Saturday, 11 December 2010

Police and thieves…


Police and Thieves...

The age of austerity is upon us. Maggie may be scraping at death’s door but her bum-cheeked boys are alive and well and wreaking havoc. They take with one hand and they take with the other, shame-facedly looting the nation; the ground is dry tinder, just waiting for a spark to ignite the flame. It was against this backdrop - and with Conservative HQ burning behind me - that I was detained, along with hundreds more, by the police on Wednesday night. I felt no shame: disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man’s original virtue, said Oscar Wilde once. And, when asked for my address, the answer allowed me to take back a little bit of control: ’no fixed abode, officer’. ‘Really?’ Really.

For this week I moved into a squat in south South London. It’s not what you think: I have a job and I have a salary; like you, I am a wage-slave. A year away from capital - spent slumming around Egypt, Palestine and Wolverhampton - has left me rather short though and, on moving back, there were creditors to be taken care of before I could start to consider taking care of myself. The landlords of London will have to wait for their rent cheque. This is the need that made possible the want: I wanted to move into a dilapidated house and do things differently for a while: that I need to is simply good fortune.

Need and want taken care of, the opportunity was provided by the man who had first introduced me to the squat scene (by indulging a quasi-artistic folly of mine). And so it was that on Sunday I spent my first night under this strange new shelter. An experiment in living free – or cheap, at least – I aim to prove the age old hypothesis that the best things in life definitely do not cost an arm and a leg. Life is learnt lived and, hopefully, in the process of learning these lessons, I will be able to impart a few of my own. That, then, will be the intent of this blog: lessons in living free. Whether that means rescuing the rich’s residue, liberating the posh cakes of Paul’s commercial waste sacks; finding freebies from freecycle; or getting into the nation’s art emporiums gratis.

The first lesson came before I’d even moved in. Packing for a squat is a pretty interesting proposition; it felt like I was preparing for a trip: there’s a limited amount of space, and you want to travel light. Should I pack the first-aid kit? I’m pretty sure I won’t need a mosquito net. But this is no life holiday, this is life now, and choosing what to take from the old one to the new could be pretty tough. I got through the cull by telling myself, ‘it’s just stuff’: if you can properly internalise that notion - forget about the fact that it’s your stuff - then what goes into the box ceases to matter.

And already a little bit of freedom is found. The wolves have eaten the door: it’s what I do with that freedom that’s important now…

“You have talked so often of going to the dogs and, well, here are the dogs, and you can stand it – it takes off a great deal of anxiety…”

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