants it and, if no-one else wants it, why would you? What are you, an animal? Where's your humanity, man? And yet, just a moment ago, before closing time, you would have eaten it and felt satisfied, and paid for the privellage too. But then it had the reassurance of a price tag; a value, a worth. For us, it was the green food waste bags which contained this so carefully packaged food, which marked it as untouchable, that gave it worth. Sure, it was passed its best, but it could still fulfil its destiny, still have a purpose. Don't we all deserve a second chance?

That night The Oubliette was busy fulfilling its purpose. A theatre group were on the fourth floor rehearsing a play and Philip was in the living room (no sofas nor telly here, truly this is a room for living) painting a model in pastels and oil. I was on the first floor, fixing the bike I had been using during the day (and gaining an insight into why the job title ‘fixer’ had always seemed so grimily glamorous. If you’re ever feeling despondent, I suggest fixing something; anything, in fact), when the theatre group arrived one by one, and so I helped them carry the chairs they had borrowed from All Bar One - the rowdiest of our neighbours - up to the fourth floor. Fairly bounding up those stairs with an arfull of chairs, it was somewhere around the second floor that I began to feel a new vitality, a new energy.

The life model stayed with us into the evening, drinking red wine from plastic cups and watching her image form on the canvas. It was hard to say whether the painting was finished, Philip kept changing parts that had seemed complete and, certainly, it would not dry for days. It was just in the room, living, felt by everyone who now shared a space with it; a work in progress. It was with this living entity as company that I realised this new vitality had, in fact, always been there, dormant for a while; now like a dried up river bed after a long awaited rain, crucial once more…

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