Sunday, 8 November 2009

Nobody ever returns vintage…

Thursday 5th November

I was awoken during the night by the sound of violent retching coming from the bathroom next door. Although we’re pushing the boundaries of what should be considered edible, it seems there are limits; in this case, a chicken soup that was five days passed its best before date and was now making its way passed the u-bend. There’s an opulent looking platter of croissants, hot cross buns and various other fancy breads in the kitchen that would do more harm to your teeth than your stomach if you tried to eat them but no-one has yet had the heart to dispose of them. It just seems cruel to throw something away, once you’ve so nobly saved it from the streets, for a second time; imagine being re-orphaned.

I had one or two things to pick up from my old life and in the process of this I got a text from Nic asking if I’d like to come and help him choose an engagement ring for his intended. Would I ever; this may seem short notice to some, but this is part of Nic’s nature. He was asking the question in a little over 24hours time, but then, who needs a ring hanging around in their pockets for months and months; if you’ve decided, you’ve decided, right?

It seemed a little odd to be going straight from my new life of nothing to a jeweller but, in the end, it turned out to be more life affirming than I could possibly have imagined. First of all, the young Jewish gentleman, Max, who sold us the ring, had a fine understanding of human relationships, garnered from a lifetime in the family business. Having never properly considered the logistics of marriage, it had never occurred to me that a jeweller might have a returns policy; sometimes in life you don’t always get the answer you’re looking for, I guess. Even more interesting was the fact that, according to Max, hardly anyone brings back vintage rings; the ones he sees most of are flashy, single stone items bought from the high street.

He wouldn’t be drawn on the subject but the implication was clear. Those that chose vintage are generally the more considered; the ones that scratch the surface, the ones who look to the past for lessons for the future; the ones who look inside themselves. Those that went for something more obvious, who tried to conquer happiness with their wallet, were, it seemed, destined for divorce. Perhaps they were asking the wrong questions. With this and the image of the ring on Emma’s hand for the rest of her life in mind, I felt a well of joy spring forth from inside, manifested in a tiny diamond of my own, now forming in the corner of my eye.

That evening was turned over to more squat hunting with Dan and a mammoth cycle all over East London. We had some bad news when a place the group had in their sights for the next big project, after months and months of being devoid of any signs of life, had a light on inside. It’s hard enough being a squatter, living on the fringes of society, not knowing where you’ll next be laying your head; it’s even harder when you’re also trying to put together a project - trying to turn nothing into something - which you truly believe in. If I’d ever doubted the legitimacy of The Oubliette’s aims, it was only through ignorance. A seven year veteran of the squat wars, Dan sometimes has a thousand yard stare to go with it, but when he talks about The Oubliette he’s right here in the moment. As we sat sharing a cigarette on a bench outside a prospective property, we reflected on success and failure, and the fact that, almost by definition, you can’t have the former without first having the latter. It seems that something which started as a life experiment is slowly turning into something to believe in…

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