Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The death throes of Occupy London at Finsbury Square

The Finsbury Square Occupy camp has turned its dysfunctional back on London. On this hot day it smells of human ordure. The Portaloos have been confiscated by the hiring company for reasons best not aired.

My courage fails. Lunchtime and they're still not up. Alone in the desert, I send a bleaty little email to the Occupy group of 350-plus names (the commanding clique, plus the police, plus God knows who). This communal inbox is often clogged with ungrammatical, humourless, sour, distorted rubbish from failed Trots making a last-ditch parasitical attack on Occupy in the spirit of grubs which grow inside host bodies. Some of the more interesting correspondents get themselves banned or opt out. Occupy's faith in inclusivity is why each nest has a cuckoo in it and why I'm allowed to traipse around the camp, sketching.

Andi and Chel
Then I see someone I've drawn before - Andi, being warned by a policeman about a camper who hasn't taken his meds. Andi takes me to see his partner Chel. He has placed a trail of rose-petals on the ground leading to their tent. 'We've been together for seven years and only been apart for three days. One day kind of stretches and then it's seven years. It's a work in progress.'

Chel smiles warmly. 'We got married last Christmas on the steps of St Paul's. We haven't got a picture of us together.' (Sorry about this one.)

'She has so much strength,' says Andi. 'She's so fiery. She's stopped arguing with the world. When she does unleash herself she gets three times as much done as me.'

I'm experimenting with a lighter drawing kit - a new A4 sketch pad and pencils, instead of a heavy agglomeration of charcoals, Conté sticks, fixative and errant sheets of coloured paper in a non-standard size, aka a bastard measure. 

I'm struggling with the unresponsiveness of the anaemic paper, but I don't want to let Chel and Andi down. When I've finished the picture - or just stopped drawing, which always comes first - I discover that I've been drawing not on a creamy sheet of cartridge but on the reverse of the paper cover of the sketch pad. 

I confess to them. My mother used to quote a neighbour from her childhood saying: 'I could have crope into a nutshell.' But Chel and Andi are forgiving.  

Tigger looks up from treating the ringworm on his feet and discreetly warns Chel not to answer my questions; I could be an agent provocateur. 

Brian's skin has purple and ochre in it. That's the last time I come here without more colours.

Then - a shock - E, the Clint Eastwood of Occupy, hobbles out of a tent, reluctant to use his crutches. I'd recently been told he wouldn't walk for a year, having broken the balls of his feet jumping from the Paternoster Square Column.

We stroll to a communal tent with grains of expanded polystyrene on the dusty earth. For a few hours time is meaningless, which is why I return to Occupy. Whenever I march towards the camp I feel like telling Occupy to wash its face, eat up its carrots and stop being intellectually lazy - but then it looks up at me with it big brown puppy eyes and I go into a trance. Which is a betrayal of the intimidated couple who own a restaurant in the midst of what is now a latrine. Guys, it's time for the defilement to stop. You should never have started it. Your rat-ridden, destroyed kitchen tent is the backdrop to your offers to run the restaurant for them. And you are in court this Friday.

'Romeo y Julieta,' says Alex, reading the label on his Havana cigar. 'I'm too sexy for my spliff,' he growls.

Andrew, stoned out of his mind, is fascinated for about an hour by the leopard spots on my dress, shoes, belt, cardigan and spectacles. I'm wondering if he's counting them. Gusztav, who is Hungarian, has a beautiful face but I don't capture it.

Josh, from Glasgow, is being tattooed above his left nipple by a Frenchman who learned how to do it in prison. 

Then Lee lets Leila, a French girl, tattoo his arm with the same unwashed blade.

People are hungry. There's loose talk of a dine-and-dash (a term new to me; it means what you think it does) in Pizza Express or Subway. 

E limps off with his backpack to catch a coach to Glastonbury. 'Oi, come back and get your crutches,' shouts Lee. 

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful Thanks a lot

    I was at FS earlier. Please say hi if U see me before we all leave. I am often with a little girl(4)