Friday, 6 November 2009

There's more to life than living like a hobo...

For a lack of internet access I am writing these entries posthumously. Their time has passed but, thanks to the unwitting kindness of the good people of the Radisson Hotel, their memory shall not. This concerns Thursday 29th and Friday 30th October...

I had my leaving do with the Drivetime team this evening and, as I said to Chris the next day - a reflection of something he had previously said to me about our Christmas party - it was about as genuine as a leaving do gets. If, as I suspect, work is indeed an artificial construct, designed to keep us busy enough not to notice we're simply creating wealth for someone else (and scared enough not to do anything about the situation should we find time for a moment of reflection) then it's pretty unreasonable to expect people to form the same, genuine, emotional attachments to their work colleagues as they do generally in life. It happens, of course, but it's surely not to be expected? In any case, I must have formed some of these accidental attachments because Friday, my actual last day, was altogether pretty sketchy, due in no small part to quaffing espresso martinis at 2.30am with the people I had shared 10am - 7pm with for the last two years.It was thus that I nearly didn't attend the party at The Oubliette on Friday evening. Kilburn was the first place I lived in London, the bosom on which I first laid my head, and the scene of my oldest friend's birthday celebrations, so it was highly tempting to go, if not straight to bed, then straight there anyway. But I felt my place in the group might already be tenuous and I didn’t want to make it anymore so; nobody thinks kindly of people that don’t turn up to their party. And so, with some encouragement from my associates, Nic and Dan, we set off, from a pub in Soho, to the squat.

There were many questions on the way, only some of which I had the answers to; this is, after all, largely the point. When we arrived at the party we went straight to the communal room and bumped into Dan of the Squat. My Dan is as sharp as a tack and has an extremely inquisitive mind, which launched straight into a stream of questions - about squatting, squatters rights, the squat we were in and the Oubliette generally -for which I could have kissed it, because it meant mine didn’t have to. Keep that mind cool, baby, keep it cool. I did, however, still have to get back to my bosom, not to mention my beloved friend’s birthday, so we didn’t hang around too long. But we couldn’t leave without seeing the roof.

I was aware of the roof in more than a general sense because Dan had previously hinted at its existence in a way that suggested it might be more than just something to keep the rain off. We climbed the stairs passed the first four floors, which were lit up and full of revellers, before coming to a door that had blackness on the other side of it. We knew there was a roof and we knew there must be a way on to it but, other than that, we were, literally now, in the dark. After countless dead ends, and at least one smack in the face, we climbed through a small window and found the 30ft ladder that ultimately led to our lofty goal. How rarely in this google-mapped world of ours do we truly get to explore, how rarely do we really discover? Had there been a map to the roof, although the view was every bit as spectacular as we’d hoped, it would surely have been less so ours.

Before we left the party we bumped into Alex, the man who had initially indulged my artistic folly (a 24hr typewriting performance on the beautiful 1969 Olivetti Valentine, a machine made with love in mind, sustained on nothing but grapefruit and rum) with the Da Collective and, later, introduced me to The Oubliette; my squat father, if you will. At some stage, it seems, Alex and Dan had had a disagreement and, somewhere along the line, Alex had reassessed squatting generally, left The Oubliette and made moves back to what is generally considered respectability. During this period he sent me an email, motivated by the best and kindest intentions, of which I have no doubt, suggesting that there might be more to life than living like a hobo. When I told Dan this, he pointed out that so much of other people’s advice, especially the ‘I did that, I didn’t like it, don’t bother’ stuff, is coloured by their own experience. It has to be, for we are naught more than the sum of our experience, and other people’s experiences, therefore, should be naught to us. If nothing else, at the end of all this I shall be able to say, with real authority, that there is more to life than living like a hobo…

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