Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Not quite the last of Occupy London in Finsbury Square

Unknown occupier inside barricade at dusk
Rainfall. Downfall.

Occupy campers have built a barricade for a last stand against eviction, due any time from midnight. Hooded people hang around in the slippery mud. 'I hope it's tonight,' says one. 'Please come.'

I sit inside the wet barricade on a wet chair in the wet, drawing wetly on wet paper. My watercolour pencils weep. When their tears dry I dip their points in puddles. (The drawings die in the night, colour and line blotted and leached away.)

Rain-sodden sketch of unknown occupier

Occupy is human so it conducted a civil war over land and money - over who gets to govern its dwindling funds and the faecal, feral waste that was once a lawn in Finsbury Square. Who rules in hell? On my last visit campers were being tattooed with a communal blade and nothing but water from random plastic bottles to swab the wounds.

The battle of Portaloo began after the hiring company confiscated the original toilets, campers having rendered them impossible to clean on site. ('Worse than Glastonbury,' said one.)

Inside barricade perimeter
Should Occupy pay for replacements? Should individuals spend their own money on them?  Or should the campers just continue to do without? Hot, smelly days passed while Occupy agonised over what to do about the jubilee. And what, they wondered, was Finsbury Square anyway - a shiny template for consensus-based activism or a holding bay for lost people and rent-a-mob, trashing the hopes of the couple who own the restaurant in the middle? What, in fact, was Occupy? Camps or campaigns or both?

Portaloos - ghost image on blotter
Into the raging correspondence (between those who had internet access) I'd lobbed a suggestion from the Financial Times which went to the heart of what Occupy said they were campaigning about on our behalf. Occupy ignored it and carried on with its introverted parish-council bickering about whether it should feel embarrassed to be buying a £137 bolt cutter for breaking into potential squats.

Back in the rain, a man peers inside a Portaloo (replacements were ultimately organised in a private, desperate decision against the spirit of consensus) then looks inside the second one. He enters the first.

The overnight blottings from the soaked drawings are better than what survived of the drawings themselves and more symbolic of the fractured mood.

Remains of soaked sketches of  Tom
(peeling clementine, right)
Tom, aka Johnny Teatent, a contemptuous blond swaggerer, peels a clementine with the prehensile fingers of one hand, leaving the peel in a single piece, without looking. Later he emails to the clique: 'Banging castle built. Campfires. If anyone wants to hammer. Slash come down take pictures. it is getting to be an awesome barricade.'

Andria has devoted her resources to helping addicts at the Occupy sites: 'I've fed them when they've been hungry, I've seen to their wounds. I'm like that Mary in the Bible. The other one.' Today she takes a foundling camper under her wing 'because I'm a Mama and he's a baby.'

Andria - ghost image on blotter
Books from the camp library are out in the wet. Sir Winston Churchill: A Memoir. Giardinaggio Senza Problemi, an Italian guide to horticulture published by Reader's Digest. I look at the desultory attempts to grow food in the collectivised flower beds. I think about Stalin and Hamlet.

'Fie on't! ah, fie! 'tis an unweeded garden
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely.'

I take Doctor in the House by Richard Gordon.

My drawing is as unproductive as the contaminated soil. I'm cold. I'm going.

Oh, there's the glamorous profile again. E has abandoned his crutches prematurely and springs/limps/swaggers purposefully towards Moorgate with two other regulars.

'Where are you lot going?' I shout.
'Wait here,' E shouts back.
'I'm going.'
He points at me: 'You're not allowed to.'

1 comment:

  1. Exquisite, melancholy Izzy, Samuel Pepys for the lost generation.
    thank you and love for your skill and veracity
    xx Sarah